Asking and arguing

We have all experienced this I am sure. Probably we have been on both sides of this coin.

Someone you know consults with you for your opinion, no matter what the subject is. You give your opinion, if it is in disagreement with their own, they begin to argue with you. 

When people ask for an opinion they are pursuing one of two goals: Education or Confirmation. In the case of someone seeking education they are trying to extract some information and update their own knowledge, either in the abstract or in the concrete (i.e. “what is this thing that I have”).

Based on people’s psychological makeup, and their reason for pursuing this hobby or anything similar, they will have a natural inclination to one path or the other. People who simply seek out confirmation will eventually find it, and they will sort out their opinions of everyone else based on whether or not they receive confirmation of their existing beliefs. It is not just with collectors of antiques or art, it goes for politics, religion, or who you think the best quarterback in the NFL is. 

This flowchart illustrates the two different paths someone seeking education and someone seeking confirmation follow. This is very important to be aware of because it is human nature to seek out confirmation of our existing beliefs and biases. It interferes with our judgment and ability to learn when we seek confirmation instead of education. 

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But All My Friends Say It’s Good

There has always been this phenomenon out there. But it seems to be getting worse. Treasure hunters everywhere want to be that guy who discovers something very important, both for the prestige, the thill and of course the valuation. 

Importantly in digging up gold and diamonds: it certainly helps if you are a geologist.

The problem that people have is that they want to be the treasure hunter and make their big score, but they don’t have the background to understand what they are looking at. People have a very large emotional need to have their find confirmed. 

I have encountered this attitude many times. 

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One or Two Generations

After the Tokugawa made the final steps of unifying Japan, swordsmiths adopted more clear traditions of signing swords and dating them became much more common. The information they left behind and the fact that we’re dealing with “near history” makes it easier to understand swordsmith lineages. 

When it gets into the Muromachi period and earlier, things get a bit more murky. Many signatures were lost, dates are few and far between, and period specific references can contradict each other. 

In the modern period, with swords accessible to everyone and importantly with the work of the NBTHK passing Juyo blades and publishing them, the picture has become more clear. We owe a lot to Fujishiro Yoshio who’s work in the early 1900s on reference materials is more often right than wrong. So I’ll start this discussion with some of his general thoughts on this matter of one or two generations.

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