“The question is not whether we will be extremists or not, but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice.” ~MLK Jr.
What is an anarcho-fallibilist?
Anarcho means anarchy, which simply means no masters no rulers. Fallibilism is implied in the sciences and basically means no certainty.
An anarcho-fallibilist, therefore, is simply an individual who has no rulers and no certainty. Such individuals seek justice by questioning both political and intellectual authority, including, especially, their own assumptions regarding reality and their place in it.
Governing the precepts of anarchy and fallibilism, it stands to reason that the philosophy of an anarcho-fallibilist would be an attempt to resolve the problem of being ruled over by using anarchy, and the problem of being certain by using fallibilism. Let’s break it down…
No rulers, no masters:
“Do not become one of those who only has the courage of other people’s convictions.” ~A. Bartlett Giamatti
An anarcho-fallibilist is foremost a functioning anarchist. Functional in the sense that he/she functions through the self-evident truths—mainly, the golden rule and the non-aggression principle. As apposed to the non-functioning anarchist, propped-up by brainwashed statist and portraying anarchists as violent psychopaths and anarchy as chaos and disorder. A violent psychopath is the exact opposite of a functioning anarchist, as both violence and psychopathy violate both the golden rule and the non-aggression principle.
An anarcho-fallibilist realizes that self-rule—that is, self-discipline, self-improvement, and self-overcoming—is far superior to being ruled over by some arbitrary authority. As Edward Abbey wisely surmised, “Since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”
The solution to being ruled over is discovering a philosophy of self-rule. That’s functional anarchy, plain and simple. The solution to non-functioning anarchy is the horizontal leadership of the functioning anarchist.
Horizontal leadership is leading by example. It is not reliant upon a chain of command. In fact, chains of command only hinder horizontal leadership. As they prevent courageous, yet sometimes vitally necessary, disobedience.
Horizontal leadership fills in the void left behind from the rulers or masters that came before, while also preventing hierarchical power structures (vertical leadership) from reappearing and creating more rulers or masters. It’s also self-regulating, acting as a healthy checks and balancing mechanism against power.
Nothing is possible without freedom. Anarchy makes freedom possible so that healthy horizontal leadership can become possible. Neither freedom nor horizontal leadership can function under rulers and masters. The anarchist makes horizontal leadership possible by making rulers and masters obsolete.
The functioning anarchist frees freedom so that further freedom is possible. Further freedom is a fountainhead spilling over into fallibilism and the ability to question beyond authority.
No certainty, no absolutes:
“We must examine everything, stir up everything without exception or restraint.” ~Denis Diderot
Having embraced functional anarchy, and the oxygen-rich atmosphere of freedom without rulers or masters, the anarcho-fallibilist is free to question all things.
Fallibilism is an artform. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is subject to deep and penetrating interrogation. “Answers” are merely steppingstones toward better questions. Logic, reasoning, and probability are tools used to leverage uncertainty and skepticism, but even they are not off the hook. Indeed. The only certainty is uncertainty. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. The only answer is to question.
But this does not mean that truth cannot be found. It simply means that it is always subject to interpretation. And when you have fallible brains attempting to interpret inexhaustible Truth, then you must be able to ruthlessly question all interpretations in order to stay ahead of the curve.
As Nietzsche profoundly stated, “All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at any given time is a function of power and not truth.”
The anarcho-fallibilist understands this and uses both his/her freedom and his deep inquiry to challenge functions of power with functions of truth.
At best, certainty is a slippery slope into rigidness and dogmatism. At worst, it is tyrannical. The solution to certainty is practicing fallibilism. And the solution to fallibilism is curiosity.
Curiosity is the blade of open-mindedness. It cuts through fallible interpretation and superfluous answers. It keeps the mind flexible and sharp against its tendency to become rigid and stuck in apathy and dogmatism. More importantly, a curious mind can be a launchpad out of stifling comfort zones.
Curiosity keeps uncertainty afloat. It prevents one from drowning in the waters of doubt. It keeps your head above water without having to rely on lazy certitude or pie-in-the-sky magical thinking.
Curiosity fills the void left behind by your need for things to be a certain way. You become more capable of “entertaining a though without accepting it (Aristotle).” It’s self-regulating. It’s an engine of self-overcoming, acting as a healthy checks and balancing mechanism against the tyranny of thought and the illusion of separation.
“The first principle is to not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool.” ~Richard Feynman
Sorcery comes in many flavors: religious, political, even scientific. And almost anybody can be fooled. The only way to guard against most forms of sorcery, and not be fooled, is to first be free from the tyranny of others and, second, to question all authority, including especially your own interpretation of truth.
Don’t rest on your intellectual “laurels.” Don’t fall for the appeal to authority fallacy. Stay ahead of the curve by consistently and persistently questioning yourself and the culture that surrounds you.
No rulers, no certainty. Just open-mindedness and ruthless circumspection. That’s the core tenant of anarcho-fallibilism.
At the end of the day, the philosophy of the anarcho-fallibilist is about checking overreaching power constructs and comfortable belief structures. It’s about empowering individuals to become horizontal leaders despite the vertical leadership that leads to the imbalance of power. It’s about encouraging individuals to question everything with deep curiosity despite the outdated belief structures that lead to dogmatism.
No rulers, no certainty. No masters, no absolutes. Just horizontal leadership and deep curiosity. As Simon Blackburn said, “The cure is for people to respect inquiry over assertion. Full, sober, objective inquiry is the only way forward.”
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (The Philosophy of the Anarcho-fallibilist) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.