Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seeking truth -- responsibility and ambition

thedistanceiskillingme ( left the following comment in response to my post "Social Constructivism as Anti-Humanism":

Dear Lawrence,
Very interesting read I do say. Although your beliefs and opinions vary from mine, I do hold accordance with your belief for humans to empower themselves with personal beliefs and personal moralistic values.
Contrasting though is that I believe that the average human does not have enough knowledge or understanding of the inner workings of our political/social systems to make much opinion, other than idle gossip or uninformed slander.
I think there is a balance, a middle road, using great minds or as you dub them "great leaders" as a base of research to further your intelligence on the matter so you can in-turn make educated judgment on the system of which we belong.
You have obviously looked into these, hence you have something worthwhile to talk about.
Good read. Thanks

RESPONSE:  I am not quite sure what the author of the above comment has in mind.  He is referring primarily, I believe, to the final paragraph in my note which reads, "I am very tempted to feel critical of those who accept Stalin's beliefs without trying to understand and wrestle with their philosophical underpinnings. In addition, I am tempted to feel critical of those who don't strive to understand the philosophical influences in our modern age. It is so much easier, I know, to accept the teachings of a "Great Leader." If Stalin said it, it must be true. If Hitler said it, it must be true. If Chomsky said it, it must be true. If Rush Limbaugh said it, it must be true. If you aren't thinking through or wrestling with the philosophical underpinnings of these people, and of course you aren't because if you were you wouldn't bother with their ideas, but if you aren't then it depends entirely on luck as to whether anything these "great leaders" say is true and accurate. If you have selected one of these "Great Leaders," or a great leader like them to believe, then you will be congratulating yourself on your own cleverness. To which I say, good luck."   
            He may be a follower of one of the "Great Leaders" I mentioned, but if so, he doesn't say which one.  For the sake of discussion, I'll assume it is either Chomsky or Limbaugh.  If he takes what either of these individuals say as "a base of research to further [his] intelligence . . . [so he] can in-turn make educated judgment on the system of which [he belongs]" I say as I said in the note he is responding to "good luck." 
            I have debated followers of both Chomsky and Limbaugh and both sets would disagree with me about "luck."  They are quite sure that the Great Leader they follow has a right understanding of America and the World.  And if we were to ask what "research" they are doing to "further" their "intelligence," we would find that they are reading books that either their Great Leader has recommended or books consistent with the Great Leader's teachings.
            But, to be fair, I could reword thedistanceiskillingme's comment slightly and then not disagree with it: None of us can read everything.  We must find someone to listen to and I am no different in this regard.  However I have never sought out a "Great Leader" to teach me about history, politics, society, or foreign affairs.  I have sought "the best authorities."  This term can be criticized, perhaps, in the same way I have criticized the "Great Leaders," but when I read an historian I also read journals and reviews about what he has written which provide something like "peer reviews."  Even after I have read enough to consider myself adept on a given subject, I will still read reviews and comments from these authors' peers.  But does thedistanceiskillingme do that?  I don't know.
            One last thing occurs to me.  I wrote the above note 13 months ago, but at present I'm reading Roger Shattuck's The Banquet Years, the Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I, Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Guillaume Apollinaire.  Apollinaire seemed to some of the people he was associated with a great leader and yet who reads him today?  He took a tangent that was anarchistic and then looked within himself and fancied he had found a great truth -- a better way.  He was an extremely charismatic individual.  I criticized him in an earlier note for his on the one hand rebelling against "the establishment" and on the other wanting the approval of people who believed in the establishment.  Perhaps some of that was a hope that they would be converted to his ideas, but a larger part was simply that he was ambitious.  He did not move outside of society when he rebelled against it.  He stayed inside it and wanted its approval. 
            Chomsky is also an anarchistic rebel against "the establishment."  Does he want the same approval?  Is he ambitious in the same way Apollinaire was?  Perhaps.   Chomsky's ideas strike me as a great confusion. 
            Limbaugh does not rebel against society.  He works within "the establishment," but he has set himself up as a political force -- a great leader -- and does have a following.  Is he ambitious as well?  I suspect so.
            I have been accused of trying to sway others to my views, but I have never been ambitious of that.  I may well defend my own views, but somewhere along the way I lost confidence in "the average human" that thedistanceiskillingme refers to.  I don't want him following me, for if he does he will sooner or later suspect me of not respecting him.  I want him to think and he doesn't.  I want him to study and he won't.  I want him to read the best authorities and he chooses instead to follow one of the modern "great leaders."  I understand why Plato had no confidence in democracy . . . and yet . . . I have studied the alternatives and end up supporting the establishment -- sort of -- but without any interest in joining the cheering mob.


thedistanceiskillingme said...

To Lawrence,
It appears that you have taken my words differently to how I was hoping they were interpreted. (I firstly am speaking completely informally from a personal view, which leaves me terribly vulnerable to judgment) But I am in uniform with you (as much as you would appear to despise) I agree. People follow these "great leaders" far too blindly and with ignorance to a more open view of their direct world.
On the other-hand though, I (and again stressing "I") believe that people such as Chomsky are important people to 'use' as a basis of not so much leftist based thought but even links to people such as Apollinaire or at least bottom line more thought in general! haha It may be my current surroundings or perhaps its my nurturing that has led me to believe that the human race is doomed, unless a "great leader" comes along with totalitarianism approach, so humans can see the world as instead of "what can I buy that will make me happy" but more so "what can I do to make others happy."
My desire for truth is only equivalent to the time I have to acquire it. Some things seem too far out of my reach as an individual, hence why I research into the dealings of others (that may not have the same view, but just one snipit can help me understand more) that you classify as "the great leaders."
And your last statement of what YOU want the average human to do, but won't. So cynical, depressive statements like these is why, (I'm a hypocrite! because I am also just as cynical, but for the purpose of this train of thought, bare with me :) the average human does not want to learn, amongst the age of consumerism vs. laziness.
Times will change soon, people will be forced to learn.
Kind Regards Chris

Lawrence Helm said...


I respond to your comment at