Archive for July 29th, 2015

Tribal Epistemology

When you know who people identify with, you generally get a full-spectrum insight into their beliefs for free.

As Fernandez puts it:

… while Western civilization pays lip service to “evidence based” policy, in practice most human beings rely on social proof to decide what to believe. … The search for “social proof” as a determinant of conviction is not wholly crazy. Few of us can say why a pharmaceutical works. But if the doctor prescribes a pill, we drink it without question. Most of the world is preoccupied with making a living and consequently have a high level of rational ignorance. “Rational ignorance occurs when the cost of educating oneself on an issue exceeds the potential benefit that the knowledge would provide.” It takes too long for us to figure things out from first principles, so we find a “smart man” and do what he tells us.

While everybody is compelled to economize in this way to some extent, skepticism — in its many different varieties — offers a measure of practical defense. (One variant is simply the heuristic, inherited by all Protestant clades, if quite commonly left idle by them, of looking things up for yourself.)

“What do you do if the Church has been hijacked by demons?” asked Harold Lee. This is exactly the same concern, raised from another angle, and escalated towards its essence. As trust in the machineries of critical truth production is eroded, in direct proportion to their Cathedralization, the primary tendency is to tribalize ‘knowledge’ (as a signal of belonging), and secondarily to promote a general nihilism, on the ever-more plausible assumption that everything we have ever been told is a lie.

This is how a civilization is burnt to the ground. By selling their souls to the New Church, all epistemologically-relevant social institutions trade authority for mere power, or the capacity to command tribal allegiance and conformity. In response, trustlessness is installed as the foundational principle of realistic socio-political analysis, or informally manifested in a spreading and deepening cynicism. What little exists of counter-knowledge is mostly sheer refusal, or opportunistic deference to the enemy’s enemy. No Antiversity exists. It too is invoked, in the interim, only as a refusal. Its entire meaning, up to this point, is that we don’t any longer believe what we’ve been told.

We remember enough about what Science once was, or what market-honed economic signals were, to know that tribal epistemology is cognitive garbage. As we slide down the slope, increasingly, it’s the garbage heap in which we all live.

July 29, 2015admin 23 Comments »
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