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epistemic closure

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:14 am
by Ken Greenwald
<2018 “Liberals often like to accuse the Right of ‘epistemic closure’—a refusal to consider any evidence that contradicts their cherished beliefs and biases.”—The Week, April 20, page 12>
It’s hard for me to visualize accusing anyone with the phrase ‘epistemic closure,’ but I suppose philosophy majors might use it all the time. Well I guess I now have an official name for a behavior for something that is common, especially with that guy in the White House and admittedly even with some on the right. :evil:

Epistemic adjective: Of or pertaining to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it. (Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

Wikipedia gives us the official definition of the phrase:

Epistemic closure is a property of some belief systems. It is the principle that if a subject S knows p, and S knows that p entails q, then S can thereby come to know q.

Which 'easily' translates into the above “a refusal to consider any evidence that contradicts their cherished beliefs and biases.” :)

Wikipedia goes on to say, “The term ‘epistemic closure’ has been used in U.S. political debate to refer to the claim that political belief systems can be closed systems of deduction, unaffected by empirical evidence. This use of the term was popularized by libertarian blogger and commentator Julian Sanchez in 2010 as an extreme form of ‘ Confirmation Bias.’”

For Wikipedia’s full discussion see Epistemic Closure [[For some reason this link says there is no such article. Just type it in the search box and it will take you to it.]] (Malformed URL fixed — Forum Admin.)

The following quotes are from archived sources:
<2010 “‘One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement,’ writes Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez, ‘is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.’ The movement, hell. It's making the whole country as dumb as a brontosaurus in a blizzard. Because reality eventually asserts itself. One way or another.”—SouthTown Star (Chicago, Illinois), 2 May>

<2012 “The Republicans took the tempting but fatal turn into Epistemic Closure, not realizing those words mean No Outlet, which in turn mean Dead End.”—The Washington Post (D.C.), 15 November>

<2014 “Fortunately for us conservatives have such epistemic closure today that they're increasingly comfortable projecting their moral ugliness right out into the open.”—The Washington Post (D.C.), 8 May>

<2016 “I used to be something of a skeptic when it came to claims of ‘filter bubbles’--the sort of epistemic closure that comes from only seeing material you agree with on social platforms.”—Nieman Reports (Harvard University), 22 September>

<2018 “Most of the people who detest Trump don't know anybody who works with him or supports him. And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they've learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trump-ism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.”—Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio), 12 January>

Ken Greenwald — April 18, 2018

Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:56 am
by trolley
I thought it was going to be some sort of surgical procedure.
"Even though they used an epistemic closure, I still got a nasty infection!"

Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:22 pm
by Erik_Kowal
In the political context that Ken describes, I think "nasty infection" hits the mark just right.

This term was also unknown to me until Ken drew my attention to it. It's certainly not in common use; as of the time of writing and in my location, Google registers just 25,800 hits for it. (All the usual caveats regarding the Google stats apply to what may be inferred from this value.)

Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:22 pm
by tony h
I tend to think of it as "thinking inside the box". :)

Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:36 pm
by Ken Greenwald

Very good way of looking at it.


Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:33 pm
by Phil White
tony h wrote: Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:22 pm I tend to think of it as "thinking inside the box". :)
Brownie points for that.

Re: epistemic closure

Posted: Sun May 13, 2018 6:59 am
by Wizard of Oz
Trolley you were not far from the mark for I presumed that too.

episiotomy (noun) a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to aid a difficult delivery and prevent rupture of tissues.

Knowing this meaning I thought Ken was about to reveal a surgical side and sew it back together. There is such a procedure but it is not called Epistemic Closure but episiorrhaphy. It can also lead to the questionable procedure called the "Husband Stitch". The “Husband Stitch” is an extra stitch added during post-birth repair that is added solely to please the husband. This procedure is supposedly given to tighten the vagina after birth and increase pleasure for the male sexual partner.

Maybe Epistemic Closure, the "Poli Closure", can be seen as an unnecessary closure to ensure hiarithic pleasure after one joins a political party.

WoZ in Aus
Considering a closure of a wee dram