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Ancient Greeks devised a way to fight disinformation

A healthy democracy

Debates are essential for democracy. Sadly, social media platforms are not designed for introspection and dialogue. Social media allows for a rapid spread of disinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

Propaganda and disinformation create a realm where disbelief is disloyalty. Propaganda is compliance and the preferred vehicle for authoritarians. A healthy democracy should promote curiosity and debate.

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Ancient Greeks devised a way to fight disinformation

Ancient Greeks devised a way to fight disinformation

https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/sophists?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

bigthink.com

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Key Ideas

The rise of disinformation

Our world has a dizzying amount of propaganda and disinformation: political misinformation, ignorance, social media, scientific ignorance, etc.

Disinformation will always exist. However, we should know how to fight it. For that, we should consider Sophism.

The Sophists

Initially, Sophists taught education and rhetoric as well as music and other arts. Philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle believed Sophistry to be a lowly endeavor designed to sound profound.

But Sophists strove for Phronesis, or practical truth, above Truth (Sophia). Sophistry presents an argument that builds into a practical truth, not the Ultimate Truth.

A healthy democracy

Debates are essential for democracy. Sadly, social media platforms are not designed for introspection and dialogue. Social media allows for a rapid spread of disinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

Propaganda and disinformation create a realm where disbelief is disloyalty. Propaganda is compliance and the preferred vehicle for authoritarians. A healthy democracy should promote curiosity and debate.

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Our culture of work

Our culture claims that work is unavoidable and natural. The idea that the world can be freed from work, wholly or in part, has been suppressed for as long as capitalism has existed.

Exploring the abolition of work

  • In 1885, socialist William Morris proposed that in the factories of the future, employees should work only four hours a day.
  • In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would lead to an age of leisure where people might work 15 hours a week.
  • Since the early 2010s, these ideas have been developed further, creating a growing critique of work as an ideology, and exploring alternatives to work.
  • Post-work offers enormous promises: In a life of much less work, life would be calmer, more equal, more communal, more pleasurable, more thoughtful, more politically engaged, more fulfilled.

Work ideology

The work ideology is not natural nor very old.

  • Before the modern era, all cultures thought of work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • Once the modern work ethic was established, working patterns started to shift. Between 1800 and 1900, the average working week shrank from 80 hours to 60 hours, and in the 1970s to roughly 40 hours.
  • In 1979, Bernard Lefkowitz related in his book that people who had given up their jobs reported feelings of "wholeness." During the same period, because wages were high enough, it became possible for most people to work less.
  • During the 80s, work ideology was reimposed by aggressively pro-business governments who were motivated by a desire for social control.
  • By the early 21st century, the work culture seems inescapable.

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    Paradox of knowledge

    The increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous.

    Instead, it makes us more dependent on other people's judgments and...

    From Information to Reputation

    There is a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge from 'information age', moving towards the 'reputation age'.

    This shift involves valuing information only if it has already been filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. From this perspective, reputation has become a central pillar or gatekeeper of collective intelligence. We become reliant on biased judgments of other people.

    Reliant on reputation

    If you are asked why you believe in, for instance, the big changes in climate, you might answer that:

    • You trust the reputation of scientific research and believe that peer-review is a reasonable way of sifting out 'truths'. 
    • You trust newspapers, magazines or TV channels that endorse a political view that supports scientific research to summarise its findings for you. (Here you are twice-removed from the source - you trust other people's trust in science.)
    Even in conspiracy theories, people trust secondhand information based on the reputation of the sources.

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    One of the reasons why Stoicism is enjoying a revival today is that it gives concrete answers to moral questions.

    Aristotle gave us an alternative conception of happiness

    It cannot be acquired by pleasurable experiences but only by identifying and realizing our own potential, moral and creative, in our specific environments, with our particular family, friends and colleagues, and helping others to do so.