Consensus, Consent and Cognitive Ease

Truth can be a difficult thing to grasp. Defined by Saint Thomas, following Aristotle, as adequatio rei et intellectus – the conformity between the intellect and reality, the problem resides not so much in our mind, but that we don’t have immediate access to all of ‘reality’. In fact, only to a small and surface part of it. Much of what we know – or, rather, believe – is mediated to us through various sources, which we accept as more or less authoritative. The more some ‘truth’ – apparent or otherwise – is repeated, the more we tend to believe it, for we believe that everyone else believes it, so it must be true, for someone, somewhere, in that morass of people, must know the reality…don’t they?

Hence, the psychological phenomenon of cognitive ease: 

We are made to trust others, as evinced by little children, who pretty much believe everything you tell them, at least until they become older, wiser. even disillusioned, as they gradually, or suddenly, discover that people are fallible, or, worse, outright liars. This is one of the primary reasons that lying is an intrinsic evil, since it breaks down that natural trust, and disintegrates the social cohesion, which depends upon mutual trust in others.

One need not be paranoid to have developed a certain distrust of politicians, pundits, even various Church leaders, along with some level of doubt on their repeated narratives on Covid, climate change, global conflicts, supposed insurrectionists, along a host of other issues, all of it repeated endlessly on CNN and in classrooms and conferences across the globe. Any counter-narrative, dissenting opinion, or demurring, even of the most mild and moderate sort, is mercilessly suppressed.

Perhaps there was a time for cognitive ease, but as various false spirits roam the earth, amplified by all the modern media in which we are now immersed, it’s high time for some cognitive toughness, to sharpen our wits and discover things on our own. There are truths that are clear and indisputable, which serve as a foundation and starting point: The principles of the natural moral law, along with the salvific truths revealed by Christ, and defined by the Church’s Magisterium and Tradition. Then there is plain common sense, which should not be underrated, and the testimony of our own eyes and ears. And what of God’s good creation, which He did not make for its own sake, but for ours?

Sometimes the emperor has no clothes, and there’s not much help, and much harm, in trying to convince oneself he does.

Stay grounded, dear reader, and, as Thomas says, conformed to reality.