Who Cares About Reality?

Feb 8 2012 @ 3:40pm

by Zack Beauchamp

David Edmonds wonders about our desire for authenticity:

 We care a lot about whether something is a real Van Gogh or a fake one, even if we can’t Tumblr_lpbvonzeAk1qhb7l5o1_500 tell the difference (and this is not merely because the real is worth more in money terms than the fake). We care a lot about our biological origins.  There’s a perfectly rational reason why we should care: knowing the genetic make-up and medical history of our parents and grandparents is obviously helpful in assessing our own health risks and shaping our choices.   But again, that seems like only a partial explanation of our curiosity.   It doesn’t seem to be enough to explain why, say, people tracing their roots on TV programmes, break down and weep upon discovering that their great-great-great grandfather starved to death in the potato famine.   The fact that millions of people died in the potato famine had, to that point, failed to move them.

(Photo reenacting George Seurat's painting by the Beloit Friends of Riverfront. Hi-res version here.)