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The fundamental contradiction in society — conventional vs critical thinking

I wonder if it has always been the case that there is a fundamental tension in society, or societies, between a kind of conventional, mainstream opinion (what the ancient Greek philosophers derogatorily called “doxa”), on the one hand, and a countervailing, critical thread of thinking, on the other.

Moreover, in addition to this tension, there seems to be an outright contradiction — at least today — between (conservative) conventional opinion and a simultaneous encouragement of critical thinking. How should we understand this?

Considering the reasons for Socrates’s untimely death by hemlock, namely, that the rulers of Athens had had enough of his relentless philosophical questioning of the epistemic (knowledge) grounds of their rule — a questioning that had won Socrates quite a following among especially young Athenians — it would appear that the tension referred to, if not the contradiction, has always been there.

This is confirmed by the equally untimely death of the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno at the stake in 1600, for daring to question the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine concerning the nature of the universe. Bruno’s crimes? Among others (which included charges of heresy concerning church dogma), he suggested that simple logic indicates that the earth cannot possibly be unique in the order of creation, because a cause and an effect are always commensurate. And because God is an infinite cause, it is unthinkable for his creation to be finite. Hence it followed, he reasoned, that there must be innumerable planets like the earth, with rational beings like humans on them.

To this may be added many other instances of philosophers and other critical thinkers who have paid with their lives for being critical of those in powerful social and political positions. Boethius, who was executed by King Theodoric on suspicion of treason in the 6th century CE, comes to mind, as does Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the radical theologian who was critical of Hitler’s regime, participated in the German resistance movement against the Nazis, and was hanged by them in 1945.

Even Galileo — who is currently being redeemed by the Roman Catholic Church for the supposed compatibility between his scientific claims and his faith in God; something I noticed in the RC churches we recently visited in Rome — was coerced, on pain of death, into recanting some of his scientific and astronomical assertions that the RC church regarded as heretical in the 17th century.

And yet, despite abundant evidence that individuals who have been truly critical of mainstream, conventional beliefs and practices have paid dearly for their critical stance, today we constantly encounter encouragement, on the part of educational authorities for example, to “think critically”, or, to use De Bono’s well-known phrase, to “think laterally”, or “out of the box”. How should we understand this — the fact that indications suggest that true criticism is not easily tolerated in society, on the one hand (that criticism and conventional opinion are not really compatible), and yet, that such critical thinking is simultaneously encouraged?

I’m not sure whether the contradiction (between lack of tolerance of criticism, and yet encouraging it) has always existed, although the persecution of individuals who have been critical of those in power does indicate that the tension between convention or “orthodoxy” (literally: “correct opinion”) and criticism has always been there. One way to understand it is in terms of what Freud called the “death drive”, which manifests itself in different ways, one of which is the (conservative) tendency, on the part of an organism (including humans), to return or revert to a previous or customary position.

In other words, the vast majority of people in societies of any era have always preferred (or been unable to resist) reverting to the positions or conditions that they are most familiar with — their “comfort zones”. It is only a few souls who have been able and willing to express (radical) criticism of the societal status quo — philosophers, artists, scientists, or what Foucault named the “universal intellectual” (who spoke on behalf of all of humanity) in former times, and more recently the “specific intellectual”, who is able to offer criticism because of her or his special area of knowledge. (According to Foucault, we are way beyond the time of the “universal intellectual”.)

In our era, particularly, the criticism of such “specific intellectuals” has not generally been welcomed or tolerated by mainstream society, despite all the orthodox affirmations of the desirability of “critical thinking” or “lateral thinking”. This is because what these putative supporters of a critical mode of looking at the world understand by such a “critical” take is not really anything critical at all, but merely ways of improving the accepted, neo-liberal capitalist, liberal democratic economic and social/political model or system. (I have no problem with democracy, but it should be a variant of social democracy, which recognises the link between the individual and community, unlike the internecine, competitive individualism of liberal democracy.)

There is a sequence in the second Matrix movie, where the “Architect” (apparently a person, but really only a function of the eponymous “matrix” programme), tells Neo that he should not suppose himself to be the first would-be “saviour” of the people of Zion. (Don’t you just love the quasi-Christian ideas and names in The Matrix: “Neo” is an anagram of the “One”, “Trinity” and “Zion” are self-evident.) There have been many like yourself before, says the “Architect”, and like Neo, they, too, served the purpose of “testing” the system (the “matrix”-program of deluding people into thinking that they are free), so that the system can be improved or perfected.

Criticism, therefore, should only serve the purpose of stabilising and entrenching the existing paradigm, and not — heaven forbid — expose the hollowness or, to be kinder, the obsolescence of the existing paradigm, in this way showing that the time has come for a “paradigm-switch”.

This is the important part, which applies to all vaunted “criticism”, today, as long as it is not radical: be critical, be a “lateral thinker”, as long as you don’t rock the boat too much with any truly RADICAL criticism (literally, criticism that goes to the “root” of the matter) — if you dare to, the system will target you and either “take you out” — whatever that may mean — or neutralise you, or ostracise you. For the “system” does not tolerate real critique and criticism (the two concepts are not synonymous). And this is precisely why radical critique and criticism are what is called for today, in such increasing volume that the system eventually cannot deal with all of it any more. It is time to switch to a new paradigm — one that makes provision for the well-being of ALL human beings, instead of only the so-called 1%, AND for the well-being of nature in all her diversity.


  • As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.


  1. S'gubu Samampela S'gubu Samampela 25 November 2011

    Thanks @ Bert I really enjoyed that (on a Friday evening nogal)……this is the kind of literature I think Juju reads alot, except that his radical ideas do not conform to conventional knowledge……or maybe it does not require to.

  2. Robard Robard 25 November 2011

    Well, Galileo was wrong to insist that comets were a weather related phenomenon and for abusing that poor astronomer priest who demonstrated he was wrong. And the Inquisition was the more reasonable party at that stage with its finding that heliocentrism could only be considered as a probability and not a fact (in the event it was only proved in 1838 by FW Bessel). It was Galileo’s way of making enemies that sealed his lot far more than the intolerance of the Church (he was at first encouraged by the Pope to publish his thoughts on heliocentrism.)

    Bruno of course was no scientist, but a mystic. Once again, it was the church who erred on the side of science by insisting he back up his assertions with facts. There is a good case to be made that western science wouldn’t have progressed as much as it did if the Church didn’t have such a high regard for verifiable proof that it was willing to put to death those who would foolishly proclaim their possession of truth based on mystical revelation.

  3. Trevor Trevor 25 November 2011

    Ya, these articles are worth printing out and chewing over at greater leisure. I hope that you get them all down, Bert, for a published compilation, or something. Sorry for the impertinence of arrogating to myself the first right of reply. There are untold heavyweights standing in the queue I’m sure.

    I may have misunderstood your thought altogether, but we pride ourselves on criticism today, and indemnify ourselves, putatively, through allegiance to it. In my language, your article pulls the mask off complacent criticism, showing it to be the unwitting captive of a kind of new conservatism or convention. Real (radical) criticism is not that easy and must itself undermine the Johnny-come-lately criticism that we tend to pride ourselves on. In this regard there is some insidious similarity between such criticism and the old doxa. ‘Criticism’ is all over the place today, like legal cover.

  4. HD HD 25 November 2011

    Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is also revelent when talking about challenging the “common sense” of a historical epoch. Gramsci had some interesting ideas about especially the role of cultural ideas.

    I also find it interesting that “critical thinking” is often meant to mean being merely “critical”. Whilst from an analytical point of view “critical thinking” refers to rigerous application of analytical techniques and being aware of cognitive and mental biases. Any way it seems that the former is often encouraged in the humanities and social sciences. Students are being told to be critical of capitalism, but the underlying reasoning is seriously flawed and rather weak.This is not critical thinking and for me explains why so much of academic criticism is actually self-defeating and full of straw men…

    A good example is this 1% vs 99% nonsense. As soon as you start pressing OWS types on these artificial categories and their content, the house of cards starts to fall down…

  5. Hugh Hugh 26 November 2011

    The term “conventional wisdom” has been around for a while, and is a nice little oxymoron. Semantics can be problematic; many people seem to equate “critical” and criticism with a negative attack. Critical thinking is a much wider conecpt, evaluating all dimensions of a problem or situation before reaching a conclusion. To think critically is not necessarily criticising.

  6. The Village Idiot The Village Idiot 26 November 2011

    You don’t have to be a genius to embarrass the powers that be. Name me one country where whistle blowers do not end up on the wrong side of the law. Criticism is only tolerated as long as it does not upset the powers that be. Think tender fraud, human rights violations, environmental and health hazards …

    HD, you cannot expect protesters to have a perfect understanding of what they are protesting against, certainly not in a country where class struggle or whatever you want to call it has only been waged by the ruling class in the past 30 years.

    Do you honestly think that a proper critical theory would be taught at universities in the humanities? What is provided is like a flu shot: Give students a bit of the poison, to ascertain not many people get the affliction of becoming all too critical. We are getting smarter as the human race, but we are also dumbing down – our almost collective failure to recognize this is telling. It is easy to be an armchair critic – the kind of critical thinking that the powers that be have no problem with, since it doest not affect any change.

    Ideas will develop, mature and spread amongst people in practice, not in the cozy and false comforts of our office space, our “efficient” school buildings and lecture halls.

  7. HEADLIGHT HEADLIGHT 26 November 2011

    Kantian social engineering pervades where ‘ideas’ remain separate from ‘reality’. The sovereign is sacrosanct – his society inoculated against viral semantics. We live in feudal times where serfs (us – the 99%) take refuge behind castle walls that keep life changing ideas at bay.

  8. pongoland pongoland 26 November 2011

    The media are particularly to blame for failing to interrogate the current economic orthodoxy.

    It is quite clear to anyone capable of independent thought that economic growth is unsustainable on a finite planet yet the growth meme is repeated again and again across all media, conservative and progressive.

    Why are countries and individuals over-indebted? Why are banks allowed to lend money that doesn’t exist? Why is the environment being destroyed at an ever-increasing rate? Because we have been duped into believing that the pyramid scheme which is the global economic system is sustainable.

    It is not and we are screwed.

  9. Fred K Fred K 26 November 2011

    Hm, so critical thinking should lead to the ‘switch to a new paradigm’; why should it?

  10. The Village Idiot The Village Idiot 26 November 2011

    pongoland, you do realize that the media are part of the current economic orthodoxy? The media primarily serve to propagandize the ruling ideas, and economic orthodoxy is at the core of those ideas.

    Sure you will have some papers / television stations that are more left leaning than right leaning. But they do not question the basic tenets of “democracy” as we know it. They would not get published or broadcast, or if they would, only with the intent to vaccinate people against real criticism (just think of how political protesters are portrayed by mainstream media; it is always some sort of fringe group that is made to appear to be representative for a whole movement). This is a practical limitation of freedom of speech: those who are provided a platform to speak have already subscribed to a certain set of ideas.

    The political difference between social democracy and a liberal (as in classical liberal thinking) conservative are hardly more than cosmetic: they all accept capitalism as the only system, As a consequence they will all frame the problems and solutions in a market-based way. If you have any doubt, think of the CO2 trade.

  11. bert bert 27 November 2011

    Robard – I cannot agree about the Church. Its historical decisions to condemn and execute those who fall foul of its dogma are just that – dogmatic.

  12. Siobhan Siobhan 27 November 2011

    @ Bert,

    As I read your gloss above, I was put in mind of another philosopher, also named Bert – well, Bertie, actually. Bertie Russell holds a special place in my pantheon of thinkers and here are few of his comments on thinking:

    “Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.”

    “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

    “It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.”

    To which I can only add, Ditto…

    @”And this is precisely why radical critique and criticism are what is called for today, in such increasing volume that the system eventually cannot deal with all of it any more.” Ditto…

  13. David D Yun David D Yun 27 November 2011

    I do not think what is in my mind is expressible by a given space (in an about 300 words), especially the subject matter is “fundamental contradiction”. I have chosen this sort of dilemma taken for granted on the ground that everyone faces the same issue, ending up distorting the original. The key notion of this choice involves the word “everyone” and another assumed here as its cause, fundamental to the choice: “freedom”, the desire to express it. But you may see here, it is the dilemma that somehow vanished into every one, just as today’s individuality however sacrosanct he thinks may have the same fate because of everyone’s existence eating up one’s own, the babbling of his circumstance special and so deserves a special weight, so in the end of the day he gets home empty handed contrary to expectation of his individuality. Now, what I wish to is about the “fundamental contradiction” which would not disappear into the sea of relativity, but remains unchanged, despite whatever the trick or sleight of hand may be susceptible to, until one discovers how to deal with two propositions that are contradictory to one another. But not every contradiction causes the object nugatory and non-existent, because there is such a thing as objectively necessary contradiction, which makes the life of its holder richer and active, and this is the reason for the maxim; “if you want to know a man, get closer to the stuff of his life, his contradiction from within as the surrogate of…

  14. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 27 November 2011

    In case Fred K does not receive an answer to his question, let me attempt one, foolhardy though that may be.

    A likely explanation for the proposal that critical thinking would lead to a new model is that those making the proposal are unhappy with the present system and/or believe it to be irremediably flawed and would like it to change. In short, it is part of making the argument.

    That is reasonable – up to the point where the more enthusiastic maintain that all those holding a different view are not in full possession of their senses. On a site dealing with philosophy, that is not reasonable. Philosophy (as distinct from philosophers) cannot say how one section of the human race would be in possession of the truth and another not. Religion does that.

    The answer to Fred K’s question, I fear, heaps paradox upon paradox: as in any war, both sides have faith that reason, like god, is on their side.

  15. Richard Richard 27 November 2011

    Society exists as a mechanism to advance individuals in their pursuit of procreation and material goods. That is its fundamental purpose, and the unwritten contract binding on all of us in society (Ex Unitate Vires, as the Latin tag has it). To that end, a preserving power structure is created, stability is non-negotiable, and anything that threatens that stability is undesireable. Rational discourse and intellectual debate are fine, as long as they don’t threaten that stability. A metaphor would be, perhaps, theology and philosophy. Theology is fine, picking over the finer points of the text (in this case, the underlying text or contract to which we all admit), but actually calling into question the validity of the text and its assumptions, no, as they potentially undermine stability. However, if sufficient numbers of people call it into question, the act of not reviewing it become potentially destabilising. In the world of truly reviewing society, nothing succeeds like success. To use a medical analogy: chemotherapy works as long as the proportion of cancerous cells is below a certain threshold; beyond that level, the organism cannot survive. Society will tolerate a certain amount of analysis, when the potential reward for that analysis is improvement (and so it will tolerate and pay for a certain number of people pursuing that end) but overthrow is another matter, and falls outside the defintion of “improvement”. People have an understable, intrinsic fear of…

  16. Richard Richard 27 November 2011

    People have an understandable, intrinsic fear of instability.

  17. Juan José Juan José 27 November 2011

    Thank you for your comment. It is a timely, updated version of what Herbert Marcuse coined repressive tolerance

  18. Shaman sans Frontieres Shaman sans Frontieres 27 November 2011

    Language itself works for us as a blanket of non-critical assumptions about the world. Idiom, convention, the ‘metaphors we live by’, are a built-in matrix of ‘conventional wisdom’. Without this we would not be able to survive as social beings. But with it, we can happily permit our lives to be blanketed in stock phrases, cliche, a semantic bulwark against the terror of naked experience. Every time that I open my mouth conventionally speaking, socially, I reinforce an entire world-view designed at determining what is ‘sane’, what ‘insane’, what ‘polite/politic’, what ‘impolitic’. And normally our thinking is framed in conventional language and the conventions of language repeat to us, affirm, this web of shared ‘commonsense’ or ‘conventional wisdom’.

    Thus, for me, critical thinking is a creative performance, a practice of being mindful of the language I am given to work and think within, and alert to its deeply embedded preconceptions, its structured valorizations, and ready to use creative language faculties in order to challenge, or give criticism, where needful.

    Criticism itself stems from the Greek ‘to discern, to discriminate, to judge (between)’. In other words its a state of awareness that is reflective and alert to what is. I suspect that after all the contrarian philosophy of the twentieth century the issue boils down to those who are alert-minded, perceptive, responsive, and those who for one reason or another are affectively happy to go…

  19. Levi Levi 28 November 2011

    Many thanks for this intervention.

    I can only say Philosophy must be made a compulsory subject in the first year of university. That will help students (especially those in the Humanities) understand more what they are being taught.

  20. Bert Bert 28 November 2011

    Richard – Of course people have a fear of instability – that’s what I addressed above with reference to what Freud called the death drive. At the same time, it would be irresponsible NOT to point out to those among us who go through life wearing blinkers that the time has come for fundamental (paradigmatic) change. Even Trevor Manuel made no bones about it recently, that the present economic system has failed the majority of the world’s people. This morning I listened to the Bolivian Ambassador to COP 17, saying quite candidly that it is the blind pursuit of PROFIT that is preventing the world’s people from gaining the necessary agreement about the urgently necessary measures that have to be implemented to prevent a catastrophic rise of global temperatures to about 5 degrees centigrade above present levels. In pursuit of profit people are logging precious rainforests that are really irreplaceable in the short term, given their carbon-absorbing function, for instance. He also pointed out that the growing “Occupy” movement worldwide is really fighting for exactly the same things that developing countries are fighting for at COP 17 – economic and ecological justice. The present political-economic paradigm does not allow for such justice to happen.
    Fred K, the above is also an answer to you.

  21. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 28 November 2011

    Shaman SF

    Agreed. In the end the issue of contrarian philosophy can only ‘boil down’ to keeping your critical faculties about you (which involves training them) or it is impossible to explain how anyone would have been able to be break free and argue the issue in the first place. On the issue’s own logic, language cannot only be a blanket for non-critical assumptions.

    And beyond that, Fred K’s question is not answered. It does not appear to follow from the need to remain critical that the current system is wrong unless you start with that assumption. It may be right.

  22. Maria Maria 28 November 2011

    @ Paul: You cannot judge the present “system” in purely logical terms; the decision about its being right or wrong has to be decided on demonstrable, broadly empirical grounds. And in this respect the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding its effect on natural eco-systems is damning, as is the evidence regarding its economic effect on the vast majority of human beings in the world. And the evidence in both of these areas is mounting.

  23. Richard Richard 28 November 2011

    Bert, I am not suggesting that fear of instability makes lack of critique desireable, merely that it happens. People are at root self-interested, and unable to see beyond tomorrow’s meal. That is why they will always resist real change. In the South African context, it was only when apartheid began to hit people in the pocket – and that link was clear – that they began to entertain alternative notions of social order. The moral imperative had no effect, rational discourse neither. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, half a loaf is better than none, take the money and run: even our language goes along with this mindset. Of course there is no reason for anybody to go without in the modern world, but the responsibility/rights balance needs to be much more sensitively understood, and at the moment the only device to effect it is money. That is not what is wished for, it is what events show us. In my personal experience hippies and people who purport to live by and with nature become the most selfish when they have money. It is very depressing, but undeniable that Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is what guides most behaviour. Homo Economicus cannot simply be converted to Homo Rationalis (apologies for poor Latin) because we wish him to, more’s the pity.

  24. Bert Bert 29 November 2011

    Richard, I cannot agree more – only when circumstances have worsened to breaking point, will a critical mass of people favouring change start emerging. I suspect that the process of building up to that point has started, in the political, economic and ecological spheres. The signs are there.

  25. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 29 November 2011


    You and I are one on global warming, but not on the ‘system’. If you cannot decide the first on logical grounds, you cannot decide the second on ideological grounds.

    There is, on the evidence, every reason to conclude the environment is being degraded in my opinion (for what that is worth). But evidence is not proof, nor is my opinion. If you trust science, you cannot simply ignore it when scientists produce a contrary view or evidence.

    So what do you do in these disputed situations? Prudence, common sense, long usage or tradition – put it how you wish – says you take such remedial action as is practicable on the balance of probabilities. That, it seems to me, is how humanity has managed to muddle through so far and what, it must be hoped, it is currently attempting to do again, in its many opposed beliefs, varieties and interests, in Durban.

    To argue the case from an ideological position will at the very least prove divisive, as it always does in this and other columns. But more to the point, our theories and faiths are not able to furnish us with the ‘right’ answer. In post-structuralism’s own terms, a connexion between them and (any) reality does not exist.

    Of course, you can then move to ‘feeling’, to instinct or intuition, like cattle taking to the high ground before a tsunami strikes. Well, maybe. But who’s to ‘judge’ that either?

    With all its imperfections, empiricism is left. It may not be right, but it is unavoidable.

  26. Maria Maria 29 November 2011

    Paul, I was arguing in favour of a kind of empiricism – not the simple-minded variety, but the kind that accepts that one unavoidably makes use of hypothetico-deductive reasoning based on empirical evidence. And the evidence is there – even sophisticated falsifification-attempts cannot dislodge evidence that the oceans have risen by some 7 centimetres over the last 30 to 40 years – irrefutable demonstration that the earth is getting warmer. And what is causing this? Humans are, mainly (apart from 7 billion of us breathing) through industrial activities and uninterrupted use of carbon-producing gadgets, which are, in turn, in the service of the god of capitalism, namely PROFIT. Have you read this report on the latest findings in this regard by a UN committee? Have a look:

  27. X Cepting X Cepting 30 November 2011

    It strikes me as a waste of energy to discuss solutions without first defining the exact problem.  The following two words might be a hint at the cause for much current day violence in the form of sit-ins, dictator depositions and the rise in general perverse aberational behaviour displayed by “the empoverished masses”.  I will leave the the reader to draw their own conclusions. 1. Parasite (Def) (Literally “situated above”.) 1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.3. (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc. 2. Spoil (Apologies for this long definition, I do not wish to be accused of reducing facts to only those that suit my theories). -v.t.1. to damage severely or harm (something), esp. with reference to its excellence, value, usefulness, etc.: The water stain spoiled the painting. Drought spoiled the corn crop.2. to diminish or impair the quality of; affect detrimentally: Bad weather spoiled their vacation.

  28. X Cepting X Cepting 30 November 2011

    3. to impair, damage, or harm the character or nature of (someone) by unwise treatment, excessive indulgence, etc.: to spoil a child by pampering him.4. to strip (persons, places, etc.) of goods, valuables, etc.; plunder; pillage; despoil.5. to take or seize by force.                   -v.i.6. to become bad, or unfit for use, as food or other perishable substances; become tainted or putrid: Milk spoils if not refrigerated.7. to plunder, pillage, or rob. -n.8. booty, loot, or plunder taken in war or robbery.9. the act of plundering.10. an object of plundering.11.   a. the emoluments and advantages of public office viewed as won by a victorious political party: the spoils of office.  b. prizes won or treasures accumulated: a child’s spoils brought home from a party.12. waste material, as that which is cast up in mining, excavating, quarrying, etc.13. an imperfectly made object, damaged during the manufacturing process. -Idioms14. to be very eager for; be desirous of: It was obvious that he was spoiling for a fight. Think on this next time a publication from a fat cat exhorts you to “spoil yourself” with a product that will not last as long as it will take (in working hours) to pay for it and will simply serve to support said fat cat

  29. X Cepting X Cepting 30 November 2011

    Cogito ergo sum. Homo cogitans: a species soon to be succeeded by Homo corrumpans: the main overproducer (but not user) of the gas methane, which is far more potent than CO2 in causing global warming.  Homo corrumpo is also the main producer of revolutions. Its main philosophy being: corrumpo ergo sum, otherwise known as consumption at any cost.

  30. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 30 November 2011

    Maria, I am in agreement with you on global warming – but necessarily in my case, as I say, on the balance of probabilities after considering as best I can ‘mainstream’ scientific opinion (though, I keep in mind, ‘mainstream’ scientific opinion clung to many hypothetico-deductive orthodoxies in the past that later were abandoned on further observation, testing and evidence – which I see as a professional and thorough, not simple-minded procedure.)

    Where you and I would not be able to agree is on the further step of putting global warming down to the profit motive.

    That must forever remain a hypothesis or ideological position. It is perfectly tenable, but is not demonstrated or demonstrable empirically.

  31. Bert Bert 1 December 2011

    Thanks for that, Paul! I wish I could be in Durban now, to participate in the protests, if not in COP 17.

  32. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 4 December 2011

    Here is the answer to the rational animal riddle:

    “Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal”. ~ Robert Heinlein.

    @Maria and Paul:
    “In the market, economic power is vested in the consumers. They ultimately determine, by their buying or abstention from buying, what should be produced, by whom and how, of what quality and in what quantity. The entrepreneurs, capitalists, and landowners who fail to satisfy in the best possible and cheapest way the most urgent of the not-yet-satisfied wishes of the consumers are forced to go out of business and forfeit their preferred position.” ~ Ludwig von Mises.

    This is why COP17 is a COPOUT. Consumer behaviour can be changed with reason, with evidence, with marketing and subliminal messages, but this is what needs to change in order to facilitate a true difference beyond primates making ink excretions on paper.

    Profit in and of itself is not good or bad. If enough consumers show with their money that they want green products, they will be produced. But the Kyoto protocol and other similar measures are more inhibitive in this regard and serve only to maintain the status quo.

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