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On Consulting Others

 - From our social media

Question:

Why do humans find it comforting to rely on the wisdom of the crowds?

Our Answer: 

The Stoic School has perhaps the most developed teaching on this question and its related issues.

An ancient rhyme is used to address this question. We teach that people must rely on the wisdom that comes from a combination of (1) Ethos, (2) Pathos, and (3) Logos. However, people must not rely on (4) Eros for wisdom.

1) Ethos

The “wisdom of the crowds” comes under ethos, which includes credibility. Stoic logic does not consider it necessarily fallacious to appeal to the authority of masses. Even the scientific community requires research to pass the test of peer-review. It is a natural human need to consult with others on important things because we are mortal, which means we have limited knowledge. Nature made us social creatures, and one of the benefits of being a social animal is that consulting the community gives us access to a collective wisdom that is greater than our limited individual wisdom. This is part of what we call Philia love.

2) Pathos

Nevertheless, ethos alone is rarely a reliable guide for finding wisdom. Pathos and logos are also needed in most cases. Pathos is a special type of emotion. In human relations, doing what we know will make a kith or kin rejoice is usually a wise choice, because it binds us together in stronger bonds of friendship and good faith. In contrast, it is mostly the wrong choice to do what we know will make our friends or family suffer emotionally, because it alienates us from one another, causing enmity and bad faith. An American expression we use for this concept is, “respect what those close to you like and dislike.” This is part of what we call Storge love.

3) Logos

Logos includes logic. This is what allows you to “weigh ‘the wisdom of the masses’ on the scales of your reason.” This is the primary generator of creativity. Many times a scientist or musician or artist “thought outside the box” and came up with an entirely new way of looking at the world. This creativity comes from considering something logically with a logic that is deeper than what the masses are using at the time. This is part of what we call Agape love.

4) Eros

Conspicuously missing from the Stoic School’s decision process is what we call Eros love. This is reproductive love. It includes sexual attraction and infatuation. It is good and natural - in perpetuating society. But, eros is treacherous when it comes to relying on it to find the wise thing to do. People are not truly enlightened by eros; they are made fools by it.

Eros is the love we mean when we say, “Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur,” (The gods never let us love and be wise at the same time).

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