Re: Opening

Zeborah <zeborah@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Jonathan L Cunningham <spam@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Dan Goodman <dsgood@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

David Friedman wrote:

I rarely use names, in part because I tend to forget the names of
people whose names I ought to remember, including colleagues.

My too. I once had to explain this to someone who was offended that I
didn't ever address her by name.

To me, this means that you (all) who claim that, never considered it
important enough to take the trouble. That's not a criticism: it's an

This is what I think is happening in this thread:

I think by "to take the trouble" you meant "to take enough trouble".

Isn't that the same thing? "The trouble" is the amount of trouble

(The more obvious reading to me is "to take any trouble", so I have to

I can't get that reading at all. That would be "some trouble" because
it's an indefinite amount. "The trouble" is a definite noun phrase, not
an indefinite one.

How do you read it as an indefinite amount?

consciously consider whether you are likely to intend that and conclude
- given what I know of you in general and "that's not a criticism" in
particular - that you probably don't.)

I'm not making moral judgements. ISTM that some people are seeing a hat
that fits, wearing it, and then making moral judgements about themselves
(using their own ethical system).

People are strange. If they really think my observation is wrong, why do
they wear the hat?

Given this, the question is "What does 'enough trouble' mean? 'Enough

If you're doing so, it's not clear to me what that something is.

Perhaps because you are focused on the "moral judgement" interpretation,
whereas I was giving helpful and useful advice!

My argument is something like this: there is a vicious/virtuous circle
which can take two forms:

Form A: the virtuous circle

(1) I think I'm good at X (possibly because mommy told me when I was 3)
(2) I like doing things I'm good at, so I like doing X
(3) Because I like doing it, I do it often
(4) Because I do it often, I get better with practice
(5) That makes me good at X

Form B: the vicious circle

(1) I think I can't do X (probably because I find it difficult)
(2) I don't like attempting things I can't do
(3) So I don't try to do X
(4) So I never get any practice and never get any good at it
(5) Which confirms my view that I can't do X

If someone laments their inability to learn names - which none of those
objecting to my claim appear to do: they seem almost proud of it -
*then* my comment could be helpful:

Don't despair! It's not hopeless! You, too, can remember people's
names. You just have to realise that it's not a magical ability which
some people have, and you lack. It's a skill that grows with practice.
You just haven't ever developed this skill. But it's not too late...


Like everything, remembering names is something you get better at with
practice. If you think it's important to remember names (e.g. teaching a

Since you don't find it easy, I conclude you have never consistently
felt it was worth the effort.

Again, "You don't find it easy, therefore you mustn't think it worth the
effort, because if you thought it worth the effort then it would be
easy." - To me this reads like circular reasoning, and I can't see how

Yes, it *is* circular -- see above! But it's not circular reasoning,
it's an example of positive feedback.

it could possibly be falsified. (If not falsifiable, it might be true,
but it sure ain't useful(1).)

It can be falsified in lots of ways. For example, Marilee claims that
step (4) in the virtuous circle wouldn't work for her playing the piano.
That breaks the circle.

Can you give an example of an experience, piece of evidence, or argument
that we could offer which would make you reevaluate your opinion?

Yes. I take it you are asking me to.

But I don't really see why: I've accepted that Shana Rosenfield's friend
may be an exception. Marilee provides a counter example to why practice
doesn't always help: you can't get better at something which is
physically impossible.

For specific counterexamples, I'd need to see a significant percentage
of people (say, 5%) who have (a) actually tried, over a significant
period of time to remember people's names, not just concluded that they
can't, and given up, and (b) despite trying have failed.

It's interesting to note that none of the people who have said "it
doesn't apply to me" have claimed that they have made such an effort.
(It doesn't mean that they haven't made the effort, merely that they
didn't think it worth mentioning as counter-evidence.)

Five percent for me would be about 200 people, I think. Maybe more. A
small number of counter-examples (so far, we have only one) don't make
the generalisation false. If you could provide, oh, say 2000
counterexamples, all of whom can demonstrate actual, rather than
claimed, inability to learn names, desptite repeated and structured
efforts, then I'll change my claim so that it refers to "Most people"
rather than "People".

Otherwise, I'll continue to conclude that, like David Friedman, they
don't consider the benefits worth the effort. (After all, they already
have friends, a life, etc. and manage quite well as they are. What are
the added benefits of remembering names?)

Incidentally, I feel the same about learning languages, for which I
appear to have little or no talent. I don't accept "I can't learn
languages" as an explanation. But, ISTM, that learning a foreign
language requires considerably more effort than learning a few tens or
hundred names. (I don't claim I remember the name of every person I've
ever met - I just try to remember names of people I'm in frequent
contact with.)


"There's many a best seller that could have been prevented
by a good teacher." Flannery O'Connor