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12 January 2015 @ 05:54 am
Picking verbal lice off our fellow primates  
Slate Star Codex on phatic communication
Marissa Lingenmrissa on January 12th, 2015 12:49 pm (UTC)
One of the places where this is most important, where the anti-inductive urge fails us most, is when someone has died. Strongly anti-inductive people don't want to be the twentieth person to say, "I'm sorry for your loss, and here is a hotdish." And yet there really really really isn't anything brilliant and original to say to someone who has lost a loved one. It's all variations on "wow, this sucks" and "here is some gesture of support"--and the gestures of support mostly have to stick pretty close to the baseline of human maintenance, because, "Your grandpa died, do you want me to take you to Rome?" is out of most people's means and not very helpful for most people's grief anyway. But you see a lot of anti-inductive people just not saying anything because they will feel that the bereaved has heard it all before, and the answer is, they have, but not from you.
El Coyote Gordo: thumbsupergee on January 12th, 2015 12:53 pm (UTC)
*phatic words of agreement*
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on January 12th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
This is one of the areas in which religion can excel (although it often doesn't, but still.)

"Here is your set of traditional words that you repeat directly and exactly in the following set manner."

That's a real useful thing to have in a toolkit, and it's a tool that religion can provide.
Marissa Lingenmrissa on January 12th, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
It's especially useful if you and the bereaved share a religion, but some religions excel at non-offensive set words that work interfaith also. I'm thinking particularly of "May [their] memory be a blessing" from my Jewish friends. I'm not Jewish, but that doesn't presume anything in particular theologically, from where I sit. Some of the "standard traditional" Christian words upon bereavement can be pretty upsetting for me even though they're hypothetically closer to my own beliefs and background. Other Christian groups do better, though.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on January 12th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I avoid "may their memory be a blessing" to friends whom I know are atheists, because the notion of "blessing" can be seen as explicitly theological. I'll sometimes rephrase it as something like "May their memory be an inspiration" or "a source of joy" instead. Naturally, some atheists do use the word "blessing" to mean things like "a source of joy" or "an inspiration", but I find it's probably safer to avoid the word unless I know they use it themselves.

On the other hand, if I know someone is religious, in ANY religion which has the notion of "blessing," I do use it, because, like you suggest, it can be broadly applicable without being too pushy of any specific set of beliefs.