Monday, February 5, 2007

The pretense of knowledge

In his Nobel lecture, Hayek called it "a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought".

At some point in their lives, these people develop a perspective. Then, for the rest of their lives they vigorously defend it (the perspective). Seeing is not believing, believing is seeing. Equipped with the twin tools of language and evidence-that-supports, they can steer gullible you into their make-believe dens. Argumentation is war, and two weapons are required to make headway. First, mastery of using words that portray a basic proof of grasp; this helps in gaining legitimacy. Second, practice of rhetorical reason - as Aristotle says, 'the faculty of observing, in any given case, the available means of persuasion' - or the selection of required evidence for any topic. Perhaps, to stem this perpetuation of confusion, Wittgenstein remarked ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’. But bloggers will not listen. Opinions are a dime a dozen.

What can you do? When you have identified the dork, stop taking that person seriously. A lack of doubt, a nagging consistency in all judgments is suspect; methinks it is the first step towards fascism. Stay away from opinionated people masquerading as experts. Stay away from cock sure people. And by all means cling to those who nurture some ambivalence, who do not have all the answers. You will find their company comforting. To maintain your sanity you need spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.

The internet is a great repository. Look for poems, photographs, recipes, travelogues, movies, music. A picture is worth a thousand words, a good recipe a taste of joy, and music is the food of love. Stay foolish. Watch, listen, taste, laugh, work hard, enjoy!

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