Truthiness, Fake News, and an Investigation of How We Think

In light of the current controversy over the CIA/FBI’s publicized intelligence assessment on Donald Trump’s links to Russian FSB operatives and the consequential hacking of the Democratic National Committee, I thought it would be of good measure to take a step back from the battle being waged between America’s vital democratic institutions (the Executive branch, the media, the intelligence apparatus) on what constitutes fake news and provide a philosophical assessment on the existential opacity of truth as innate to the human condition. Is weaponized truth the same as outright lies?

In 1977, famed political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) published a thought-provoking book called The Life of the Mind. In it she contends that the life of the mind is coordinated by three agents that assume to justify the conditional behavior that each person effectuates in their every day lives. She claims that the mind goes through the process of Thinking, Willing, and Judging which dictate to the subconscious notations and underpinnings of our mind. With the onset of these three agents she investigates whether we as individuals are capable of discerning right from wrong not based on moral grounds, but by the human subconscious. Is it our natural right to posses the principal morals that discern what constitutes justifiable mannerisms? Or is it something that we learn to adapt within our judgment over time? Arendt proposes that if one of the three agents is overlooked the consequential nature of this occurrence will bring about a less than desirable outcome. For example, I can assume that those with a negative attitude always go by the pace of their own will, for they will before they judge. Without judgment one equates perceived truths as reality, where they accept the pain of despotism; pain is their only understanding. Whereas reacting upon our willing agent as the sole guise to conceptualizing our power of thought does not suffice to precipitate proper action. It is presumed that we need to rely on the consultation of our judging nature in order to not foster unqualified hopes.

Acting upon mental percepts without judging the will of our intentions, one acts in direct association of empty eyes. More so, it is possible they are not seeing the peculiarities that drive the mind to think in a certain way that facilitates the will to actionable undertakings; they are only able to understand the bodily reactions the mind feeds to the human brain. Without the onset of each of the three agents functioning in coordination with one another, the most dignified yet the most invisible concept will remain hidden: truth.

When examining our thinking agent, one precept Arendt tries to describe is the intramural warfare between common sense reasoning and speculative thinking. For example, she claims death is not understood from a feeling but from common sense reasoning. Although, some may say to understand death is to feel death, which is not a concept within our reasoning mind but an ethereal force that posits as a natural feeling that consumes all human beings. But if we examine this notion a little further, we can make the proposition that people cannot understand death until their consciousness is incapacitated by death itself. So how can we use conventional reason to perceive death by our senses if it if something that exceeds the capacity of our conscious reasoning? We can’t. On a rational level we can only understand death as forecasted by our common sense thinking because at this point in a human’s existence death is nothing more than a concept, not a feeling.

More so, can speculative thinking be assimilated with John Locke’s emphasis on empiricism? I believe if we denote common sense reasoning as a faculty of rationalism, speculative thinking presides as a commodity of our sense experience by the indication of conjecture. When we express certain notions by the formation of a theory without sufficient evidence, we tend to rely on what our senses feed to the mind if we cannot assume proper associations with rationality.

In examination of our willing agent, Arendt tries to orient the clash between thinking and willing as the tonality of mental activities. She says that the thinking and willing agents do not easily co-exist because the willing stretches into the future where no certainties exist and thinking draws in its present what either is or has been. I assume that when we will, we coordinate the formation of our desires to interplay with the sustainment of our thinking. If we do this, our willing agent extends upon the facilitation of our thinking patterns, which may help bring the two agents into closer symmetry. Although, I agree with Arendt’s proposition that how we think and will do not intermingle on the assumption that these two agents forecast very different resonance within our minds.

I can say if I will to do something, I do not necessarily have to give great thought to the desires of my will. My willing agent helps consummate the inclination of my desires, whereas my thinking agent allows for me to conceptualize the wanting of my desires. Furthermore, a quote from Arendt on the will exclaims, “Willing, it appears, has an infinitely greater freedom than thinking, which even in its freest, most speculative form cannot escape the law of non-contradiction.” This may imply that when we will to do something we may be under the duress of other elements in our lives, such as social or environmental circumstances, that may inhibit the condition of our “free” will, thus acting in contradiction to the definition of “will.”

In examination of our judging agent, Arendt delves upon judgment as pertaining to the collection of our common sense reasoning. I can assume that judgment works in association with our other faculties of the mind and provides us with the popular appeal of reinforcement if connections we have made in our thought and willing process speaks to the demands of morality. Arendt presumes that “judgment allows a person to transcend the subjectivity and privacy of perceptions and come to what is known as common sense and prepares a person to be the Kantian ideal: a world citizen.” From this assertion it is possible that judgment is a moving force in connection with our imaginations that can aid in the reflection of our own thoughts. How we play upon the facilitation of what we project as imaginary can ultimately provide us with the inside notions of our own thinking and help build cognitive circumspection.

Arendt wants us to use our judgment to reflect upon the proclamations of a world where the only constant is change. She suggests that if we use our judgment, the life of the mind will not only be induced with the knowledge of our worldly quests, but enhanced by our will to do so. Arendt also claims that our judgment is an important faculty that not only takes upon the form of generality, but is shaped by the particular notions that rest in the mind. I contend that if we do not asses judging as apart of the conscious mind, the precepts that build their way around us will put our judging nature in a holding pattern that will disallow us from implementing our rightful virtue, which will ultimately set us upon the path of aberration.

Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind helps to explain the various patterns of the mind that facilitate the resounding affects that precipitate the onset of human activities. The three agents of the Thinking, Willing, and Judging are independent of each other concerning the various cycles that they coordinate to in the mind, but are continuously dependent on one another for the existence of human motives. These three agents consult how we play out our every day lives and are in congruence with the interplay of the mind and body. This helps build a consistent pattern to help us in discerning proper assessments that should be taken. Arendt’s lasting legacy will not only remain valuable to help guide the will of the reader but for the sustenance of the human condition. This is ever more so in an age where journalistic endeavors of “truthiness” is nothing more than a state of mind.


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