I first learned about “aporia” in my ‘Hermeneutics and Deconstruction’ class. It is a Greek terminology denoting an impasse or a state of doubt, but it was resurrected by the late Jacques Derrida and left an impression on me since it came up at a time when Democratic candidate John Kerry was running against George Bush in 2004. Many people praised Bush for his decisiveness and John Kerry’s critics used this to their advantage by dubbing Kerry the wishy-washy candidate.
In the context of what I was learning about aporia in my philosophy class, as well as my other critical thinking and logic classes, I was perplexed how having skepticism about such a complex issue as declaring war was seen as a weakness. Even the scientific method praised the search for disconfirming evidence.
The reason I find aporia to be so important is that I believe it to be a staple of a thoughtful mind. The youtube clip below illustrates my point:
“In Plato’s Meno (84), Socrates describes the purgative effect of reducing someone to aporia: it shows someone who merely thought he knew something that he does not in fact know it and instills in him a desire to investigate it.”
This is not to say that Bill O’Reilly will go and investigate this matter further; the aporia is exhibited only by Dave Letterman of the two debaters. This brings me to my next point.
The reason that doubting oneself is important, as I mentioned earlier, is that it is a crucial part of the critical thinking process. If you are open minded to the possibility of contrary evidence to your present schemas, then you will thoroughly examine this evidence and give it the weight it deserves. This further allows a person to actually modify their set beliefs in order to accept the incoming contrary evidence. Jean Piaget called this accommodation, which combined with assimilation to form the adaptation process (in other words – learning).
However, it sure seems some people are better at this than others. I consider the political equivalent of this to be liberalism. The word has become somewhat perverted in our time due to constant political propaganda of equating this viewpoint with big government, loose morals, and the recent weakness of the Democratic party. It is no such thing.
Interestingly enough, Nature Neuroscience just came out with an article which correlates liberalism and conservatism with neuronal activity in the brain. An area called the anterior cingulate shows differences in liberals vs conservatives.
“Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.”
In other words, liberals are better at the accommodation part of learning than conservatives. When faced with evidence that is contrary to their established beliefs they are more likely, due to genetic differences, to modify their representations of reality in order to accept the new data.
It is no wonder why conservatives, more than liberals, represent the religious viewpoint. It seems to me that religion relies on adherence to dogma, sometimes contrary to new information which disproves the very principles on which these beliefs are based. It is also no wonder that liberals are known for their social perspective of egalitarianism (gay, minority, and women’s rights movements) despite a history which is dominated by suppression of these ideas.
I should add that I am not trying to disparage the conservative political viewpoint. I have made it known in my previous posts that I ardently support Ron Paul for presidency, who considers himself a libertarian conservative. I understand people’s qualms with abortion (although I do not agree with them pushing this opinion to be expressed in legislation); I also think some other conservative perspectives, like on immigration and welfare, warrant consideration.
I am simply denouncing “the conservative mind”, which does not allow itself to adapt.