Ours is the Age of Dilettantism: the Death of Facts

When historians look back at the beginning of the 20th century, when all of us now living have long been dead, they’ll, I think, describe it as the ‘Age of Dilettantism’.  And they’ll do it because our age relies on half facts and internet assembled philosophies and the Dreck of that dreadful monstrosity and bastardization of knowledge called Wikipedia.  Or, as NPR puts it more gently:

According to columnist Rex Huppke, there was a recent death that you might have missed. It wasn’t an actor, musician or famous politician, but facts.  In a piece for the Chicago Tribune, Huppke says facts – things we know to be true – are now dead.  Huppke says the final blow came on Wednesday, April 18, when Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida declared that about 80 members of the Democratic Party in Congress are members of the Communist Party.  “That was the death-blow for facts,” Huppke tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

Politicians no longer care about facts.  Professors seldom now rely on facts (driven most often by ideology instead).  Students no longer care about facts- they’re happy to crop and paste from Wikipedia and call it research.  And the ‘average Joe’ already knows (or thinks he does) what the facts are.  His mind is made up and no mere fact will get in the way of that.

That is our age, the age of dilettantism.

“[Facts are] survived by rumor and innuendo, two brothers, and then a sister, emphatic assertion,” he says. “They’re all grieving right now, but we wish the best for them.”

9 thoughts on “Ours is the Age of Dilettantism: the Death of Facts

  1. CharlesK

    It’s disturbing, certainly. Over here in Holland, it is possible for an ancient historian to propagate pseudoscience (in its narrowest definition: ignoring the laws of physics) to have his book reprinted seven times, without his colleagues even bothering to install an advisory comittee, as would have happened in a real scientific/scholarly discipline.

    That being said, the complaint itself is as old as the hills. It might have been said about Stanley Fish or anyone else. Complaining about the educational system proves we’re not complete cynics.

    Nevertheless, we must remain attentive.


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  3. wken

    Some time ago, I asked if anyone knew when the Information Age had given way to the Unsubstantiated Rumor Age.

    Age of Dilettantism works, too.


  4. Chuck Grantham

    The first law of the universe is just coming into play regarding facts.

    First Law: Laziness.

    It’s easier to be wrong or to ignore things that controvert “facts” than to check things out. LIkewise it’s easier to let a fool stay a fool than correct his mulish opinion.

    Eventually no one will know hardly anything for real because it’s just easier.


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  6. Mike Wilson

    The death of facts is premature. Politicians have always lied and professors ideological. What’s new is we can debunk there claims almost as soon as their made. Let us not forget McCarthy’s list of card carrying communist.


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