Option 1: Suppose that after finishing the reading, a student says: “Any belief, however unlikely it may appear, can be saved from refutation if you’re willing to make enough secondary elaborations.” Is the student right? Defend your answer. (For the term “secondary elaborations”, see p. 346.)
In my opinion I think the student is right. Although unsatisfying, anyone can always use secondary elaborations to save their argument. We don’t know enough about the world to be able to completely rule out anything. Using the Azande’s logic, if the oracle gives a wrong fortune, they can easily use witchcraft as a secondary elaboration to explain the mistake. There is so much that we don’t know about the world, it’s nearly impossible to completely discredit anything. I think witchcraft might be a stretch, but in any case, one can always think of secondary elaborations as an explanation for their beliefs. While it is important to be aware of how much we know, it’s almost more important to be cognizant of what we don’t know. There could very well be something that could explain every mystery in the world today, but we just don’t know about it yet.
Option 2: What’s the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse? Be sure to use Frankfurt’s specific notion of bullshit—so in that sense, the question is really asking: What’s the best way to get people to care about truth when they speak or write?
In all honesty, I don’t think there is one, solve-all, solution to the problem of bullshit contaminating our knowledge in today’s society. Especially with technology and social media, the exchange of information is incredibly easy and widespread. So many people have access to the internet, the largest collection of information in the world. On the other side, people also have easy access to throw out information. A lot of that information isn’t always super accurate, making it hard to distinguish between facts and other. Furthermore, there are people who have learned to take advantage of the system and gain from tricking people. That being said, I think the best thing that can happen to get people to care and put in the extra effort to distinguish between fact and fiction is for a threat to be posed. For example, climate change is endangering those across the globe. Since so many people’s lives are at stake, there has been lots of attention and care put towards this subject. People are starting to care more about the truth about climate change because it’s a threat. Another reason that some people might not care a ton is because they feel like their voice doesn’t matter. Even with all of these people speaking up about the climate change, there will always be people in power who benefit from ignoring this issue that will deny it. It can seem impossible to create change from the general public’s perspective. To them, the people in power have all the control, regardless of the public’s opinion. One way to change this is to make sure that the general public knows that their voice matters. As soon as their voices get shut down, they get discouraged and don’t care as much.