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Principles of Applied Epistemology (APPLIED EPISTEMOLOGY)
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Mick Harper
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Phew! Ishmael's silence gave me the uneasy feeling that I must be going wrong. I have carefully eschewed my own position in the left-right arguments so, Ishmael, which bit are you objecting to?
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Mick Harper
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Principles of Applied Epistemology No 5

Your error is never to be found in a single policy. It goes without saying that every policy-held-by-man is a rational one. The moon being made of green cheese is a rational belief. Further, any policy held by a substantial section of the population (say, liberals or conservatives) is not only going to be rational it is going to be really quite good. It will positively shimmer with rationality.

You certainly cannot be criticised for believing that particular policy. The error arrives with the pattern. Once you hold to the liberal or conservative canon, your views are no longer rational. Each policy is rational, being a liberal or a conservative is rational, but your espousal of each individual policy is now no longer rational because it is being mediated by a higher power than you. You no longer believe that Policy X is true because of reasons a, b, c ....n, you believe Policy X because it happens to be a liberal or a conservative one.

This is a tricky concept because from Day One you have been told that such an indirect method of finding out things, by accepting authority's word for something, is 'the way to knowledge'. Since Day One you have been told by parents, by teachers, by books, by newspapers that Policy X is true. Should you ask why, you will be told it is because of reasons a, b, c...n. You can be perfectly confident that these reasons will be, if not true, at least wholly defensible.

You are perfectly free (and everybody will agree with this, even often encourage it) to consider a, b, c...n for yourself but you will discover a melancholy fact: after prodigies of thought and research, you will come to the conclusion that, yes, Policy X was correct after all. Very occasionally you will come to the conclusion that Policy X is incorrect but the result is even more unfortunate: this was already known to millions of people who, by every other measure, are a complete bunch of arseholes.

Once or twice in a lifetime, you will conclude that Policy X is neither right nor wrong, the truth lies elsewhere, and that it would appear you are the only person around who understands this. This is the worst position of all since now you are truly bereft. And, on reflection, possibly insane. You have to prepare yourself for this eventuality.
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Ishmael


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I have yet to see you make any contribution whatsoever to political discourse, despite your obsession with it. This belief of yours that you stand now above left and right is perfectly typical of all "wise liberals."

Again, you imagine yourself arguing against leftists and right-wingers when your model of the right is actually only a shadow of what you know of the left.
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Mick Harper
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As I requested before, if you would only point to something I have actually said, I would be able to respond to it. I need to know if I have said anything "liberal" so far.
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Grant



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It goes without saying that every policy-held-by-man is a rational one.


But we are amazingly irrational creatures. The only thing which is rational is to take sides in a fight. This is rational because in the environment we evolved in you simply had to take sides. A caveman who sat around thinking all day long would not last long. But we use these ancient decision-making tools today when they are not optimal any more.

And I don't believe we always think our opponents are evil. That idea contradicts my own belief history.

I started out as a left-winger because when I was a teenager I thought that socialists were trying to develop a perfect world here on Earth. Imagine, a world where everyone was equal, with no want blah blah blah. I had no other religion, so I believed it for a few years and it gave me great solace. The best thing was that I felt like a really nice person. Then I read Milton Friedman's wonderful "Free to Choose." Friedman demonstrated to my childish mind that you can't build a world from the top down; you have to let the people build it for everyone. Socialism is just shit.

Now, do I hate liberals or think they are evil? Not at all. They are following a religion for which there is no evidence but which helps them get through the day. In a way I envy their naivety and certainty. Eventually the real world catches up with them. Who was it who said "a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged?"
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Mick Harper
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Well I haven't quite reached that point in the argument, Grant, but do you really think it is sustainable (rational even!) to suppose that all liberals (all millions of them) "are following a religion for which there is no evidence" but all conservatives (all millions of them) are not?

There is only one parallel for such certainty and such counter-certainty, when millions are opposed to millions with no dissidents on either side, and that is when one nation fights another. You can only get fifty million Brits to fight fifty million Germans when the other side are 'evil'. Albeit they are, as you say, only evil out of 'naivety and certainty'.

The point is, over the long run, we can only belong to one side by supposing that the other side is bad rather than mad. (Or even sad, as I think your stated postion makes them).
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Ishmael


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Grant wrote:
The best thing was that I felt like a really nice person.


BINGO.

And there we have it.

No one will ever move rightward out of a desire to be a nice person.
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Mick Harper
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So you agree with at least half the equation. People that haven't made the move will think those that have are not-nice.
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Grant



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Grant, but do you really think it is sustainable (rational even!) to suppose that all liberals (all millions of them) "are following a religion for which there is no evidence"


I certainly think we have an instinctive need for religion. By religion I mean a set of values which gives our life meaning and enables us to stop thinking about how to live our lives. Back in the Stone Age the Orthodox tribe - which worshipped a totem pole - would have been stronger than the Applied Epistemology tribe, which basically sat round all day arguing and laughing at the Orthodox tribe. The reason the Orthodox tribe was stronger is that it actually went and bloody did something!

In the nineteenth century, once the intellectual establishment decided that God was dead, they still felt an instinctive need for a religion. Liberalism is that religion. And yes, millions worship that god for which there is absolutely no evidence. They always do.

In opposition to this, the Conservative view basically says that the old ways were tried and tested and should not be changed for the sake of dogma.
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Mick Harper
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Well, I can assure you Applied Epistemology opposes both these positions. As well of course as supporting them both. It's up to you, Grant, whether you wish to come out into the sun.
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Mick Harper
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Liberalism is that religion.

It s true that in the nineteenth century, atheism was more or less exclusively a position held by leftists, but it is equally the case that many liberals were postiively evangelical (eg Gladstone). That is perfectly normal of course as the 'new' position gradually ousts the old.

For years the Church of England was called 'the Tory party at prayer' but even this stage passed and nowadays active Christians (we're talking about Britain remember) tend to be intensely liberal.

The point about all this is that Applied Epistemologists are supposed to view this passing motley with amused detachment. Not though cynicism. There are lessons to be learned. As Grant so correctly tells us "old ways were tried and tested and should not be changed for the sake of dogma" except when they should.
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nemesis8


In: byrhfunt
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Mick Harper wrote:
Christians (we're talking about Britain remember) tend to be intensely liberal.


Bollox. Your British Christians are neither economic or social liberals...

They don't do making money, drugs, nude sun bathing, anal sex or S and M....well at least not...openly.
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Mick Harper
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Yes, I have been misinformed. Apologies all round.
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Mick Harper
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Principles of Applied Epistemology No 6

The reason politics is so often used in Applied Epistemological teaching is because it is, or is close to being, a 'voluntary opinion', and these are in practice rare. It is unusual for either religious or academic beliefs to be other than foisted on us. Ethical questions are a bit of both. Consider the statement: 'Share your toys with your little sister!'

You might not want to but it is unlikely you will ever hear the command, 'Don't share your toys with your little sister!' [It is perhaps useful to think of human archetypes who might use this formulation -- Ayn Rand? V I Lenin?]

The infant Applied Epistemologist understands that this is a quasi-political question. If he wanted to share his toys, there would be no need for a higher authority to tell him to do so; but since there is a higher authority he will think, 'Sharing my toys is quite a sound proposition in certain limited applications but basically it is better (not necessarily just for me either) if basically I don't. I'll think about it but I won't worry about it.'

In other words, life's too short to make too many assumptions that go against the grain but society's too strong to willfully go against its grain. So what happens when the Applied Epistemologist grows up and has children in his turn. Does he say, 'Share your toys with your little sister!'?

Well, first off, the AE-ist will do something that others generally do not, he will understand there is a choice to be made. There is nothing automatic about the goodness of sharing. Does sharing increase the sum of human happiness and if it does does induced sharing increase the sum of human happiness?

Since the answer is, as usual in AE, 'it all depends', the next question is: Should an imbalance of power at the nursery level be automatically corrected by a higher authority or should the nursery be a state-of-nature, and its inhabitants left to work out their own pecking order and with it a natural distribution of toys?

But it may be that Applied Epistemologists are not cut out for parenthood.
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Ishmael


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This is all such a total waste of time. It's an obsession of yours with nothing whatsoever to do with the actual principles of AE -- the ones you employed in your work to make real discoveries. This is just your own philosophical navel-gazing and you denigrate the term "Applied Epistemology" by attaching it to such drivel!
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