Basil Wiering, Unit 2 Assignment 3

  1. Any belief, however unlikely it may appear, can be saved from refutation if you’re willing to make enough secondary elaborations.” I believe this is true, but only as long the secondary elaborations maintain consistency with the conceptual scheme from which they are born. It’s also important to note that this claim only states that the belief can be “saved from refutation” rather than be proven as absolute, or even true simply within its own conceptual scheme. This, therefore, is a form of weak cognitive relativism. A theory can rely on the assertions of its conceptual scheme, and can be rationalized through secondary elaborations within that scheme. As Appiah pointed out, it would not make sense to make judgments on a belief that is reliant on a conceptual scheme A by evaluating it against the norms and standards of conceptual scheme B.
  2. What’s the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse? Accountability. Take the common example of politics, a realm overly familiar with the application of bullshit. Elected officials depend on the support of their constituents to continue their job, and if we maintain that actively striving for truth is a priority, those who do not align with this will lose public support. However, in the same way that society can affect the political sphere, the political sphere can affect society. A politician who insists on bullshitting may normalize the practice, and those who are otherwise supportive may be wary to break rank and criticize, in order not to undermine the ultimate goal of reelection and political influence. I also believe we must destigmatize ignorance, because that is the best way to reduce it. People will not claim ignorance in a society that doesn’t tolerate it, which instead forces them to maintain that their own beliefs are not as a result of ignorance but instead a different understanding, even if the facts are clearly not in their favor. This creates an atmosphere where people are more keen to be perceived as ‘right’ than they are concerned with whether or not they actually are.

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