May 15, 2008

Philosophy matters

St. Thomas Aquinas,Intelligence is not a matter of democracy (while democracy is most likely a matter of intelligence, but this is another story). In the days of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Sophists, the art of subjectifying truth—in which the latters were masters—played an important role in Athenian democracy’s growth (i.e. by involving a tolerance of the beliefs of others), but nevertheless the difference between fallacious, deceptive reasoning and true reasoning was since then very clear. That is why intelligence is not a matter of democracy, that is to say it is no question about how many people think something is true or false, what matters is if something is true or false with reference to the notions of true and false. Here, of course, we are talking about the principle of non contradiction, that is that fundamental principle of thought, which two great philosophers, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, taught us to recognize, and which is so basic that it can be successfully argued for merely by showing that any opponents of the principle must be using it—and thus be committed to it—themselves.

That is why … philosophy matters. And that is also why I wholeheartedly agree with Norm and his answer to the following question: “Does philosophy have anything to say that is of relevance to the way non-philosophers think about the world?”

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