Western Philosophy Caused Alternative Facts
Riley Haas
6124

Much of what you have said here is above my pay-grade, so I’ll limit the scope of my question significantly. But one point continues to puzzle me and, perhaps, you could help me by clarifying a bit.

The first step you take in attributing “alternative facts”, at least ancestrally, to Plato seems to be due to what has been historically extracted from the dialogues of Plato by professional philosophers as a theory forms, or ideas (ἰδέα — appearance, look, etc.), and then via a focus on the “layperson version” of said theory. Now whether the layperson version bears a resemblance to the variety of ways Plato has the Socrates character of the dialogues spell out what has been extracted as a theory of forms in philosophical journals, I cannot say. (Like many readers, I struggle to make sense of Plato’s criticism of multiple different theories of forms in his Parmenides).

But it is this link between a theory attributed to Plato in our larger cultural landscape and “alternative facts” that confuses me when I try to follow you by cutting it along the objective/subjective lines you’ve set out here. Since I cannot really manage linking the two unless I also stipulate the one or another varieties of empiricism as simply true.

You write that, “Essentialism is all about a defense of our own subjective, learned views of the world, posing as objective, logical reasoning.”, and that this view ‘essentialism’ pertains to the theory of forms we attribute to Plato. And I think this is where I begin to misunderstand what you are saying — since I am struggling to find how is it that “essentialism” is the genus of what we call “Plato’s theory of forms”.

For all intents and purposes, and in accord with your explanation, it seems that for what we tend to attribute to Plato, the form/idea (ἰδέα) is the standard by which we can determine whether something is, say, pious or not. So, whatever the pious is, it sets the limits for what we can call “pious” and it serves as a ground for those determinations. We either have knowledge of the pious or not, whatever — we can set aside case-by-case epistemic questions. But if one knows, then they can make determinations; that much seems clear on the basis of the theory.

But if this is right, then the theory we attribute to Plato actually falls along the objective side of the objective/subjective lines you draw here, rather than the subjective (masquerading as objective)—as it is the standard by which we judge that such-and-such is pious (or whichever form/idea is under consideration). And it begins to look like the link between what we call “Plato’s theory of forms” doesn’t have the setup as the subjective conditions inherent in what we seem to talk about when we talk about “alternative facts” — which appear to be alternate modes of presenting actual facts, or downright lies, per your article.

So, perhaps you could help me by elucidating the manner by which what we attribute to Plato does not fall on the objective side of an objective/subjective distinction?

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