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Mon Dec 11, 2017, 09:19 AM

In Trumpism epistomology was the first casualty, and why there is still hope.

At some time in the 5th century BC Aeschylus enumerated a truth that has been repeatedly confirmed in our lifetime, "In war, truth is the first casualty."

We can now update that with “In neo fascism, epistemology is the first casualty”

Systemic philosophical or theological discussion doesn’t start with what you know but the more important question “how do you know what you think you know”. Up until Copernicus knowledge was thought to be the recitation of the obvious: God made us, we live by simple rules and noting that which can be easily observed.

When Copernicus established that the most obvious known fact, that the Sun “rose in the East and set in the West” was not a fact and that we were instead a sphere rotating through space, human reasoning went through a crises of epistemology. How should we know anything? Are we even human beings or could we be (in the absurd) a butterfly dreaming that we are humans. Descartes established a new foundation with “I think therefore I am”, that knowledge can be certain on the basis of rational discourse and the use of the scientific method.

In 1970 Alvin Toffler observed in “Future Shock” that technological change would continue to speed up until it would happen at a rate that was faster than the psychological ability of society to absorb it. It would create pockets of fear. That is exactly what we are witnessing.

Please take a minute and read this disturbing article by The Guardian. It documents that farmers in the US are committing suicide at a rate much higher than not just the population but higher than other high risk groups, like veterans.



Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.

After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.

The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.

When we look at the irrational embrace of neo fascism in Trump and scratch our heads why rural parts of the country (and other countries), even those that are located close to normal urban and progressive communities, embrace policies of tribalism, we can see the reason, they are filled with fear. Fear is the fuel that has empowered fascism for a hundred years. In their fear they cling to their guns, their bibles and the false memory of a simpler time when society could be ordered by the simple observation in known truths; The sun rises and sets and human society was based on families that had a simple formula – a man, a women and children, that all you needed to succeed in the work place was to show up and work hard.

We need to face that what we are seeing is in fact a new branch of fascism. It is a world view that is not based on reason or fact but the Nietzsche like birth of the “strong man” who intends to reorder society not by reason but as an extension of their personality camouflaged democratic institutions. In this way Trump is like other “strong men” of fascism like Mussolini.

Truth, for people like Trump, is simple; it is not in a fact but in bellicose repetition of a lie where the truth of a thing is established not by reason but by the forceful assertion of a phrase. In the New York media and property world Trump was able to establish a win by simply wearing down critics by an obstinate repetition of a lie and that is the game that he is playing now.

Where the News Media went wrong with Trump is when they allowed him to state a known lie and after a few attempts at questioning “went on” to the next object. When Trump entered the absurd world of “birtherism” the news media should have never asked him another question, never moved on. They should have repeatedly asked him to explain how he arrived at that lie. Until he conceded that lie then they should have not let him make any other point. He won by his persistence.

We must now re-establish reason as the currency of public conversation. We should never again let one of our courageous leaders be targeted by absurd allegations that parallel Trump’s tactics of bellicosity and repetition as a substitute for fact and reason.

We should also understand that for many in the rural areas of our country the embracement of Trump is a cry for help. The are afraid of the future that takes their children to live in urban areas far away and eliminates jobs that have provided stability for families for generations.

How can we take the higher road, understand the pain that has mobilized our political enemies into an eruption of fascist irrationality and find a path forward that unites our common interest based on shared values? I would suggest we could accomplish this by simply recalling the wise leadership of the man who spent 8 years doing it day in and day out. The strange reality we live in is the country that has tens of millions that support Trump is the same country that elected and re-elected President Obama.

We must insist on a return to compassion and reason. Exhaustion, lassitude and defeat are not options.

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Reply In Trumpism epistomology was the first casualty, and why there is still hope. (Original post)
grantcart Dec 2017 OP
Orrex Dec 2017 #1
DetlefK Dec 2017 #2

Response to grantcart (Original post)

Mon Dec 11, 2017, 09:56 AM

1. Ask 1000 random people for a definition of "epistemology"

I'd estimate that about 925 will have no idea, 25 will guess that it's a surgical procedure involving the perineum, 25 will think that it's something to do with letter-based fiction, and 25 will know what it is.

I agree that Trump represents an attack on reason and the process of rational thought, and his drooling idiot racist supporters are happy to engage in that fight, but if you open with "epistemology," then you'll only reach people who are already in the choir.

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Response to grantcart (Original post)

Mon Dec 11, 2017, 10:00 AM

2. I've had discussions with two people who studied theology.

I was told that there's a principal difference between how scholars of the natural sciences think and how scholars of the humanities think:

- In the natural sciences, the first thing you do in an argument is establishing definitions, so we all know what we're talking about. (e.g. "energy" has only one meaning)

- In the humanities, definitions aren't taken seriously and that leads to problems in arguments. Even though both people use the same words, these words have different meanings to them. (e.g. Two people may agree that there is a hell, but what actually IS a hell, what counts as hell, where is it, what is it like?)

The humanities have the advantage that they are not as rigid and limited in their ways of thinking as the natural sciences. Only the imagination is the limit.

On the other hand, the natural sciences have something that the humanities have not: an impartial arbiter who can settle any dispute. The experiment.
In the humanities you can make endless arguments for and against an opinion until one side gives up or gets murdered.
In the natural sciences you can do an impartial experiment that will settle the argument, objective and without personal or political preferences.

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