Can a crowd become wise?

The episode of the adulterous woman [John 8.3-11] is one of the rare successes Jesus had in his dealings with a crowd. This success brings out by contrast his many failures and especially, of course, the role of the crowd in his own death.”– René Girard, “I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning”, p. 59 (thanks to my friend David L. Dusenbury for the quote).

UPDATE: At the invitation of Phlexible Philosophy‘s editor-in-chief, Hamza King, I have reformulated this blog post into an essay for their newsletter. To read it, you need to first subscribe to Phlexible Philosophy (don’t worry, it’s free!) by clicking here:

What’s the gist? In my view, whereas individuals as they mature tend to become wiser, in the sense of thinking about the world in less black and white terms, collectives — whether audiences, nations, empires, republics, etc. — seem to go in the opposite direction, becoming more reductionist and violent with age.

I think this phenomenon is on full display today, especially in mature democracies. Advanced electorates that were once sophisticated are becoming almost blissfully hyper-partisan, as though they feel themselves released from needing to consider viewpoints other than their own. I explore four possible philosophical explanations for why collective intellectually and emotionally decay over time, including ideas from Gustave Le Bon and Ibn Khaldun.

Once you have subscribed, you can either leave a comment below or DM me on Twitter (@schwartztronica) and I will provide you the password. I would love to know your thoughts and critical comments, as I am considering to turn this into a full-fledged academic article in the future. Thank you for reading!

One Reply to “Can a crowd become wise?”

  1. An interesting reflection. Since I’m not an academic, I am not familiar with many of the sources you cite, although I wonder whether Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power” might be relevant; but stepping aside from the academic discourse and entering into the more spiritual dimension that I’m familiar with, I think that achieving the level of selflessness needed to be able to coordinate as a group around a common vision is a significant spiritual challenge. Alice Bailey does approach this within her cosmology as the Aquarian ideal of group consciousness; as you can imagine, there’s a fair bit that can be said, and the most sophisticated, albeit potentially abstruse thoughts (to one not steeped in her thinking) can be found in “The Rays and the Initiations”. Anyway, good luch with your further cogitations!

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