Don’t Believe Your Eyes And Ears

One of the unfortunate truths of competition is that incompetence tends to lead people to suspect that what was once seen as honest competition was in fact rigged. Once this suspicion is formed, it is hard for trust to be regained by those who have become increasingly skeptical of the contests which once enthralled them. And this suspicion quickly carries over from one field to another, as those who are prone to believe certain conspiracy theories are themselves primed to believe other ones in turn. A surprisingly large amount of what we consider to be knowledge is something that is not understood on its own merits but is rather believed by authority, and this makes such supposed knowledge susceptible to be doubted by those who believe in the total untrustworthiness of any claims of proof by authority.

How does one cope with this problem? One does not want to be a dupe of corrupt social and political elites, since such corrupt people are completely untrustworthy and delight in sacrificing ordinary people for their own selfish benefit. Such people regularly raise up incompetent people to rule, to allow them to better insinuate themselves in positions of power and influence where great resources can flow into their own pockets and those of friends and relatives and clients, rather than going for the well-being of ordinary people for whom they do not care for nor respect. Simultaneously, though, one does not want to be the dupe of those who seek alternative means of power by presenting themselves to be against the corrupt powers that be, but who themselves simply want to replace the existing corrupt elites with different corrupt elites who have no more regard for truth than others, and who are simply grifting on the general sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

A world where trust is imperiled and where corruption and deceit are widespread is one that is in a permanent state of epistemological crisis, since the mistrust of authority undercuts a great deal of what is considered to be truth. Meaningful communication is difficult where some people respect and regard some authorities that are completely mistrusted by others. We see this sort of state right now, where some people slavishly obey what is told them by the government and those crony companies who serve the aims of those corrupt authorities, and where some people reflexively deny everything that is said by those same people because they know those authorities and institutions to be corrupt. Yet blind opposition is just as easily manipulated as blind adherence is, since if you know someone will believe the opposite of what you claim, you can simply claim something is true that is in fact true from time to time and lead others to believe in at least some form of error. If one wants to see the truth, one can neither be blind in favor of or in opposition to what is claimed by authority; one needs a vantage point that is outside of either reflexive conspiratorial thinking or official propaganda, neither of which are to be relied upon.

How does one go about creating this space for oneself? One thing that is shared by conspiracy theorists as well as by those who espouse official propaganda is that both sources of information depend on appeals to authority, and are mirror images of each other. Both of them present a great deal more as being proven or fact than actually has been proven or is fact, and both depend on people adopting certain assumptions when it comes to so-called knowledge that accepts uncritically certain people as authorities which are not in fact worthy of being regarded as such. Nearly every truth claim ends up being some sort of claim to authority, either for oneself as an authority on something or as a representative of an authority that one sees as credible. Faith stands at the foundation of all that we consider to be true, and when faith is lost, that which was once thought of as obvious truth is recognized for often being mere assertion which had been believed to be true, or assumed to be true, and often not proven to be true. In proving things for oneself, we are always led into questions as to which authorities we accept and which we reject or deny. Such questions are, in the final analysis, unavoidable. For us to know anything requires us to trust something, and that trust grants something or someone the status of an authority. Without that trust, no authority is more than a tyrant who seeks to coerce where one has lost the ability to persuade.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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