Generalize (“Cartesian”) Doubt To Emotions

There is a difference between seeing something and integrating it in a system of thought… the latter being called understanding.

People can see corruption, inequality, fanaticism, fascism and many other noxious features, but still not understand them, and thus can’t project them into the future (and their inacceptable, disastrous consequences). 

Many individuals in Muscovy, China democracies, the “West” have become very powerful, and, or,wealthy while supposedly serving the people or engaging in publicly financed or arranged endeavors… say from a tax code which engages in discrimination favoring the wealthy. 

Mental inertia is a major problem… if one wants to stick to reality, as science, knowledge, perception and sensibilities, let alone problems and catastrophes, progress. 

If one wants to decrease mental inertia, one has to realize that few facts are left free-floating in one’s mind: they would be too hard to remember. The mind remembers logically, to a great extent, so facts have to be logically integrated. Facts tend to get integrated in a system of thought. They acquire meaning, moods and emotions connected to them. And the dominant systems of thought tend to integrate free floating facts.


For example the Catholic hierarchy decided that the Moon couldn’t be a physical object, because, if it were, the question of who lived there, and thus the problem of the non-unicity of the Lord’s creation, couldn’t be far behind. Islam followed obsequiously, as the Moon became a direct signal from God. Thus astronomers and the theory that the Earth orbited the Sun and the Moon, the Earth, were considered to be heresy during the Middle Ages. Astronomy got discouraged.

When looking at any fact or idea, and emotion or mood, we have to ask: where did it come from? 

Descartes recommended doubting everything at some point. That Cartesian doubt has to be extended to emotions. This logico-emotional systematic doubt has to be fostered, not just to become smarter, but also to become more ethical, or ethical enough for civilization to survive….

Patrice Ayme


P/S: This is an extended version of a comment kindly published in the NYT by David Brooks. I may add a tech addendum on Descartes, his “error”, etc.

I emote, therefore I am, says Hautes Alpes 2022 denizen

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