Bad Ideas Are Taking Good People

Carnage is spreading in our “post-truth” world. A new book proposes a solution

Steven Gambardella

--

The kind of carnage we’ve become used to in the last half-decade. Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

The zombies have risen. The undead are taking over our neighborhoods and nations. They are loitering in voting booths, sitting behind news desks, and moving around state buildings unchallenged. They feed on brains. Our brains.

But these are not the walking corpses of folklore and film, they are what economist Paul Krugman calls “zombie ideas”. Zombie ideas are discredited falsehoods, ranging from obsolescent beliefs to bizarro conspiracy theories. They continue to consume our thinking time when they are already dead. While they have no resemblance to reality, they still shape our reality.

This crisis of truth is the subject of a new book by philosophers Steven Nadler and Lawrence Shapiro, When Bad Thinking Happens to Good People. “A significant proportion of the population,” the authors write, “are not thinking reasonably and responsibly.”

If you’ve picked up a newspaper in the last half-decade, this feels like an understatement.

It’s a global epidemic. Just as the bystander unwittingly joins the undead horde once bitten, this horror show sustains itself as good people succumb to bad thinking. It’s difficult to figure out what, as a rule, can make us…

--

--

Steven Gambardella

History PhD. The lessons of history and philosophy for your life and work. Writes The Sophist: https://sophist.substack.com/