I DON’T MEAN to brag.
Trust me, I absolutely am not bragging when I say this.
My first college degree wasn’t in philosophy.
My first bachelors degree was in political science.
Before I diddled in philosophy, I earned a degree in
equally useless political science.
I had deluded myself into thinking I wanted to pursue a career in politics.
Luckily, I got wise and decided to go with philosophy.
The reason why is a long story.
Long and not all that interesting. To anybody besides me, anyway.
I started college as a political science major because I was into politics.
Not so sure about that anymore.
There’s a long and uninteresting story about that, too.
Anyway, unless you’ve been chained to a rock inside Plato’s cave, you may have noticed that people have been paying a lot of attention to politics these days. Fortunately or unfortunately, politics is almost unavoidable.
Actually, it’s more like he is unavoidable.
Whether you live in Topeka, Kansas or Taraz, Kazakhstan, and if you use any variety of media, the New York real estate mogul, former reality TV star-turned president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has managed to become the weather of all celebrities.
He’s everywhere. He’s unavoidable.
And he’s damn-near as disruptive as a cyclone.
I’m not going Left or Right on that one. Whether you believe Trump is destroying the country or draining the swamp, the guy is plain disruptive.
I can’t watch TV or read a supermarket tabloid without seeing something about the President. I’ve even found myself lamenting the lack of Kardashian stories on TMZ because even TMZ is all about Donald Trump.
So far, with a few exceptions, I’ve managed to avoid writing about President Donald Trump.
Mostly because, at this point in my life, I can do without engaging in pointless political arguments with people I don’t know (probably Russian bots) on the internet.
However, there comes a time in every lover of wisdom’s life when that wisdom lover realizes that it as a dereliction of duty to not say something – especially if the something they’ve avoided talking about is a human tornado.
So, with saying something in mind, I will say this: WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM. AND THAT PROBLEM IS PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP.
Alright… before you prepare yourself to not enjoy yet another SJW anti-Trump think piece, and before anyone says the words cuck, triggered, snowflake, or MAGA, I’m not coming from the political Left or Right on this.
Politically speaking, the problem of Donald Trump has an easy remedy: the 2020 presidential election.
For me, a lover of wisdom, President Donald Trump isn’t a problem politically as much as he is a problem philosophically.
And really, it isn’t just Trump. It’s all politics.
There’s a problem with all politics.
…which is precisely why I can’t avoid the subject any longer.
I have the feeling I’m gonna use some bullet points.
PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO. 1: THE TRUTH
The 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) asked, “Of what can I be certain?” Descartes called all his beliefs into doubt and accepted only those beliefs that were distinctly, clearly, and indubitably true.
If being a philosopher is all about seeking wisdom − philosophers LOVE wisdom − it is also, as Descartes tells us, about finding the truth (as truth is an essential element of wisdom), then living in a country with a presidential administration that has been described as fostering a “post truth” political environment can be philosophically troubling.
Wikipedia describes post-truth politics as:
Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics and post-reality politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of “secondary” importance. While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the internet and related social changes.
In the seminal political treatise , the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428-7B.C.E.-348-7 B.C.E) states that the state will be secure and flourish only if the state is ruled by the most wise – the Philosopher-King.
The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands…
The Philosopher-King is not only a ruler, but also, as his title states, a philosopher.
Philosophers, according to Plato…
The philosopher is in love with truth, that is, not with the changing world of sensation, which is the object of opinion, but with the unchanging reality which is the object of knowledge.
If philosophers are in love with the truth, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a most wise leader in a president lies on average 5.5 to 9 times a day.
Also – should we really be in the business of making truth relative? Should we hold that what is true for me may not be true for you, as White House Senior Adviser, Kellyanne Conway, suggested when she explained to Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, that the Trump Administration had “alternative facts” concerning the size of the crowd at the President’s inauguration?
If we can’t agree on what is true, it becomes difficult to agree – something that can have detrimental consequences when passing legislation and creating public policy.
Think climate change.
As the late former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (March 16, 1927 – March 26, 2003), said (attributed), “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO.2: IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE TRUTH YOU CAN’T KNOW ANYTHING
As any epistemologist will tell you, epistemic certainty* is kind of a big deal.
It is in philosophy, anyway.
Knowledge requires truth.
Before we say that we know something (or make a claim about the world), we must meet certain requirements for knowledge, namely that we believe our claim, and that our claim is true**.
Whether you believe we are capable of epistemic certainty or not, we should be able to have at least a reasonable expectation that our information is consistently reliable. That is to say, we should be able to trust that the information we receive is accurate (or true). Reliable information allows us to know how the world is − the truth gets us to trustworthy conclusions or claims about the world.
If all our beliefs about the world are based on alternative facts, what can we say we truly know?
That question isn’t rhetorical, by the way.
PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO. 3: INCONSISTENCY (or incoherence) IS ANNOYING
So… in philosophy, there’s a fallacy called the Inconsistency Fallacy. The fallacy happens someone makes an argument that contains contradictory statements − that is to say, the statements are inconsistent with one another.
That’s kind of like saying you’re for states rights while also supporting a federal ban on…whatever.
You don’t have to sport a tricorne hat or attend a Tea Party rally (or attend a Tea Party rally while wearing a tricorne hat) to know that advocating federal supremacy while simultaneously declaring your belief in individual state sovereignty is kind of, well, inconsistent.
Or, like saying you’re a fan of Ayn Rand but you’re also a follower of Jesus…
Not saying that there’s anything like that going on in government.
Well… tonight President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address. I’m fairly certain, without even watching one minute, that the viewers – the people who support the President and the people who do not support the President − will see exactly what each wants to see.
Some folks will see a moment of presidential brilliance.
Others will see
good Lord in Heaven, it actually happened someone worse than George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, I’ll be in the darkened corner counting fallacies… trying to not go Left or Right on this.
*I know I just dropped some philosophy jargon on ya. I also know that, when you drop jargon, you gotta define your terminology (that makes it easier for people to know what you’re talking about). When I drop a phrase like epistemic certainty and epistemologist, I’m talking about the field of philosophy called Epistemology. Epistemology, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP):
Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits?
** There’s a bunch more to knowledge than my overly truncated explanation of what knowledge is. After all, this is a blog post, and not a scholarly treatise. If you’re interested in reading scholarly treatises on knowledge and epistemology, I refer you to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) article on Epistemology at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/. And if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, I also recommend the textbook Epistemology by Richard Feldman.