The dialectic and chronological snobbery

Arriving at the truth via the dialectical method (thesis, antithesis, and synthesis) is not an entirely bad way of doing things. This is especially true when the parties in the discussion are not absolutely committed to the positions that they are holding. One of the assumptions that is often engrained in the method is that the synthesis is superior to both the thesis and the antithesis. At some level (maybe a social/relational one) the synthesis is, far more often than not, superior as the new position is held by both parties and they can trot off, hand in hand, in mutual understanding and regard for one another. But, there is a danger in this assumption as it can lead to chronological snobbery.

There are many people that will assume that if a thought, idea, or explanation of reality is newer it is, by fact of being newer, superior to anything (or most things) that preceded it. This is often implicit in people rejecting the Bible, for example, because it is so old. They know that there have been great advances even in the last 30 years in transportation, medical care, and toasters so, naturally, they assume that similar advances can be transferred to musical expression, theology, philosophy, and other areas. This isn't always the case, however, and we (I include myself in this as well) need to make sure that what is replacing the old is actually a good replacement. I would hate to have to eat sherbet instead of vanilla ice cream just because someone told me it was the new and better thing to do.

Change for the sake of change may win elections, but if it improves things it would be purely by accident. I need to make sure that the novel, which is often a synthesis of competing ideas, is a shiny object I actually want to grab and hold onto. And that takes a lot of work.


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