The prevailing philosophical fashion in America

The Era of Post-Truth is upon us. Trumpism. Alternative facts lead us to subjective reality. When we can’t agree that the furry thing sleeping on the couch and purring is a cat, and not a lawnmower, then rational communication becomes impossible. Debating the merits of competing ideas is pointless. You have your truth and I have mine.

Today, the prevailing philosophical fashion in America is to denigrate truth, objectivity, and rationality in favor of irony, subjectivity, and solidarity. Today, the fashion is not to reason critically in an effort to discover truth, but to embrace logical fallacies; circular reasoning, a paradigm, or a form of life, or a linguistic framework, or an ideology that uses itself to justify itself. A foundational basis without a foundation to base itself on. If things need a basis then we admit that the base requires another base to base itself on, and another, and another in an infinite regress —and then to commit ourselves dogmatically to its belief’s which have no basis or foundation for justification. Today, we are told that a rational comparison of competing theories is not so much difficult as impossible. And today, we are drowning in philosophical ‘arguments’ that are riddled with linguistic impressions, appeals to authority, veiled threats, and ad hominem critique.

Such methods will not help us to discover truth. But they may help to forge solidarity. Solidarity is clearly not truth. But it is, or so the fashionable philosophers assure us, a reasonable facsimile. These are the identity philosophers. They believe, and this is what makes them identity philosophers, that they owe their primary allegiance to some group to which they belong. The thrust of their attack against truth is not that we cannot know what is true. It is that truth is but one value amongst many, and not the one that counts most for building a just society. They believe that when it comes to a choice between truth and solidarity, it is solidarity that counts—so that we are not merely justified in misrepresenting the truth, but that it may actually be our duty to do so if the solidarity of our community hangs in the balance. This is what Trumpism looks like.

I can well imagine that solidarity could be innocuous—if through the free exchange of ideas we all just happened to agree. But solidarity can be downright frightening when it is forged through the power politics of communalism. For when communal solidarity becomes too powerful, it can easily impede the freedom of thought and the growth of knowledge. And if we are truly concerned with the freedom of thought and the growth of knowledge, then it may even be our philosophical duty to oppose solidarity and communalism when they threaten to become powerful enough to do so.


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