Most people, after a few tentative approaches to elemental theory decide it is best to leave the subject alone. This arises from two reasons, one more complimentary than the other. The first reason is an intuited wisdom in which, deep in our mind, we realize that root questions about thinking constitute a bottomless depth where the more we dig, the more there is to find. Included in this wisdom is the worry that delving into deep elemental theory invites mistakes that can easily make things worse rather than better. This is true.
The second less flattering reason is a fear that studying the roots of thinking will require us to relinquish cherished illusions. The following chapters show that this is often the case. Sometimes we must give up comfortable but deceptive beliefs if we choose to be honest. However, the joy of sincere search for truth is worth the pain of dropping a few worn out illusions.
When people fail to appreciate the good to be achieved, they naturally try to avoid the pain. For this and other reasons, most people leave root problems to someone else.
Because of the tendency to leave the study of root values to others, the few who engage in the business have disproportionate influence. Wittgenstein’s prestige, for instance, reaches far beyond the value of his contribution. What he wrote is compromised by serious sophistries, but he has so little competition that he often gets a place of honor in the litany of modern epistemologists.
Stepping back for a larger view, we can see that questions about root values divide into method and motivation. The problem of method concerns the ways and means of identifying root problems; discovering sound answers to root questions, and adequately correcting mistakes. The problem of motivation concerns the challenge of arousing enough interest to stir people’s desire so that they are willing to do the work required to ask questions, to find answers and to fix root errors.