“The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations”.
Socrates, considered as the founder of western philosophy, is also known to have created this vague yet so fundamental concept: critical thinking. Using Socrates, Hannah Arendt, and Karl Popper, I will argue in this article that his concept is evermore needed in an age where views are increasingly entrenched, and why a healthy dose of critical thinking could help reverse this worrying trend.
Socrates is often perceived as the first philosopher of the western world. Through his process of “elenchus” (Socratic examination), he would critically examine and deconstruct someone’s claim to knowledge. In order to do that, he would rethink the person’s assumptions, question their foundations and reveal their weaknesses. He challenged anyone’s beliefs, demonstrating that anybody’s claim to knowledge was and should be questioned. In doing so, he also criticised the values of his own city, rejecting the idea that consensus is sufficient to elaborate an argument. As H.M. Hare states: “For what above all got philosophy started was Socrates’ and Plato’s insistence that the right opinion is not enough”. Instead, he believed any propositions should be critically examined through your own ability to reason (“logos”), enabling you to detach yourself from your surrounding environment. Through self-criticism, you could establish a more nuanced and less essentialist view of the world, hence improving your argument.
The way we communicate is ever-changing. Communication, from the moment we start to babble as infants, is an inevitable and natural human phenomenon. Of course, it evolves, changing with our evolution as a species just as naturally as language changes in us – as individuals – over the course of our lives. But although human communication is wedded to change, modern communication is changing in such rapid and unprecedented ways that it is both important and timely that we step back and take note.
Language is of course used to define and label the world around us, and these shared meanings enable us to transmit ideas across minds. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein viewed language as a social practice, arguing that the meaning of language is in its public use. Without shared meanings, he thought, the communication of ideas would be impossible. In Wittgenstein’s philosophy, in order to communicate with a social tribe, we must adhere to the rules of its conventionally accepted ‘language games’.
If the confirmation bias, this desire to be surrounded by and exposed to likeminded people is natural then why should we be concerned that facebook, twitter and other news feeds are becoming ‘personalised’ and offering ‘tailor made news’ ? There are two main reasons I will explore here and suggest to — rather, I will plead with — you to reject the personalised news feeds and the next time you’re offered to have your news ‘streamlined’ , ‘tailor-made’ or made ‘just for you’ , say NO !
The notion of Freedom of Speech is suffused with contradictions. These inherent contradictions fuel past and present societal divisions and sustain the proliferation of what have come to be known as “belief-gaps”. This article identifies the three main contradictions of Free Speech, each of the following contradictions will be discussed in relation to the issue of limiting free speech: the issue of Offence, the unequal access to free speech and the necessity for a cohesive space which enables “reasonable disagreement”.