After watching Julia Galef’s Why you think you’re right–even if you’re wrong I realized that what she was indirectly speaking about was commonplaces. Commplaces, in the rhetoric sense, are are ideas that are shared within a group of people, they are a form of knowledge. This definition bring me to the science of sociology.
In sociology you learn that people demographics inform their beliefs. This means that a commonplace can be formed based on, gender, race, socio-economic status, and even the geographic of an individual. I say all these things to help you understand the possible controversies different commonplaces can lead to. One example of these controversies is discussed in Galef’s Ted talk.
Julia Galef points to the fact that a French commonplace back in the nineteenth century was that Jewish people were not good people and should not be trusted. They believed in this so much so that they let a seemingly innocent man go to prison. The French were able to put this man away and honestly feel justified in doing so. This fact makes me question whether commonplaces lead to motivated reasoning, whether they allow for ethnocentrism.
In some cases commonplaces may be a good thing, but I feel like Galef’s speech made me realize that if they are not challegened they can lead to inaccurate knowledge. Galef’s explanation of the soldier and the scout made me think of a passage by Ortega Gasset I read in my philosophy class. That passage talked about personal convictions versus social conviction.
The person who has a social conviction believes something because everyone else says it is fact, in this case the French soldiers had social conviction, they believed Alfred Drefus was guilty because of the widespread belief in anti-semitism. However, Colonel Picquart had a personal conviction even though he believed in the commonplace of anti-semtisim he challegened that commonplace in order to find the truth.
This speech showed me that society should not be so quick to believe in commonplaces. While our demographics might shape our beliefs, we still need to challenge them to insure that our knowledge is not bias and is as accurate as possible.