Reflecting on criticism and “Silent Philosophy”
The world is full of critics – there has never been a shortage of critics! If you ever try to do something new you will definitely attract critics. The words of critics can take away all our inspiration and leave us wondering how to respond. However, if we can respond with silence, we maintain a great dignity. The critic wishes to provoke us, but by maintaining silence we are showing that it is beneath our dignity to respond to their false criticisms. It is like they are trying to give us something, but by refusing to accept their gift, the negativity remains with them. By maintaining silence we remain completely detached from their negativity. We can just concentrate on doing the right thing.
There was a young aspirant who wished to learn the meaning of life so he traveled to meet the most famous philosophers of his age. The first philosopher gave a very great and lengthy explanation on the meaning of life. The aspirant was suitably impressed and awed by the magnificence of his deliberations. However, straight away this theory was criticized by another philosopher. He cogently pointed out many deficiencies in his system; instead he pointed out another philosophy, which he argued was far superior. Like this several philosophers came to argue their case for having the best philosophy. Some said truth could not be discovered in this life, others said that truth was in a particular book. However, with so many conflicting philosophy’s the aspirant just became confused.
The aspirant decided to travel deep into the forest where he came across a yogi deep in meditation. His face expressed a countenance of deep equanimity, peace and, contemplation. Eagerly the aspirant asked the yogi what was the meaning of life. To this question, the yogi did not flicker even an eyelid, but continued in his deep meditation. The aspirant was disappointed, but remained inspired by the consciousness of the yogi. The next day he came back and his repeated question, the yogi maintained his silence. It was then that the aspirant realized the meaning of life could never be explained in words. At this point he began to learn meditation himself.
so, how did the critics go from offering analytical insights, ie alternate points of view from their perspective to “false criticisms”? Isnt that classification the same thing we are accusing the critics of doing? Judging?
And if the criticisms have validity, why is silence an appropriate and improved response than engagement?
I dont accept silence as an improvement by default. That exchanges the value of “dignity” for one of “mutual engagement”, and i dont see that as an improvement necessarily..
If we take the position that dialectic, the exchange of thesis and antithesis, [producing synthesis is a way of creating knowledge not accessible to either individual on their own (and this is the basis of social construction of knowledge), the strategy of silence is a rejection of fellowship and engagement and pursuit of knowledge.
If we reject that knowledge can be pursued, and sit in silence whenever queried, then we are house plants, and are not using the gifts we seem uniquely to possess in the animal kingdom.
That position rejects the Socratic method of inquiry for example.
I accept that there is argumentation for the sake of argumentation and that anything can be deconstructed. I reject argumentation as an end and consider a lot of post-modernism and critical theory as a waste of oxygen. I reject disengagement for the same reason.
There is a philosophical school in China known as the Legalists who took the argumentative tricks of the Greek Sophists for example to an absurd extreme. they would argue that “a white horse” is neither “white” nor “a horse” since the linked words created a unique entity that neither word alone could properly represent. They anticipated critical theory by 1500 years, and were just as useless for real people living lives, and seeking “right thought and right action”.
Why would i choose not to try on the insights and considerations of trusted others? of careful arguers? am i so sure of my own judgment all the time that I can be completely confident that i can write off disagreement as “false criticism?” That makes us only as smart and wise as we individually are.
That also happens to be poor evolutionary behavior. we have evolved successfully on the basis of social cooperation and sharing. we know this from evolutionary biology and anthropology. Voluntarily opting out could be seen as an evolutionary backwards step.
I conclude that it matters how and why we engage in constructive criticism. I acknowledge that something that may be truly classified as “false criticism” should not be rewarded with opposition, but that we cannot a priori distinguish between good and bad criticism until after we have enaged in good faith dialogue