Is unrestrained philosophical skepticism responsible for post-truth world? Do philosophers bear responsibility for this?

(Worth reading article about how blurring the lines between skepticism and falsehoods created the post-truth. Are philosophers responsible for this? f. sheikh)

Interview of Julian Baggani, Author of many books, by 3:AM Magazine

3:AM: A Short History of Truth, should help us endure the apparent crisis of truth. You write: ‘If there is a crisis of truth in the world today, the root of the problem is not the inadequacy of philosophical theories of truth.’ Yet, you suggest philosophers aren’t entirely blameless in that crisis, how so?

JB: To a certain extent all philosophers have been involved in a systematic questioning that undermines confidence and certainty. Philosophy as a whole unleashed skeptical forces which, outside of the tightly controlled environment of a rigorous philosophical debate, led a lot of people to throw their hands up in despair and think ‘what’s the point?’. A lot of the public perception of philosophy is that it leaves you with no answers, and more confused than you were at the beginning.

More specifically, there have been a number of philosophers – perhaps more in continental Europe than in Britain – who have reveled in the dismantling of truth. I think they did so with good ethical motives, and for good philosophical reasons. I can see the sense in what they were talking about; the idea that, as a matter of fact, truth is often claimed by elites in order to further certain agendas. They crowd-out alternative perspectives – particularly those of the powerless. But the undermining of truth contributed – in the weird, indirect way that philosophy contributes to the culture – to a rejection of the idea of truth as having any kind of proper meaning at all.

I think a lot of these people, Foucault for instance, would have been horrified that Trump has emerged as a person taking advantage of this skepticism. But that is what happened. It’s a wake-up call.

3:AM: The book is structured in terms of different brands of truth – encouraging a more nuanced understanding of truth. Are you combatting the misappropriation of those skeptical ideas?

JB: I thought the one thing that wouldn’t be useful in addressing the issue would be to give people sketches of the dominant competing theories of truth. I didn’t think that was where the problem was. By the time I’d finished the first draft I realized what I was really saying was: more than having the right theory, it’s important to have the right attitudes towards truth.

This is exactly what Bernard Williams said in his Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton 2002). There are these virtues of truth, which he identified as sincerity and accuracy. Williams’ view was: if you begin with a sincere desire to arrive at the truth and you are as scrupulous as possible about trying to get your facts straight, then you have a basis for arriving at a more truthful conception of the world. I think that’s right – and I’d broaden it out a bit to include other virtues (e.g. skepticism, rather than cynicism).

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This Article May Save Sanity Of Many TFUSA Affiliates

Brief Thought by F. Sheikh on Article. Sometime in anger, frustration or irritation we may say or write things that we regret later on. It is especially true on social media and websites like Thinkers Forum USA (TFUSA) where we sometime write such a hurtful and insulting stuff that we will never find the courage to say to someone’ face. We do not know what effect it may have on targeted individual or individuals, but it surely has ill effect on writer’s mental and physical health because no mind at ease and peace can pour out insulting and hurtful thoughts. Massimo Pigliucci has written a great article on this subject and some worth heeding advice on how to avoid an anger talk trap, which in reality is a temporary insanity. Article is below.

People get angry for all sorts of reasons, from the trivial ones (someone cut me off on the highway) to the really serious ones (people keep dying in Syria and nobody is doing anything about it). But, mostly, anger arises for trivial reasons. That’s why the American Psychological Association has a section of its website devoted to anger management. Interestingly, it reads very much like one of the oldest treatises on the subject, On Anger, written by the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca back in the first century CE.

Seneca thought that anger is a temporary madness, and that even when justified, we should never act on the basis of it because, though ‘other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men’s minds plunge abruptly into anger. … Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings.’
The perfect modern milieu for anger management is the internet. If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, or write, read or comment on a blog, you know what I mean. Heck, Twitter anger has been brought up to new heights (or lows, depending on your point of view) by the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.

I too write quite a bit on online forums. It’s part of my job as an educator, as well as, I think, my duty as a member of the human polis. The conversations I have with people from all over the world tend to be cordial and mutually instructive, but occasionally it gets nasty. A prominent author who recently disagreed with me on a technical matter quickly labelled me as belonging to a ‘department of bullshit’. Ouch! How is it possible not to get offended by this sort of thing, especially when it’s coming not from an anonymous troll, but from a famous guy with more than 200,000 followers? By implementing the advice of another Stoic philosopher, the second-century slave-turned-teacher Epictetus, who admonished his students in this way: ‘Remember that it is we who torment, we who make difficulties for ourselves – that is, our opinions do. What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?’

Indeed. Of course, to develop the attitude of a rock toward insults takes time and practice, but I’m getting better at it. So what did I do in response to the above-mentioned rant? I behaved like a rock. I simply ignored it, focusing my energy instead on answering genuine questions from others, doing my best to engage them in constructive conversations. As a result, said prominent author, I’m told, is livid with rage, while I retained my serenity.

Now, some people say that anger is the right response to certain circumstances, in reaction to injustice, for instance, and that – in moderation – it can be a motivating force for action. But Seneca would respond that to talk of moderate anger is to talk of flying pigs: there simply isn’t such a thing in the Universe. As for motivation, the Stoic take is that we are moved to action by positive emotions, such as a sense of indignation at having witnessed an injustice, or a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Anger just isn’t necessary, and in fact it usually gets in the way.

The philosopher Martha Nussbaum gave a famous modern example of this in her Aeon essay on Nelson Mandela. As she tells the story, when Mandela was sent to prison – for 27 years – by the Apartheid government of South Africa, he was very, very angry. And for good reasons: not only was a grave injustice being perpetrated against him personally, but against his people more generally. Yet, at some point Mandela realised that nurturing his anger, and insisting in thinking of his political opponents as sub-human monsters, would lead nowhere. He needed to overcome that destructive emotion, to reach out to the other side, to build trust, if not friendship. He befriended his own guard, and eventually his gamble paid off: he was able to oversee one of those peaceful transitions to a better society that are unfortunately very rare in history.

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 posted by f.sheikh

Were liberal ideas responsible for Modern State?

(A worth reading article by Mark Koyama stating that Medieval States lacked resources and infrastructure to fund wars and state’s expenses, and hence depended on Church’s infrastructure to supply funds which in return exerted political influence on State. As the state’s expenses increased due to more wars, it developed its own infrastructure and institutions to collect funds and rely less on Church. State also instituted freedom of religion to bring minority religions, which Church persecuted, into tax base, improve economy and at the same time make revenue collection uniform and efficient. This necessity led to separation of state and church and freedom of religion, rather liberal ideas of Locke, Spinoza and Voltaire which may have followed the trend, and not initiated it. f.sheikh)

One of the concluding paragraph in the article;

What implications does our argument have for the modern world? Most important perhaps is the need to recognise that liberal ideas were not necessarily responsible for the emergence of liberal societies. Instead, the rise of a new type of political organisation, the modern state, led, for its own reasons, to rulers enforcing general rules of behaviour – rules incompatible with religious discrimination.

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