Law, the entire concept of law, is perverse. It is anti-social. It is the root of violence and revolution. It is the cause, not the cure, for failed countries like Somalia. It looks like it promotes order, but it actually sows the seeds of chaos whenever it arises. Please join me. Please, help me free the world from the disease we call “rule of law.”
When we’ve rid the world of so-called law, we should move on to literacy. All of these literate people you see walking around cheapen culture. With their “books” and “letters” they don’t have to remember anything. Indeed, their memories are absolute garbage because whenever they need some shallow, poorly understood piece of “knowledge,” they can just read it. Not only that, but look at the ruined state of education. Children think they know something when they read it. They think they REALLY know it. Ridiculous.
These ideas seem pretty silly, do they not? The first one sounds like the drunken dream of a delusional communist. The second sounds like something your great grandfather would say from deep within the fortress of his advanced dementia. What if I told you that the first “insane rambling” came from Confucius, the single most influential thinker in Eastern history and the “ode to dementia” came from Socrates, the single most influential intellectual in Western history? What if I told you that each position was, and is, completely logically defensible, not just then, but now as well?
Confucius opposed law because he believed it created a false equality between rulers and the ruled. If there is equality before the law, why would the servant listen to his master? Why would a soldier listen to his commander? If they are equal, what would compel a child to obey the edicts of a congressman?
He was right to worry, incidentally. The worst countries in the world are not the homes of despots, they are the lands of nobody in particular. They are places like Somalia and Yemen. They are places where local chiefs have zero regard for the words of their kings. They are places where a man can declare himself God’s Chosen Emperor and be recognized.
He also thought that people would take advantage of loopholes in the law to do evil without fear of punishment. That he was correct on this line of reasoning is so obvious I will not belabor the point. Indeed, Confucius reasoned, is it not much better to simply raise and select a few extremely educated, very moral people and leave decisions in their hands? Surely it is easier to make one or two extremely moral people than to make a law for every contingency. If there is a logical error here, I’m not finding it.
Socrates also had several perfectly valid points when he opposed literacy. Literate people, and people who depend on writing, do in fact have lesser memories than the illiterate. If you value personal possession of knowledge over easy access to a variety of knowledge, you should agree with Socrates on this point. Socrates also dislikes the shallow way we “learn” things we read. Anyone who has seen students cramming for a test can testify to the shallow, unengaged way many (most) people learn when they read.
Lastly, Socrates says that by writing an idea down, you are robbing that idea’s vitality. You are taking something fluid, beautiful and evolving and killing it. When a philosopher speaks an idea, he can defend it, he can help his audience understand its logic, its elegance, its beauty. When he writes that idea down, he makes it vulnerable to misunderstanding. He loses all power over that idea. He puts it in the hands of lesser minds.
The one, small thing that keeps me from truly opposing literacy and the rule of law, however, is the fact that Socrates and Confucius were wrong. They were wrong with sound reasoning. They were wrong while being much smarter than you or I. They were wrong with the best of intentions, but they were still wrong. Societies with literacy and the rule of law survived where those without perished, and survival is the true test of morals.
I heard an interesting thought experiment from Dr. Steven Novella that I think can shine some light on the problems of Confucius and Socrates. Please answer these questions to yourself as we go along.
1. Think of your beliefs. Everything from religious views to your philosophy for playing StarCraft. There should be a lot of them. Are all of your beliefs correct?
2. Probably not, right? I mean, with so many beliefs, chances are you are going to be wrong on some of them.
3. What are your wrong beliefs?
Number 3’s a doozy, isn’t it? After all, if you knew your belief was wrong, you would change your belief. So here we are, almost certainly wrong, but believing anyway. And we really can’t escape this position, which has several possible consequences.
We could simply despair, which would be funny to watch from an outsider’s perspective. We could double down and substitute strength of belief for truth of belief – which basically makes us the most annoying person at any dinner party. Or, we could embrace a little humility. We could, the next time somebody throws a bizarre belief our way, at least entertain the possibility they are right.
After all, it’s a mistake to believe in a belief.
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