Intellectual Poverty IV - Disillusion

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In the wake of the many failed ideologies of the 20th century, a certain political and philosophical disillusion has spread among intellectuals in Europe and the USA. The mass murders of Nazism and Communism in particular have been frightening.

A widespread nihilism has therefore emerged; the belief that there are no values, goals, or opportunities for progress, and that life is meaningless.

It is healthy to doubt and it is definitely an advantage not to engage in ideological projects that override democracy and the individual, but it is also contains a danger for democracy when a belief spreads that everything can just as well be six of one and half a dozen of another, especially if it turns into outright indifference.

In recent decades, very few philosophers have become engaged in political thinking. Apart from a small group of philosophers concerned with normative ethics - that is, how the world ought to be - on a very theoretical level, normative philosophy has slipped into the background. Instead, philosophy has closed in on itself and deals almost exclusively with our ability to perceive.

Meaning in life

If one is seeking meaning in life, or views on how the good society could be, there is not much help to be had from philosophers at the moment. Secular philosophy has left morality to the theologians, and that may explain the extensive seeking, not only in religion but also in superstition, New Age ideas and humbug of different types, also in the West.

All in all, it is a part of the challenge to democracy, because the answers to what is right and wrong are moved away from enlightened debate and philosophy, and into a religious and pseudo-religious context, based on subjective feelings and unstructured speculation.


Next chapter: Conspiracy Theories