Sunday, March 18, 2012
We intellectuals have some fun pointing out how the political candidates contradict themselves and are inconsistent in their views. A lot of the humor on The Daily Show uses this and it’s quite funny. But the joke could be on us. Being intellectuals we care about whether someone contradicts themselves. The law of non-contradiction is central to reason and science. But politicians, when they are being politicians, are not trying to be rationally consistent. They are trying to gain power. Contradiction or non-contradiction only matters to them if it affects their success in gaining power. They don’t have to care about contradiction in and of itself like intellectuals do. So we intellectuals think we’ve got them when we show how ridiculously inconsistent politicians are, but we are using an alien criterion – non-contradiction – which is much lower down on their list of important criteria. Now, if Jon Stewart and The Daily Show’s exposure of the blatant contradictions of the politicians becomes a force that affects political outcomes, then politicians would care; not because they’ve contradicted themselves and that’s bad but because it may be detrimental to their chances of gaining power. So we laugh at contradictory politicians and they laugh at us for missing what’s important to getting elected.