Dissent and Democracy: Navigating Through the Murky Waters of Thought
February 13, 2024
Dissent requires deep thinking. To think is to attempt to understand the truth, yet many mistake shallow pondering for genuine reflection. It's not merely about seizing the first idea that pops into your head or clinging to beliefs adopted elsewhere. True thinking involves grappling with complexities and engaging in rigorous analysis.
In today’s internet and social media dominance era, the capacity for critical thought seems to be deteriorating. People often fall into the trap of superficial engagement, content to bring up quotes or ideas without truly comprehending their significance and context. Take, for instance, the tendency to latch onto a single aphorism from an ancient philosopher and consider the thinking process complete. This is an improper use of Greek philosophers.
As Carl Jung astutely observed, genuine thinking is arduous, which perhaps explains why many resort to judgment rather than thoughtful discourse. Consider the example of someone who cites Democritus' famous quote about atoms and space: “Nothing exists except atoms and space; everything else is opinion.” They might use this to dismiss any opposing viewpoints as mere opinions, thereby asserting their own stance as equally valid.
However, this type of absolutist thinking leads us down a dangerous path. When confronted with conflicting perspectives, individuals may resort to relativism, refusing to acknowledge objective truths. For instance, when faced with the assertion that the Earth is flat, they may dismiss it as merely an opinion, failing to recognize the fundamental difference between empirical evidence and baseless assertions.
This trend towards intellectual laziness and moral relativism poses significant challenges for society. As we hurtle towards an increasingly complex future, it's imperative that we cultivate a culture of rigorous inquiry and critical thinking. Failure to do so could lead to the dominance of an (intellectual) elite, augmented by artificial intelligence, further aggravating existing disparities.
In navigating the murky waters of dissent and democracy, let us not succumb to the appeal of simplistic ideologies or facile solutions. Instead, let us embrace the arduous yet rewarding journey of genuine thought, recognizing that it is only through rigorous examination and dialogue that we can hope to build a more just and equitable society.
Figure 1: Dealing with Complexity: The Art of And-And Mosaics