“It’s notable that this development only took place in the context of the emergence of a truly global capitalism and what the philosopher Max Horkheimer would later call “instrumental reason” – scientific reason that doesn’t just explain reality, but which is put to use; the mode of reason that alienates people from a world reconfigured as one vast factory. For millions, technological advances meant not freedom, but utter misery – and just as it declares that everything can be known, instrumental reason abstracts that knowledge beyond immediate experience. “Enlightenment”, Horkheimer writes, “has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity.” Faced with a reality that could no longer be intuitively understood, whose secrets had become the property of a small class of scientists and administrators, the early Flat Earthers tried to claw back some of their autonomy. They insisted that their own experience, not the diktat of a ruling class, was true. And when you look at the Earth with your own two eyes, it doesn’t look round. It looks flat.
In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments , Søren Kierkegaard tells a parable: a man escapes from a mental institution and into town, but worries that he’ll be returned to his cell if he’s discovered to be mad. So he decides to answer every question with a statement that’s undeniably true: “The Earth is round.” This is, of course, madness, and he’s quickly locked away again. The banality of angrily insisting that the world is round makes it in a way far less true than the idea that it’s actually flat. Because it’s not true, in the boring, conventional sense of the word, Flat Earth theory has an enormous creative potential: all those thousands of people, constantly creating their crystalline new realities and uploading them to YouTube. Flat Earth is fascinating because in an era where so much of the world is disenchanting and so much of social existence is already a given – you will have your job, you will have your life, you will be exploited and then you will die – there are people who can dream the Earth itself into a different shape. It’s flat.”
It sucks when people start to use philosophy to justify incorrect information. Now they’re calling it “creating their own realities”. Do these people really have to make shit up to feel at the center of anything?