Monday, April 06, 2009

Philosophical Isolation

I find that knowledge of philosophical concepts, argumentation, so on, are quite isolating. It’s difficult to engage people in a conversation about, say, religion, when they’re not basing they’re knowledge on anything aside from the bible or they’re fundamental camp.

For example, this happened to me today:
One of the engineers I work with says to me tangentially in a conversation,
“Did you here the latest?”
“No, what?” I respond.
“They say the trees that giraffes eat from are getting taller.”
“Sure” I said, “And thus the giraffes will get taller – evolution at work my friend.”
Then he comes back with, “Well I don’t know about that, I’m not an evolutionist.”
“You’re not one of those who believe the universe is only 6000 years old are you?” (Of course I said this quite jokingly)
He Responds, “Well there’s pretty good evidence for it.”
“Steve” I said, (which isn’t his real name), “You gotta’ be kidding me. You’re an engineer, an analytical minded individual and you seriously think the universe is only 6000 years old.”
“Why not?” He says.

At this point I’m dumbfounded. I left the conversation with, “To each his own I suppose.”

What do you say to this? Here you have an intelligent, middle class, college educated person with an engineering degree. How do you have this conversation with people? Any idea? It truely bothers me, not to mention it's quite isolating.


  1. I know.

    But I think of it this way: the cleverer and more rational you are, the more able you can be at justifying beliefs that you acquired for non rational reasons.

  2. I don't get too worked up over it anymore. If one isn't careful, it can breed a debilitating arrogance, which philosophy already has enough of built into it.

    The way I see it, almost every individual person is just trying to make their way through life the best way they can. I just watched Oliver Stone's W., and I think that might have been the takehome message--Bush was just a simple guy motivated by simple things, and put behind some mighty powerful levers (Cheney and Rove are a different story).

    So when I encounter people less articulate or reflective, or who have just plain stupid ideas, I try as much as is warranted to simply make them think about what they just said, what they believe, think. Life isn't an argument, people aren't sitting around waiting to engage and change their minds. But a little more reflection would help, and if you can spur someone on to do that, that might be all we can sometimes hope for.

    Pragmatists think beliefs are habits of action--people don't change their beliefs easily, sometimes, because habits are sometimes hard to break. But if you can plant a seed in their head, the seed causes them to think through on their own, argue with themselves, as it were. Habit change can be a long arduous process, and a philosopher can't be there around an individual at all times of the day, spurring them on. It's about dropping little, well-formed seeds that can sprout on their own.

  3. 666; The Final Solution; and the Claim.

  4. Sure,
    I'll rush right over to read your blog...