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Why do you think what you think? How do you justify what you know? Are your strongest opinions grounded in truth? Or are you really just a malleable sponge floating in the sea space-time, shaped by the local water?


If I were a different race would my opinion on the prison system differ? Had I been born somewhere other than Providence would I think differently about abortions? Had I never gotten an Apple TV, would I watch less rom-coms and consequently be less convinced that Jude Law is about to knock on my door any second and tell me he loves me? Had I taken harder classes would I no longer believe in God? What if I never bought AirPods, had sisters instead of brothers, or was Blonde? In what ways would my knowledge and understanding of the world differ?

Irrelevant influences are those that influence what we know but do not directly bear on the truth of what we know. If I hold my opinions and personal truths as the strongest credit to my identity, then what does it say about my self, If everything I know could so easily be changed had something in my life gone differently.

At first glance, the effect of irrelevant influences (“nurture”) seems obvious: well of course we would all be different people had our upbringings or genetics varied; we are products of society, our time and place in history. But the more you notice how much we are shaped by external and irrelevant factors the more you may feel uncertain as to why you are who you are, why you believe what you do, and if you are justified in who you are and what you believe. Do you actually have any opinions yourself, or are they all just byproducts of condition x?

The point of noticing these influences is not to cause skepticism. It may be better even to have somewhat flawed beliefs than believe nothing whatsoever. And in the wise words of Kung Fu's greatest, Master Oogway, "you must let go of the illusion of control". Do not abandon yourself, and your mind, but go back and revise when you have time, justify, and seek knowledge. Accept that you do not have full control of your thoughts, and accept that your mind should not be so controlled and complete. Ultimately, irrelevant influences teach us to be open minded, that our beliefs are not always as justified as we think they may be, and opposing beliefs, no matter how radical to us, may be equally justified and equally in need of revision.

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