Saturday, March 22, 2014

Apathy

Was in a spirited conversation one night with a person who believed quite strongly in anarchism (not strictly relevant I suppose, but only that I was keeping an open mind) and one thing particularly stuck out as I thought about it later - apathy. Never before had I heard anyone speak about apathy as an ideal to wish for, or in such a fetishized manner, let alone as a desirable value. This disturbed me, and I spent a fair bit of time thinking about it, even though I just dismissed it at the time.

I think it was ironic that the conversation initially centred around how live debates were an almost inherently flawed means of pondering philosophical or ethical questions. The main reason being the aspect of human interaction and the leveraging of socio-cultural biases and racial/gender power dynamics to "destroy" an opponents argument, rather than on its merits or lack of them. This is even more true especially when the participants have a personal stake in the outcome. In such a live situation as a debate, things that shouldn't matter like ethnic background, language fluency and authority can get mercilessly exploited to "score" points.

In the same vein I would contrast the glorification of apathy by an "intellectual"-sounding person, and a stereotypical self-indulgent non-intellectual-sounding anti-social youth (anyone who thinks happy slapping is not a repulsive idea). I think the degree differs, but the principle or ideal is the same. I think it's hard to be secure enough in your convictions and to evaluate ideas "objectively"  (or truly individually subjectively) by people you consider intellectual or can learn from, especially in a group. However, I think acknowledging this can help watch out for it and potentially correct this bias, even if it may mean you might hold the "unpopular" contrary opinion.

In any case, I think apathy is a disease, and is certainly no desirable value. The glorification of apathy by objectivists or libertarians (or anarchists) strikes me as mere sophistry - providing an intellectual or acceptable veneer for a repulsive value. Not caring can be worse than hate.

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