Belief acquisition: Near-enough, good-enough is (usually) good enough

The following is an excerpt, pertinent to epistemic sloth, from my unpublished work. My intention is to describe, not criticize, our epistemic practices. For most of our beliefs, the near-enough-good-enough model of belief acquisition is as good as it gets, and that’s as good as it needs be. Why? It works. Any argument to the contrary is contradicted by our being here.

Few of us know whether buying fair trade coffee is good for growers, but for another’s word that it is. On that word, some of us buy fair trade coffee, happily oblivious to whether our actions might have harmful consequences because we’re satisfied we’re doing the right thing. We just don’t know it. Buying fair trade coffee is a common example of the kinds of decisions we make and the extent we go, or don’t go, past our hypotheses to examine the evidence. Some of us will read an article or two on the topic. Few will research it voraciously. Fewer still will understand the research. Most will have an opinion on the matter in any case. Some won’t care. And there are plenty of hypotheses we deem beneath our consideration, in which case we give them a hand-wave….


Epistemic Sloth, it’s (usually) okay

Epistemic: of or relating to knowledge.

We couldn’t in a thousand lifetimes discover and evaluate the evidence, and counter-evidence, for most of the beliefs we hold. And most often, we wouldn’t if we could. Don’t believe me? Make a list of 200 beliefs you hold, and consider for how many and to what extent you’ve expended one iota of epistemic labour. Be honest. You’ve slacked off a bit. But don’t despair, this negligence is not usually a sign of moral or intellectual shortcoming. Rather, it means you’re human. That said, remember this: if you are going to let yourself off the hook for your epistemic sloth, decency dictates you do the same for your interlocutor.


Resistance is…

Resistance is not raising up an army and trading fire, by that time too many have needlessly suffered — as will many more. Resistance is inviting someone you’ve been taught (and are expected) to hate to your table and treating her as a friend. The people you need to resist, to this end, are your own.


Pam L., 2018


Rejecting your facts, rejecting you.

Consider this analogy. While you scratch your head about how it is that people follow the reprehensible snake oil salesmen rather than your laudable facts (a.k.a. laudable-you), mightn’t it occur to you that, from their point of view, you’re the snake oil salesman?  And if so, and the person on whose door you’re knocking has displayed a No Solicitors sign, you shouldn’t be surprised that she puts the dogs on you when you persist. Or that if the dogs don’t deter you, she pulls out a gun. Or that if the gun doesn’t scare you, the clan comes to her defense. Now you probably won’t make any sales in that town. Keeping with the sales analogy, you might skulk away from this encounter, shaken, defeated, and angry. You’re certain that some particularly nefarious villain told her you were a snake oil salesman, and maybe he did. If only you could expose his lies, you grumble, then she’d invite you in. So you do. But it turns out she’s had it up to here — she doesn’t want either of you coming around. She’s boarded the windows and barricaded the door. Crazy lady, you declare. But you can’t stop thinking about her. Why? She rejected you. And social rejection quite literally hurts. No? Then you tell me how she got under your skin.

The High-Dudgeon Olympics



                                 Fifth Annual High-Dudgeon Olympics



1) Someone-Said-Something-Wrong-On-The-Internet Typathon. (Individual and team events.)

Individuals are logged onto a Facebook account with a continuous feed of blog entries, each followed by a comment thread. Athletes must respond to as many blogs and blog comments as possible over a 24 hour period. Athletes are awarded ten points for each original response to a blog and five points for each response to a comment on a blog. All responses must be a minimum of 50 characters long, and will be verified for length before points are awarded. The athlete who accrues the most points wins. (Breaks are not permitted, and so each athlete is issued a diaper, 2 litres of water, and a protein bar.)

In the team event, three athletes work in tandem on the same Facebook feed as described in the individual event. While each athlete is permitted to post an original response to the same blog, multiple responses to the same comment on a blog are strictly prohibited. A multi-response offence will disqualify the team from the competition.


2) High-Dudgeon Cardiac Endurance Competition (HDCEC).

In our most popular event, athletes endure a gruelling 15-minute barrage by a professional offender. A panel of eight international judges then rate each athlete’s body language on a scale of one to ten, ten being a perfect score. Body language includes gestures such as fist clenching, arm waving, and head-smacking, as well as facial expressions such as grimacing, eye-rolling, and jaw-dropping. Vitals are then measured by an Olympic-certified doctor for authenticity. Additionally, 10 bonus points are awarded for fainting, and 100 bonus points for seizures. Those who experience cardiac events, i.e. heart attack or stroke, are awarded an automatic placement in the final round.  Athletes who cannot be revived are awarded a post-humus honorable mention.


3) Free-style Ranting.

Athletes deliver ten minute free-style rants on any topic. The rants are evaluated on a scale of one to ten by a panel of eight international judges. Rants are judged for individuality, creativity, audibility, and logical incoherence. Athletes who mumble for more than thirty consecutive seconds during the rant will be disqualified.


4) Synchronized Kvetching.

Teams participating in this challenging choreographed event must kvetch for a total of seven minutes without error.  Teams, comprised of three to six athletes, spend countless hours practicing. You might have noticed an Olympic team in your own hallway.


5)  Chicken-Neck Pole Vaulting.

Athletes stand beside a two-meter pole marked by one-millimetre increments. The athletes’ neck measurements are recorded on the pole by an official marker. Each athlete is then exposed to an individualized highly offensive news headline. The marker measures the athlete’s neck length at the moment of exposure. The athlete with the greatest degree of neck-lengthening wins. Instances of eye bulging and tongue protrusion will be photographed for High-Dudgeon Olympics promotional material.


Note: We are now taking nominations for the 2019 High-Dudgeon Olympics.

Coming soon …

Some philosophers and some scientists worry about people playing with Ouija boards, and some Christians worry about people playing with Ouija boards. Both species of worriers are concerned with players succumbing to ‘dark forces’; the former ‘irrationality’ and the latter ‘demonic possession’.





Just a thought.

dscf5556 While writing a paper on health and global distributive justice, it struck me that as the global population declines, if it declines, millions of homes and other structures will sit empty. Of course, this won’t be the first time in history that the remnants of  civilizations are left like bones, cleaned of flesh and animation.

But I had a strong visual of the landscape and, I suppose, a strong wave of humility as I considered the scene.

What would it have been like to walk past the empty palaces of fallen empires while the echoes of its inhabitants still ring?

I suppose the scene isn’t so alien. The village I grew up in was razed to the ground as a consequence of the changing face of the woods industry.

And so many structures are standing empty in the wake of so many wars still being fought.

Perhaps a draft has reached me through my insulation. I’m writing in a safe and quiet place. I’m on one side of a wall, and winter is on the other. I’m on one side of a wall, and the world is on another.