Sunday, November 13, 2016


Progress is an illusion. With every war we fight, we destroy more than we win; and we fight at least one war every generation.

Not only do we let combat decide who's fit to rule; we let it decide what's true.

We claim humans differ from other animals in being guided by reason rather than instinct (although most of us resort to reason only when force fails, and only to justify our prejudices and passions), but what we call reason is trial by combat.

The Greeks systemized what they called reason based on rules they derived from law. But law does not yield truth.

In a court of law, adversaries employ professional rhetoricians to argue their cases. A lawyer is not a philosopher in a disinterested search for the truth, but a servant, making the argument that best serves his master's interests. He does this not only by presenting evidence that his master is telling the truth, but by withholding or calling into question evidence that his master is lying. He would be violating his professional code of conduct if he presented evidence that he knew was true, but detrimental to his master's interests.  

I’m surprised we’ve learned anything when our method of determining truth is trial by combat. Not only have we lost more than we’ve gained, as we always do in combat; but now we’ve even forgotten the rules of combat.

I was thinking this as I watched the presidential debates, which don’t deserve to be called debates. Neither candidate presented evidence that supports his or her argument and/or refutes his or her opponent's. Both merely made statements, what in a courtroom would be preliminary statements. Each time Clinton made a statement, Trump shouted Wrong! Each time Trump made a statement, Clinton grinned, rolled her eyes and forced a laugh.

The election is over, but this 'debate' goes on. Every conversation sooner or later becomes an argument about Clinton vs Trump, and these arguments are no more debates than were the so-called debates between Clinton and Trump. People merely shout Wrong! at each other. But why? The election is over, so what do they expect to win?

Clinton and Trump were the two most unpopular presidential candidates in US history, and it’s a mockery of what we used to call democracy that it offered voters no choices other than these two. 

People still argue passionately for one or the other because they have to persuade themselves that not only did they have a real choice, but they made the right choice, despite all evidence that there was no choice. Both were wrong.

People are angry because they're trying to believe, or suspend their disbelief, in something they know is a lie. But they’ve had lots of practice. Most of the things people believe, or tell themselves they believe, are lies.   

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