“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” – Leo Tolstoy
I first came across this essay by Athony Liversage (from which I have borrowed the title for this post) 18 years ago – its a commentary on HIV/AIDS skepticism in the post-911 social and academic climate. HIV/AIDS was a test run. So is COVID-19. There will be more unless we do something different to what we have done before when the boot came down. Several days ago I ranted…
Those that use the term “conspiracy theorist” to describe another are acolytes of a church of separatist thinking which, by conveniently segregating a group of people with differing views, makes it much easier to ignore the fact that there are, amongst those number, many effectively using the tools of critical thinking to perceive the truth – grammar, logic, rhetoric.
These are the tools of reason that were methodically suppressed starting at least 800 years ago – the deliberate dumbing down of humanity has been underway for a long time. To call another who uses these tools, effectively, a “conspiracy theorist”, is equivalent to being a Luddite of Reason.
I feel that we have a brief window of opportunity to alter the course of humanity for the better, but that if we squabble amongst ourselves over which philosophy of action (or inaction) we should be taking by segregating people and ideas which counter our personal dogmas and beliefs, then we lose again, and we shall return to our deepening cycle of self-abuse through abdication of our sovereignty to false authorities.
John of Salisbury published the Metalogicon (98MB download) in 1159 in which he describes the methodical destruction of the thousand-year-old Greek school of critical thinking – the Trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric employed in the pursuit of reason and truth. Plato asks in The Republic, “…is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth? How can there be?”
Humanity has been dumbed down so thoroughly that it has become “a sin” to apply critical thought to the events going on around us. Anyone exhibiting even a hint of reason is labelled a “conspiracy theorist” – a modern heretic in the church of pseudo-scientific dogma and “common sense”. What we are witnessing now, in the midst of this global pandemic of fear, is the endgame to our current cycle of abuse.
Plato divides the general population into three classes – reason, appetite and spirit. Statesmen (philosophers) are governed by reason; civilians (those that provide for material needs) are governed by appetite and pleasure; the executive force (soldiers and policemen) are governed by spirit and action.
This division is made on the basis of state-provided education, not by birth or wealth. Everyone is assigned an appropriate rank through a process of examination. In the just State, each element plays its part and keeps within its boundaries.
These elements are also present in every individual who is governed, to varying degrees, by:
- rational judgment of what is good
- a mass of conflicting appetites for particular gratifications
- spirit, or will, which seeks to prevent infringements of rights by other people and by the individual’s own appetites
Harmony is achieved when people are ruled by reason and society is ruled by philosophers. By Plato’s measure, we’re clearly a little short on statesmen at this time.
Just as it is more within one’s power to love wisdom than to attain it, so to it is easier to love reason that to possess it. “To have reason,” that is, to possess genuine judgment, is the lot of few.
John of Salisbury – The Metalogicon
“Formerly tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hanging; nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing more to learn, has been perfected by civilization.”
Alexis de Toqueville – Democracy in America