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The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

[op cit, 2]

Where was I … oh yes …

…changes of outlook and opinion at various times, if not by the force of arguments, then due to some epiphany or other. Famous people have spent weeks ‘seeing how the other 99% live’ for tv shows or the like, and at least modified their stance towards the undeserving poor, say. Surely our increased appreciation of the mechanisms and functions of the brane (stumbling around it in the dark though we still are), and of these very issues like confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, illusion of depth and all that shit, can help us to develop tools to counter them, in others and, crucially, in ourselves?

As a counter to this, it’s worth noting that there are also articles going round about the suggestion of Blaise Pascal (1623-62) that, as people are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others, a better way of arguing with them is to start by buttering them up with praise on any points they may have got right. This gives a platform for making them consider the other bits that are total bollocks. Your correspondent usually throws in a reference to good ol’ Socrates (the philosopher, d.399BCE, rather than the footballer, d.2011CE) and his method of asking questions until the victim sees contradictions inherent in their own position (Yrs Trly does add an admission that said Greek gentleman probably did get twatted a lot, probably the odd Glasgow kiss, let alone hemlocked eventually, as no one likes being proved wrong, especially by a smug beardy smartarse).

One thing that depresses this writer is the prevalence of unchallenged vox-poppery in the media. Even in shows which purport to be debates, there is never a philosophical linesman to yell, Fault! False attribution, or wave a yellow card for ad hominem. Instead the two (or more) sides are left free to trade woolly logic, emotive arguments and general snide insults, while rabidly reactionary audience members chip in with their own ill-considered or underinformed opinions. Rhetorical blows are traded but no attempt is made to convert or persuade, only to do down.

And, when the man or woman asked to comment in the street can only parrot unquestioned general ignorance (or, more likely, are chosen by the editor because they do so), like the couple during the EU campaigns who actually claimed that all immigrants and refugees are handed a huge wodge of cash, a council house and a car the minute they arrive, while his cousin had been on the council list for years, or repeat misinformation (from either side — the right have no monopoly here), the need for balance is surely no justification for letting this bullshit go unchallenged and uncommented?

Perhaps we need a program or newspaper column in which a latter-day CEM Joad (look him up) can say, It all depends what you mean by … and subject all these ideas and facts (false or otherwise) to a strong critique.

But who would be prepared to go on such a show?  Can you imagine K-A Conway or any of those blustering ranty types accepting an invite, if the conditions were that they were to submit to reasoned discussion, especially if the ‘referees’ could turn their mics off or administer a Chinese burn for every infringement against the debaters’ code? More to the point, who but your tedious correspondent would watch the show?

I have oft opined that the notorious ‘Brexit Bus’, claiming that the UK sent £350m a week to the EU and hinting that it could be spent on the NHS instead, should have been followed round by another bus saying that we get £240m of that back in rebates, loads more in subsidies to struggling areas, and that the value in terms of business and other economic terms makes it well worth the fee, and, by the way, many of those sponsoring this bus and the purple one have expressed a desire to see the NHS dismantled and privatised. In an adversarial system the onus is on the opposition to counter the bullshit, after all. But not only would that have meant an unfeasibly long bus (or unreadably tiny text), but all the anti-EU media (owned by those billionaires and their friends) would have cut it out of their coverage anyway.

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