Thursday, July 14, 2005

Philosophy and Ideology

I've been enjoying Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty, about Paul O'Neill's two years as Secretary of the Treasury, partly for the insight into the Bush administration and partly for the similarity to my last job. O'Neill was shocked by Cheney's position, ("Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.") in the debate over further tax cuts in the face of rising deficits in late 2002. O'Neill "thought that, clearly, there's no coherent philosophy that could support such a claim," and started to ponder the difference between philosophy and ideology.

"I think an ideology comes out of feelings and it tends to be non-thinking. A philosophy, on the other hand, can have a structured thought base. One would hope that a philosophy, which is always a work in progress, is influenced by facts. So there is a constant interplay between what do I think and why do I think it..." I think many of us in the Reality Based Community are asking those questions continually. In June I wrote something similar about knowledge vs belief.

Recently in this discussion of evolution a writer putting forth his "Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis" refers to the "Darwinian Myth." Another commenter, skillfully and politely questioning the hypothesis leads him to this astonishing position:

"I have great difficulty applying logic to evolutionary matters. The major weakness in the Darwinian scheme is the fact that superficially it seems very logical. That does not make it correct. Hypotheses have to be reasonable - facts don't. An hypothesis does not cease to be an hypothesis when a lot of people believe it."

He may be making a logical leap to "Everything outside the set of 'reasonable things' is fact." Or "The set of things people believe in does not intersect the set of things that are true." Or a number of other logical errors.

This serves to drive me closer to Greenspan's recent exhortation that the best thing we can do for the economy is to educate middle and high school people better. I think, to some degree, that would make it easier to continue to educate people after they leave school. I'm often frustrated when I don't have enough information to reach a reasonable conclusion, but I'm increasingly infuriated by people (including some of my liberal friends) who have little or no information to support their positions.

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