Say I were to tell you "I have a large treasure chest full of gold doubloons" and you were to say "Really, let me see it?", so we went to my house to look at my chest.

We enter my living room, where there is a fireplace with a mantel. I say "Look, it's right on top of the mantel", but there are only picture frames.

You approach the fireplace confused. "Where is it?" you finally ask.

"Don't you see, right here." I say, walking towards the fireplace and picking up one of the picture frames atop the mantel.

"Isn't it beautiful, my chest full of gold?" I say, handing the picture to you.

You look at the image in the frame. It is not just a picture, but a picture of a picture of a chest full of gold.

So, clearly, I am out of my mind.

With material objects, it's quite obvious to any sane person when they truly have them or not. Even if it is not obvious, it will be obvious to some other sane person.

With immaterial objects, like opinions, it is not so obvious. Many people's "opinions" on a subject are truly images of images of an opinion. This is not so easily felt, nor can it be easily identified by the person who is being told the opinion is legitimate.

You should be careful to make sure when holding a belief "Do I have this, or do I have an image?"

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8 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:10 PM

Hmm some of these people would, no doubt, turn out to be belief-in-believers if they were questioned.

Some of these cases are also no doubt cached thoughts, but I think a significant number are not.

I have a reply below to noggin-scratcher's comment that goes into this in more detail.

Hey, also - thanks for the comment.

If it's not easily felt, nor easily identified by others, what are the subtle signs to look for? I'm not 100% on what it means for an opinion to be an image of an image.

First, thanks a lot for replying. I love talking to people on this site and these are great questions. 

I'm not 100% on what it means for an opinion to be an image of an image.

Now thinking, I firstly should have limited myself to "An image of a belief" instead of "An image of an image". 

An image of a a belief would be something like this.  Say you're at some kind of family friend event, and get to talking about economics.

The person you're talking to eventually says "I actually believe in trickle down economics, man. I just think that's the best system for this country, absolutely." 

You reply "Oh, really.  Why is that?" and he says "You know man, it's really just the way things work, like in reality. Hey, you ever listen to Milton Friedman? I like him a lot." And then the subject quickly changes, or maybe they just speak in vagaries of what Milton believes.

Really, they just have an image of Milton's opinion. They don't have anything of their own. I guess you could argue they may have a cached thought, but there's no doubt some instances where there wasn't any real opinion formed - the person listened to a few Milton lectures, had a strong feeling at some point watching them, does not remember a single thing from these lectures, but somehow feels as if this is an opinion. Maybe they read a book at some point, maybe they read two, but they never really examined and tested the idea for themselves, though.

I am saying this only because I have been guilty of this myself in the past. Heck, hopefully I'm not doing it now.


If it's not easily felt, nor easily identified by others, what are the subtle signs to look for

This is a bit tough to answer, admittedly. In the end, I suppose you could look for these

  • The ability to speak for 5 - 10 minutes about the topic.
  • The citation of specific examples.
  • The ability to simply explain a new concept to you, à la Feynman.
  • The knowledge of the arguments against their opinion. 
  • The admittance to the shortcomings of the position and instances where it cannot fully explain phenomenon. 

Also, I say that a corollary to this is that I do not think many people actually have many opinions. They have mostly images. 

Also, I am not trying to bash Friedman here. That's not the point of this post. The specifics of the example really are not as important as the general idea of the person referring to a thinker and then pivoting subjects quickly.

This comment really explains your idea better than the original post

What is an example of having an opinion that is an image of an image?

I replied to this and a bit more below, in noggin-scratcher's comment.

p.s thanks for commenting