Disinformation and the Future of Democracy

Sunday, May 9, 2021

What Is It

The 2020 election and startling events that followed show that the US is as polarized as ever. Not only is there fundamental disagreement over values and goals, but people can’t seem to agree on the most basic, easily verifiable facts, like who actually won. With so many seemingly living in an alternative reality, how do we continue the business of democracy together? Should we adopt paternalistic policies towards fellow citizens who are so profoundly divorced from truth? And does our current plight suggest that the project of liberal democracy is failing? Ray and guest co-host (emeritus) John Perry stay informed about their guest, attorney and political analyst Dean Johnson, co-host of KALW's Your Legal Rights.

Comments (17)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, March 6, 2021 -- 12:31 PM

Truth decay. Clever.

Truth decay. Clever. Alternative reality? Is that anything like separate reality? Seems to me we are fundamentally retreating from democratic government and the principles underpinning that notion.
The endless acrimony has eroded the republic beyond recognition. To my estimation, the most disturbing aspect of all this is the disregard our legislators have for the consequences of their actions.
They appear not to care, so long as they can prevail. We the people do not know what to make of it.
If there is no improvement, sadly, our democracy is finished. Rome, it is said, was not built in a day.
It did not fall in a day either. The parallels are telling.

Daniel's picture

Daniel

Friday, March 26, 2021 -- 4:30 PM

So where does that leave the

So where does that leave the crossing of the Rubicon? Ceasar himself didn't want it. His generals did. He didn't lead his troops across; he was pushed. Might we be observing something similar in the behavior of our recent national chief executives? Is corporate power pushing our elected representatives to overrun democratic norms?

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, April 3, 2021 -- 8:48 AM

Good questions all. I think

Good questions all. I think me unqualified to answer them. But there is something else which has been nagging at my consciousness for maybe twenty five years. I have noticed an erosion of sorts: the steady replacement of matters of substance with matters of form. I contend this is largely to blame for the increasing divisions we witness. Form is mostly about compliance with insructions, edicts, proclamations and the like. It tends to diminish substantial importance, in favor of conformity. I suspect others have seen this. We cannot all have blinders on, can we? Yes, I am a remnant of counter-cultural upheaval. I also remember more free-thinking times, when some of us had the audacity to look for what really mattered.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, April 3, 2021 -- 2:23 PM

Move my last comments

Move my last comments anywhere you wish. Tell me what you find.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 -- 6:13 AM

Have had some recent email

Have had some recent email exchanges with my brother in another country. He is the only surviving blood relative whom I have contact with. We talk about how we grew up, how those,years formed our world views about things; and how different the world is now. We are mostly agreed on notions of democracy: it is just about of bullets. After shooting itself, repeatedly, in the feet. Conflicting ideologies, all espousing the heart and soul of we the people, stumble and fumble;bicker and banter, a lot like religious fanatics, pontificating the 'one true path'. Older brother and I are pretty comfortable in our own skins, so we don't,spend too much time agonizing over others who may not be as well-situated. Seems to me (and, I think to him) that the origins of democracy have been misplaced. This has been an emergent phenomenon. PACs and SPIGs (special interest groups) are partly at fault here, but their influences come not from the people-at-large. I'm pretty sure that, had those people been more attentive; more vigilant; the PACs and SPIGs would have not gained their respective followings.(please note that vigilant is not the same as vigilante---they just look alike.)

It is, of course, more complex that what has been suggested above. I can't write a book here and you would not want to read one. Key phrases are representative democracy and participatory democracy. One must have both---not just one in lieu of the other. The PT blog discusses most of the other errors that have been committed and repeated,over a comparatively short time. I think their repetitive format is intended to track those commissions (and omissions).: we are not, it appears, learning from our mistakes. Dan Dennett must be tearing his hair out. Or else, like me, it is male pattern baldness.

Daniel's picture

Daniel

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 -- 3:43 PM

Certainly representative

Certainly representative democracy is also participatory, insofar as the representatives are voted in. It seems to me you're getting at the more basic distinction between representative and direct democracy, the kind the Athenians had during the fifth century b.c.e. My current interest in your remarks however concern the comment listed as posted at 8:48 a.m. on April 3rd, which ends with a reference to 'audacity to look for what matters'. For along with it must be coupled the audacity to express one's genuine care for what matters once you find what you're looking for. For that can sometimes bring about retaliation, as did Thersites's objection to the proposed campaign of Agamemnon early in the Iliad (II.211-242, arguably the first contientous objector and anti-war activist in the Western literary tradition), which was met by a severe beating by Odysseus (II.265-269); or a national television network cancelling the "Donahue" talk show for merely inviting a single anti-war voice among the many pro-war points of view during the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion. Indeed, even though taking off one's "blinders" installed by the state, education system, consumer-conditioning by television advertisements, or any other of the myriad ways in which the popular mind is directed away from examining the behaviors of the most powerful elements of society and its effects, can have its costs, some will do so; and in so doing, share the credit for a better informed world, in commendation for individual honesty and intellectual responsibility.

It is however the main part of your comment which to my mind carries the heaviest burden of philosophical analysis: The ancient distinction between form and substance which you apply in explanation of apparent social and political divisiveness, and goes back at least to Aristotle. For Aristotle substance (ousia) is primarily the bearer of diverse predicates which can not itself be a predicate of anything else; to wit: "this man" (e.g. Socrates); "that horse" (e.g. Bucephallus). (As a technical point, the form or "species" is itself described as a kind of "secondary" substance, since it can be seen as a particular under a larger class or "genus", but I think this can here be put aside.) The form however can also denote serviceability (cf. Metaphysics; books V-VI). An ax's form, for example, is defined primarily by its function (ergon), as one which chops wood. A cardboard ax has an ax's shape (morphe), but not its form.

With this in mind, I understand your reference to "matters of substance" and "matters of form" to be both informative and equivocal: Informative insofar as "matters" = problems and their solutions; equivocal insofar as "substance and form" can be seen as different kinds of matters: "Matters of substance" denotes the observation and analysis of the problems themselves; whereas "matters of form" denotes the pre-set paths taken in available solutions. Hence one could suggest the distinction be paraphrased as "awareness of the (substantial) problems" (related to perception and diagnosis), and "tactical form of their solutions" (related to expectation and prognosis); or again, the problem-stimulus, on the one hand, and the solution-form, on the other.

Your reference to "erosion" therefore I understand to be to the erosion of knowledge of problems by automatism of traditional solutions; of awareness by reaction, of stimulus by response; of being by doing; of thought by action. Here I heartily agree. As free, all humans are responsible for the effects of their actions. But these effects may lack sufficient prior thought to qualify as deliberate. I recall a recent chief executive in the U.S. government to have been an unintended nominee for that position, and yet those in his political party remain responsible for it. Forced to choose without thought, the individual is forced by the responsibility-claim (made by the the unconditioned understanding of her or his own freedom) into the narrow confines of customary group-behaviors and old, worn-out solutions to problems whose complexity far undershoots that of our own.

The best solution to the problem of erosion of problem-awareness by solution-reaction is therefore to retreat to the problems themselves-- to thought (attempt to understand on one's own account); and to being (accommodating one's understanding to the source of its contents).

In this relation and in deference to the forum, there might emerge from such considerations a justifiable advocacy for the Philosophy Department's return to some form of the position it obtained in earlier periods, whereby one might hear G.T.F.'s themselves beckoning to the heights of their advisors: "thallassa!", "to the sea!".

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, May 6, 2021 -- 7:55 AM

Following with amazement the

Following with amazement the saga of our last president and that large social media purveyor. I know I ought not be amazed but,alas, I am. This entire fragment of an era has been disappointing and embarrassing. But it teaches us to take zero for granted. Looks like truth decay will be with us for a foreseeable future.

tartarthistle's picture

tartarthistle

Monday, May 10, 2021 -- 10:43 AM

Hi Philosophy Talk,

Hi Philosophy Talk,

I would like to suggest your audience read Glen Greenwald’s most recent post on substack.com (5-9-21) about U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as it directly relates to your last radio broadcast. We hear so much about fake news these days, but it’s almost always in reference to Trump and right wing institutions. Lost in the process have been the blatant attacks on press freedoms by recent Democratic administrations. Our political framing seems strictly confined to discussions about Trump’s over-the-top bad behavior, meanwhile Tartuffe-like characters on the Democratic side are given a pass. It’s easy to appear good next to someone like Trump, but often hiding behind the hair-shirt displays of piety and political correctness of many prominent Democratic politicians you find an ethically compromised, profiteering, self-serving hypocrite (Senator Feinstein comes immediately to mind).

This spectacular hypocrisy of the corporate Democrats, along with the elite demographic they represent, is what’s fueling working-class rage. Let’s face it, Trump could play or act the good leader—he’s an excellent performer—but he knowingly chooses to snub traditional moral virtues associated with social elites. He behaves like an archetype capitalist pig, making Democratic Tartuffes appear to be the “lesser of two evils.” But this is not a choice between greater or lesser degrees of anything, but rather a choice between two different and opposite ideas: the idea of goodness (represented by the Tartuffes) and the idea of badness (represented by comically chauvinistic figures such as Trump). In other words, our two-party system reduces political elections to fallacious public appeals; one to the many or the mob (Trump’s cynical right-wing “populism”), the other an appeal to the few or the social elite (the corporate professional class, who quite literally during the Covid crisis have been actively profiting from conditions of social disruption, i.e., a necessary absence of political guidance or leadership).

By going out of his way to appear ignorant, brutish, and greedy by openly embracing negative stereotypes associated with working-class men of all colors, Trump appeals to those who identify themselves as commoners, our nations largest part. (Think Golden Ratio here; the whole is to the largest part, as the largest part is to the smallest.) This game being played is a mathematical one; divide the American working-class neatly in two, in order to control the whole country. The American working-class, our country’s largest part, is probably the most politically impotent demographic on earth right now (their trucks get bigger as their power diminishes, it’s so pathetic one wants to weep). As the 2014 study by Martin Gilens, a professor of politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, a professor at Northwestern University, found, the preferences of average citizens have very little to no effect on policy-making. This is because Americans strangely permit their social elite to accumulate massive amounts of wealth, while simultaneously and irrationally still claiming to represent the interest of society as a whole.

In our Trump versus Tartuffe elections, the interests of two very different social classes are appealed to simultaneously, the many and the few. One candidate is in reality a gentleman but is appearing or pretending to be a commoner, and the other is a commoner acting or appearing to be a gentleman. We are only permitted to see the good and the bad, not the imperfect—that which is neither the good nor the bad, but exists in a mean between the two. Again, think of Pythagoras’ Golden Ratio, and think of how Socrates described both reason and the nature of the philosopher as being neither good nor bad, but in a mean between the two.

What’s lost in our two-party “lesser of the two evils” political system is the fact that imperfection and badness or evil refer to two distinctly different things. One is a physical thing, and the other is an idea “thing,” a monolithic entity complete in itself. An electoral choice between “good” Tartuffe and “bad” Trump is not a choice between two physical things at all—two actual living people—but between two ideas. But the working-class, our country’s largest part, is composed of average people, those who identify as being neither good nor bad but simply imperfect. In light of our present conditions of social crisis, we would be wise to recall that quite often it’s those who seem the most imperfect that in the end turn out to be the most trustworthy and good, while it’s precisely those who seem perfect that we later discover engage in unspeakable acts of criminality and sadism in their private lives. Appearances are deceiving, as professional sophists and genuine philosophers are well aware.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 -- 10:30 PM

Tartarthistle,

Tartarthistle,

Sophistry is not welcome here. Find an argument and make it, please.

That Glen Greenwald thinks Julian Assange is worthy of a Nobel prize is neither newsworthy, legally accurate, nor philosophically sound. How does Greenwald’s essay relate to this broadcast? How exactly? It does not.

Both Biden and Trump supported extradition (granted Trump toyed with pardoning Assange – which neither Blinken nor Biden would ever consider – but even Trump did not stoop so low.) If that is disinformation, then it is equally shared by both administrations and Barack Obama’s to boot. If that is disinformation, at least our Democracy is not threatened by its spread.

Greenwald profited by Assange, which is why he lauds him in that post. What brings you profit to point to that here? No need to point. Just make it here. Take a philosophical position - that is all.

PT is not Sophistry Talks; instead, it is Philosophy Talks. Philosophy as a whole is non-partisan. It is the discussion of the common grounds of grounds themselves. You seem to want to equate Trump with Biden. Not only that, you call all Democrats Tartuffe-like. It is hyperbole. Equating the extreme disinformation of Donald Trump compared to that of Joe Biden or any other Democrat is disingenuous and outright deception. Drop the sophistry, and your post withers.

You say Trump appeals to the mob while Biden appeals to the social elite, who you then call out as profiting from the pandemic. You, full stop, are Tartuffe, of a prickly Russian sort – Tartarthistle. Stop aggrandizing Trump by comparing his tactic to the Golden Ratio (what does that even mean “the whole is to the largest… as the largest is to the smallest.” What does that have to do with the number 1.618, the very exact golden ratio or Trump here or anywhere else?) Your words are silly, irrational, and unhelpful. But they go on…

You talk of Americans as if you are not one of them. Well, at least you intimate truth there, Tartar-thistle. Reading your post makes me want to weep despite my colossal truck in the driveway.

It is not those who seem the most imperfect who are most trustworthy and good. This particular bit of imperfection is, in fact, Donald Trump, and with respect to disinformation, it is a decidedly nasty and bad bit.

Trump is not Biden; Democrats are not Tartuffes (at least not the plurality of them), black is not white, and appearances are precisely what they seem when brought to the attention of genuine philosophers. What is your argument? Make it, please. There are things to do and about which to think.

Best to you prickly Russian thistle. I hope your thoughts find common ground.

tartarthistle's picture

tartarthistle

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 -- 2:26 PM

Hi there,

Hi there,

Although I did post my comments on the blog first, I also emailed them to comments@philosophytalk.org, as it took me some time to write them down and I wanted to make sure whoever organized the show read them. I soon received an email in response, suggesting I post them so that other listeners could weigh in as well. Considering this invitation extended by Philosophy Talk, I can only assume my words were not impolite, out of order, or irrelevant to the discussion. It was my understanding that the blog was intended for listener’s feedback, so I wrote down my reflections after listening to the program. I certainly did not expect to be called names such a “Russian Thistle” and “silly, irrational, and unhelpful,” nor attacked as being un-American, especially on a philosophy discussion board affiliated with Stanford University. I’m an American housewife who enjoys gardening, and am not Russian. The thistle is one of my favorite flowers, hence my use of the name. I love the flower's metaphoric symbolism, as it combines beauty with fierceness and perseverance. I had no idea I might be mistaken for a Russian, and that Russians should not contribute comments here.

I disagree with your claim that I did not make an argument. My argument is this. When one is presented with a choice between two physical things, a third option or choice is necessarily being left out or excluded. The either-or binary when it comes to objects of sense perception prevents thought, as we do not see the difference between the one thing and the other. We see two things, but not what distinguishes them. Three or more permits the reasoning process to occur. Two prevents it, creating false antagonism and tension. This is both a matter of logic, and a matter of simple cognition. Notice that there are traditionally three laws of thought (contradiction, excluded middle, and identity), three premises in a syllogism, three figures in Plato’s chariot analogy (two horses and a charioteer), three classes in Plato’s tripartite division of the body/soul complex--three is an extremely significant number with respect to reason and thought.

So why are there only two parties in our political system? This is not accidental. Three opens up space enabling perception to occur, along with reasoning, challenging, and questioning. Two prevents thought, by creating imbalance and imposing tension. Reason exists between ignorance and knowledge. Reason is that which is imperfect--it doesn’t know everything already. That’s what the philosopher desires, wisdom.

The philosopher desires wisdom, because he or she doesn’t have it already. Philosophers are imperfect, incomplete, and in want of what they don't know. And it would be lovely to for once see such average, imperfect, and wanting people run for office against our two perfectly complete and domineering ideals: that of badness (commoners, the many/mob), and that of goodness (the few, the “experts” who know). This sort of dynamic excludes people like me, average housewives, but also working-class people of all colors and genders.

But then, who cares what we think. We're not welcome to participate in elections, or philosophy discussions for that matter. Shut up and serve, let the experts, the professionals, those who know everything already make all the important social decisions. Clearly they know what they're doing...

P.S. Pythagoras' Divine Ratio is definitely relevant to this discussion, as it deals with numerical relations between parts and wholes. That is, three distinct things: one thing, another thing, and the difference between the one and the other.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 -- 2:26 PM

Tartarthistle,

Tartarthistle,

Thanks for this response.

I don't know what a "genuine" philosopher is, but I think being a housewife does not exclude you or others from that title. Your response and thoughts are welcome. They have been in previous posts and are now.

I am not affiliated with this site nor the hosts nor guests on this, or any other show. Please don't take my tone anywhere as coming from anyone other than myself. These are precisely the conversations that this site means to enable.

I am like you, a seeker of wisdom. I apologize for my response to your original post. I see now you did not intend to question reason, fact, and logic. But you did challenge each of these with your statement…

"Appearances are deceiving, as professional sophists and genuine philosophers are well aware."

It is 'sophistry' that is at issue in your post and my response, as it was for Socrates, at least if we can trust Plato.

Sophists were trained orators, often traveling teachers, who enabled students in law, business, and politics to use persuasive rhetoric and moral relativism to get along and gain an advantage in what we're in the time very diverse city-states.

Socrates, who is only one voice, essential and fundamental to Western thought, but only one voice, was familiar with Sophists and rejected their relativistic definitions seeking real natures – or maybe that is all Plato, we will never know. There are no professional sophists today, only scoundrels. Trump is one of them, perhaps.

Again, I apologize for my initial response. I mistook your words. They triggered a harshness that is itself not helpful. Please accept my apology. Thanks for your clarifications above. I see your point and will consider it directly.

These are edgy times. Today, the GOP has ousted one of its leaders, states are discussing legitimizing voter suppression, and locally gun violence is at historic levels. Forgive me for being touchy about such terms as Sophistry and Philosophy in the same sentence. They should not be there, but I can see what you are saying.

There haven't always been two parties in our system. Originally there were none. There is no mention of party in the constitution or our bill of rights. The Federalist Papers did discuss their evils along with their use. The party system came about as a matter of money and dichotomies in colonial America; urban/rural, industrial/agricultural, northern/southern, landed/unlanded, freedom/slavery. So two is not accidental in that sense. However, I don't know if it was by design to prevent thought and create tension or imbalance. Not that it wasn't, I don't know. I do know there is no mystical, magical or logical importance to the number three. Aristotle set his Laws of Thought as three laws as a start, but they have been fleshed out since his day.

I do take your point that three makes for better thought and consideration. We had many Republican candidates in 2016 for President and another slew of Democrat candidates in 2020. Maybe three is better than two and the multitudes. But there were other parties and candidates in both the primaries and the general election. This goes to your point that we often disregard these alternatives and think only about two options.

Your response is not the one I was expecting if I was one at all. I'm still curious why you would point to Greenwald and his commentary of Wikileaks here. That is another hot button for me as many national security issues have been compromised both there and elsewhere recently, risking the livelihoods and safety of all US citizens. Rightly or wrongly, that is not a matter of disinformation as it is secrecy and security. It does threaten our democracy if that was your point, even if it opens the avenue to greater social justice in the long run.

Words can be misconstrued in any format. Sophistry, not so much. Calling Democrats Tartuffes while stating that Trump, who prides himself in his imperfections, even gloats about them, is worthy of more trust and goodness, there is no logical call to extend such kindness. If we can't agree to that. Let's talk.

Regardless I appreciate your response and would reset the discussion around it.

Best,

Tim

tartarthistle's picture

tartarthistle

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 -- 5:26 PM

Hi Tim,

Hi Tim,

Your emotional response to my post is precisely the point. Trump's persona is intentionally designed to provoke rage. He boldly embraces "badness." The Apple of Discord is his game, and he’s clearly a master. Democrats create the illusion of qualitative difference by deliberately modifying their aesthetic to contrast with his overt snubbing of social ideals. They exhibit pragmatic self-editing, pay lip-service to traditional Western virtues such as moderation, wisdom, courage, and justice. But on the down-low, just like Trump, they absolutely permit themselves to touch coin. The gold they possess is not the metaphoric gold mingled in them by the gods to justify their social position, but base money.

There’s a reason why California has an unexpected $76 billion budget surplus this year. The wealthy class, the few, made bank while the many, the dirty uncivilized disobedient masses, were left stranded with no way of earning money during the shutdowns. This includes the many small businesses we see closing down all over the place. They could barely get by before Covid, and when forced to shut their doors they had no savings to fall back on. Stay home, stay safe, and starve is basically what they were told to do by those in power.

Meanwhile, the very people functionally charged with guiding society, the decision-making professional class profited off of conditions that in many respects they were responsible for creating. Social inequality to the extreme extent we have now is a matter of economic policy. The Democrats permit themselves to make money off of the weakness and vulnerability of those who work for wages. I’m aware that the Republicans are monsters, but that does not change the fact that the Democrats do not meaningfully represent the economic interests of poor people or small businesses. Nearly half of Americans currently live in poverty, and small businesses are the largest employer in the country.

Average Americans used to be able to afford decent housing, going to art museums, ballgames, and taking their families out to eat on occasion. Public education used to be high in quality, and a college education was reasonably accessible. All of these things are now luxuries, reserved primarily for the professional class and the very rich. The people staying safely at home now, getting hefty corporate paychecks and ordering all of their goodies on Amazon while the poor scramble to survive, are supposed to be guiding society in the interest of the whole, not the smallest part, the elite. Their social function is related to the advantageous perspective granted them by those who do the grunt work (like laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning).

Anyway, I have to stop writing so that I can cook dinner for my family. But before signing off, I must ask that you read Book VII, lines 523B - 524E of The Republic. The number three is far more significant with respect to reasoning than you suggest.

Fiercely yours,
Tartar thistle

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Thursday, May 13, 2021 -- 5:25 AM

Tartarthistle,

Tartarthistle,

You get a $1900 bonus check, and you complain that the boss isn’t doing his job? The majority of billionaires in the world live in California. The rich have been getting richer since 1970. Did you expect a pandemic to solve that? Deal with it. You are using words but not making sense, to me at least.

Democrats run your state, and you have a budget surplus. This is a problem, how? Some states would like this kind of problem. It looks to me like the current governor there is working to issue refund checks to those who earn less than 75000 a year. No Republican is going to get on board there. Your problems seem pretty first-world on a quick fact check.

I find your attack on Democrats misplaced as only a true Republican could. True confessions...I am a registered Republican. I attend party events and can attest that no social policy initiatives are coming from my party at present.

At the last dinner I attended, Governor Kristi Noem was the keynote speaker. Not a single public health bill, social reform, or even public works program was brought up. The speakers spent all night and my money congratulating each other on obstructing Democratic policies without offering a single effort to get our streets clean and our businesses supported.

You are equating Trump to Biden to Newsom to Tartuffe. Please stop it. It is sophistry and politic of the worst sort.

Glaucon was no scientist. Plato’s Republic is not going to be fundamentally instructive on human cognition. Numbers were meaningful to Ancient Greeks of the classical period in esoteric ways that are meaningless to the modern world. I know of no scientific study that shows increased neural activity or demonstrable increase in cognition showing the number 3, ordinal or cardinal as the cause. Show me; I could be wrong. Plato is talking to his forms of which number is a part, that is all.

Hmm… it looks like you added a P.S. to the previous post re: the Golden Ratio.

The Golden Ratio has nothing to do with the difference between two numbers. It is the sum of the two divided by the larger in the single case where this is equal to the ratio of the smaller to the larger. It is algebraically x^2 - x = 1, is an actual irrational number (~1.618), has nothing to do with Trump, Glen Greenwald, Julian Assange, or Plato’s Republic. This is disinformation by association and misdirection.

You’ve pointed us all to Greenwald’s post. You’ve directed me to Plato’s Republic. Let me suggest Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. PT is rebroadcasting a show on this in a few weeks. It is a good read and debunks most of your statements of fact above. Things are better, primarily due to liberal politics and philosophy. I don’t think it will save us… but things are better.

For me, that is an excellent environment to do business.

I’m glad you are fierce. I was afraid you had taken offense. None is intended, ever. Apples aren’t oranges, however. Often I can’t tell if a poster is being sincere or what their motives are. I don’t doubt your sincerity at this point. Let’s reconvene this exchange on the Pinker show Can Reason Save Us? June 13, 2021. I would like to know your thoughts on that, as that indeed does hit back to this exchange.

tartarthistle's picture

tartarthistle

Saturday, May 15, 2021 -- 12:34 PM

Thank you for this response.

Thank you for this response. I will note the date of the Pinker show in my calendar and be sure watch it. In the meantime, you may want to check out at this article on the Golden Ratio: https://phys.org/news/2021-05-golden-ratio-ancient-greek-formula.html

It's in a science journal called phys.org, and it discusses the use of the ratio with respect to current technology. My only point in mentioning the ratio at all in the above posts is that there is direct connection between mathematics and the arts, thus enabling human emotions to be played like an instrument. This means that sadly We the People can be played by unscrupulous actors with nefarious intent. I highly suspect this is the cynical logic underlying our two-party system. I could be wrong, I hope I am. But why else would this system be limited to only two parties, when both traditional Western and Eastern systems of thought are grounded in the idea that individuals, and by extension societies, are composed of three distinct parts: mind, emotion, and physical matter. The three social classes correspond to this tripartite. Why two parties, when we traditionally conceive of the self and society as having three distinct aspects? Our conceptions of peace, justice, and balance in general are directly connected to this three-part division. Two would clearly be disruptive of it.

Maybe I'm missing something...

Anyway, I have to sign off and prepare a meatloaf for tonight's dinner. I hope you enjoy the article.

Your pal,
Tartar Thistle

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Monday, May 17, 2021 -- 10:07 PM

Tartar Thistle,

Tartar Thistle,

Thanks for this response.

I read Stephon Langston's post (https://phys.org/news/2021-05-golden-ratio-ancient-greek-formula.html .) I also downloaded his spreadsheet. It is pretty cool and fun.

I concede the Golden Ratio (GR) is ubiquitous. Beyond music and art, the GR is far more common in biology than physics. I'd go so far as to say life and the GR are inseparable.

That doesn't mean one is a causative agent of the other, however. If it were causative, it wouldn't necessarily mean the GR could be instrumental in the action of the other. If it were instrumental, it wouldn't necessarily mean art is this way. These statements, causation, instrumentality, and agency, are difficult, if not impossible, to prove without a doubt. There is good reason to think the GR is more a product of our biological view than a causative agent in its action. The eyes of the beholder are more fundamental than ratio, relativity, or grouping.

Why do we see color? Does color even exist? Does math exist beyond the human experience? Are human and animal emotions similar or profoundly different experiences? What is the origin of life? Our world? The universe? You and I fundamentally disagree with the answers to all these questions.

I won't move you from your answers. But let me tell you mine. There is no mind, only brains. So knock one pedestal from your society of distinct parts. Emotion is a human and learned experience. There goes another part of your society of individuals. Finally, you never actually touch anything ever. Sure we can push and pull, but never can two objects be in the same place or on a minor level near. We can't even really determine where something is without losing some sense of what it is. I'm not sure if physical matter has much meaning in that context.

That all three of these parts – mind, emotion and the physical world seem to be distinct is a mystery to me at least. But the greatest secret to me is the insinuation that they correlate to social classes. What is that about? I think you might want to get out of Diogenes' sun?

Bertrand Russell started an epic quest to resolve language into fundamental logic. The philosophers of the Vienna Circle (of which PT is also doing a show in a couple of weeks) continued this work with the logical positivism movement that became logical empiricism. This movement has largely been abandoned (for the most part, driven by members of the same circle) due to intractable issues of induction and set theory. Russell also strove to ground mathematics into an independent and whole system. Kurt Goedel (of the same Circle) crushed that effort with his incompleteness theorem. It would seem there is little connection between math and art that can't explain itself by incorporating the artist's vision to begin.

We will see in these coming weeks many ideas that question your answers. I don't think you are missing anything. Instead, you are adding more than is there.

Palsies for life,

Tim Smith

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 -- 10:22 PM

This show struck me. As Dean

This show struck me. As Dean didn’t have a book to sell, my expectations were low, but I was impressed by his words and his thought about how to deal with the siloing and disinformation. I will make a point to listen to his show from now on.

My brain took in the very well received John Perry, as well. He is a devil for diversion, but he makes me think. If a Stanford or UC Riverside student paints a swastika, John should call them out. Whether this is disinformation or a symbol, it threatens our Democracy. Reed College students in Portland have been painting circle A s throughout Portland, Oregon, smashing windows while co-opting the masks of CoVid to carry out their antiestablishmentarianism. They, too, threaten our Democracy.

Somehow, I am less concerned by students and the young than the self-serving aged politicians and their supporters. I will ever be a Dewey philosopher, a believer in creative Democracy with full knowledge and concern for the task before us.

Not only do we need to call out the arguments of those who will listen, but we also need to structure the markets of thought that have formed to reinforce beliefs beyond the light of validation. I’m alarmed by what is going on in Arizona – recounting without credentials. I’m disturbed by voter disenfranchisement. Somehow, I have faith in the task before us. Even if not in all the actors.

Citizens United is the heart of the problem. That needs a fix.

Let’s not lose focus on the climate in all these words, either. Disinformation or not, some facts are going to come home to roost if we don’t start a serious and concerted effort to engineer ourselves out of a very poorly executed recent half-century.

Thanks for this show and most all the comments here. I am listening and thinking about your words.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, May 28, 2021 -- 5:24 AM

Whew! The vacuum bag is HOT.

Whew! The vacuum bag is HOT. I won't take sides in this one. I'll only say that politics is an ancient game, older even than democracy itself. There are always those 'pots' who wil call the 'kettles' black. That is not a racist remark. My point, I hope, has been well-illustrated the last half-dozen years. I mentioned to the Sam Harris organization today that I had heard the US national debt reached 27,000,000,000,000 dollars. Remarked that those are a lot of zeros. As a practical matter, it matters little who is in the Whitehouse right now. Government ( not the CEO) is what government does. Partisanship appears to have gotten worse. But,I don't know if that is right. It may simply be that in the lights of transparency, it is just more obvious.