The world is flat. I mean, look around you, sure you see some bumps here and there, but have you ever seen (with your own eyes) the curved horizon? I thought not. All those pictures? Photoshop. All those astronauts? Actors. Moon landing? Stanley Kubrick.
The MMR vaccine causes autism. The study that proves this is challenged by a investigative journalist? He must be being libelous. The Journal of the American Medical Association disproves the findings? There is a medical conspiracy trying to get you to keep vaccinating your children.
(Disclaimer: I am not a flat-earther, a Leave-voter or an anti-vaxxer)
Why do we believe, what I would like to call, these ‘cheap truths’? Not to say they are true, in fact, all of them are provably false. But their formulation is that of the statement, which is bivalent, so in some manner they purport to be true.
And these ‘truths’ are comforting to some strange individuals, otherwise they would have died out. Poole argues that these claims (which he calls zombie ideas) help people structure the world around them, the chaos and fear that spirals out of the news everyday. Whilst I see where Poole comes from, I disagree with their reasoning why these ‘truths’ are accepted. It is not just because, as humans, we desire comfort and order in our lives. I believe people accept these ‘cheap truths’ because we live so day-to-day in this world. Most people live hand to mouth, and immersed in their jobs. We watch TV, read the news (maybe) and talk to our friends. Not many of us look into space telescopes, or do accounting for the UK Government’s involvement with the EU, and hardly any of us research into the cause/s of autism.
What I’m trying to get at it is that we should not blinker ourselves to our everyday life. In modern philosophy there has recently been a backlash against so called ‘armchair philosophy‘, whereby people simply sit around and talk about concepts, ideas and other philosophical endeavours. Wittgenstein perhaps started the backlash when they advised Drury to go live ‘among ordinary people of a type that you at present know nothing about’. But I find this lived in philosophy potentially misleading. When we live in our senses, and think with everyday common sense, we fall into potentially stale, potentially damaging ideas.
We should trust experts, and we should practice arm chair philosophy, now that the internet and all its resources are at our fingertips. To attempt to find philosophical truths whilst performing menial tasks such as lens grinding, as Spinoza did (which Wittgenstein envied), is not going to be very fruitful when now, we can access so much information, draw from endless scholars, and find new view-points from our armchair.
I shall end on a fable. Ganesh and Karitkeya were sitting in Ganesh’s library. They were arguing over who was going to marry the two handsome men from the temple. Ganesh believed that he should as he was the elder, and Karitkeya believed that he should as he was the stronger. They agreed to resolve the contest by racing around the world, by whatever means they choose.
And so off they went. Kartikeya scrambled up the Himalayan mountains. He slid down the mountains and was soon in the forests of China, running past panthers, tigers, even the odd panda or two. He ran and he ran until he reached the rice fields and on through field after field until he reached the sea. Then he swam from island to island, passed dolphin, whale and shark. He reached the Americas and ran deep through the Amazon forest and up to the buffalo plains, running north with the buffalo, occasionally stopping to hear their stories, until again he was swimming in the sea. Onwards, through blocks of ice, he swam to the frozen plains, passed polar bear and seal, over the edge of the world and down the Russian Steppes beyond, until finally he was back where he started. He looked for Ganesh and found him in the library reading a book and eating a mango.
“Welcome back,” said Ganesh. “I travelled around the world and got back a long time ago. I was just waiting for you so you could be here when I marry those two girls.” Kartikeya was astounded. “But how do I know you really did travel around the world?” he asked. “I could ask you the same thing,” said Ganesh. “So what was it like then, when you climbed the Himalayas?” asked Kartikeya. Ganesh described it, almost exactly as it had happened for his brother, the whole journey around the world.
And so Ganesh married the men, Siddhi and Buddhi. After the wedding, Kartikeya came to visit his brother. “Did you really travel the world?” he asked. “Good question,” said Ganesh. “Yes and no. You see, I read book after book, about country after country – about everything you could possibly see. And when I read about them, I saw them in my imagination and in that way, I traveled around the world.”