Thought Under Threat : On Superstition, Spite, and Stupidity
Miguel de Beistegui

Thought under Threat reveals and combats the forces diminishing the power and role of critical thinking, whether in our individual lives or collectively. Thought under Threat is an attempt to understand the tendencies that threaten thinking from within. These tendencies have always existed. But today they are on the rise and frequently encouraged, even in our democracies. People “disagree” with science and distrust experts. Political leaders appeal to the hearts and guts of “the people,” rather than their critical faculties. Stupidity has become a right, if not a badge of honor; superstition is on the rise; and spite is a major political force. Thinking is considered “elitist.” To see those obstacles as vices of thought, Miguel de Beistegui argues, we need to understand stupidity not as a lack of intelligence or judgment, but as the tendency to raise false problems and trivial questions. Similarly, we need to see spite not as a moral vice, but as a poison that blurs and distorts our critical faculties. Finally, superstition is best described not as a set of false beliefs, but as a system that neutralizes one's ability to think for oneself. For de Beistegui, thinking is intrinsically democratic and a necessary condition for the exercise of freedom. Thought under Threat shows how a training of thought itself can be used to ward off those vices, lead to productive deliberation, and, ultimately, create a thinking community.

University of Chicago Press
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