That does not refer to a philosophy so comprehensive that it is the final evolution in human progress but a philosophy that would make philosophical evolution impossible. I, as I have many times before, am bashing Rawls. This time with his approach to education and being educated. The world of smart people is a strange one. Being smart is a combination of analytical power, worldly knowledge of the various subjects, and sense of reality. While smart people may be eccentric and often are, they cannot be too mad for whatever analytical power they have and whatever culture they possess, smartness is the ability to understand things well and bat-shit is the opposite of that.
The world needs smart people. One of the reasons I would argue the 20th century saw so much progress while the 21st has seen compataritively far less is because society’s meritocracy in the first half of the 20th century favored smart people while the latter half and beyond favored people who could win in a consumerist society. I dislike the Bloomsbury Group, the real one and as a metonym of its movement, but it was a sign that their culture valued public intellectuals far more than our current culture. There are a few like Gladwell and Tyson who make the rounds on cable but they command far less power and influence. The former is a sociologist and the latter is an astrophysicist.
Philosophers have almost zero influence. One of the reasons Martha Nausbaum has failed to outcompete Rawls is because she would have been an A-list celebrity in 1930 while she is a C-list celebrity, today. Who the fuck has heard of Dereck Parfit? Like, I wouldn’t have heard of him had I not studied that shit and, although I studied some philosophy in college, I had never heard of Dereck Parfit in a single college class. College taught me some things and it definitely gave the jargon to work with such as teleology, deontological, essentialism, and consequentialism but I learned the majority of what I know from lacking a social life, being an extrovert who talks to lots of people, and autodidacticism.
The most consequential thing that happened to me in college was coming into contact with moral postmodernists. Prior to college, I had an overly cynical, conflict-theory, worldview where history was just rich people exploiting poor people. Stereotypically, Marx is something college imparts to idealistic youths but very basic conflict theory is something anyone relatively cynical about society’s socioeconomic class system could deduce without a sophisticated education. The postmodernists believed morality was relative and non-essentialist which deeply offended me so much that I left my Marxist analytical paradigm since that is what led to such horrific moral nihilism.
In any case, most people don’t learn anything from anyone. Rawls is the reason, in large part. While I am a bit more educated and, dare I say, smarter than the average person, people need to have a basic knowledge of literature, philosophy, religion, history, STEM, psychology, civics, and art. People live in a world and they need to know things about it. For the purpose of eudemonia, on its own, yes, but also a worldliness and wisdom helps avert people from falling for con men and such. Like, in order to vote for Marjorie Taylor-Greene one must be at a level of stupidity our evolutionary lineage graduted from around the time of Lucy. And, I would gander that 95% of people who know who Lucy is would never vote for Marjorie Taylor-Greene. The same for the Cambrian Explosion, the Standard Model of Particle Physics, the Battle of Verdun, who Monet was, and other basic general knowldge facts the average Jane, Joe, or Jano should know.
I am not saying they have to know the Standard Model of Particle physics but they have to know it is a thing and that quarks, the four forces, and bosons exist. They don’t have to know the details of the Cambrian Explosion but they need to know it happened. The negative correlation being supporting a fascist and knowing those things is extreme and this disproves Rawls’ thin-good because not valuing education or eudemonia because it is a thick value is contrary to the survival of the liberal system. Prior to the late 20th century, most people were equally uneducated as they are now but the middle classes, that is, those who possessed significant political power were well-educated. While the material affluence of the average citizen is declining, their political power is not. Marjorie Taylor-Greene was elected by poor people and the lower-middle class.
Rawls is to blame in one sense but Rawls is more a metonym and a figurehead for his movement than he was actually influential. Rawls justified the version of the liberal system that came to be more than he did anything else. What killed intellectualism was consumerism. I would attribute the decline in intellectualism to the dominance of consumerist youth cutlure that arose in the wake of the Second World War. Speakeasies, for all of their hedonism and vice, were sophisticated and the flappers who went there would flash their status by knowing the high art and culture. Nowadays, older adults have frat-type parties and ragers are beyond stupid. At a speakeasy, there is intillgent small talk, jazz, finger-food, dancing. Ragers are just shit-faced drunk people trying to get sex to the sound of low-quality hip-hop. They’re not playing Lin-Manuel Miranda, they’re playing crap. There is no intelligence.
What makes now different, perhaps, more than anything else, is that for the first time since 12th century in the West, the political classes are stupid. The 12th century is when Europe transitioned from the Dark Age part of the Middle Ages to the chivalry part. That was largely because literacy and classical education became common among the aristocracy. The average politician not knowing any Plato probably happened around 1970. It is not Plato, in particular, but Plato is a litmus test for worldly knowledge and a full education. In the earlier paragraph, it wasn’t whether someone knew the fossil Lucy, per se. It is a litmus test that, on its own contributes to a good education, but can be foregone and still leave one with a fairly good edcuation. If this should continue then Rawls will be the philosophy to end the Hegelian march of philosophical paradigms and, in a sense, the philosophy to end all philosophy. Not, because like Fukuyama said, there is nothing left to discover, but that the people in the political classes are too stupid to discover it.