Monday, 31 October 2016

How come so many are so blind to ideas?

Why are so many so blind to the power of ideas or, more, so blind to the philosophical conclusions they've absorbed themselves without question? Philosopher Harry Binswanger has a hypothesis that those two phenomena are linked: that they have absorbed the Idea "that ideas—especially philosophic ideas—are irrelevant to behaviour . . . and to history."

Journalists [for example] who are immersed in a sea of like-minded colleagues and friends, don’t think they are slanting the news. They are not “ideologues”–that’s what their opponents are. They just report plain fact, “telling it like it is.” It’s just self-evident that it’s a crisis if not everyone has health insurance. It’s self-evident that when a hurricane strikes, the government must provide funds for relief.

Philosophically, this attitude represents intrinsicism–the belief that even highly abstract conclusions are facts of reality open to direct perception. When someone else doesn’t agree with the “self-evidency,” that merely shows that he’s a fool or a degenerate. If he’d only drop his prejudice, he could just see the patent truth of . . . [insert wrong idea here].

Colloquially, this attitude is parochialism. What do these people think about people’s beliefs in the Dark Ages or in Ancient Egypt or in Ancient Greece? The fact that virtually the entire population of other cultures hold different basic outlooks on life—different philosophic premises—is totally unreal to this type of person.

I think he has something here.


1 comment:

  1. There is an implied converse: the idea that since other countries and other times in history are so different and alien, nothing about what happened to them could possibly apply to us today, because we're so smart and advanced now, "we know better".

    This is happening even as we retrace Weimar, late Republican Rome and "l'Ancien Regime".

    Both of these are related to what's called "normalcy bias".


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