Monday, June 2, 2014

The Philosophical PhaceBook: Knowledge v. Opinion

As we’ve noted a number of times on this blog, some of our best postings are written by other people, or at least in response to questions and issues raised.  The rather unexpected popularity of the recent short series on Anti-Trust Law written mostly by Judge Peter Stenger Grosscup (1852-1921) is a case in point.  That’s why it’s so gratifying to receive a comment like the following:

“I’m learning the more negative I allow into my subconscious, a conscious that has no ability to critically think but only accept, is directly proportionate to the degree I give up free thought, free will, and ultimately my very liberty granted by my Creator. If, ‘Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.’, As Frederick Douglas pointed out, then how can one exclaim they are ‘free’ if the information they accept is false? Ultimately I sacrifice my freedom a little bit at a time when I allow negative ideas, thoughts, images, and actions into my subconscious. Look at the TV for instance. The shock it exudes in order to get us to watch. The sex, the violence, and the false spun information that is pumped into our subconscious constantly and the detriment it has caused to our culture.”

That’s easy to answer.  Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave because knowledge is always true; it relies on logical consistency and empirical validity.  Opinion, on the other hand, may or may not be true.  It is accepted to some degree on the basis of faith, not reason.

Faith AND Reason
The link between faith and reason is that truth in any form cannot contradict itself; this is the first principle of reason, and the way to test both faith and reason. If they are not consistent, that is, there is a contradiction, you have a problem that must be resolved before you can go on.

Mortimer Adler addressed this confusion between knowledge and opinion in his book, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (1985).  The point was that many people today — especially academics and politicians — can’t tell the difference between knowledge and opinion (and thus reason and faith), and get themselves into traps they can’t get out of.  Sorry.  “Out of which they can’t get.”

Adler, the early years.
By basing what should be based on reason on faith instead, all they accomplish is the Triumph of the Will, which means that (as Heinrich Rommen and Adler pointed out) might makes right.  If you’re strong enough to force your will on others, then you must be right, and they must be wrong . . . right?

Perhaps this is why so many critics refuse to say what they think is wrong with the Just Third Way.  They loudly proclaim that their faith is strong . . . when the question involved the validity of a line of reasoning.

We had a good (or bad, depending on your point of view) example of this recently.  Someone complained that he couldn’t understand the Just Third Way or Capital Homesteading, and that we should write up a one-page explanation in easy language.  He said he’d do it himself, except he didn’t have the time.  (How he expected to be able to explain something he claimed not to understand is a mystery.)

Norm and the Saint, not "Norman the Saint". . .
 Dr. Norman Kurland asked the complainer to give him a call, and they’d talk over whatever it was the complainer didn’t understand.  The complainer refused, simply reiterating that all the smart people he knew couldn’t understand what we are saying. (Maybe he needs to hang around with smarter people.)

We put together a comprehensive response explaining where we thought the problem was, and asked twice more for the fellow to talk to Norm.

He again refused to talk (and we had no way of making him talk).  He simply stated, “I rest my case.”  This was a trifle baffling, since we were not aware that he had made a case, and had avoided letting Norm present ours . . .

As near as we could figure, he had great faith in something he calls “distributism,” but was unable to explain where, how, or even if “distributism” differs materially from the Just Third Way or Capital Homesteading.  He didn’t appear to have any actual knowledge of “distributism,” but a great deal of faith in his own opinion.


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