Quotable (#228)

Consensual reality still crashing:

[University of Washington professor Kate] Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”

(The ‘we’ — as usual — is fog-shrouded.)

Quotable (#148)

Contemplating cognitive dependence:

Michael P. Lynch is a philosopher of truth. His fascinating new book, “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data,” begins with a thought experiment: “Imagine a society where smartphones are miniaturized and hooked directly into a person’s brain.” As thought experiments go, this one isn’t much of a stretch. (“Eventually, you’ll have an implant,” Google’s Larry Page has promised, “where if you think about a fact it will just tell you the answer.”) Now imagine that, after living with these implants for generations, people grow to rely on them, to know what they know and forget how people used to learn — by observation, inquiry, and reason. Then picture this: overnight, an environmental disaster destroys so much of the planet’s electronic-communications grid that everyone’s implant crashes. It would be, Lynch says, as if the whole world had suddenly gone blind. There would be no immediate basis on which to establish the truth of a fact. No one would really know anything anymore, because no one would know how to know. I Google, therefore I am not. […] Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. …

Quotable (#145)

Now, do I think that wellbeing is a higher value than truth? No. I hope I would never cling to something because it made me happy, if I suspected it wasn’t true. Philosophy involves a restless search for the truth, an unceasing examination of one’s assumptions. I enjoy that search, which is why I didn’t stop at Stoicism, but have kept on looking, because I don’t think Stoicism is the whole truth about reality. But what gives me the motive to keep on looking is ultimately a sort of Platonic faith that the truth is good, and that it’s good for me. Why bother searching unless you thought the destination was worth reaching?

If the apparent, empirical, psychological, or anthropological subject were the real agent of the philosophical enterprise, this question would make a lot of sense.