America’s War with Reality, Truth, and Morality
BY JONATHAN DOLHENTY, PH.D.
Ideas have consequences. A philosophy is a set of ideas about basic things like reality, truth, and morality. Therefore, philosophies have consequences. Some of the consequences of some philosophies are not good for human beings. Insanity, in the sense of being out of touch with reality, truth, and objective morality, is one of the bad consequences of false philosophical ideas. Our country is suffering from this insanity.
Insanity has become a national pastime. All one has to do to verify this claim is watch daytime television and the TV evening news, read the daily newspapers, the weekly tabloids, and the news magazines, listen to talk radio and the rantings of politicians on C-Span, or get into a debate at a cocktail party. Insanity is all around us. It’s permeated the Halls of Congress and the Halls of Justice. It’s been traveling rapidly across the country from shore to shore, border to border, and even to Hawaii and Alaska.
Insanity has become contagious and is even affecting the youngest residents of our nation. It is dividing the country into parochial groups of narrow-minded citizens, establishing hate, anger, and bigotry as the ordinary sentiments of daily life, causing uncivil behaviors to be the acceptable form of debate, and creating and implementing absolutely ridiculous sociopolitical policies which are nothing short of insane. Insanity, while spreading rapidly across America during the past thirty years or so, can be stopped. There is a cure, an antidote, a means of treatment. It’s not easy to get back to sanity today, but it can be done.
What Is Insanity?
The first thing we need to do is make sure each one of us understands exactly what we’re talking about here. The mark of a good debater used to be that he or she defines the terms to be used in the debate right up front. I realize that today it is acceptable to change the meanings of words throughout a debate so as to confuse the opposition (and yourself, as well), but I try to be a strict word-freak and firmly believe that words have consequences and are a powerful tool (or weapon, if you prefer). Also, this phenomenon of constantly using the same words in different ways to confuse the issue being debated is one of the symptoms of the insanity we’ll be discussing.
Therefore, in due consideration of what I’ve just said, I want to give you the definition of insanity that is common to the general dictionary most of us use.
in-san-i-ty: 1. the state of being insane; mental illness or derangement, usually excluding amentia; not a scientific term; specif., Law any form or degree of mental derangement or unsoundness of mind, permanent or temporary, that makes a person incapable of what is regarded legally as normal, rational conduct or judgment. 2. great folly; extreme senselessness.
This is so you’ll know that this is not the way we’re going to use the word “insanity,” strictly speaking. Most of this definition is acceptable but some of it is not. So let’s tear into it and rip it apart.
Obviously, as the dictionary notes, insanity has to be the state of being insane. I hope the word “state” is not confusing to you as it is definitely not referring to the forty-eight contiguous used-to-be-sovereign “states” of the United States. Plus Hawaii and Alaska, of course. No, the word “state” in the definition refers to a condition, as the condition of being insane. The concept of “mental illness” in the definition we’ll keep and understand it as a problem of the “mind,” having to do with some “disease” of thinking.
You can scratch the word “amentia” which refers to a condition one is born with. That’s not applicable here because no one is born insane in the sense to be used here. As I’ve already suggested, this insanity is generally “caught” from the environment; it is contagious. Actually, most people are born quite sane. Unfortunately, too many become insane as they grow up (or down, if you insist).
Notice now that the definition states quite specifically that “insanity” is not a scientific term. That may surprise you. But it is true that, from a scientific point of view, no psychiatrist or psychologist will ever diagnose you as suffering from insanity. Now the matter is different for lawyers. They may think a person is insane, but what they really mean is the person is “legally” insane. All this means is that someone with the approval of the “law” looks at you, points a finger, and declares you “insane.” Suffice to say that that person then becomes the “victim” of a word.
A Very Important Word: Rational
We have to be careful with the terms “normal” and “rational.” Normal is as normal does and the word can have a variety of meanings even in this context. We’ll skip the word for now, deal with it later in another situation, and give our attention to the word “rational.” This word is important to our discussion. Rational usually refers to reason, that which is reasonable, “right” reason, logical, knowing reality, and making “realistic” judgments. Note that the legal use of rational refers to conduct and judgment. The antonym for rational is irrational. So I think we’re safe to say that insanity has something to do with irrational conduct and/or irrational judgment. Another way of understanding this is to think of behavior that is irrational and thinking that is irrational.
Let’s narrow things down to “thinking” that is irrational, because we usually find that irrational behavior follows irrational thinking. Rationality has to do with reason and something called reality. We usually conclude that someone who is “rational” is in touch with reality, recognizes reality, and thinks and acts in a more or less logical manner. On the other hand, an irrational person would be out of touch with reality, not recognize reality, and think and act in a more or less irrational manner. Generally, we have considered, in popular parlance at least, a person of this latter type to be “suffering” from insanity. We will adopt this as a part of our definition of insanity.
The second meaning given in the dictionary definition above is: “great folly and/or extreme senselessness.” We’re going to keep this part completely because it describes so well the results of acting in a state of insanity. So now we should have some semblance of a definition for the word “insanity” as it will be used. And here it is: We will generally understand insanity to be a condition, either permanent or temporary, of irrational and illogical thinking, including the inability to be in touch with or recognize reality, which results in a behavior that can be considered to be illustrative of great folly or extreme senselessness. This is a rather long and somewhat stuffy definition, so let’s shorten it to: Generally speaking, insanity means irrational thinking which leads to foolish and senseless behavior.
As I have already said, you are not born with this condition called “insanity.” You come into this world as a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Outside of your specific genetic makeup, you are nothing more than a mass of potentialities. What will become imprinted on your mind will come from outside of you. Insanity, in the sense we mean here, is a condition of nurture and not nature. It is contagious and can easily be caught from others. You may catch it from your parents (although that is rare, for the most part), from your brothers and sisters (very rare), from your peer group (again very rare), from your teachers (more common), from university professors (very common), from the media (all too common), and from philosophers, pundits, politicians and social reformers (most common).
The Forms of National Insanity
Insanity can take several forms. Sometimes people can have one form of insanity and sometimes they can have several forms simultaneously. These forms of insanity can also be simple or complex, depending upon the degree of insanity involved.
One simple form of insanity is to deny that anything called “reality” exists. This is not too common a form of insanity because it is self-defeating. If “reality” doesn’t exist, neither does the person saying it doesn’t. In fact he didn’t say it, since he doesn’t exist. This is a rather lonesome form of insanity and you can see why not too many people want to catch it. In fact, this form of insanity is not popular in this country today at all and never really has been. If, however, you suffer from this form of insanity, you, who don’t exist, may as well put your computer, which doesn’t exist, in your kitchen trash can, which also doesn’t exist, and go about your non-existent business. Thank you.
The rest of us will now continue on to a discussion of other forms of insanity.
A Simple Form Of Ordinary Insanity
Another simple form of insanity is to accept that something called “reality” exists but no one can know anything about it. This is an old form of insanity dating back as far as the ancient Greeks. No one has been able to completely stamp out this form of insanity, so it’s still around.
This form of insanity, which is generally called Universal Skepticism, seems to have appeared first in a man by the name of Pyrrho of Elis who was born around 360 B.C. and died around 270 B.C. He proclaimed that we cannot know the nature of things, that is, “reality.” Our senses tell us how things appear, not what they are, and we cannot go beyond our sensations.
Pyrrho believed that we cannot tell whether a sensation is a true copy of a real object even if it is the source of our “knowledge.” Therefore, according to him, what we cannot know should compel us to suspend judgment, to resign ourselves to not knowing anything called “reality.” Furthermore, Pyrrho held that in every argument both sides can be proved, which probably makes him the first true politician on the planet. Had he been fortunate enough to be born in America, Pyrrho would make a great candidate for Congress.
There are some serious problems with this form of insanity:
- First of all, it is impossible to cure if the victim of Universal Skepticism sticks to his guns. In order to demonstrate that the sufferer is in error, we must use the very principles he does not accept. For example, it’s useless to say to him: “At least you are certain of one thing, and that is that you are not certain of anything.” The victim cannot respond, of course. He refuses to accept the basic principle of non-contradiction so if he responded, he would be accepting non-contradiction which he refuses to accept. I think you can easily see the problem here.
- A second problem the victim of this form of insanity has is a serious breach between thought and behavior. In a sense, he is suffering from a type of split personality. As far as thinking goes, it is verbally possible to doubt everything forever. When behavior comes into play, the universal skeptic is faced with a serious problem.
Let me illustrate this latter point with a short story about Pyrrho of Ellis. It is supposed to be true but I won’t bet on it.
It is said that Pyrrho was being chased one day by a rabid dog. Pyrrho ran for safety without allowing his skepticism to exercise its doubt about the existence and viciousness of the brute. When the bystanders laughed at him and ridiculed him for the inconsistency of his behavior, he is said to have made the sage remark (totally contradicting his beliefs): “It is difficult to get away entirely from human nature.”
Pyrrho could doubt “reality” in his thinking but his behavior told the real story. He could verbally doubt the existence of an object but he could not psychologically doubt it. This is the split personality aspect of this form of insanity. Thought and behavior should have some relationship to one another, in spite of what some members of the United States Congress may think.
We’ll finish our discussion of this form of insanity, called Universal Skepticism, with this quote from Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher who was almost denied entry into America back in the 1940s because of his “unpopular” views: “Skepticism, while logically impeccable, is psychologically impossible, and there is an element of frivolous insincerity in any philosophy which pretends to accept it.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Bertie.
A Complex Form Of Ordinary Insanity
Related to the insanity of Universal Skepticism, but somewhat more complex, is the insanity of Epistemological Subjectivism. For hundreds of years most people thought that something called “reality” actually existed and that things could be known about it. Except for those few suffering from the insanity of Universal Skepticism, no one doubted that he existed or that a real world existed outside of him. Besides, true and genuine universal skeptics didn’t live very long; they got bit by “non-existent” rabid dogs or run over by “non-existent” horse carriages and so forth.
Then came the seventeenth century and a man by the name of René Descartes became responsible for laying most of the foundation for a modern, more sophisticated form of insanity called Epistemological Subjectivism. He is also famous for saying: “Cogito ergo sum,” or as you may have heard it: “I think, therefore I am.”
Descartes was born in 1596 at La Haye, Touraine, in France, and came from a noble family, that is, he was the son of a member of the elite or, as it’s called today, the Establishment. He was educated by the Jesuits but his early study didn’t satisfy him and he abandoned his instruction on leaving school in 1612. In modern parlance, he became a school dropout.
Descartes traveled for a while, joined the army for a while, and after leaving the army, devoted himself to philosophic studies. He associated with some scientific friends in Paris for four years, grew tired of them and, feeling the need for some solitude, moved to Holland where he began to prepare himself for a life of writing. After twenty years of this, he was invited by Queen Christina of Sweden to move to Stockholm, which he did in 1649. Unfortunately, the climate didn’t agree with him and it undermined his health. He dropped dead in 1650 at the age of fifty-four.
The interesting thing about Descartes is that he actually set out to combat the insanity of Universal Skepticism, the view that doubts whether any of our beliefs can be supported by adequate or sufficient evidence. He had an intense desire to be certain, to be so certain that no discovery could ever shake his beliefs. Unfortunately, what he ended up doing was creating a basis for Epistemological Subjectivism which, while not exactly skepticism, is a first cousin to it. In the process of trying to solve the problems connected with Universal Skepticism, he created a false problem which has given rise to innumerable errors in modern thought and promoted much of the insanity we see today.
What Descartes did, and what started the ball rolling toward this form of insanity, is to demand proof for the existence of the outside world, that is, proof of an external “reality.” When asked in this way, no answer is possible. The existence of a “reality” outside ourselves is just a simple fact, a given, something we accept based on the evidence of the fundamental intuition of our own senses and intellect. To ask for proof for what does not need proof and, indeed, cannot be proved, is nonsense. After all, “reality” is prior to any proof and is implied in the very asking of the question about proof. The one reason why we state that we exist and that Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital is because “reality” is that way. Period.
Modern thinking has tended to follow Descartes in his Epistemological Subjectivism, demanding that we start from inside our own mind and prove both the existence of the world and of other human beings. This means that “reality” is based on the consciousness of the thinking subject, making the objects of knowledge a part of the thinking subject himself, his ideas, feelings, and so forth, meaning that there is no objective, external test of truth. This is Epistemological Subjectivism.
Descartes’ form of insanity, Epistemological Subjectivism, although more complex than Universal Skepticism, logically leads right back to Universal Skepticism. No certitude can ever be attained in Epistemological Subjectivism because the very foundations of human reason are completely destroyed. If the nature of our mind and the laws of thought, such as the principles of identity and non-contradiction, are called into real doubt, then all acts and facts of consciousness, all ideas, judgments, and inferences, can no longer be trusted.
The insanity of Epistemological Subjectivism is very much with us today. It is taught in our schools, preached in some of our churches, promoted by the media, accepted by most of our politicians, and even showing up now in our courts of law. This form of insanity is responsible for creating and implementing much of our social, economic, and political policies. It is also responsible for the failure of those policies. There is a “reality” out there and it is the master of us all. We don’t create it. We can’t deny it and remain sane. We must accept it, work with it, and modify it as best we can.
The treatment to overcome the insanity of Epistemological Subjectivism begins with the acceptance of two statements:
- Complete doubt cannot be the proper approach to the problem of human knowledge; and
- Any theory of knowledge which leads to Universal Skepticism is intrinsically false.
An Advanced Form Of Ordinary Insanity
This form of insanity has its roots in ancient Greece and was very popular there for quite some time. After a while, however, it disappeared and lay dormant for many centuries. Oh, now and then someone in history would try to spread this insanity again, but would be promptly chastised and treated, or just plain ignored. Recently, however, particularly during the past forty years or so, this form of insanity has made great inroads into American political and social thought and now can be considered to be one of the most serious and widespread forms of national insanity. A little background will be necessary to fully understand this form of insanity.
During the fourth century before Christ, many changes occurred in ancient Greece. The Greeks were victorious over the Persian army, which showed how much a small but cultured people can do against a numberless but disordered multitude of barbarians (yes, the Persians were considered barbarians. Political correctness had no advocates then).
The Greeks also came into contact with other populations living in different countries and practicing different customs, which led them into investigating the real value of such things as morality and justice (sort of an ancient example of cultural diversity). Then there was the democratic constitution of Athens, by virtue of which every citizen could aspire to some position in public administration (a sort of ancient affirmative action). This led to the necessity of everyone’s developing his personality through culture and education.
A crisis in education developed that was paramount in the ancient Greek mind of that time: How best to prepare citizens for public life. There arose a demand for some kind of professional training to meet the needs and opportunities which had multiplied rapidly. Naturally, someone had to step forth and meet this demand. A group of men called the Sophists did just that (alas, there were no women Sophists as sex discrimination was common among the ancient Greeks). These Sophists were so-called wise men, teachers really, who traveled from town to town offering courses in the traditional subjects of grammar, rhetoric, and literature, and the newer specialties such as statesmanship and generalship. Actually, they’d teach anything that promised to pay them a buck or two.
The Sophists were probably the first corps of professional fee-for-service teachers. Since they demanded pay for their services, they were usually identified with well-to-do households and the households of the powerful. Their wealthy and powerful clients had special needs, of course, and many of the Sophists began to specialize in teaching the arts of eloquence and persuasion to prepare their students for careers in the law courts and on the public platform. In other words, the Sophists were instrumental in educating the F. Lee Bailey’s and the Senator Robert Dole’s of that period in time.
The first of these new professional teachers to call himself a Sophist was Protagoras of Abdera and he proclaimed that “Man is the measure of all things.” This then became a sort of rallying cry for the other Sophists, leading to the main doctrine they espoused which was that whatever appears to be the case for you is true even though to me it is false. According to this bit of “wisdom,” everyone is always right; no one can ever be wrong. Sound familiar?
The main teaching of the Sophists was the impossibility of any real or objective truth, morality, or religion. All reverence for truth, custom, and law is destroyed. We cannot prove that anything is true or good. The best rule in life is to get as much pleasure and satisfaction as one can. In a nutshell: It remains for each man (and woman, of course) to get “what he (or she) want.” As you can see, the idea of “progressive” education did not begin with John Dewey and his tribe. Furthermore, the doctrines of the Sophists are now expressed in modern form in most of our contemporary public policies as we shall see later.
Most of the impact of the Sophists was felt in the area of morals. Here, according to their teachings, there is no truth; therefore there is no good and evil or right and wrong. Morals are a matter of arbitrary convention, of what you happen to feel at the moment, of what is pleasant or unpleasant to you. And I’ll bet you thought these ideas were discovered in the 1960s!
The Sophists also had an important influence on politics. According to them, it is impossible to distinguish justice from injustice. Laws are a matter of chance and merely a product of custom, climate, and self-interest. Their students were persuaded that since one answer is as good as another as far as right or wrong is concerned, everyone might just as well concentrate on a policy of self-interest. The Sophists used all of their talents to ensure that their students were capable of arguing with equal facility on either side of any question, with equal zeal for either side of any cause. In short, most of their students would be excellent candidates for Congress or other public office in modern America.
Do not think, however, that the Sophists went on teaching without criticism from some observers on the ancient Greek scene. Speaking about the influence of Sophistic education and its moral cynicism, the ancient historian Thucydides had this to say:
Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, ineptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.
I need to break in and remind you that Thucydides was not talking about modern American politicians, social reformers, or educators. His words are over two thousand years old. I didn’t want you to get the idea that he may have appeared recently on the Sunday morning television programs “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press.” He now continues with his commentary:
The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence.
Thus spake Thucydides, the great historian of the Peloponnesian War. His comments paint an unforgettable picture of the form of a national insanity which was to contribute to the collapse of the high civilization of the Greeks. Athens tragic fall occurred faster than her rise. A pointless war with Sparta, which could have been easily brought to an honorable termination, was prolonged and exploited by self-seeking Athenian politicians. This war exhausted Athen’s resources and drained her manpower. There was internal disorder within the government which paralyzed it and prevented it from properly conducting the war. Then, further weakened by a disastrous plague, Athens was forced to surrender to her enemies, going down in humiliating and total defeat. The Great Age of Athens was over. Greece would never be the same again. Sound familiar?
Sophistry is definitely an advanced form of intellectual insanity. It takes the simpler form of insanity called Universal Skepticism and applies it throughout the entire spectrum of human thinking and behavior. It influences a person’s attitudes and beliefs about reality, about truth, about morality, about the nature of man, about values, about society and the state. One authority on the subject has stated that Sophistry represents a peculiar type of mindset which recurs in times of transition, when old systems of thought, government, and religion have lost their authority. If that sounds familiar, it should. Sophistry is the most common form of intellectual insanity afflicting our country today.
Some Common Symptoms of Intellectual Insanity
There are a few outward symptoms of the various forms of intellectual insanity which can be easily identified. We will consider briefly only some of the more obvious signs at this time. This will help you toward a self-diagnosis if one is necessary and aid you in diagnosing the insanity in others such as your friends who disagree with you, the media pundits, social reformers, college professors, and, of course, politicians.
The first and most basic symptom is a total denial that anything called “reality” exists. As has already been pointed out, there are very few suffering from this form of insanity so we’ll not belabor it here.
Much more common is the symptom expressed in the proposition: “Of course, ‘reality’ exists but we can’t know anything about it.” If you meet someone with this symptom, refer back to the discussion of Epistemological Subjectivism.
There is also a common symptom, not a new one but becoming more prevalent these days, that “reality” does really exist, but,
- either I create it and what I say it is, is true for everyone, or
- something outside us creates reality and puts this reality into our heads and that is what reality really is.
The first of these is a symptom of what is called Subjective Idealism and the second is a symptom of what is called Absolute Idealism. Since these are really sub-forms of Epistemological Subjectivism, refer back to that discussion.
There are some symptoms which are essentially specific sub-types of the forms of intellectual insanity. For instance, someone who believes that morality is just a matter of personal taste and that there is nothing really good or bad, right or wrong, is exhibiting the symptom of Ethical Relativism or Moral Relativity. The ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus, was showing this symptom of insanity when he said: “There is nothing right or wrong, but thinking makes it so.” (Dear Epictetus: what about Nazism, cannibalism, or genocide?) Epictetus definitely needed treatment!
Of course, there is the opposite symptom which can be just as debilitating. That is the symptom expressed by one who thinks that every human act, no matter how small, needs to be detailed as to its moral implications. Every human behavior must have some rule regulating it and these rules are absolute and need to be rigorously enforced. This is a symptom of Absolute Casuistry, another sub-type of intellectual insanity.
Below is a brief summary of some of the symptoms you should watch for.
- I don’t exist.
- I don’t know if I exist or not.
- Reality does not exist.
- Reality cannot be known.
- Reality is what I say it is.
- Reality is what the government, society, or (fill in the blank) says it is.
- There is no such thing as truth.
- There may be truth, but we can’t know it.
- Whatever I say is true for me, but not necessarily for you.
- Whatever I say is true for everyone.
- Whatever the government, society, or (fill in the blank) says is true, is true for everyone.
- There is no such thing as good or bad, right or wrong.
- Whatever I think is moral is moral for me.
- Morality is what the government, society, or (fill in the blank) says it is.
Now that you know a few of the common symptoms of intellectual insanity, we’ll turn our attention to an influence which has a bearing on the form of and degree of insanity exhibited today in our society. This influence is called the “geographical factor.” We’ll take a brief look at how this operates in the area of practical politics.
The Geographical Factor:
Intellectual Insanity in Contemporary Politics
The insanity we’re discussing is truly a national problem. Political and social surveys have shown this. Talk television and talk radio have proven it beyond a doubt. There is no “insanity-free” zone in the United States. There is, however, a geographical factor that influences the amount of and degree of insanity as it occurs throughout the contiguous forty-eight states. And Hawaii and Alaska, of course.
It appears that there is both a “local” geographical factor and a “national” geographical factor that influences insanity and that these factors overlap at times. Furthermore, there are at least two types of national geographical factors at work: one can be called the “primary” factor and the other can be called the “secondary” factor.
The local geographical factor influencing insanity seems to affect certain people as they move toward state capitals, especially if they’ve been selected to go there by result of the elective process. Many of these people will start their journey relatively sane, but as they get closer to the state capital they are increasingly influenced by a geographical factor which seems to cause them to think and act in a way as to exhibit insanity.
The local geographical factor influencing insanity is bad enough. But the “primary” national geographical factor influencing insanity is even worse. It seems that the closer one gets to Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, the more intense this national geographical factor becomes. Again, this geographical factor seems to affect, for the most part, those who have been selected to journey there as a result of the elective process. There are others, however, who are also affected in varying degrees. Among these are political pundits, news analysts, White House correspondents, and social reformers.
There is also the “secondary” national geographical factor at work and it seems to be most influential as one approaches either one of two metropolitan areas in the United States: New York City and Los Angeles. This factor seems to particularly affect many (if not most) people in the entertainment business. It also affects, of course, political pundits, news analysts, White House correspondents, and social reformers, if they should live there or visit there even briefly.
The above certainly doesn’t mean that national insanity is limited to the geographical areas mentioned above. Intellectual insanity is widespread throughout the nation. It just seems to be more concentrated in state capitals than in other cities and towns, and in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles than in any other area in the country.
It has also been shown that symptoms of intellectual insanity are quite prevalent around colleges, university campuses, the headquarters of social reform groups, talk-radio stations, and TV anchor desks. To be on the safe side, be wary when you’re around these places.
Intellectual insanity, particularly various forms of Subjectivism, is primarily responsible for the political and cultural crisis this country is experiencing today. The leaders of today were taught by the leaders of yesterday. Teachers at all levels of education have wittingly or unwittingly accepted Subjectivism as the correct world-view and passed this on to their students who become, of course, future political and cultural leaders. This is why this type of intellectual insanity is contagious. It is passed on from person to person.
Epistemological Subjectivism and its related sub-types state quite clearly that:
- Reality either doesn’t exist (a minority view) or if it does we can’t really know anything about it (the more popular view);
- Truth is subjective and relative and there are no ways of knowing whether any proposition is objectively true or false – “reality” can be “created” and one “reality” is as good as another;
- Moral principles and rules are subjective and relative and there is no way of knowing objectively whether an action is good or bad, right or wrong – matters of morals are matters of personal taste.
In a “subjective world,” anything goes. All that is needed for something to be true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, is for some “power to be” to declare it so. That power may be the opinion of the majority, the wealth of the aristocracy, or the “authority” of the government.
The antidote, the treatment, the cure for intellectual insanity is:
- The acceptance of “reality” as it really is – reality exists and we do not create it; and
- Accepting that logical truth is objective and there are ways of knowing the difference between what is true and what is false; and
- Accepting that moral principles are objective and universal and can be known – there is a difference between right and wrong regardless of one’s personal taste or one’s personal opinion. (This does not mean specific rules necessarily, but principles only.)
If the United States would accept the antidote as stated above as the foundation for political, economic, and social policies, and as the framework for the nation’s culture, intellectual insanity can be eliminated, contained, or at least controlled.
To sum it all up, a person is in real trouble is he thinks:
- There is no objective reality, objective truth, or objective basis for moral principles.
- There are no objective and absolute principles of logical thinking. Logical fallacies are a figment of our imagination and don’t really matter.
Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at Self-Educated American. Self-Educated American has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work.