Who needs an expert, anyway?

So the headlines tell us we are living in a post-fact world. And the expert is declared — DEAD.

We are witnessing, what I like to call, the ‘argument from conspiracy’ rapidly shift from the domain of crackpots and closet bigots to the dominant (i.e., loudest) mainstream position. This argument assumes that a conspiracy — some clandestine, usually nefarious, ulterior motive — underlies claims of fact, especially those facts that undermine the assumed conspiracy, or oppose claims consistent with it. It follows that no such fact is to be trusted, nor the source of that fact trustworthy.

At its most extreme, no fact is indeed fact. ‘It’s all a cover up!’ Hence, we are now post-fact, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The basic argument from conspiracy is: Continue reading

The Rights and Wrongs of Ignorance: First the Wrong.

You may be surprised to learn I am pretty ignorant. (If you aren’t surprised, just for me, pretend.)

For all my 12 years of state schooling I was left largely to my own devices. No memorable educator to admire and emulate, no intellectual guidance, no challenge. Still my precociousness drew attention, revered and ridiculed in equal measure, yet, unhelpfully, left uncultivated. I had taught myself everything I knew. This meant by time I reached university I was starkly ignorant of perhaps the most important thing — learning. Ignorant of how to learn. Ignorant of why to learn. Ignorant of what there was to learn. Ignorant of all the goings on in the world of learning.

One main reason for my ignorance regarding learning is that I come from place where there is a certain pride in being ignorant in this way. I grew up amongst who I call the wilfully ignorant. Those who purposefully disengage from formal education, scholarship, anything intellectual. And consequently, they are deeply wary of those who do pursue it, acting as if the learned are somehow tainted, or defective, and are out to infect you with their taint or defect. The wilfully ignorant’s whole position is resolutely summed up with their go-to rhetorical response: ‘What the bloody hell do you want to do that for?’ Continue reading

No Arguing Here!

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This is not philosophy.

Last time we did some philosophy. (Yes, I recently posted a World Philosophy Day special edition, so keen eyed pedants counting all editions technically I am referring to the time before last. However, counting only regular editions it is rightly last time; this is what I mean when I say ‘last time’ here. Okay.)

My aim (last time) had been to show you that with a good tool (my guiding principle) and a little guidance (my blog’s aspiration) everyone is — that is, you are — capable of engaging philosophically with the ideas of philosophy, even those of its greats. Instead of just letting the ideas of such formidable thinkers simply wash over us or blindly adopting them as our own, we can all be philosophers and gain a deep and clear understanding of someone else’s thought. To my mind this is probably the greatest skill any human, let alone any philosopher, can have — to properly come to understand another human’s thought.

Also last time (re: pedants, as per above) I gave you an example of how the view of one of philosophy’s great thinkers can be questioned, along with revealing potential problems and weaknesses in his argument. I showed that the powerhouse Daniel Dennett is human too.

But I worry. Continue reading