Oh shit it’s late I’m busy and a little bit drunk so I’ll just copy and paste the rest in here and leave it with you unchecked for now, thanks, good night…
The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the ‘this-sidedness’ of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.
[op cit, 2]
And another thing (or two). It was recently shown that our ability to do simple maths, to understand the implications of ‘three million extra voters’ or ‘48% of the electorate’, not to mention the results of a degree rise in global temperature, is severely hampered when to do so risks challenging our cherished beliefs (especially when that is part of a deep investment in something ridiculous). Does knowing this mean we should give up?
Neoliberals assert that folks in free markets always get ‘better’ results than we can in controlled economies (and, hey, those who suffer in the process are just ‘losers’, right?). Do they have a point or are they swayed by a simple acceptance of Gradgrindian views? Can’t it be argued that we can use what we know and theories from both sides to arrive at the ground rules for a system less harsh and even more productive?
You can’t be a rationalist in an irrational world: it isn’t rational!
[Joe Orton: What the Butler Saw]
Your blogger knows people online and in the ‘real’ world who who will decry with good examples and logic the irrationalisms of climate change or vaccination deniers, while asserting that evolution is a nonsense theory because it contradicts the Bibble. Others of his acquaintance will be scathing about any number of ‘fruitcake’ beliefs and superstitions, while being unshakeable in their faith in homeopathy or astrology. Studies that seem to uphold the merest glimmer of what the stars say are leapt upon with triumphant glee while any that show the opposite (as the more rigorous ones always do) are decried with ‘science doesn’t know everything’: the very science they were calling as a witness when it seemed to uphold their view! But where does it say we’re supposed to be a consistent species? To be honest I prefer us this way, except when it threatens the lives and well-being of those I love — and I love everybody, me.
At this time, and aided by the very science that should be seeking answers to it, we have an assault on the very idea of truth (philosophically valid as a question), a desire to abandon it and see conspiracy behind everything we’re taught. An increasing number of people and celebrities now claim to believe the Earth is flat, and that the weird idea that it’s a spheroid is just part of the lies that ‘they’ tell us to keep us under control. Seems a pointless bit of control to me; as Sherlock Holmes said, what difference would it make whether the Sun went round the Earth or vice versa? But this encourages them to see their educators and governors and seats of learning as some thought-controlling enemy — rather than realising that it’s the very people feeding them this crap that stand to gain most from control their lives and draining their pockets.
Surely we need to realise the fundamental fact that in an argument the true winner is not the one who ‘proves’ their point or bludgeons the other party into giving up, but the person who has their opinion corrected. And when the issues involved are things like the economy or climate change or policies that could lead to all-out war, it’s even more crucial. The daft thing there is, whoever’s right — and there is no point debating if our philosophical arbiter is not prepared to ‘consider it possible that they be mistaken’ — both sides stand to gain from reasoning it out. Because, if the implications of climate science, say, are correct, no amount of redefining ‘truth’ will save the deniers’ kids and grandkids from the consequences of even the not-very-nice-case scenarios. So working it out rationally is in their interests as much as mine — more than mine in fact, as I have no offspring to worry about anyway.
So who is going to use the tools, which have always been available, to stand up to the tide of nonsense, pay the Pascalian compliments and ask the Socratic questions? Who will dig behind the assumptions to find the telos, locate the premises, and identify the common ground? Cometh the hour, cometh the man, they say. Even ignoring the old-school sexism and allowing for a woman to cometh too, one is left asking where the bastard has got to. Perhaps we could get Mike Sandell to step up. He seems a nice guy with a razor sharp mind.
And no, just in case you’re wondering, not this writer. Not fast enough on my feet and not rigorous enough anyway — in a recent facebook exchange I was pulled up for saying I thought people taking an ‘anyone but Hillary’ stance were conned idiots and later saying I would never call the electorate idiots. Fair point, sloppy wording — my feeble defence would be that I think we are all capable of being conned into stupid acts, but we are not, at least unconned, inherently stupid. So maybe I need a more careful vocabulary, even more subtle than distinguishing between idiots and acts of idiocy. Not And more to the point, as mentioned in earlier blogs, I also have negative charisma, so no one would listen anyway (even if I spent many hours turning this ramble into a coherent and concise argument, effort I should really be spending on my trivial little novel). So if it’s all the same to you, I’ll just lie on this couch, while the veneer of civilisation crumbles all around me, swearing and throwing shoes at the telly whenever Question Time comes on.