Category Archives: Philosophy and Science
When a word is taken away from us, like ‘refugee’ and replaced by ‘illegal migrant’, we may not notice. Why do we allow others to choose our words? How can a person align him- or herself with events and become an influencer able to say the words we want and choose the language our followers will use?
In Australia, the means of political control include reason, persuasion and force. The notion that language is the only ingredient for achieving control does not bear close examination. Having the ‘right’ words is not enough. The nature of the actor, the issue, the beliefs, the audience, the political event, the public spectacle and other speakers, all matter too. Philosophers have proposed certain ways to think and behave using written and spoken language.
Descartes advocated analysing events by attributing effects to causation by certain subjects. In the physical sciences, objects change motion due to contact with a wielded force. Social and economic action often has less visible causation, but it is accepted as the basis of political action because it is regarded as ‘reasonable’. There is no ‘truth’ any more. Post modern discourse accepts different versions of truth if they are declared confidently and emotionally.
Heidegger’s approach was more subjective, looking for potential utility and advantage from existing phenomena. Careful analysis and a weight of evidence is used to justify political action.
Darwin’s theory explained changes in living things with time, but it was incorrectly assumed that survival and failure in the social milieu was predetermined by ‘fitness’, allowing brute force and callous disregard to overcome ethical human values.
In a democratic society an individual can seek support for ideas by joining with others to exercise political power. In a totalitarian society, as described by Arendt, power is concentrated under the control of a dictator, with an arbitrary ideology imposed on fearful masses, rendering them individually superfluous. Power can be achieved by surrendering one’s individuality to a party. Tyrannical leaders, to bolster their power, declare certain identities as reprehensible and worthy of punishment.
Foucault observed that the masses enjoyed it when sovereigns punished outgroups, by bullying, torture and even public executions. Punishment seemed to be a concomitant of power, as if the cost of worthiness was excoriation of unworthiness. Leaders may be elevated on a platform suppressing the beliefs of ordinary folk.
The process of public discourse was observed by Derrida to respond to ideas in binary opposition, as if opposition is a core political reflex. This denied the processes of compromise and synthesis extolled by Hegel.
If we didn’t already have a process for screening language used in public, we would have to invent one. Public discourse is a turmoil in which ideas inspire, beliefs are aired, vocabularies evolve, opponents are isolated and influence has complex contingencies. The churn of discourse allows ideas to be created, discussed and modified. It is a process of communication towards agreement and protest. It can hear contributions without wealth, race or creed.
The public discourse has banalities and calls to arms like ‘Make America Great Again’ that attract followers because they are emotive. Emotion can mobilise humans to defend their interests.
There is safety that public fame often has torturous routes. Ambitious players may be unable to navigate their way to prominence. Those who succeed are likely to have endured humbling losses at some stage and had their fondest ambitions rejected. Our process rewards resilience and honesty, with freedom from corruption.
It seems that the repressive world of Newspeak described by Orwell is only a short step away, with language rules that suppress happiness and prevent opposition. Fortunately it isn’t commonplace yet and the language belongs to all of us. Rule of vocabulary with words deliberately constructed for political purposes is not yet absolute, political correctness and woke movements notwithstanding. The takeover of sport and entertainment by the spectacle, as described by Debord. is regrettable.
The power of words cannot be exercised independently of political processes but in some places the personal respect inherent in free speech is being challenged. The alternatives to free speech vest control in others. My posts on philosophical topics and reviews of my novels are in my blog: martinknox.com
Megan has become a champion by training herself to be independent, learning from her lived experience, in the moment, selfish, seeking quality, professional and committed. She won’t be directed, controlled by others’ experience, not by clocks, not by false equality, not without purpose, nor obsessed by quantities, neither amateurish, nor detached. She is more like a brush turkey than a bee.
She has support from her boyfriend Chance, a renegade escaped from employment as a physicist, who was on a treadmill and now revels in his academic freedom.
They justify her characteristics with well known philosophies, psychology and science. She learns phenomenology and flow. Megan opposes greedy coaches, jealous competitors, narrow-minded researchers, sports officials intent on profiting from her performances and from health officials who want her vaccinated. Megan is non-violent. Can she win by passive resistance?
Turkeys Not Bees is novel fiction by Martin Knox. On Amazon. Reviews: martinknox.com
Australians respect and protect their politicians even when their ranks are divided by political differences. When the unthinkable happens and feisty independent politician Jane Kenwood disappears from a hung parliament’s cross bench before a crucial vote, the ability of the system to bring the perpetrators to justice challenges the partisan democracy. Will justice be done? Jane’s friend Dr Phillip Keane follows a feint trail with a new forensic philosophy, which employs a novel Euler Walk strategy. He is opposed by the political establishment and his findings shake it to its foundations.
‘Presumed Dead’ is a crime fiction thriller by Martin Knox, a page-turning non-partisan read which exposes the fragility of parliamentary democracy under the Westminster system.
Available on Amazon. Reviews are on my blog martinknox.com
Restrictions during the pandemic have tested people’s obedience and resolve. It has resulted when groups with opposing value systems have clashed. When people are forced to adopt values against their beliefs, they feel dishonest and fearful, especially when their views are ignored.
Individuals relate their views to others’. Those who believe in a religion have often have a ready-made morality but there has been a decline in divine faith. With belief in the rational laws of physics growing, the philosopher Kant was torn between religion and rationality. He compromised, wanted people to do only what they would allow others to do, calling it the ‘categorical imperative’. The philosopher John Stuart Mill wanted personal liberty to be constrained by laws that had been agreed.. Rousseau propagated a social contract of liberte’, egalite’ and fratenite’ to control individual behaviour. All this made ‘the right thing’ harder for individuals to do.
Doing the right thing and benefitting others does not come to animals naturally. Charles Darwin had individuals seeking to survive in nature, helping kin sometimes, by selfish actions and by exploiting others. In evolution theory, altruism with individuals sacrificing their genetic inheritance to benefit others’ genes and volunteering to make sacrifices for others’ benefit, was confined to group selection, or kin. Our concern here is with ‘doing the right thing’ by strangers.
Humans have used politics to compromise and reconcile differences with strangers. Where one group is requested to help another, some individuals in both groups may regard the help proffered as a social control, causing frustration, passive resistance, protests, anger, civil disobedience and even insurrection. Venting does little to appease differences in core beliefs and rebels may strive to overthrow the system by force.
Large groups of humans exhibit The Matthew Effect, with individuals trying to join the most numerous groups. When a herd is spooked, it may be intolerant of those who don’t do what to them is the right thing. There is a sizeable industry of media trying to instigate groups to lemming-like rushes, inevitably towards cliffs with unpleasant outcomes.
A difficulty is to distinguish the voices of reason from false prophecy. There may be differences of principle that can only be solved by debating. Instead of productive discourse, the sides may engage in identity politics, which increases hostility. Some groups may think they know best and if they can get the upper hand, they will impose their solution on everyone. It could be that those people who extol the virtue of ‘doing the right thing’, without saying what it is, nor why everyone has to do it, are the problem.
I have applied the above in adopting a moral position on climate science in my satirical novel Animal Farm 2