Sunday, June 28, 2009

Modern Minds

Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself. ~ Henry L Mencken

I am amazed to announce that America's Greatest Thinker (at least for 2009) has been found in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. John Pollock has been granted that exalted title as a result of winning The Great American Think-off in that international center of deep thought, New York Mills. The issue was settled among four finalists by having them address the earth-shaking question, "Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?"

Two of the four, including Mr. Pollock, argued that the answer was "Yes."

Why is it that I am not the least bit surprised that the two that would argue that way would be a lawyer (Pollock) and a former E. F. Hutton employee (the other guy)? In case you're curious, the other two occupations were Air Force Master Sergeant and environmentalist (and part time operator of an ice-cream store).

Anyone who ever took a philosophy course will recognize the question as one of those absurdist sort of problems that would get posed in a first-level ethics course. An intelligent student would immediately raise the issue of the definition of "right". Do we mean "correct"? If so, the question is ridiculous because it can never be wrong to do the correct thing. Or does right mean "moral"? If so, does it mean moral in a legal, religious, or ethical sense?

In other words, as stated, the question doesn't mean much. But that's never stopped a philosopher.

I'll leave it to the reader to make up his/her own mind whether the "yes" arguments even make sense. To me they don't. The Wall Street guy uses an economic example to say, basically, it would be stupid for a failing company to admit their situation, so they should lie about it. His logic is that if the company was truthful, they would fail. Well, the lie-like-a-rug method hasn't proved to work out so well, now, has it? Only a stock brokerage employee could find that a rational argument.

As to Mr. Pollock, well, I can't make heads-or-tails about what his point is. His penultimate sentence, though, is "And in the end, I have realized that what matters is what one does, yes, but also how, and why." So, Mr. Pollock, to put it another way, the end justifies the means.

That is one sad philosophy. This is also an odd philosophy coming from a civil rights attorney. But, let's consider that most of our politicians these days are lawyers. That would explain a lot.

Frankly, the saddest thing is that these dissertations would be regarded as profound thinking. They read like sophomore essays that might have garnered a C+ from any of the philosophy teachers I had.

I guess that's what passes for great American thinking these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment