Saturday, January 03, 2004

thoughtlife: the fallacy of the consequent

If you look at history and compare it to the present day, you'll be saddened to know that there is truth to the maxim "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

For example, you may be led to believe that the ancient Greeks, led by thinkers such as Aristotle, argued for equality (and it's a fair thing to believe, given that the Greeks developed the notion of democracy). But it wasn't the case, or at least not as we define equality. Only the learned men of the aristocracy were allowed privileges, exclusing women, foreigners and slaves.

Today, inequality continues to rear its ugly head, in guise of religious intolerance, racism, homophobia, class division and so on.

It makes one question just how far the human race has progressed. Advancements in science, economics and political theory are nothing if they do not contribute to the fundamental need to respect and value each other as people. Why do we still persist in thinking along the lines of the fallacy of the consequent? "We are right because we are right." "The rich deserve to be rich, the poor deserve their fate." "My faith is right because God says so; God says my faith is right, therefore it is." "The definition of a nuclear family is husband + wife + child because has always been so; because it has always been so, the definition of a nuclear family is husband + wife + child."

We continue to condemn others - because they are not like us.

Because they do not think like us or value the virtues we hold dear.

Because they do believe like us or in the God we ascribe all things to.

Because they do not act like us or comport themselves in a way we expect them to.

Because they have different sexual preferences or are able to find passion in a mirror.

Because they poorer or slower or fatter or darker or slit-eyed or uneducated or female or not connected well enough or provincial or smokers - the list is endless for as long as we desire to condemn differences.

And, oh, how excellent our reasoning is, bolstered by religious dogma, ethical philosophy, tradition and blind fear of change.

Humanity goes forward, perfecting its powers, as Chechov writes, and it is true. It echoes Socrates - "The best man is he who most tries to perfect himself, and the happiest man is he who most feels that he is perfecting himself."

But on the road to perfection the essential elements that make us human are left neglected on the wayside.

For as long as we think the way we do, essentially unchanged for thousands of years, there will always be injustice and misrepresentation.

Can we still change?


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