Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

Mass Vanity

Whether the particulars are right or wrong, the masses are just as suceptible to flattery and enflamed by criticism as a monarch. Barring an extremely virtuous public, there will always be trends in popular political discourse suggesting that the people know best, and that there is no knowledge beyond what the broadest mass of people have. There will always be movements branching up where people aim to replace institutions that have advanced knowledge and practice in a task with a return to the lowest common denominator.

In the rare circumstances where the institutions have truly failed and the knowledge or practice of a teacher, doctor, chemist, mechanist, and other advanced trades are equal to that of a common citizen, this tendency is worthwhile. In most cases, it is a sign of dangerous vanity in the demos.

People study these trades to better themselves. When successful, they are better people (in the sense of having more knowledge about the field, presuming the field is worthwhile). Self-improvement is a multivariate task, not given to the strict hierarchies people naturally worry about.

It is a mark of virtue to take seriously the greater knowledge of someone who has spent a lot of time on their field in a proper academic environment with standards of intellectual integrity (again, provided their field has merit). The lure of philosophies that say "You are awesome how you are" is something against which many will not break.

Tags: philosophy
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