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L&FP, 50: The error(s) of telling ‘truth’ by the clock

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The pendulum principle (HT: Wikipedia)

In a given time and culture, characteristic fashionable fallacies too often gain persuasive power by mutual reinforcement, and/or by swinging from one extreme to another; bypassing the point of responsible balance. So, too, we end up in a thorny thicket of errors, a hard-to-escape problematique.

And yes, that often includes the [neo-]marxist version of the Hegelian triad, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, repeat.

Where, too, babylonian captivity to the spirit of the age or the community . . . nowadays, strongly shaped by relativism . . . is of the very essence of ill advised worldly, destructive false “conventional wisdom.”

We must ask, then, what are the crooked yardsticks that we have substituted for what is truly straight, accurate, upright?

(Have we reached the absurdity where we challenge even naturally upright and straight plumb-line, self-evident truths that would expose our need to correct systematically warped thinking? Are we trapped by different, imposed brands of crookedness . . . as, each particular form of crookedness is distinct from others. In turn, that may trap us in polarisation of opposed errors, distracting us from that point of equilibrium and uprightness established by plumb-lines.)

Let’s put a select few candidates on the table:

  • Chronological snobbery, whereby we trap ourselves in intellectual fads (and ideological agendas) of our times by automatically disregarding lessons of the past as “outdated”
  • Novelty-ism, whereby the ad-man’s “new and improved” or “fashionable trends” trap us in a thirst for the latest intellectual fashions
  • Some few, of course, may instead so mistrust the new that they are blindly traditionalist (especially, when they lack the prosperity to risk the novel)
  • Imagining that History is bunk or victory propaganda, so disregarding its hard-bought, sound lessons — dooming ourselves to pay in the same coin of blood and tears over and over again
  • Relativism and subjectivism, which so undermine the significance of warrant based on due use of right reason as a corrective to our error-proneness, that we lose sight of the balance and reliability of resulting objective truth
  • Radical empiricism, by which we equate objectivity with materiality, tangibility and concreteness, often seen as “the real world,” thereby swallowing evolutionary materialism and/or its fellow travellers and losing sight of key abstract entities, relationships and states of affairs (including mathematics, morality, mind, truth and more)
  • Blind, [neo-]marxist Progressivism, whereby the socio-cultural version of the Hegelian Dialectic, often in the guise of so-called critical theories [i.e. culture-form marxism], trap us into the dismissal of the past as an oppressive discredited agenda; so that some are forever trapped in thesis, antithesis, synthesis and so the next round of items on an increasingly radical, often anticivilisational agenda
  • Scientism, whereby the “progress” of science and agendas of those flying that flag are seen as monopolising or at least utterly dominating knowledge
  • And, far more.

Art Lindsley, of the C S Lewis Institute, writes — yes, in the context of Lewis’ return to Christian faith (from the atheism of his youth):

Lewis’s question was: How could this an-
cient religion be relevant to my present setting? Lewis
defines this chronological snobbery as “the uncriti-
cal acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own
age and the assumption that whatever has gone out
of date is on that count discredited.”
Lewis eventually
came to understand the need to ask further questions
such as: Why did this idea go out of date? Was it ever
refuted? If so, by whom, where, and how conclusively?
In other words, you need to determine if an old idea
is false before you reject it; we would not want to say
that everything believed in an ancient culture was
false. Which things are false—and why—and which
things remain true?

Lewis came to the further conclusion that our own
age was merely a period which, like past periods, has
its own characteristic illusions.
We can unthinkingly
take for granted certain cultural assumptions, unless
they are questioned. The classic illustration is the frog
in the kettle. If you put a frog in a kettle of water and
slowly turn up the heat, the frog adjusts to the rising
temperature and therefore does not jump out—until
it is too late. In a similar way, we can be affected by
our cultural environment, yet be unaware of the sig-
nificant impact being made on us.

Nor, is this a modern phenomenon. We find the attitude of Athenians, c 50 AD, described thusly by their fellow Greek, Luke:

All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. [Ac 17:21, NIV 2011.]

Of course, the trick to that was, they were interested only in the latest ideas that tickled their itching ears and reinforced their preferences and underlying system. Something that was truly, plumb-line, back to core but neglected truths radical, they were on the whole not interested in and would shortly laugh out of court.

But it remains the case that the apostle Paul owned the future by, in his opening words, exposing the fatal foundational crack shown by their maintaining the now famous altar to the unknown god. Yes, they had a monument to their ignorance on the most significant, central question of all, root of reality and source of moral government. (Today, many only pretend to knowledge that there is no such root; such have not really progressed.)

The issue is to restore the plumb-line, correcting crooked yardsticks. Or, changing the metaphor through Jesus of Nazareth’s answer to the dilemmas lurking in Plato’s parable of the cave, in the all-time greatest sermon, given on a Mountainside in Galilee:

Matt 7:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

In plumb-line terms:

Or, in Overton Window, policy and ideological agenda terms:

Of course, today, an obvious case in point is the dangerously lawless mismanagement of the global pandemic, complete with officialdom dressed up in the lab coat of “Science.” Too often, not merely erroneously so called but sometimes . . . on fair comment . . . there may have been fraud in the moral sense — or at least willful deceit or negligence of duties of care tied to Hippocratic principles — connected to unduly marginalising unfashionable [and less profitable] alternatives. Needlessly costing lives. Further, some very disturbing precedents have been set for censorship, surveillance and control of the population. Lawless ideological oligarchy is manifestly on the march.

Pardon a vid as linked HT Jerry:

An example

But, such is only a study on the point, our focal issue is the error of trying to tell truth by the clock. In C S Lewis’ words, one tells time by the clock, not truth. END

PS: Lewis also said, that old books are a corrective to the errors of our time, as we can readily identify such errors as they made in their day, and by their insights, we can often begin to sense where we have become caught up in the spirit of our own age. Thus, we see the need to seek and heed, hard-bought lessons of history. He suggested that were they accessible, books of the future would be equally corrective. He, of course, thought that such were not available. However, there are such things as men who are ahead of their time and if we can find and listen to such, as with Jesus c 30 AD and Paul c 50 AD, that may give a glimpse of those future books. I would argue that Dallas Willard’s closing work on the disappearance/ marginalisation of moral knowledge is also of that character. Let us listen to, rather than stand aside and watch as some set out to kill our prophets.

6 Replies to “L&FP, 50: The error(s) of telling ‘truth’ by the clock

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    L&FP, 50: The error(s) of telling ‘truth’ by the clock

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Wiki suggests:

    Chronological snobbery is an argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior to that of the present, simply by virtue of its temporal priority or the belief that since civilization has advanced in certain areas, people of earlier periods were less intelligent. The term was coined by C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, and first mentioned by Lewis in his 1955 autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy.[1] Chronological snobbery is a form of appeal to novelty.


    Some 20th-century authors refer to the “Myth of Progress” to refer to the idea that the human condition will inevitably improve. In 1932, English physician Montague David Eder wrote: “The myth of progress states that civilization has moved, is moving, and will move in a desirable direction. Progress is inevitable… Philosophers, men of science and politicians have accepted the idea of the inevitability of progress.”[41] Eder argues that the advancement of civilization is leading to greater unhappiness and loss of control in the environment. The strongest critics of the idea of progress complain that it remains a dominant idea in the 21st century, and shows no sign of diminished influence. As one fierce critic, British historian John Gray (b. 1948), concludes:[42]

    Faith in the liberating power of knowledge is encrypted into modern life. Drawing on some of Europe’s most ancient traditions, and daily reinforced by the quickening advance of science, it cannot be given up by an act of will. The interaction of quickening scientific advance with unchanging human needs is a fate that we may perhaps temper, but cannot overcome… Those who hold to the possibility of progress need not fear. The illusion that through science humans can remake the world is an integral part of the modern condition. Renewing the eschatological hopes of the past, progress is an illusion with a future.

    On appeal to novelty as fallacious, fallacyinlogic dot com notes:

    Appeal to novelty states that something, such as a product or idea, must be good or superior simply because it is “new”.

    As such, this fallacy may occur in two ways: First, something that is novel is claimed to be superior simply due to its virtue of being novel, and second, the alternative is said to be inferior because it is “older” . . . .

    The underlying reasoning behind an appeal to novelty is that new versions will always be improved from the previous standards. However, it fails to consider a number of important factors, including:

    – Our understanding of the issue in question, and why the previous solution either did or didn’t work, may not be complete; a new solution may expose a set of new problems and, consequently, make things worse.
    – The motives for creating something new may not always promote progress; for instance, the main purpose of a new product release may in fact be to increase profits, rather than improve from the previous version.
    – A new idea or product may simply fall short of expectations due to errors made by the creators.

    Thus, “newness” alone will not guarantee improvement or superiority; even though the latest idea or solution can, and frequently does, prove to yield better results, sticking with the status quo is often the more sensible thing to do.

    Food for thought.


  3. 3
    Scamp says:

    Could you please provide me with an example of a clear self evident truth, and then an example of “systematically warped thinking”? Then I might have a better understanding of where you are coming from.

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    If there is chronological snobbery, is there not also inverted chronological snobbery, the belief that there is ancient wisdom which is superior to our modern knowledge?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, did you not see the 3rd bullet:

    Some few, of course, may instead so mistrust the new that they are blindly traditionalist (especially, when they lack the prosperity to risk the novel)


  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Sc, a simple SET is, error exists, E. Try to deny, ~E, you imply it is error to assert E, OOPS! E is undeniably, self evidently true, not just a matter of common fact. Huge implications, those who deny objective, warranted, knowable truth as accurately describing states of affairs in reality are refuted. Whole worldviews and linked agendas go down with that. Regrettably, we are no longer taught such formally though you likely know about 2+2=4* and the like Systematically warped thinking of course includes such denial of objective warranted knowable truth, or of truth beyond opinion etc. The fallacious abuse of the otherwise valid concept of tolerance by radical relativists (we tolerate responsible dissent in interest of responsible collective truth seeking and the civil peace of justice but should draw lines at anticivilisational misanthropy such as jacobinism showed post 1789 etc), is part of that. There are of course many forms of closed minded ideology or indoctrination, morally depraved thought, brainwashing [yes it is a real thing] and more. KF

    PS, I saw pending comments and could approve this one.

    * 2 + 2 = 5, so 2 – 2 + 2 – 2 = 5 – 2 -2, or 0 = 1, oops. Try matching fingers.

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