The Argument From “Epistemological Superiority”

It could come only from people who know next to nothing about epistemology, but that doesn’t stop it from being a Thing.

The common formulation at present is that “climate change” is supported by “science”; that the safety and efficacy of all vaccinations are supported by “science”; and that dissent from these propositions is impermissible because “facts”, “evidence”, “logic” and “science” have formed a “consensus” that can be questioned only because of ignorance.

Note that this is not so much an argument about this or that issue, but rather a meta argument intended to curtail debate and impugn the intelligence or integrity of an interlocutor; thus dissenters are often denounced as “deniers”, “anti-vaxers”, and so on.

But, you know, we have blogs and whatnot.  Not that anyone reads them, but even so:  we have responded to these surprisingly prevalent meta-arguments with what we dare to describe as some facts and evidence and logic of our own.  Such as that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  We also treated the epistemological subject at some length not that long ago.  A number of times before that, too.

There are a lot of amateur epistemologists around these days.  (We think a pretty good indication that someone is an amateur is that they’ve never heard of Husserl or “phenomenology”.)  They’re not dangerous.  Unless they acquire social or political power.  Then they are, at best, like a toddler with a loaded revolver.

For the most part, we humble human beings interact with each other on the level of practical reason, not pure reason.  And phenomenology, or anything related to it (such as a meta-argument) is an entirely academic concern, consigned – unsurprisingly – to the academy, which is where it belongs.

So to put it in perspective, a meta-argument about “climate change” is an interesting subject for debate at a university in this or that department, but really has no place in the political sphere where we are supposed to decide practical “policies” and the deployment of vast resources.

Same for vaccines:  a parent has to decide whether to vaccinate their child, and if so when.  And there’s no way around making the decision.  But the endless digressions of epistemology prompted by shallow meta-arguments will not lead parents to a reasoned, practical decision; only to paralysis and inaction.  Which of course probably favors not vaccinating, as a practical matter.

So, you know, there’s some irony going on as well.



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