Validity of Ancient Practices

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Validity of Ancient Practices

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This topic is about the April 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, 2X2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship by Mary J Giuffra, PhD


I recall hearing the story of a little boy who asked his mother why she always cut the end of the lamb roast before placing it in the pan. “Because my mother always cut off the end,” she quickly responded. The next time his grandmother visited, he asked her about it. Grandma smiled and said, “My pan was too small, and I cut off the end of the roast so it would fit in the pan.”
(Location 130 - Kindle version)

Most of the ancient practices lasted through generations via visual learning and memorizing. The above story made me think twice about the validity of such practices.

What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm This topic is about the April 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, 2X2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship by Mary J Giuffra, PhD


I recall hearing the story of a little boy who asked his mother why she always cut the end of the lamb roast before placing it in the pan. “Because my mother always cut off the end,” she quickly responded. The next time his grandmother visited, he asked her about it. Grandma smiled and said, “My pan was too small, and I cut off the end of the roast so it would fit in the pan.”
(Location 130 - Kindle version)

Most of the ancient practices lasted through generations via visual learning and memorizing. The above story made me think twice about the validity of such practices.

What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
They tend to fall into two categories. The first, like your example is a one-off, in the sense that everyone doesn't cut the end of the lamb roast, just that one mom with a mother with a small pan. Very common, very understandable but ultimately of little to no universal importance.

The second type is the distilled knowledge based on repetitive episodes of trial and error over millenia. These usually are quite efficient even if the steps along the way as to why that is the optimal technique has been lost over time. Essentially it is experiencial evolution.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
My opinion is that many of these practices encapsulate useful knowledge gained by our forbears, and passed on to us. Mixed in with these, we have traditions that are no longer useful, or perhaps they never were? It's often easy for the latter to creep forward over the years, and for their original rationale to have disappeared. It happens. 🙂
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Following these practices shows our fear of trying something new/different.
any ideas?
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Vita wrote: April 4th, 2022, 11:32 pm Following these practices shows our fear of trying something new/different.
It also shows our confidence in things that have been tried and tested, and found to be useful, by our predecessors. Not that such things will always actually be useful and correct, of course. 😉
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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LuckyR wrote: April 4th, 2022, 2:27 am
Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm This topic is about the April 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, 2X2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship by Mary J Giuffra, PhD


I recall hearing the story of a little boy who asked his mother why she always cut the end of the lamb roast before placing it in the pan. “Because my mother always cut off the end,” she quickly responded. The next time his grandmother visited, he asked her about it. Grandma smiled and said, “My pan was too small, and I cut off the end of the roast so it would fit in the pan.”
(Location 130 - Kindle version)

Most of the ancient practices lasted through generations via visual learning and memorizing. The above story made me think twice about the validity of such practices.

What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
They tend to fall into two categories. The first, like your example is a one-off, in the sense that everyone doesn't cut the end of the lamb roast, just that one mom with a mother with a small pan. Very common, very understandable but ultimately of little to no universal importance.

The second type is the distilled knowledge based on repetitive episodes of trial and error over millenia. These usually are quite efficient even if the steps along the way as to why that is the optimal technique has been lost over time. Essentially it is experiencial evolution.
Practices which are practically shown useful can be excluded from this discussion. Experience is a good teacher in many occasions, so such practices are evolved into almost flawless maneuvers throughout the history.

But there are ritualistic practices that get into this group, which are being practiced just because the former generations did so, without any critical evaluation of their validity.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Pattern-chaser wrote: April 4th, 2022, 7:19 am
Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
My opinion is that many of these practices encapsulate useful knowledge gained by our forbears, and passed on to us. Mixed in with these, we have traditions that are no longer useful, or perhaps they never were? It's often easy for the latter to creep forward over the years, and for their original rationale to have disappeared. It happens. 🙂
Yes, this reminds me of the story about the guard posted near a iron bench. Years after posting a guard one day one (brave) soldier raised question about the use of the practice. No one had an answer. Finally they found the date when the practice started, and found the commander of that time. When the question was asked from that elderly fellow he asked with pure amazement, "Is the paint on that bench is still wet?" 🤣
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Vita wrote: April 4th, 2022, 11:32 pm Following these practices shows our fear of trying something new/different.
That is quite true. Most of the humans try to imitate others and follow what have already been proven successful. Even in such situations people try to do the things in a similar manner as they were done by others. Yes, people are afraid of change, and mostly are afraid of failing.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Pattern-chaser wrote: April 5th, 2022, 8:51 am
Vita wrote: April 4th, 2022, 11:32 pm Following these practices shows our fear of trying something new/different.
It also shows our confidence in things that have been tried and tested, and found to be useful, by our predecessors. Not that such things will always actually be useful and correct, of course. 😉
When something is done repeatedly people tend to gain confidence over such practices. But with that confidence some unusual thoughts and faiths too get into the minds of people.

There is a biscuit ffactory that I know which have been a success for generations. The workers do not even try to change the location of the machines even by an inch, believing that it will affect the taste of the biscuits, although I do not see any provable reason behind that practice.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Sushan wrote: April 10th, 2022, 5:00 am Practices which are practically shown useful can be excluded from this discussion.
So you begin a discussion about the "Validity of Ancient Practices", but you wish to discount those practices that do have validity? Aren't you rather 'stacking the deck' there? 😉
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Sushan wrote: April 10th, 2022, 5:00 am
LuckyR wrote: April 4th, 2022, 2:27 am
Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm This topic is about the April 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, 2X2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship by Mary J Giuffra, PhD


I recall hearing the story of a little boy who asked his mother why she always cut the end of the lamb roast before placing it in the pan. “Because my mother always cut off the end,” she quickly responded. The next time his grandmother visited, he asked her about it. Grandma smiled and said, “My pan was too small, and I cut off the end of the roast so it would fit in the pan.”
(Location 130 - Kindle version)

Most of the ancient practices lasted through generations via visual learning and memorizing. The above story made me think twice about the validity of such practices.

What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
They tend to fall into two categories. The first, like your example is a one-off, in the sense that everyone doesn't cut the end of the lamb roast, just that one mom with a mother with a small pan. Very common, very understandable but ultimately of little to no universal importance.

The second type is the distilled knowledge based on repetitive episodes of trial and error over millenia. These usually are quite efficient even if the steps along the way as to why that is the optimal technique has been lost over time. Essentially it is experiencial evolution.
Practices which are practically shown useful can be excluded from this discussion. Experience is a good teacher in many occasions, so such practices are evolved into almost flawless maneuvers throughout the history.

But there are ritualistic practices that get into this group, which are being practiced just because the former generations did so, without any critical evaluation of their validity.
So you want to discuss dogma specifically. You should have said so.

Dogma, IMO is similar to stereotypes, in that there is usually a kernel of true information somewhere in there (commonly distant in time), but an exaggeration of what is known has been built up around this small factoid such that what emerges is not actually factual.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Pattern-chaser wrote: April 10th, 2022, 1:01 pm
Sushan wrote: April 10th, 2022, 5:00 am Practices which are practically shown useful can be excluded from this discussion.
So you begin a discussion about the "Validity of Ancient Practices", but you wish to discount those practices that do have validity? Aren't you rather 'stacking the deck' there? 😉
No. I was only agreeing with the comment because there are practices that actually have a validity. They may have started as ritualistic practices, but with new scientific advancements some of them have gained scientific value. I am not into totally disagreeing with ancient ppractices, but to re-evaluate them, criticize them, and validate them. In the process some can be totally rejected as well.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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LuckyR wrote: April 11th, 2022, 3:03 am
Sushan wrote: April 10th, 2022, 5:00 am
LuckyR wrote: April 4th, 2022, 2:27 am
Sushan wrote: April 3rd, 2022, 12:49 pm This topic is about the April 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, 2X2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship by Mary J Giuffra, PhD



(Location 130 - Kindle version)

Most of the ancient practices lasted through generations via visual learning and memorizing. The above story made me think twice about the validity of such practices.

What are your opinions about the practices that are generations old, and what we still practice today without any critical questioning about their validity?
They tend to fall into two categories. The first, like your example is a one-off, in the sense that everyone doesn't cut the end of the lamb roast, just that one mom with a mother with a small pan. Very common, very understandable but ultimately of little to no universal importance.

The second type is the distilled knowledge based on repetitive episodes of trial and error over millenia. These usually are quite efficient even if the steps along the way as to why that is the optimal technique has been lost over time. Essentially it is experiencial evolution.
Practices which are practically shown useful can be excluded from this discussion. Experience is a good teacher in many occasions, so such practices are evolved into almost flawless maneuvers throughout the history.

But there are ritualistic practices that get into this group, which are being practiced just because the former generations did so, without any critical evaluation of their validity.
So you want to discuss dogma specifically. You should have said so.

Dogma, IMO is similar to stereotypes, in that there is usually a kernel of true information somewhere in there (commonly distant in time), but an exaggeration of what is known has been built up around this small factoid such that what emerges is not actually factual.
Well.....dogmas too can be included, but I am not specifically relating to that. IMO, with dogma comes the authority. There is some sort of an authoritative power that hold people around the dogma. We see how that was done by the church in earlier days. But some people choose to accept and believe in certain practices without any authority pushing them towards that.
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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Sushan wrote: April 18th, 2022, 5:37 am ...there are practices that actually have a validity. They may have started as ritualistic practices, but with new scientific advancements some of them have gained scientific value.
😆 I wonder if, at first, they were remembered, and laid down as "ritualistic practices" because they had use and value? Later, when science came along, they did not "gain" value; they already had it. It was science doing the catching-up, not the ancient practices. 😉
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Re: Validity of Ancient Practices

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This is a question I thought about some time ago. For me the trigger was to find an answer to the question of how religion originates. Although this might deserve a feed in itself, part of the answer captures the subject proposed in this feed.

It is for me a fact that there are practices humans perform in “idle mode” without necessarily thinking about the origin, meaning, benefit or possible alternatives. Such practices (SP) can be categorised depending on multiple variables. Some examples might be:


- Time: some SP might have started hundreds or thousands of years ago, being perceived as intrinsic to human nature (biological trait) or a specific society (cultural trait or tradition). Oder SP might be more recent and therefore seen as family tradition, common practices related to a specific social group or class.

- Authority (mean of transmission):
I state here that all SP are more or less imposed by an authority figure. SP are imposed for example through religion (dogmas), governments and society (social contracts, laws, education, economic system, etc), specialists like professors, doctors and scientists (remedies, processes, etc).

- Significance: i differentiate here between those which have spiritual/personal/communal significance (rituals) and those which do not.

- Utility: I differentiate here between those which are beneficial, neutral and harmful.

These four categories help me to identify a path I believe SP follow to become idle (and for other reasons not argued here, also the origin of religion). We have to consider the following factors:

1. Energy efficiency.
A tendency to use the minimum amount of energy is observed in most aspects of nature. As human beings, this is also anchored in our biology. Most actions and brain functions follow this.

2. Authority bias.
This is the tendency to give more importance or let ourselves be influenced by the opinions of authority figures, although those opinions might not be relevant for the question.

3. Information depreciation or generational loss.
This is the generational equivalent of the “telephone game”. Information tends to experience changes that can lead to a complete loss of the original meaning.

4. Ignorance or absence of Critical Thinking.
With this I mean genuine ignorance, cognitive biases or lack of self-reflection.

Adding these factors we find the perfect path for SP to become idle:

If we assume that 1 & 2 are part of our nature I can see that given our natural predisposition to minimise our effort while performing any activity - especially when a high level of repetition is found- and our disposition to believe what authorities figures say; the consequence of this natural predisposition is that people tend to automate processes and do things as they are being told. Therefore it is easy to see how potential SP come to be.

In order for these Practices to become idle, we need 3 & 4. When some automated practices appear (3) and are taught from generation to generation the probability that small changes of an explanation happen is really high. Consequently, either the reason for doing that changes completely or is even lost.
When we do not ask ourselves why we do something for whatever reason (4) the possibility of meaning loss is very high. This happens from my point of view everywhere, from religion and traditions to engineering and production processes.



In my opinion all forms of SP are inevitable. I think however, that if we reflect and have a critical thinking approach, we can identify those SP which tend to be neutral or harmful, question them and avoid them.

I also think that those which are neutral but full of meaning are to be respected (like religious rituals) if they are performed freely.

In my opinion, the rest which might be harmful or lack significance are a product basically of ignorance. We all suffer from SP and therefore I would like to be humble and not criticise people directly rather call for awareness and try to identify those SP we can liberate ourselves from.
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