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.
I think this student is technically right but misses the concept the author is trying to convey. In certain conceptual schemes, people can explain inconsistencies in their findings or experiences with secondary elaborations. They are not intended to apply to unfounded and highly unlikely beliefs with no form of explanation. Although a sufficient number of secondary elaborations would save your argument from refutation, it would probably end up requiring tertiary elaborations to explain your secondary elaborations. There needs to be some form of grounding in your proposed argument. So actually, the student is wrong. It cannot save ANY belief from refutation, but it can save one with some form of a basis in an identifiable conceptual scheme. For example, in the conceptual scheme of astrology, secondary elaborations would save the argument that your sign determined your personality because then you can layer on your ascendant, sun, moon, and house. And if there are still inaccuracies then you can argue that the person may simply be misaligned or not fully developed into their sign yet, or numerous other things. But to argue in the conceptual model of physics that your computer is a liquid, no amount of secondary elaborations will save that from refutation. The definition of a liquid versus a solid and therefore the falsifiability of this claim, it can be refuted. One could definitely attempt to save it, but it wouldn’t truly be possible. This conceptual scheme is far too rigid.
Option 2: What’s the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse?
I’m not sure there truly is a most effective way of convincing people there is still a value for the objective truth in contemporary discourse because we have ventured too far down into subjective truth. People’s experiences differ so greatly today and are molded by their understanding of the world. We all open ourselves up to bullshit. It’s comforting. It often shields you from having to deal with harsh realities. If I had to come up with the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse, it would require people to first have a value for the objective experiences of others. We would need to agree on a definition and data-based version of people’s existences. Definitions would have to stop changing from one community to the next and language would need to become far more rigid. Although I think this would reduce a significant amount of bullshit, it would hinder us from understanding the nuances that exist between people. People would need to have value for the truth. In contemporary discourse — politics, government, etc. — we would all need to agree on what state of reality we live in. We would all need to agree on the same versions of history, social hierarchy, the advantages and disadvantages of social identities, and more. If we could all come to terms with the same reality, then we could then start valuing the truth. To have value for this truth, it needs to be beneficial to everyone who would need to understand it. This truth needs to serve a purpose — “bettering society”, preventing discrimination in the workforce, etc. The issue arises though that the truth and the alternative truth serve separate purposes, each benefiting different groups of people in different ways. For example, acknowledging that sexism is real helps some people defend their stance in society and fight for more respect and better accommodations. But claiming that sexism is a relic of the past and no longer exists allows a group to shift the responsibility of women’s underprivileged state in society onto women and not themselves. It exonerates them of any culpability in this situation and keeps them from having to work to make a situation better. If you don’t have to acknowledge a problem, you don’t have to fix it. As much as we may try, we have adapted too much to a world full of bullshit and I’m not sure we will be coming out of it any time soon unless given an extremely intense reason to do so.