Re: MD What makes an idea dangerous?

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Thu Oct 23 2003 - 15:35:09 BST

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    Hi Wim,

    > Dear Andy, Platt & others involved in this thread,
    > Platt considers (19 Oct 2003 14:57:52 -0400) 'Rorty's theory of truth
    > (what you can get away with) ... socially dangerous', i.e. (19 Oct 2003
    > 09:06:41 -0400) 'dangerous to a free society because without confidence
    > in the concept of truth (and it's companion, logic), the public is
    > disarmed against lies'.
    > Andy is (20 Oct 2003 23:58:07 +0000) troubled by 'also consider[ing]
    > some people's ideas dangerous' or rather by calling himself a pacifist
    > and nevertheless 'feel[ing] that society would be better off if certain
    > individuals who held dangerous ideas would come to meet sudden and
    > tragic ends'.
    > I'm doubting both the tenability of Platt's position and the necessity
    > of Andy's troubles. If the social level and the intellectual level are
    > discrete, how can an intellectual pattern of value (e.g. a theory of
    > truth or other 'dangerous ideas') then be 'socially dangerous'? Will
    > killing individuals really kill the 'dangerous ideas'? Are ideas that
    > are countered by force (instead of by persuasion, as advocated by Platt
    > 21 Oct 2003 11:52:32 -0400) not usually strengthened rather than killed
    > (e.g. by the 'martyr-effect')?
    > Societies are held together by social patterns of value, not by
    > intellectual patterns of value. Social patterns of value produce
    > predictable behaviour. Any intellectual pattern of value (e.g.
    > repetitive expression of a specific idea) is dangerous to social
    > patterns of value, because it motivates people to behave differently
    > than before, to break the social pattern.

    Perhaps we've inadvertently discovered a crack in Pirsigs hierarchy
    because it's evident that ideas (intellectual patterns of value)
    influence human behavior (social patterns of value). Otherwise, social
    patterns would never change. (Example of the Zuni brujo.)

    My thought about the concept of truth being vital to society reflects
    society's dependency on honesty and trust in government as well as in
    individual dealings in a free market. Without confidence that
    individuals within a community are largely truthful with one another,
    the community will disintegrate. For example, if the majority in a
    community discovers that elections of their leaders are rigged, the
    community will be thrown into turmoil.

    Tangentially, Pirsig suggests something similar holds the scientific
    community together. "But can he argue that the moral question, 'Is it
    all right to fake your scientific data?' is not a scientific question?"
    (Lila, chp.24)

    Faking, lieing, misrepresenting, deceiving, falsifying--all related to
    the concept of truth--will, if practiced on a large enough scale, break
    up a society as surely as a natural disaster.

    > The idea that individuals have rights to freedom (which Andy suspects
    > Platt 20 Oct 2003 23:58:07 +0000 of not respecting enough) is a clear
    > case. You can forget about any predictable behaviour and any society if
    > people would act too much upon that idea. We're lucky that even in a
    > so-called 'free society' people's behaviour is only marginally changed
    > by motivated actions. Most of it is still 'follow-the-leader' type of
    > unmotivated behaviour, the behaviour that builds and maintains society.
    > For social patterns of value (as I understand them) it is hardly
    > relevant whether people adhere to libertarianism or to fascism.

    I consider it highly relevant whether social patterns of behavior are
    relatively voluntary and unconformist in a libertarian society compared
    to behavior that's involuntary and rigidly conformist in a communist


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