Well, I had already made my opening blog post for today, but I feel the need to make another.
If you've ever been on a Facebook group or fan page that deals with a serious subject - science, religion, politics, or something along those lines - odds are that you've dealt with a Facebook Philosopher at some point. You may not have called them that, but you probably recognized them for what they were: smarmy, arrogant jerks with a rudimentary understanding of philosophy and the idea that they occupy the intellectual high ground, despite all evidence to the contrary. They often drop names like Descartes, Nietzsche and Kant, and compare themselves favorably to Einstein, Newton and Hawking. They often challenge the existence of things such as causality and claim that they have falsified both Einsteinian and Newtonian theories of gravity.
They are, quite possibly, the most annoying people in the world.
Fortunately, you have me. I can show you how to spot one and to deal with one. However, before we begin, be warned: they are not harmless. While they are definitely wrong on the vast majority of things they post, they have the perfect mixture of condescending arrogance and lofty knowledge to pull it off - and to make you look very, very silly if you are not careful. Approach them with extreme caution. When it comes to trolls, these are the equivalent of a Very Ancient Red Dragon. They are best dealt with when you have backup.
HOW TO SPOT A FACEBOOK PHILOSOPHER
- They often attempt to establish their intellectual dominance through name-dropping, commonly referencing prominent philosophers and criticizing you for not being immediately familiar with their works. Most commonly, they reference Kant and Descartes.
- Constant claims of "You cannot prove anything. All your ideas are based on faith. Everything in the universe is subjective. Descartes proved it."
- Claims of being the most intelligent person on the board.
- Often says that they have falsified General Relativity and Newtonian mechanics, that they are members of prominent physics forums and/or that everyone they know is absolutely floored by their staggering intellect.
- Constant use of terms such as "epistemology" and "ontology".
HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
This is difficult to do, but not impossible. Just follow a few simple rules:
1) Use the Buddy System.
Facebook Philosophers are difficult to tackle alone. The sheer volume of bullshit that they generate will confuse even the best debaters eventually. You will slip up, but having friends around helps to mitigate this. They can point out holes in your arguments and give you a chance to fix them before the Philosopher takes the opportunity to dodge the issue entirely, claiming that your mistake is an excuse to ignore you forevermore.
2) Don't be intimidated.
The use of obscure philosophical terms and references to prominent thinkers of bygone eras is common amongst Facebook Philosophers. This often gives them the appearance of being much too smart to even attempt to debate. In reality, they most likely do not understand the philosophy themselves. They have probably taken one or two philosophy courses in college and decided that they are now smarter than everyone else. Their understanding of the topics is likely to be shallow and easily exposed if you can get past the basics. If you don't have the time to learn the philosophy yourself, see if anyone you know can refute it.
3) Ignore name-dropping.
As I've said above, Descartes, Einstein and Kant are all commonly referenced by Facebook Philosophers. When they aren't regurgitating bastardized versions of their philosophy and/or theories, Facebook Philosophers will respond to your posts with a response along the lines of "Read some Kant. Then you'll understand how stupid that was." While they may be correct and you are misunderstanding the subject, odds are that you have simply pressed them farther than they can carry the argument. Do some research to confirm that your position is correct. If you can't spot any obvious flaws, then the Philosopher is running for cover because they can't defend their position, and the name is simply a smoke bomb to cover their hasty retreat.
4) Use logic.
This is something that a lot of people forget to do, not because they are stupid, but because the Facebook Philosopher has become a master at confusing people. For example, a common claim is that the entirety of mathematics is based on assumptions rather than actual data. If you do not accept 1 + 1 = 2, they claim, the entirety of mathematics falls apart, but 1 + 1 = 2 has no empirical evidence for its truth.
This is total bullshit, of course, but most people will become wrapped up in a debate about the nature of reality rather than simply pointing out the simple fact that math is not based on assumptions. For evidence of one plus one equaling two, all you have to do is hold up a finger. Then hold up another finger. How many fingers are you holding up?
Voila. Experimental confirmation of the basis of mathematics. You can repeat that experiment as many times as you want: you'll always get evidence that 1 + 1 = 2.
So there you go. Hopefully this will help you the next time you run across one of these supremely annoying trolls.
Him who mountain crush him no
Him who sun him stop him no
Him who hammer him break him no
Him who fire him fear him no
Him who raise him head above him heart
- Translation of troll pictograms
Terry Pratchett, Thud!