I’m getting the distinct impression that we’re doomed. I can feel it in my bones. First, philosophy in America is doomed; indeed, it is now more or less defunct (relative to earlier times). Once the older generation dies off in five to ten years we will be left with a desert of mediocrity and infighting, which will probably invite institutional elimination (no one will want to study it to start with). Second, democracy is doomed: it was never well thought out to begin with and has obvious structural weaknesses. Already it is fraying and fracturing (Trump, Brexit, China), and young people are no longer the hope for redemption (see Euphoriaand the general state of the Internet). Third, the human race is doomed by its stupidity and selfishness (climate change, nuclear war): there is no way the people of the world will make the sacrifices they need to in order to avert catastrophe. It’s only a matter of time till global warming leads to all-out war, not to mention the eruption of simmering conflicts. Fourth, the planet is doomed—at least many animal species are. The rate of species extinction is already alarming and will only increase; this will lead to ecological catastrophe on a grand scale. Some species will probably survive, but planet earth will be a much-reduced place. This to me will be the greatest tragedy. I see in human nature as it is manifesting itself today an unprecedented level of hysteria and foolishness, coupled with moral blindness and sheer greed. Once evil gets a grip it is hard to stop it, till the final collapse puts an end to everything. It takes a lot to create something, but destruction is easy.
What, then, of Steven Pinker’s optimism? Trump is a fricking blip, as far as we can yet tell, on the world-historical stage. If he’s re-elected in 2020, well, that’s another matter. Then truly shall we and perhaps even Pinker himself have occasion to despair.
What seems not to be a blip is the kind of support he and other fascists are getting around the world.
It is hard to distinguish cyclical from structural changes. But it is even harder to see how our tribal psychology will manage to deal with the growing severity of global problems. We’d unite against an alien invasion I assume, but for some reason we can’t against collective suicide. (And this has nothing to do with the psychology of young people.)
I look at my fellow man with genuine bemusement–what can they be thinking? This applies to university people too.
I look at my fellow man rather differently—stoop to the implicature if you like. One hears that it’s the rise of social media that’s exacerbating tribal psychology. No doubt in some respect true. But the advent (or is it the return?) of de-regulated capitalism that’s truly the culprit. Robert Paul Wolff’s blog offers great insight. Not so much the “Comments” section.
Also, there’s nothing people like better than a good lynching.