Trump Tests Contemporary Philosophy

At a supper party I spoke with a young woman who was getting a degree in philosophy.  I took the opportunity to lament the state of contemporary philosophy.  I told her, “There’s no more truth!”  She responded, “If there ever was.”

There were a coterie of philosophers in recent years who maintained that there is no such thing as truth.  Some of the notable philosophers were Nietzsche, Derrida, Fish, and Rorty.  Their assertion is that there is no outside reality that language copies and reproduces with words.  Rorty wouldn’t even make an assertion like that.  Because if he had said that there is no reality that language copies, that would have been an assertion of which the predicates of true or false could be attached.  Being consistent to his own system, Rorty said that he would use language in such a way that we would be attracted to speak like him.  He wasn’t making a statement about truth.  He was persuading us to speak like him, think like him.  Rorty wouldn’t even accept the endowed chair in the philosophy department at the University of Virginia which was offered him.  He thought that philosophy was no longer a viable discipline.  So U VA created a chair in a brand new department called something like cultural studies.

What does all this have to do with Donald Trump?  A lot of us are getting sick of all the lies he is telling.  As of August 1, the fact checker at the Washington Post found 4,229 lies told by Trump.  This averages 7.6/day.  If Trump had the brains, which he doesn’t, he could claim that contemporary philosophy has eliminated the concept of truth.  Since there is no truth, he would not be making statements contrary to it.  In short, Trump is the most prominent spokesperson for contemporary philosophy.

I was always suspicious of Rorty, Derrida, and Fish when I was a student.  Their claims didn’t convince me.  Now we have a test case for contemporary.  Is Trump lying?  Or can’t he lie?  Is there such a thing called truth which Trumps 4,229 statements are contrary to?  Or are the tactics of Trump and Giuliani, which seek to poison the notion that there is truth at all, entirely legitimate and in keeping with philosophy today?

I think the public outrage against Trump’s lies is an indication that most of us believe in truth, and bristle against lies.  When it comes down to it, I think that the pretensions of contemporary philosophy is another case of the emperor’s new clothes.  We see through it, even as we do Trump’s lies.

Advertisements

It Isn’t Even Interesting

After I got over the shock of Trump’s election to the office of the presidency, I became interested in politics.  I was never much interested in politics before.  Now I became an avid follower of American politics.

I called my cable company and added CNN and MSNBC.  I started watching with righteous outrage.  I was glad that the news networks were calling out Trump and bringing to the public his glaring missteps and violations of constitutional norms and good practice.

Later, I watched with amusement as the best reality show on the air.  “What was he up to next?” I asked, glued to the TV news.

Now I’m just getting sick of it all.  I don’t watch much, anymore.  I have this kind of resignation to low standards of human decency, unbridled violations of presidential protocols, bragging, influence peddling, conflicts of interest, and the list goes on.  I just want all this over as soon as possible.  It isn’t funny anymore.  Isn’t even interesting.

When Politics Used to Bore Me

Politics used to bore me.  In the past, I would rather watch old, mediocre movies like, “I Killed Rasputin” than listen to presidents or congresspersons hold forth on public policy.  Now, however, I find politics more entertaining even than good movies.  I have MSNBC on all the time, and am thoroughly entertained.  Politics in the Trump era is a real reality show that is more riveting than those reality shows drummed up by Hollywood.

Trouble is, I watch with a kind of unholy glee.  I like MSNBC because of their relentless Trump bashing.  Deserved.  All that MSNBC televises are facts that Trump himself utters, his tweets, his spoken word, his policies.  Trump calls this “fake news,” but his own tweets and speech are there to read or hear.  But it is not my best trait to loiter amid disgust and revulsion over Trump.

I long for those days when politics bored me.  I look forward to a new congress and a new president who will occupy their time and energy with the public good.  I want a president I won’t have to listen to because I trust his or her integrity, applaud their vision, and have confidence that they are serving the public good according to their own vision.