Fashionable Scholarship

Aristotle looking at HomerI just started reading Aristotle's work on the Art of Rhetoric. Actually, I just read the introduction. It seems that all the latest trends in philosophy were thought of long ago. This was nothing new to me, but what did surprise me was that every philosophical idea that has become popular in the history of Western philosophy was discussed by Aristotle or Plato. When I mentioned this to George he noted that in Athens at that time many different philosophies were championed by different schools of thought. They all existed together and wrote against one another in their dialogs. Plato and Aristotle were simply responding to the current set of ideas discussed in their day.

This interested me because today there is only enough room in for one philosophical system. The metaphysic (if I can call it that) of the day is "post modernism" and if you are hip to the jive you will communicate as a post-modern. It's not that your ideas have to adhere to the post-modern mind, they just need to be acceptable to a post-modern reader. If you speak as though you believe in absolutes or in the relevance of faith you will be derided as "oh so last century." The scholar fashion police will be on you before the end of 'bad boys' finishes playing. There is enormous pressure to adhere to the current accepted standards of what constitutes scholarship and evidence. If you prove something the wrong way you will not just be proven wrong, but you will be ousted... kept out of the inner circle of scholarship.

I think this all goes back to the foundations of scholarship, nerddom. All the nerds in middle and high school ever wanted was to fit in and to be frenched by a cheerleader. They were never part of the in-crowd and were perpetually unable to keep up with what was "cool". By the time they figured it out the trend had past and the shirt, pants, hat they bought to help them fit in only served to show how nerdy they were. Their entire scholarly career, up to that point, was defined by social rejection.

Oh how the tables have turned. The world of advanced scholarship is their world and they can now do as they please, or so it seems. My theory is that some how a couple of jocks got into the upper ranks of scholarships and are still playing the same games with the rest of us they played in high school. How did they get to this advanced position, you might ask, as though a bone headed football jock could never become a scholar. Perhaps they were polo jocks. The feminists are the cheerleaders of the intellectual game, no nerd would dare cross them. Either way, the jocks are still in control and all the nerds are just trying to fit in. Nothing has changed, just the social game. Speak against the feminists by suggesting that men and women might be different and your reputation as a scholar will get swirlied by the jocks of the academy. Suggest that evolution doesn't make sense and you won't get invited to that party next week.

Yes, times are changing, but the game remains the same and there is nothing new under the sun. What blows my mind is that the current trends in scholarship are presented as new ideas. It is thought that a certain philosophy becomes fashionable and dominate because it is supported by fact, either in science or in some social study that has been done. This just isn't true. The ideas that we tout as so novel and educated were discussed and dismissed by philosophers thousands of years ago. We do not adhere to a certain way of thought because it is backed up by the facts but because it is in fashion, because the scholar jocks and cheerleaders have told us it is okay to think this way in our advanced age. I am not suggesting that we give up our pursuit of a better system since it has been done before, but we should at least acknowledge that our trends in philosophy are more like trends in music than developments in science. They are based on little more than the current fancy of the public and a few men and women who define what is scholastically cool.

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  • Steven K

    listen to this, http://www.podcastdirectory.com/podshows/781044 (the podcast is called, “Popularity: idiots thinking in unison.” I believe it’s right up your alley with this line of thought. I can’t stand the guys voice, but he has some good insight.

    By the way, the jocks worm their way in because there are always those geek nerds, they’re the ones who have no social group, desperately want to be part of the “cool” group, but because they have for fitted all dignity in attempting to become something they’re not, they are defaulted into the nerd group by everyone else who is too annoyed with them to fit a proper classification to them. Thus, through these individuals, jocks have been able, through the centuries, to find their way into and infiltrate groups they are not part of for manipulative purposes. These geek figures act as conduits allowing, through either manipulation or intimidation, jocks to traverse social boundaries.

  • You may be right. You could never do anything with the geek nerds back in middle/high school. They would have been accepted by the nerd group had they not acted as though they were something better. Instead they seek the “cool” and, as you say, loose all dignity. The jocks abuse them while openly despising them, but the geek nerd acts as though he is truly accepted. Sure, he may date a cheerleader or two, but not because they like him. They are merely using them to make the quarter back jealous.
    If you follow this pattern into adult life they would be the ones who give too much credit to the jock ruling class and thereby perpetuate their weakness and the overall problem into adulthood.

  • You’ve been on this fashion kick lately, is there something you need to tell everyone? Did something happen? Did some heckler hall out and openly make fun of the Yomen uniforms? That reminds me, are you doing shows while in Portland?

  • What can I say, I love fashion. Actually I think the word perfectly describes our cultural state in so many ways I latched onto the concept.

    I hope to send out the filers for shows in the next couple of weeks. I have brochures for schools and churches.

  • Fashion??? What! Don’t tell me that your actually going to start wearing the “cool” clothes. If it’s true; then you’ve gone to the “Dark Side”.

    As for the shows- you’re slacking on flyers as much as Roland and I. We’ve got to send them as well. Right now everything is kind of dead.

  • Did you listen to that podcast, it’s great. If you didn’t because you can’t stand the guy’s tone, I’ll transcribe it for you.

  • Stephen F

    I’m not sure how much high school politics effects philosophy – lol. Its because we are SO big now – everything has to be dumbed down. Or perhaps we are all just dumbed down. This affects more than philosophy – think of politics – think of religion – there are so many of us we are swayed by mass opinions of millions. Perhaps its because we are dumbed down by our entertainment, or perhaps is it our schools fault for not teaching more contrasting contrasting contrasting ideas – and just teaching an agenda, whatever that might be.

    Let’s take history for example.
    How come we only have one history book? History is so debated. The kids might get even more interested if you gave them different books with different reports on the same stories…

    We learn to accept truth from our schools – then from cnn.com or the news channel… hmmm…. from our churches…. from tv politicians… from pop psychology…

  • Steve K. I just listened to the podcast. You are right, the voice is annoying. He makes a good point that popularity is based on that which the lowest common denominator find acceptable. He calls them sheep. He says that popularity is found by finding that which impresses the people who have the least critical standards in determining the quality of a given thing. This popularity seldom has anything to do with somethings value and everything to do with its acceptability to those who don’t think.
    Interesting.

    Yes, I have been slacking on shows. Ninrai, you can beat up Roland if I haven’t sent them out by the time I come home for Christmas. Deal?

  • What you guys are saying is true. When it comes to popularity in high school today it all depends on how much the “non thinkers” accept it or you. This may be true due to the fact that teachers seldom challenge a student anymore. There is no thinking involved. Everything is onesided and the only work is just busy work. It seems that the world has found it easier to “not think” than to think. Such as the saying “ignorance is bliss”.

    Ok Adam. I’ll beat up Roland if they don’t get sent by Christmas. That sounds like a fair deal.

  • It’s called, “Industrialization.”