Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sully links to this post by Rod Dreher and quotes this bit:

[M]y alarm goes off when [Anonymous Liberal] writes about "those [of] us left in the empirical world." Really? You really do think you live in the empirical world? Mind you, everybody believes that he sees the world as it really is, but I am struck by how confident people are that they can't possibly be missing something, that they and their tribe have all the answers, and don't have to consider how their own biases distort reality. Put another way, I'd be interested to know what counts for "empirical" in Anonymous Liberal's world.
Well, in the first place, on any possible meaning whatever "empirical" does not mean "seeing the world as it really is," let alone "hav[ing] all the answers" or not considering how "biases distort reality." That's just stupid.

But Sully should have known not to take Dreher's post seriously after sentence one:

There has been a lot of commentary on the political blogs around the concept of "epistemic closure," which is a fancy way of saying "closed-mindedness."
 As the originator of the phrase w/r/t this discussion, Julian Sanchez, has been very clear, "epistemic closure" precisely does not mean "closed-mindedness." It is something else entirely. I'll quote Sanchez. His most recent post:

What I had meant to describe specifically was the construction of a full-blown alternative media ecosystem, which has been become more self-sufficient and self-contained as it’s become more interconnected.
 And his original post:

Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)  This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.  If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely—maybe even when it comes from the New York Times. And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.
Dreher goes on to talk about Alasdair MacIntyre's concept of tradition-based rationality (although Dreher, for once, doesn't identify it as such within the confines of this post). But MacIntyre would agree with Sanchez here, not Dreher. In order to be rational, for MacIntyre, a tradition needs to consider the best arguments offered by other traditions. Not to get this ... to invoke MacIntyre in support of "everybody is closed-minded" (let alone everybody is epistemically closed) ... is simply pathetic. I wish there were a nicer way to say that.

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