Saturday, April 9, 2016

How ideas take root

Osborn Segerberg, Jr.:

"The search for truth – or understanding – is not simply an indulgence of curiosity nor merely an intellectual exercise. It is a sophisticated means to survive. ... Survival (which often requires domination) is the ultimate test we have for efficacy, or congruence with reality, whether applied to a belief, an idea, a system of thought, a way of doing things, or an individual and his descendants, his group, his species."

Max Lerner:

"A doctrine does not spread by itself – because of its own inner beauty or logic or consistency. It spreads because it is a response to deeply experienced needs. It spreads because of strong impulsions from the system of production and from the alignment of economic power. It spreads when there is something in it that is a response to the ethos of a period. It spreads when there are powerful groups willing to spread it because they are able to use it."

Noam Chomsky:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."

Nicholas Fearn:

"To the delight of politicians and the chagrin of philosophers, people can be convinced of just about anything so long as one does not employ rational argument."

George Orwell:

”They slapped his face, wrung his ears, pulled his hair, made him stand on one leg, refused him leave to urinate, shone glaring lights in his face until his eyes ran with water; but the aim of this was simply to humiliate him and destroy his power of arguing and reasoning.”

Hannah Arendt:

"...factuality itself depends for its continued existence upon the existence of the non-totalitarian world."

Robert A. Burton:

"The revolutionary premise at the heart of this book is:

Despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of 'knowing what we know' arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.

* * *

To expect well-reasoned arguments to easily alter personal expressions of purpose is to misunderstand the biology of belief. If there is to be any rapprochement between science and religion, both sides must accept this basic limitation.

* * *

The message at the heart of this book is that the feelings of knowing, correctness, conviction, and certainty aren't deliberate conclusions and conscious choices. They are mental sensations that happen to us."


Osborn Segerberg, Jr. The Immortality Factor. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc. 1974. p xvii-xviii.

Max Lerner. It Is Later Than You Think: The Need for a Militant Democracy. New York: The Viking Press, 1939. p 7-8.

Noam Chomsky, quoted in, quoted in The Week, March 18, 2016. p. 19.

Nicholas Fearn, How to Think Like a Philosopher. New York: Grove Press, 2001. p 25.

George Orwell. 1984. (Originally published 1949.) New York: The New American Library, 1961. p. 199.

Hannah Arendt. The Burden of Our Time. London: Secker and Warburg, 1951. Published in the US as The Origins of Totalitarianism. p 375.

Robert A. Burton. On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2008. p. xiii, 183-184, 218.

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