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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




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.


Athens during the Classical era
Athens during the Classical era
  • The city-state of Athens (5th and 4th centuries BCE) valued intellectual pursuits and open inquiry. That lead to the development of philosophy (the love of wisdom).
  • The an...
Athens: The intellectual center
  • In the 5th century BCE, Athens housed a significant number of geniuses and innovators, such as the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, the physician Hippocrates, and philosophers Socrates and Plato.
  • Socrates is known for the Socratic method of inquiry, which uses questions to draw out critical thinking. Plato became the father of idealism and is often thought to be the father of Western political philosophy.
  • By the 4th century BCE, philosopher Aristotle was added to the luminaries of Athens. Athens also became home to the forerunners of modern universities, such as Plato's Academy, an institution of higher learning, and the Lyceum, a temple that served as a center for education, debate, and scholarship.
The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis is a distinctive feature of today's Athens that was built in the 5th century BCE. It is a cluster of buildings on a rocky outcrop. The famous Parthenon temple on the Acropolis was built to honor Athena and to serve the city's treasury.

Athens during the 5th century BCE was lively. The heart of Athens was its marketplace, or Agora (a place where people gather.) The structures surrounding the Agora's market stalls included stone benches, various altars, and temples, a building named the Aiakeion where laws and legal decisions were displayed, and various stoas or covered porticos.

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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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    How we perceive philosophy
    How we perceive philosophy

    When most people think of philosophy, they believe philosophers simply argue about arguing. Philosophy is viewed as impractical and irrelevant to current issues.


    Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Russell

    "Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don’t know."

    Defining philosophy

    Philosophy is examining our understanding of reality and knowledge. Philosophy consists of three major branches:

    1. Metaphysics - What is true about existence.
    2. Epistemology - How we can know that it is true. Epistemology has given us science, logic/reason, economics, psychology, and other theories of knowledge.
    3. Ethics - What actions we should take as a result of this knowledge. Ethics contains concepts such as democracy, human rights, the treatment of animals, and the environment.

    When you order your thoughts into a coherent belief system, you are engaging in philosophy. To criticize philosophy, you must rely on philosophy.

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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. 

    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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    Persuasion through storytelling

    Stories are a very integral part of being persuasive. 

    Stories trump data when it comes to persuasion because stories are easier to understand and relate to.

    What makes a story engaging
    • Suspense and “cliffhangers” allow you to create an addictive narrative;
    • Creating detailed imagery;
    • Using literary techniques for turning simple stories into memorable works of art.
    • Change made easier by providing an example.
    Characteristics of persuasive stories
    • Delivery: matters as much as the content.
    • Imagery:  the brain “lights up” in reacting to imagery, truly transporting the reader to the events being described. 
    • Realism: poeple need a “human” element in the story that is easy for them to imagine.
    • Structure: people prefer stories that follow a logical manner.
    • Context: significant impact on the persuasiveness of a story.
    • Audience: determine who you don’t want reading your content along with who you do.
    We Live In The Age of Speaking

    The image one has of success and glory is someone speaking on a stage, holding a microphone. Schools have courses in communication, how to speak perfectly, and how to deb...

    The Lost Art of Listening

    It is by listening that human beings are able to connect, co-operate, comprehend, empathize, understand and develop themselves.

    Listening is fundamental to any meaningful relationship, whether it is personal, professional or political.

    People Resist Listening

    Meeting others face-to-face, or even talking over the phone is increasingly unpleasant and intrusive, with text messages and emoji being preferred.

    Lack of listening is fuelling the rise of loneliness, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and even premature death.

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