Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Truth is for losers?

Yet another post on "if only people would listen to me" edition! ;)

In many posts, I have complained that more and more people seem to be uninterested in the pursuit of truth.  Whether it is in a family context, or in a small college like mine, or national politics, it is only a few idiots like me who apparently believe in pursuing the truth.  A relentless pursuit of truth requires us to rid of our preconceived notions and to also question, say our favorite religious or political bottom-lines.

Consider for instance this post from less than a year ago, in which I worried about facts and truth.  I linked it to my graduate school days when I first came across "postmodernism."  I concluded that post with:
It is surreal that we now live a life where facts simply do not matter.  Academic post-modernists, who detest Trump and Putin, find that Trump and Putin are successfully practicing post-modernism where anything goes!
Or, how about this post from a month ago, in which I quoted from an essay:
Trump’s playbook should be familiar to any student of critical theory and philosophy. It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them. For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power.
And today, I heard on NPR:
I think that several things have gone on in American society that have caused a kind of moral confusion. One of those things, I think, is that there's been a rather sustained assault on truth, kind of postmodernism. And that's a movement that really developed in the academy years ago, the notion that either objective truth doesn't exist or if it does, it's not something that we can ascertain. ...
I think what's happened is that that has now spread to the wider society and including political society. And I think when you lose that, you lose the ability to reason together. And that kind of thing is really problematic in a society. And we're seeing a kind of paranoia and conspiracy mongering in politics that is unusual and, I think, worrisome. And I think a lot of that comes back to this point about the idea that there just isn't a truth that we can agree on or accept.
Yep, as I titled that earlier post, if anything goes, then trump happens.

The question that the show's host asked is an awesome one:
 So are you asking lawmakers today to almost become political martyrs if they need to? They might go down in the next election, but at least they would be leading by example in trying to make the country less divided?
The guy--Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center--dodged that with a weak response.  But, that is the reality--pursuing the truth might lead to unpleasant outcomes for the pursuer--like how I could be without a job in a matter of four years from now.  But, the terror of losing my job does not deter me from seeking the truth.  I care not that I am an idiot for such an approach to life.


Ramesh said...

I don't agree that staying with the truth and doing what is right, necessarily will lead to a bad political outcome. Martyrdom is not inevitable. If a politician, truly, stands up for a certain set of principles and stays consistent to it and is seen as fair and just, he will be elected. Even in your country, the fringe is noisy , but not in the majority. The silent majority still exists in the sphere of reasonableness and moderation.

A full 42% of eligible voters did not even vote in your last election despite the consequences.

Sriram Khé said...

"If a politician, truly, stands up for a certain set of principles and stays consistent to it" ...
Ahem, that's like saying that if my aunt had balls then she would be my uncle ;)

BTW, of those who didn't vote, there were quite a few who were the victims of the GOP voter suppression tactics, which worked well in GOP's favor.

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