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

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I don’t know anything about … but I know what I like

We’ve all heard it said, probably confidently announced it ourselves. It usually crops up when we are talking about things like art, music, wine. That definitive proclamation

‘I don’t know anything about [insert particular thing] but I know what I like!’

Often followed by an emphatic ‘And I know I don’t like that!’ Typically whilst aggressively pointing at some divisive piece of contemporary art, avant-garde music, or expensive wine. Continue reading

Beware of Philosophers bearing Trojan Horses

RomanVirgilFolio101r

Sinon is brought to Priam, from folio 101r Roman Virgil

We witness the greatest human horror acted out for the good of an idea. Lives, societies, countries can be fractured, mutilated, deeply and inconsolably scarred by the embodiment of an idea. In turn, we worry about the harm ideas can cause. We fear they will mess with our heads, bend wills, break hearts.

So last time (excluding the special edition), when I suggested that we imitate — that is, imaginatively act out — ideas that are not our own as our own, I also acknowledged the worry that we risk being damaged, corrupted, by the bad ones. Continue reading

The Art of Listening

We’ve all had those conversations. You know the sort. The ones where you are simply talked-at — incessantly. The talker-at only pausing for necessary bodily functions (well, we hope). And if you do manage to get that edgeways word in it is either received with eyes-glazed impatience or that faux-attention that is really only seeking a gap to recommence the talking-at.

Yet, we are all guilty of them, these conversations that amount to no conversation at all. While we are usually (excruciatingly) aware when we are being talked-at, we often fail to realise when we are doing the talking-at. Especially when it all seems so civilised, politely taking turns to talk, keeping friendly eye contact, and paying sincere attention. Your body (including your mouth) is doing all the right things, but in your head all you hear is BLAH BLAH BLAH, except perhaps the bits you want/like/agree, or the random bits that make you go WHAT?! Continue reading