MCAT CARS: Confronting an Infection of Desires

CARS 69: MCAT CARS: Confronting an Infection of Desires

Session 69

How much control do we really have over what new desires we acquire? Follow with this great MCAT CARS practice passage as we investigate.

Once again, we’re joined by Jack Westin, the premiere online MCAT CARS tutor.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to article:

https://aeon.co/essays/can-you-stop-yourself-being-infected-with-other-peoples-desires

Most of what we know, we know from someone else. I believe that Moroni is the capital of the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean because a friend of mine just told me this five minutes ago, and I have no reason to think that she is trying to trick me. But she hasn’t been there either – she also knows this only because she read it somewhere.

We acquire most of what we know about the world this way – by testimony. Testimony is a good thing. If we could rely only on our own senses, our knowledge would be very limited. When you watch the news, listen to the weather forecast or gossip about a colleague at the water fountain, you are relying on other people’s testimony. This healthy distribution of tasks expands our cognitive horizon.

So most of our beliefs are based on other people’s beliefs. How about desires? What are our desires based on? Well, at least partly on other people’s desires.

Imagine that your friend, a great gourmet cook, loves this one restaurant and goes on and on about wanting to go there. It is difficult not to find yourself wanting to go there too. Or imagine that, although you really don’t feel like dancing, you go along to a nightclub with your friends. But with everyone around you dancing, you find yourself wanting to dance.

I call this desire infection. We often get infected by the desires of people around us. This should not surprise anyone. We also often start yawning when people around us yawn. And we get infected by the emotions of others – a film can seem much funnier if everyone in the audience is laughing out loud. Our emotions are influenced by the emotions of others. And our desires are influenced by the desires of others.

The difference is that emotions are fleeting. When you leave the cinema, you might no longer find the film that funny. And if you are no longer in the same room as the yawners, you will stop yawning. But desires that you form on the basis of other people’s desires can stay with you for years and decades, and have a major impact on how your life turns out to be.

[03:50] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

Most of what we know, we know from someone else.

Jack says:

It’s a straightforward question.

[03:59] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

I believe that Moroni is the capital of the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean because a friend of mine just told me this five minutes ago, and I have no reason to think that she is trying to trick me.

Jack says:

It’s an example of how we know something because someone told us.

[04:15] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

But she hasn’t been there either – she also knows this only because she read it somewhere.

Jack says:

The author is saying that a lot of what we know, we know from other people.

[05:02] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

We acquire most of what we know about the world this way – by testimony.

Jack says:

Now, we can think of judges and courthouses. Maybe it’s going that direction, who knows?

[05:20] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

Testimony is a good thing. If we could rely only on our own senses, our knowledge would be very limited.

Jack says:

The author is giving their point of view.

[05:30] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

If we could rely only on our own senses, our knowledge would be very limited.

Jack says:

Our ability to collect information ourselves is limited. But using this testimony and knowledge from other people expands our knowledge.

[05:48] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

When you watch the news, listen to the weather forecast or gossip about a colleague at the water fountain, you are relying on other people’s testimony.

Jack says:

This is another straightforward article.

[05:59] Paragraph 2, Sentence 5

This healthy distribution of tasks expands our cognitive horizon.

Jack says:

As we get more information from other people, it’s expanding our ability to gather knowledge. Notice it says it’s healthy so it’s good. So testimony is a good thing.

[06:19] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

So most of our beliefs are based on other people’s beliefs.

Jack says:

Many people may associate testimony with something bad but don’t bring in your bias. Go with whatever the author says.

[06:43] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

How about desires?

Jack says:

The first sentence was about beliefs and now this sentence is about desires. It’s not about desires versus testimony. But desire versus beliefs. Beliefs are passed down through testimony. And so now, how are desires passed down?

[07:05] Paragraph 3, Sentences 3-4

What are our desires based on? Well, at least partly on other people’s desires.

Jack says:

Beliefs are based on how other people talk to us about it. In this case, it’s about recognizing someone else’s desires.

[07:32] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

Imagine that your friend, a great gourmet cook, loves this one restaurant and goes on and on about wanting to go there.

Jack says:

The author is setting up an example here.

[07:42] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

It is difficult not to find yourself wanting to go there too.

Jack says:

It’s an example of someone’s desire based on another person’s desire.

[07:55] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

Or imagine that, although you really don’t feel like dancing, you go along to a nightclub with your friends.

Jack says:

It’s like the person is describing peer pressure.

[08:10] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

But with everyone around you dancing, you find yourself wanting to dance.

Jack says:

So the desire here is again based on other people’s desire to dance. Students should think about what this means.

Our desires are shaped based on the people around us. Be aware of that. If you feel pressure to do something in your life, maybe it’s because you don’t necessarily want to do it. And you’re just forced to do it because you see everyone else doing it. So just acknowledge that.

[08:55] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

I call this desire infection.

Jack says:

It’s an interesting way for the author to phrase this.

[09:08] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

We often get infected by the desires of people around us.

Jack says:

The author is using another language to describe this.

[09:16] Paragraph 5, Sentence 3

This should not surprise anyone.

Jack says:

It’s a straightforward sentence.

[09:23] Paragraph 5, Sentence 4

We also often start yawning when people around us yawn.

Jack says:

This is another example of “infecting” other people around us.

[09:35] Paragraph 5, Sentence 5

And we get infected by the emotions of others – a film can seem much funnier if everyone in the audience is laughing out loud.

Jack says:

Is laughing a desire too? Maybe the author is shifting from desires to emotions. Because the sentence said, “we get affected by the emotions of others.”

[10:17] Paragraph 5, Sentence 6

Our emotions are influenced by the emotions of others.

Jack says:

We talked about beliefs, desires, and emotions.

[10:25] Paragraph 5, Sentence 7

And our desires are influenced by the desires of others.

Jack says:

This is just a restatement. It’s confusing because we talking about desires and then we went to emotions and now about desires again. Ultimately, what do desires and emotions share? The infection! We get it from other people.

[11:00] Paragraph 6, Sentence 1

The difference is that emotions are fleeting.

Jack says:

Fleeting means it’s short-lasting.

[11:13] Paragraph 6, Sentence 2

When you leave the cinema, you might no longer find the film that funny.

Jack says:

In the heat of the moment, you find it funny. But then afterward, you no longer find it funny.

[11:25] Paragraph 6, Sentence 3

And if you are no longer in the same room as the yawners, you will stop yawning.

Jack says:

Another example here.

[11:33] Paragraph 6, Sentence 4

But desires that you form on the basis of other people’s desires can stay with you for years and decades, and have a major impact on how your life turns out to be.

Jack says:

So the desires that have been passed on to you from other people can be long-term. It makes you really think about what you want. This is again very philosophical and very similar to the last passage. Except that what’s the difference?

This is actually easier to read and it’s more interesting because it’s about desires and emotions. It’s not about history which isn’t as interesting as this for most students at this state.

All this being said, you have to pay attention. You have to keep track of wherever you are. We talked about beliefs then emotions and then desires. Then we talked about the differences between desires and emotions. We first talked about the similarities and then the differences.

“Always keep track of the flow whether it's easy or hard, the structure of the passage really matters.” Click To Tweet

[13:00] The Main Idea

The main idea here is that a lot of our emotions, beliefs, and desires come from other people.

Be skeptical whenever you hear something. Take it as an opinion and not a fact. These days, it’s very hard to see the difference between a fact and opinion. 

That is the major challenge that students have. They have been trained all their lives to just listen to the teacher. You never really had the chance to think about why is this true and how is it true. Could it be not true?

'CARS will start making you realize that not everything in society and not everything that someone says is true. This is a test based on ideas and opinions that may or may not be true.' Click To Tweet

Start thinking more about these things. Think more critically and more deeply about what you’re reading. And that’s really going to help you with CARS.

Links:

Jack Westin

Link to article:

https://aeon.co/essays/can-you-stop-yourself-being-infected-with-other-peoples-desires

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