Monday, March 22, 2010

The pushback against stupidity

The re-occurring stories of catholic molestation, and of course, their cover ups (way to take responsibility guys!) are almost more than reasonable people can stand. To make matters worse, the moderate and liberal Catholics can't be counted on to clean up their house; they show either lack of interest or inability to carry out basic justice. But their complete failures illuminate other failures, like philosophy's failure to teach the basics of ethics and virtue to the masses. Philosophers have had thousands of years to get this information out, and it seems they haven't done a very good job.

Our society at large seems to be stuck in a state of solipsism, we just don't give a shit about real knowledge or truth. We seem to think that opinions are enough to justify making objective truth claims; and we don't need empirical evidence – simple gut feelings will do. There seems to be too much value placed on a person's interpretation of something, rather than caring about the true properties of that something. In conversations we spend a good bit of time tripping over each others misunderstandings and subjective statements; it's very hard to talk about anything important when we're forced to spend most of the time debunking nonsense about that something. If philosophers had done a better job of teaching about humility, epistemology, and how to seek truth, I think we wouldn't have some of the problems we have now: the widespread sense that opinions are truth, the belief that being offended is sufficient reason to silence a person, and that we are all whiz-bang geniuses already and don't need to learn anything more than what we already “know”.

Though I don't feel philosophy is solely to blame, I do think it's fair to say that they should claim some of the responsibility for the rampant illogicality we see around us. I think philosophers have an acute sense of what effect their teachings could have on society, and should get their message out there much more than they have so far. When we still have entities like the Catholic church, and they continue to do what they do, it's clear that we need to step up to the plate and start solving some of these problems. But we can't go to bat confidently without having a firm grasp on basic philosophical principles, so let's get those principles out there, and into the hands of masses; it's plain to see we sorely need this stuff!

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