As everyone knows, philosophy comes from the two Greek words philo and sophos, and means, roughly, the love of wisdom, although as everyone also knows, Socrates declared his wisdom was his knowledge that he knew nothing.

In recent years (by which I mean increasingly since the 1970s), there has been a drop away from knowledge and understanding as virtues, in favour of an adherence to “identity” beliefs, in which the facts and values that are treasured are those that either support one’s favoured view of the world, or are made up to support it.

In short, there is now a fear of wisdom. This has been called many things: willful ignorance, willful blindness, tactical stupidity, or (and this is new to me) “Nelsonian knowledge”, from Admiral Horatio Nelson’s famous act of putting a telescope to his blind eye. But it is more than something risible, or derisible. It is a major issue in modern society, and it is causing problems of a high order. It needs a name. So, I am proposing “phobosophy” – the fear of wisdom.

We seem phobosophy in conspiracy theories, the denial of scientific knowledge, in the “news bubbles” that conservatives and the hard left keep themselves insulated in. We see it in journalists who give equal time to the moronic as the experts. We see it in politicians who repeat the same old failed policies because they think that to do otherwise breaks some basic principle (like the addicted and the poor are morally responsible for their plight). And so on.

As fascism rises again, aided by the vested interests of the power class and the oligarchy; as religious interests demonise women and the heterotransgressives; as entire ethnic and religious groups are treated as subhuman in the media and in internment camps (but not our ethnic and religious groups!), there is a burning need to call things what they are. So I offer this as a way to name the overall failure of rational, evidence based, and just thinking.

2 thoughts on “Phobosophy

  1. Phobosophy often turns into echthosophy or so it seems.

    I saw a poll, for what it is worth, that 24% of Trump supporters could not imagine anything that Trump could do to lose their support. On the other hand, I see Liberty University alumni are threatening to return their diplomas, again for what they are worth, over Jerry Falwell’s comments on Charlottesville. Hope?


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