The Crisis of Epistemology, Con't 4/24
FAIR on epistemology
Last year, I suggested that we face a crisis of epistemology, as shown by the number of books appearing about it. In a recent post, the folks at FAIR offer a number of links to essays that illustrate this continuing crisis:
For Heterodox Academy, Kyle Sebastian Vitale writes,
higher education must create campuses rooted in trust and courage—trust that we are willing to hear each other out and courage to risk our assumptions and ideas. Students are certainly not blameless here, giving in to groupthink and pressuring one another into empty activism. Yet, they are also starved for models of courageous engagement with the uncomfortable. Numerous cases record campus administrators caving to students who demand more than they offer. Faculty too are often too quick to apologize when students perceive a racist or sexist comment, rather than respond with their intentions and pedagogical beliefs.
Why display public messages that everyone knows are lies, and that are easily verifiable as lies?
. . .Propaganda is intended to instill fear in people, not brainwash them. The message is: You might not hold pro-regime values or attitudes. But we will make sure you are too frightened to do anything about it.
I would say that the “regime” could be the Chinese government, or it could be the Woke mob. If you want to demonstrate your power, sticking to the truth is not sufficient. Forcing people to accept lies is much more intimidating.
Finally, Jacob Nazroo writes,
A privileged conclusion is any belief that it is relatively easy to have—whether because it suits us emotionally or because it takes less cognitive effort, or because it fits in with a pattern that is familiar to us. And this suggests that open-mindedness might be defined as the capacity to reject a privileged conclusion in favour of a more reasonable one.
I would suggest that there is a theme that links these essays. That theme is that in a world where people are trying to intimidate you into holding false beliefs, it takes courage and effort to try to maintain the search for truth.
Arnold writes, "I would say that the “regime” could be the Chinese government, or it could be the Woke mob. If you want to demonstrate your power, sticking to the truth is not sufficient. Forcing people to accept lies is much more intimidating." To be sure, the "regime" includes elements from both extremes of the political spectrum. For example, book banners are active on the left -"decolonizing libraries" - and the right, such as school boards banning books that purportedly contain unconventional viewpoints or requiring schoolbooks to contain certain political views.
Is there much scholarly treatment of the efficacy of such propaganda? Obviously it's bad, but I tend to expect it's not quite as bad as the worst expectations.
The biggest reason is that I think most people know when they're being intimidated and don't like it. People may be intimidated into professing false beliefs but I'm much more skeptical about the ability to intimidate people into holding false beliefs.
My high school kids, for instance, have been exposed to plenty of woke nonsense. I don't think they've been successfully indoctrinated in any way.
Instead, it seems that pretty much everything else that irritating biddies try to preach to teenagers, it's treated with humor and mockery. Maybe it's just because we're far outside the norm in critical thinking, but I think it's true of a lot of their peer group as well. The propaganda is still bad and still reduces the ability to search for truth, but I have the sense that, for most people, a lot of deprogramming isn't necessary.