• ZzzoneiroCosm
    765
    Two quotes (trimmed of emotional fat) from Ayn Rand's essay, The Monument Builders: Essay #11 (1962) of The Virtue of Selfishness.

    "The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By spirit I mean: man's consciousness.)...The desire for the unearned in spirit...is a desire for unearned greatness...It is expressed by the...term 'prestige.'

    The seekers of unearned material benefits are merely financial parasites, moochers, looters or criminals, who are too limited in number and in mind to be a threat to civilization, until and unless they are released and legalized by the seekers of unearned greatness."

    "There are two ways of claiming that 'The public, c'est moi': one is practiced by the crude material parasite who clamors for government handouts in the name of a "public" need and pockets what he has not earned; the other is practiced by his leader, the spiritual parasite, who derives his illusion of "greatness"...from the power to dispose of that which he has not earned and from the mystic view of himself as the embodied voice of the 'public.'"



    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?

    If the notion of the earned is a epiphenomenon of a complex social structure including chaotic and (at times) unanalyzable market forces, by what calculation can one claim to have earned X?
  • tim wood
    3.9k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    I'll take a first cut: the question devolves to one of definitions, not just as to words, but as to cultural and social understandings and goals. Absent these, no reasonable discussion is possible.
  • TheMadFool
    4.9k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    In a very loose sense you've earned x when you fully appreciate the value of x. This doesn't in any sense imply that you have to possess what you earned. If I reference the wisdom of the crowds possession devalues whatever x is and that is something someone who truly earned x will never want. Crazy logic. Mind the multiple fallacies.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    765
    If you pay someone $7.00 an hour for their labor, have you earned the product of their labor or have you, to some degree, stolen from them?
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    765
    I agree.

    Ridiculous as she is, she's extremely influential in Right-minded circles. It's fun and useful to develop a catalog of zinging anti-Randian finishers.

    Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • boethius
    351
    Ridiculous as she isZzzoneiroCosm

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to complete my next post explaining why Ayn Rand is no a rehash of enlightenment philosophy, on "Why Ayn Rand isn't taken seriously by academic philosophers.

    It's fun and useful to develop a catalog of zinging anti-Randian finishers.

    Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner.
    ZzzoneiroCosm

    However, the general reason why there's a general tend to avoid Ayn Rand is that there are a lot of Europeans on the forum, and Rand get's hardly mentioned here in Europe. But I'm from the America's and so understand your motivation in terms of the broader social relevance.

    For this particular subject, and "virtue of selfishness" in general, the zinger you're looking for is corporate welfare, leading to either a demonstration that your interlocutor has no idea what their talking about or then a more general discussion of corruption in politics. If selfishness is really a virtue, then no one would hold it against the judge for selling justice to the highest bidder, that's just the rational thing to do, allowing for dollars to vote on laws and by extension the application of laws. All Randian type fantasies are just praise for those that excel in the status quo by whatever means available while denying such ideas, if they become the new norm, would change the status quo in any meaningful way: that the police, soldiers, judges, politicians, voters would all still somehow magically act like Kantians all while spitting on the name of Kant.

    If at this point your dinner guests haven't changed the subject (which I can essentially guarantee) you can go onto explain that while the governing capital owning elite generally do believe in selfishness, increasing their power by whatever means (that's usually how they got powerful, mixed in with good starting conditions), they generally don't actually believe Randian type "selfishness is a virtue" in any serious way. They bring out this ideology only when it suits them to whip up libertarians into a frenzy when required but will trot out other contradicting ideologies whenever doing so creates more gains; for instance, if taxes are at issue, there will be a lot of praise of the "selfish motive" and "wealth creators" and that people want to "keep their money" and tax is theft and an immoral punishment of getting ahead (i.e. in recent years, it's been discovered that flipping the message is more effective; maybe arguing 'selfishness is a virtue' today rings hollow today but arguing that 'trying take the gains is a sin' is still quite effective, in the US at least), maybe Rand isn't mentioned by name, because too much ridiculous baggage, but it's basically this idea; however, the same elites (and their Randian supporters) will praise the bravery and selfless sacrifice of soldiers when required for whenever public relations necessitates to honor the fallen or then insight in the population selfless (but irrational) feelings of militaristic patriotism to support military budget and imperial expansion in a general sense whenever these issues are questioned. Randians will accuse you of dishonoring the selfless sacrifice of soldiers while simultaneously holding the position that no soldier, police, firefighter, or non-profit volunteer really does act selflessly but are all really actually motivated by the "good feeling" of, at least believing, to do a good dutiful thing. Of course, Kant was aware of and obliterated any potential defense of this point of view by pointing out that one cannot be pleased to have performed a duty without having independent reasons to believe it's a duty in the first place, as otherwise one would not come to believe it is a duty and one could not conclude that one had actually performed a duty; only perhaps through social pressure would one have believed it anyway, a social pressure which would dissipate with time if there are no actual reasons for doing such a duty other than one will feel good about satisfying social pressure for having done it; if one is free from social pressure, as Rand suggests, there would be no way to create duties for the public good and no reason for a judge or a soldier to carry out such duties, which is the obvious and logical and rational conclusion of believing selfishness is a virtue: which is why Ayn Rand and all similar beliefs are so ridiculous.
  • 3017amen
    1.3k


    Two quick thoughts:

    1. If humans were not selfish, would we still procreate?

    2. The law of contracts, promise for a promise, assumes two parties benefit.

    Since we are self-directed individuals by nature, why not embrace that; not hedonism.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    765


    Thanks for your thoughts, should come in handy.

    Here's another fun quote:

    "Remember that rights are moral principles which define and protect a man's freedom of action, but impose no obligations on other men."

    The opposite, of course, is true: Rights, by their very nature, create an obligation. Without positioning someone as obligated to safeguard a particular right, we find it precariously situated. For example, the right to the pursuit of happiness obligates some agency (some person or group of people) to police those who would obstruct the pursuit of happiness.
  • frank
    4.3k
    What does it mean to have earned X? In the context of a complex social structure how can one be certain that one claims only what one has earned?ZzzoneiroCosm

    It's for others to perceive whether you've earned your fortune, respect, trust, etc.

    Ties into white advantage: the white person reasons: "I worked hard for this!" She doesn't see the part that was unearned.

    For example, the right to the pursuit of happiness obligates some agency (some person or group of people) to police those who would obstruct the pursuit of happiness.ZzzoneiroCosm

    I think they meant it's a natural right, so it's stoic morality where nature guarantees it. Violating that right will lead to a sickly society (of the sort some moralists would prefer).
  • frank
    4.3k
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.Banno

    Have you read any if it?
  • ZhouBoTong
    776
    Posting an Ayn Rand question should lead to immediate banning.Banno

    Well, only if they agree with her, haha. I get that even if one disagrees, Ayn Rand is inferior philosophy, but she spews some crazy shit that could spark philosophical interest...especially when one does a quick google search and it seems like much of the world agrees with her. I think Ayn Rand might actually do a good job of sparking people's interest in philosophy...then they happily learn she was doing philosophy rather poorly.
  • boethius
    351
    Well, only if they agree with her, haha. I get that even if one disagrees, Ayn Rand is inferior philosophy, but she spews some crazy shit that could spark philosophical interestZhouBoTong

    Though we agree on what's wrong with Ayn Rand's arguments, I disagree here that Ayn Rand is "useful to get interested in philosophy". Ayn Rand is simply propaganda and Randians form what is in essence a religious cult. Saying Rand is a segue for "serious" philosophy is like saying Scientology is a segue to serious history or Mormonism a segue to serious theology. Now ontologically we can accept "Randianism maybe true" or "Scientology maybe true" or "Mormonism maybe true" but if they are, separately or together, the true-true would then be completely incompatible with "serious" philosophy, history or theology; to entertain these religions is to entertain the idea that serious philosophy, history and theology are totally wrong (otherwise academics, or whatever your standard for serious is, would be devoting a lot of time to the analysis of Rand, Scientology and Mormonism as a serious way to approach philosophy, history and theology).

    All three groups operate as a cult, protecting members from outside criticism and the main reasons for joining the cult are either being born into it or nebulous notions of "benefit and community" apart from the content of what the cult professes to believe. When the Randian SCOTUS judge makes Ran prerequisite reading to be a clerk, it's an invitation to join the cult and not an invitation to disagree and seriously debate what Rand preaches and go over the criticism found on forums like this; if you come back a "Rand fan" then you maybe of some use to the Randians, as your behaviour can be controlled insofar as it leads to the most money compared to the alternatives (no principled objection would oppose bribes or blackmail) which the rich and powerful are in a position to engineer, and if you are already a Rand fanatic you maybe very useful indeed willing to do anything for money without any other ethical ideas that might muddle you up.
  • simeonz
    116
    The question is about the definition (or arbitration) of merit or entitlement. But for a less ambitious treatment of the subject, I have to agree with the author that when people appreciate that they haven't earned something, especially a finite shared resource with recognized value, but extend grasp to acquire it, they are acting out of selfishness. Whether selfishness can be considered beneficial to society sometimes, like other forms of self-interest, is a separate pragmatic treatment of the subject matter. But as a personal quality, in peer interactions or self-assessment, I wouldn't commend selfishness (in the above sense), or aspire to it, if I can help it.

    (People can be selfish out of their wits, instinctively. For example, in romantic affairs. I doubt that all selfishness can be repressed.)
  • ZhouBoTong
    776
    I disagree here that Ayn Rand is "useful to get interested in philosophy"boethius

    I don't disagree with much of what you have said, and yet I was certainly inspired to learn more about philosophy after arguing with Randians. If something seems obviously wrong, but is embraced by many, one can be compelled to research. I would say that Rand has inspired many to learn more about philosophy in the same way that religion inspires those disinclined to agree with it to study more philosophy. And I am talking EARLY stages of inspiration (like zero formal philosophy education). Someone earning a PHD in philosophy will NOT be inspired by Rand.

    And by the way, haha, have you had a few bad experiences with the mormons? Why are their ideas more ludicrous than the rest of the christians? Jesus showing up in america and planting some golden tablets doesn't seem any crazier than much of the bible? I guess the whole baptizing dead people thing is a bit nuts, but no more so than many prescriptions in the book of Leviticus.
  • Maw
    1.8k
    Sorry...Ayn Rand? Who is that?
  • boethius
    351
    I don't disagree with much of what you have said, and yet I was certainly inspired to learn more about philosophy after arguing with Randians. If something seems obviously wrong, but is embraced by many, one can be compelled to research.ZhouBoTong

    Sure, but we can say the same about smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, obesity, Trump's various statements (whatever you want to call the collection of them), activities leading to ecological collapse, slavery, organized crime, the KKK etc. whatever seems wrong I very much hope inspires research about why exactly it's wrong and what can be done about it. Doesn't make any social ill somehow 'kind of good' or a segue to philosophy that we should appreciate.

    If there were no social ills and because of this people didn't philosophize much, just enjoyed life. I would take that bargain.

    And by the way, haha, have you had a few bad experiences with the mormons? Why are their ideas more ludicrous than the rest of the christians?ZhouBoTong

    I didn't mention other Christians, though please, post why "Bible + Jesus showing up in america and planting some golden tablets (and cursing the native Americans etc.)" is just as consistent as just "Bible" in the religion sub-forum. If you bother to actually backup such an argument, I'll bother to respond to it.

    If not, I did mention theology (philosophical theology) compared to how a cult operates: enticing people to join not with reason but claiming to satisfy what modern society does not provide (mostly a sense of community, but also networking for jobs etc.) and coercing members to stay (hassling and excommunication) compared to critical thinking about theology topics and what are serious arguments and approaches.

    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.

    My point is, maybe Mormonism is right (Jesus flew to the Americas to spread the word to the lost tribe and then cursed the natives with red skin and gave permission to a latter group of preachers to marry (rape) as many minors (children) as they want and have as many wives as they want, even taking other men's wives, as it's gods will ... until it became gods will to bend to political expediency, while not actually, in principle, abandoning the previous position that's the real gods will; sure, it's in the realm of ontological possibility), but, if so, what we understand as serious critical thinking is entirely wrong: the approach, the methods, the content. If mormonism is right it is not the case it was a serious approach to theology that turned out to be correct, but rather that "serious theology is entirely wrong, that critical thinking is not a path to the truth".
  • ZhouBoTong
    776
    Doesn't make any social ill somehow 'kind of good' or a segue to philosophy that we should appreciate.boethius

    Fair enough. I would be happy to live in an ideal world where moral philosophy is unnecessary because all is good (whatever that even means). Until then, Yes, all of those negatives you mentioned will act as inspiration for those who disagree. I don't think that means I am defending them as "good"? Just finding a silver lining?

    If there were no social ills and because of this people didn't philosophize much, just enjoyed life. I would take that bargain.boethius

    Haha. Well you beat me to it. Yes, as I said above, I am happy to take that deal as well.

    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.boethius

    I don't think I have said anything that suggests I disagree with what you are getting at here.

    If mormonism is right it is not the case it was a serious approach to theology that turned out to be correct, but rather that "serious theology is entirely wrong, that critical thinking is not a path to the truth".boethius

    Here is where I am getting confused. Can you point me to the best example of "serious theology" using critical thinking to find the truth? You mean like Thomas Aquinas? Are his ideas examples of better critical thinking? I have never seen serious theology using critical thinking as a path to the truth? Doesn't theology typically (always?) start with the "truth" then use critical thinking in an attempt to justify or prove the already known "truth"?
  • boethius
    351
    I don't think I have said anything that suggests I disagree with what you are getting at here.ZhouBoTong

    Yes, my point was simply to make the starkest possible contrast, precisely because you are here, on a forum right now arguably welcoming of critical thinking -- and discussing theological and other matters. Serious philosophical theists will argue they are not "starting with the 'truth' then using critical thinking in an attempt to justify or prove the already known 'truth?", but rather starting with first principles, whether that passes critical scrutiny will be what's up for debate.

    Here is where I am getting confused. Can you point me to the best example of "serious theology" using critical thinking to find the truth?ZhouBoTong

    By "serious theology" I am not assuming here theists are correct. A theology course or group or forum will also deal with arguments that all theist arguments are wrong (either as a category or then one-by-one theist arguments turn out to be wrong) and likewise arguments that we cannot possibly know.

    Nor am I assuming that that any position with respect to serious theology, taken seriously by critical thinkers, is correct. For instance, I could claim on the theology sub-forum right now that this lampshade is god (to the exclusion of other lampshades and material configurations); I wouldn't be taken seriously, but not because I "am for sure wrong" -- maybe god did decide to be contained in this lamp-shade -- I wouldn't be taken seriously because my argument does not pass critical scrutiny.

    My whole point here is that critical thinking cannot out right own the truth. It is a faith based assumption to assume the law of non-contradiction is true as well as other argumentative methods (that we generally try to either derive from non-contradiction or at least pass credibility by showing consistency with it).

    In other words, the critical thinking community is a faith-based community, labeling arguments as "serious" and "not-serious" and "maybe serious with significant amount more work or evidence (i.e. if my god as lampshade tells me the future of sporting and political events without fail and intimate details of your life and thoughts, and I'm able to demonstrate this, maybe you'll take my argument more seriously ... but I can't demonstrate this, which is the point you'll be making meanwhile)", in relation to what passes critical scrutiny, or then, at least, very difficult to show does not pass critical scrutiny.

    This faith maybe wrong, things that don't pas critical scrutiny (my lampshade is god and you should believe it even without any supporting evidence) maybe the truth. If so, however, the entire critical thinking community is on the wrong track, critical thinking is a barrier, potentially a permanent barrier, to knowing the truth.

    If I want to develop my lampshade religion I will need to address myself to people that do not have such a barrier to belief; but perhaps I will have luck with those enticed by confident assertions, material benefits and longing for a sense of community -- perhaps their innocent eyes can see the light.

    The novice critical thinker will say "but without critical thinking there is no way to identify as special one absurd theory from the next; why is your lampshade god but not my spoon" but this may simply be the case, that critical thinking isn't helpful and the best that can be done is to roll the dice between lampshade and spoon and everything else: that those people who I find and manipulate to believe in the lampshade will be saved, and the critical thinkers who scoffed will be doomed.

    Otherwise, your argument is fatal, we must assume to possess the truth from the outset before critically reviewing anything we consider a candidate for the truth in our bag of tricks; which is a position that does not pass critical scrutiny. It may very well be that the truth is behind none of the doors we are trying to open nor might ever try to open, but rather behind us, through what we have come to believe is a solid impermeable wall that presents no visible pathway nor any special identifying features compared to all the other solid impermeable walls, that we stroll by obliviously. It is only in throwing oneself without hesitation or doubt at one particular wall that one can take the train to Hogwarts, and those that do not are forever lost in the labyrinth and are eaten by the snake.

    Those that have a different faith, to critical thinking, will hear such things and say "yes, yes, the critical thinkers are no better; their faith leads them astray, their own words condemn them; they have been deceived by the prince of deception, do not listen!"; which is not what I'm saying here, but they will not bother to think things through any further, that is what I am saying.
  • uncanni
    338
    Please, join a course or group or internet forum that can be argued to be welcoming critical thought on religious and theological matters for a year ... then become a Mormon for a year ... then report back on the appreciation of critical thinking and exposure to challenges to beliefs and assumption in each group.boethius

    I agree with you entirely: it's not like fast food! Another possibility is to do serious research of your own online, at serious websites only, about who and what these people and organizations are, how they operate, a thorough appraisal of what their most important ideas consist of, and why critical thinkers may tend to be highly skeptical about bringing a discussion "down" to that level. It's not censorship; it's just a complete waste of time.

    Mein Kamph became legal to read in Germany again in 2016.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/13/books/a-german-finally-picks-up-mein-kampf.html

    Critical thinking is nothing if not the consistent attempt to identify and analyze ideologial discourse and to de-mystify it. A critical thinker makes every attempt not to be hoodwinked by ideas, and I am extremely careful to identify little bits of fascism, totalitarianism, promotion of psychopathic ideas or practices (like by Pharma companies) or white supremacist belief/practices hidden in whatever I read or speak about with others. It's a daily confrontation.

    The author of the above article is a critical thinker, an "intellectual"; most of the neo-nazis buyint and reading the book over the past three years are not.
  • boethius
    351


    I don't understand your point, can you expand on it?
  • uncanni
    338
    I don't understand your point, can you expand on it?boethius

    The point is to acquire a context within which one can study various texts. I'm not going to insist that one have a world view in place before reading philosophy or political science or whatever: in fact, it's impossible to forge a broad world view without using reading as the vehicle through which it's forged.

    I assume that most everyone on this forum is concerned about any philosophical discourse that smacks of fascism, which is why they ban a series of subjects--Baden writes, "Racists, homophobes, sexists, Nazi sympathisers, etc.: We don't consider your views worthy of debate, and you'll be banned for espousing them."

    So it seemed to me that one of the issues that arose concerned how do we acquire philosophical knowledge? One member suggested that Ayn Rand should be banned, and then the Mormons became part of the discussion;

    My point was, by all means, read what you want if you want to find out what it's about for yourself, but it's important for a critical thinker to be self conscious and self reflexive about the world view from which each of us reads. My world view is constantly adjusting itself according to the information/knowledge I acquire, and I don't think much of the idea of a rigid, unchanging, unshifting world view. It will crack and break.
  • boethius
    351


    Thanks for clarifying further.

    Although I'm still not sure what your position is and where you disagree with my points.

    I was careful to chose the words "arguably critical thinking course or group or forum" since I'm aware we can argue who and where honest critical thinking is found, but in so arguing we are attempting to create a critical thinking community about critical thinking communities, and in so doing we will inevitably find some arguments are serious and other not. For instance, we would probably agree that programming a few computers to say gibberish to each other is not serious critical thinking discussion; there maybe a grey area between what we agree are serious criteria for a critical thinking community and what's permissible, but, based on our conversation so far, I think we will be largely in agreement.

    Precisely because we have limited time, as you point out, we must inevitably make a serious / not-serious distinction to organize our time; positions that can't be taken seriously, because they simply don't pass basic critical scrutiny, are not discussed, not because it's important to discuss every world view in exhaustive detail, but because other people believe it and it's politically important.

    If a large number of people weren't racists or fascist, you wouldn't mention it at all. Likewise, if a large number of people didn't subscribe to "altruism is evil ... but a government that neutrally protects my property rights rather than the selfish interests of the people that control said government is still possible" we wouldn't be discussing it.

    I'm not sure if you're trying to edge-wise defend Mormonism as credible or "credible light" (a apologetic of why other people believe without defending the underlying beliefs are believable), but if so, why not Scientology? Is it because thetans don't pass critical scrutiny better than Jesus flying to North America? Or just because it's been largely discredited in popular culture and can be more easily dismissed (popular culture has managed some level of critical scrutiny that can be relied on in this instance).

    If you are trying to defend the ancient wisdom contained in the Bible and not Mormonism, then I would suggest making a distinction between what might be ancient wisdom and worthy of review and reflection and what is not ancient wisdom.

    There are approaches to theism, the Bible, other religions, that pass my definition of "can stand-up to critical scrutiny, or, at least, very difficult to demonstrate not withstanding". If you have what you believe is a serious argument for Mormonism, post it in the religious subforum and I'll engage.

    I am a theist and a Christian, but I have no problem with the idea there are lot's of cults around of all sorts of kinds, some referencing the bible. I have no problem arguing why the book of Mormon is not seriously compatible with the Bible.

    I, likewise, have no problem requiring myself to resolve any internal contradiction, in doctrine or factual claims, in the Bible by appealing to symbolism, historical development of the key themes, or by taking the position that a passage, or entire books, that I cannot resolve reasonably, has been selected or miss-transcribed due to political motivations and I simply remove it from the Bible (i.e. I cannot critically defend the selection criteria that led to what's in the Bible, and so do not defend the content selection).

    However, as points out, we cannot simply assume to have the truth, either specifically or as "one of the serious things in our serious basket" and work our way backwards; in making a distinction between serious and not serious critical arguments, the epistemological position is taken that critical thinking is the path to the truth. It can be explained why things in the "catalog of not-serious arguments" don't pass critical scrutiny but it cannot be explained why such things are 100% for sure totally wrong; one is, at the end of the day, betting on critical scrutiny, perhaps for reasons that pass critical scrutiny but such reasons are not compelling for those who reject critical thought.

    So, if one of the not-serious-things is correct, such as my lampshade as god, then it is correct in a way that all "serious critical thinking" turns out to be incorrect.

    My world view is constantly adjusting itself according to the information/knowledge I acquire, and I don't think much of the idea of a rigid, unchanging, unshifting world view. It will crack and break.uncanni

    But is this really true? Or an attempt to extend the olive branch to various communities that don't really care about critical thinking, or then an edge-wise criticism of supposed critical thinkers that are not open minded enough to "really engage" in critical thinking (for by definition we must open our minds to new ideas to be able to critically review them).

    Are you willing to shift in your use of the law of non-contradiction? Or are you rigid and unchanging about that? If you discovered a unresolvable contradiction in your worldview would you entertain the idea that it's simply not a problem, that you can shrug it off and keep on defending a position you know to have an unresolvable internal conflict? For my part, I am completely inflexible in this regard, so we may simply be differing on this point; I maybe wrong about this, perhaps condemning myself for having faith in it, but this is my position, that resolving contradiction is the bedrock of reasoning and the truth, whatever it is, must be something that can be built upon it.
  • uncanni
    338


    I owe you an apology, and I amended my first post to make it clear that I agreed with your statement entirely. I never cease to be amazed at how easy it is for us to misunderstand each other on a forum like this one.

    As for your final paragraphs, I have to agree with Hillel: "Learning not increased is learning decreased." Learning should be in a perpetual push forward, and should find no easy resting place--at least for no longer than it takes one to quench thirst at an oasis. Then continue the exodus, the wandering, the movement.

    I'm about as much of an intellectual snob as I am a Trump supporter: less than zero. I spend almost all my time among far less-educated people where I live. I'm not in some ivory tower; I'm in the trenches. And I'm always trying to teach my under-class students the power and liberation of critical thinking; perhaps one out of 50 or 100 gets it. It's a labor of love and duty. I have a profound belief in the power of critical thinking to liberate people from all the ideological cobwebs of mass delusion and mystification that are so liberally showered on the American public; and I mean ideology in the classic Marxist sense: distortions and lies used to control people to obey. to put their spirits to sleep, to matrix them, so to speak. It's always an incredible moment when one of my students is awakened out of ideological brainwash.

    We have to continue awakening anew each day, for it's far too easy to be seduced by comsumerism, global capitalism, satan, or whatever you wish to call it. Stay woke.
  • boethius
    351


    No need to apologize.

    We seemed on the same page, but it's a page worth discussing in fine detail in my opinion, which is why I asked more clarification.

    In my first comments I did not make the distinction between honest and dishonest critical thinking.

    For, one can engage in critical thinking in order to create propaganda to circumvent people's critical thinking defenses. Likewise, a community of this sort of critical thinking can exist.

    So your point about dishonest intellectuals I completely agree with (why used "arguably critical thinking" to leave room to make this distinction).

    I completely agree I would not equate "intellectual" with "honest critical thinker", as you suggest; for an intellectual can be dishonest and using critical thinking skills to undermine an individual's or even public critical thinking.

    Which is why we are here having this debate.

    Dishonest intellectualism has taken over large portions of the public sphere, and not simply intellectuals (that are part of a cult like Randianism) being dishonest about what they think is a good argument, but the whole hearted embrace of doing away with even the pretense of trying to be intellectually honest -- because, in my view, intellectual honesty had started to adapt to "dishonest pretending to have an argument that passes even cursory scrutiny" (reality was catching up with the lies) and so it was necessary to just jettison the entire framework of critical thinking, get behind Trump, to stay politically relevant (to keep and, if possible, get more power).

    As you point out, it's not at all clear how to deal with it.

    Essentially all of my posts here are with the objective to develop a better methodology than current practice to deal with this collapse in trust in critical thinking (which is different than trust in institutions, which may very well no longer deserve to be trusted; the root cause of our predicament in my opinion).

    The community of honest critical thinkers, precisely because dishonest critical thinkers usually avoid them or must anyways be ignored for practical time constraint reasons or then get too angry to deal with so require self-censorship to be around -- the community of critical thinkers does not have, based on our usual debates among ourselves, the skills needed to deal with the collapse of critical thinking as an obvious public sphere objective. How do you debate the idea that critical thinking can simply be ignored?

    It's not simple and not necessary with regard to finding the best critical arguments as-such (non-serious arguments, such as computers programmed for gibberish, can simply be ignored), but, due to circumstance, it has become politically necessary (just as if a large group of people suddenly started to believe the random ramblings of a computer, it would suddenly be relevant to discuss what the computer is actually saying and why it doesn't pass critical scrutiny nor should we expect it to).

    In other words, in such times, it becomes necessary to form "team critical thinking" (which, almost by definition, is addressing other critical thinkers) and to craft arguments that are as immune as possible to critical-thought-rejection (arguments of which the basis is calling out the intellectual dishonesty of the opposing side: lot's of people are working on this, and I think progress is being made; engaging in this forum is one of my contributions to this effort; that not only are arguments wrong but dishonest).

    In this particular conversation, the piece of this methodology I am trying to fashion is "how far can one reach out with the fig leaf before falling over". My purpose is that any methodological improvements I make can be used in other contexts; for instance, useful source of content to benefit your students or then useful reflection upon which to create such content.

    I agree that arguments should be made as accessible as possible, useful tools in the trenches as you put it. Likewise, not everyone has the ability and time to become a widely read and sharp critical thinker. I place no moral value on having such abilities and time, only the responsibility to use that ability and time to the benefit of others (how to craft arguments that protect people from manipulation without leaning into manipulating them). In other words, how to use critical thinking to benefit less-powerful-critical-thinkers? Not an easy question, as I'm sure you're perfectly aware, and it is more a question of interpersonal trust than the content of such arguments in themselves, as I'm also sure you're perfectly aware, but, that being said, it is still better for the critical thinking community to craft the best arguments for the task possible (in an open way that anyone can review and improve upon) for the benefit of those that happen to trust them.
  • uncanni
    338
    In my first comments I did not make the distinction between honest and dishonest critical thinking.boethius

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. What if I proposed that there is no dishonest critical thinking? Or that dishonest critical thinking is in reality its opposite, i.e., ideology? Ideology as "the ostensible sincere and unselfish concern for the welfare of others," i.e., all the good Cristian industrialists who exploited the hell out of the working class, Donald T. Rump's redneck slogan, Make America Great Again; etc.; in reality you have pure sociopathy at work: unconscionable (no conscience) satisfaction in deceiving and exploiting others while indulging your greed and ambition for more power.

    This is Marx's definition, which is the only one I use it's false consciousness, not critical thinking. Ideology always involves callous manipulation and exploitation; critical thinking strives to treat each individual human being as such, and to communicate respectfully, without superciliousness or condescention.

    Intellectual snobs or elitists, if such beings there be, need to get a little muddy in the trenches. It's the only way to learn how to respond to folks in their own language, without being pretentious. You have to be able to speak different speech genres, as Bakhtin wrote. So when one of my students speaks to me in Ebonics, I respond in Ebonics and use it regularly in the classroom. No way would I rather be at Harvard.

    1. Ideology protects class interests; critical thinking seeks to liberate the oppressed/disenfranchised. Critical thinking recognizes the radical equality of all human beings, no matter what age. Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to others"; I take the Torah and all the rabbinical writings seriously (although I radically disagree with so much of the patriarchal silliness).

    2. Marx called ideology ‘inverted consciousness’ or ‘the distortion of thought which stems from and conceals social contradictions’. So it's like those in power believe their own lies: "I'm doing this to protect democracy and to make America great again. I have the peoples' interests at heart--God forbid you think I have my rich kids and cronies' interests at heart.

    3. "The rise of a body of ahistorical theory and analytic practice which does serious violence to materialist ontology, by grounding knowledge in "meaning", "interpretation", and the like rather than in the activity of real, living individuals, emerged historically as an antidote to the doctrine of philosophical materialism and its practices." Mardin Keshmiri, "What is this thing called ideology?"

    It's easy to get too lost in the theoretical/philosophical speculations. Not that everyone belongs in the trenches I'm in; we're all called upon to assist others in varieties of different ways. I certainly don't want to sound like any kind of a proselytizer, but I believe fundamentally that I'm alive to serve and assist other human beings. There are other aspects of my life, of course, but if I'm not serving others, then, as Hillel asked, What am I? This is what my Jewish Existentialism consists of.
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