Epistemic closure is an act of will

Just reviewing what epistemic closure is…a good 2010 NYTimes article: “‘Epistemic Closure’? Those Are Fighting Words

It’s a very good read.

Reading a logical analysis of ‘epistemic closure’ — the logic topic — on http://plato.stanford.edu, there is an argument against the existence of epistemic closure: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘨𝘶𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 f𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘺𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦.

I think we MUST concede that there is a logical definition, and then there’s its non-logical application. It’s precisely 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 there is lack of analysis of knowledge that there is closure.

Or better still, you can “analyze” what you 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 is knowledge (when it’s not knowledge) and simply reinforce “truth” of what you believe (bias confirmation) or just add volume to the muck of what you believe is fact.

What we mean by closure is that new knowledge based on analysis of facts (existing “knowledge”?) or even the willingness to consider facts outside your echo chamber is non-existent or seriously (willfully) inhibited.

With epistemic closure, when there is cognitive dissonance, people “resolve” the dissonance in favor of what fits the narrative they want to believe or that fits within what they think they “know.”

The existence of “death panels” was a shining example. Without critical evaluation of facts (like actually reading the bill), you hear “death panels” from a demagogue; and no amount of presenting facts works to dissuade you from believing such a thing exists. It echoes well with both what you want to believe and what you think it fits “logically” into what you think you “know.”

Understanding epistemic closure

Re: Epistemic closure comes back to haunt the GOP

Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion, or what we call “knowledge.” Epistemic has to do with knowledge or the degree to which to which we validate it.

When you limit what constitutes truth, even the possibility of truth, or where truth can be found, you have closed off an important part of how we gain knowledge. This is bias.

When you use ways of thinking that don’t follow implications (what is logically implied by honestly evaluating how one thing leads to another or what needs to be true for something to exist [entails]), you have effectively created an echo chamber.

Now imagine the combination. Most often what happens with his system of thought is you rationalize away a possible truth (cognitive dissonance) because it doesn’t fit what you want to believe (bias) by either distorting the implications to fit your bias or denying it outright.

This is epistemic closure.  You have built a seal around what you allow yourself to know.

The Opposite of Faith is NOT Reason

I understand the limits of language in small spaces; and I understand how language choices on complex topics can be made to make or break an argument.  The word choices in this small article on what Neil deGrasse Tyson said, starting with the title, are unfortunate. [Re: “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science and Religion Are Not ‘Reconcilable,’ So Stop Trying“]

When it comes to categories, “reconciliation” is a matter of degree, not a statement of absolutes.  Reconciliation does not mean one thing becomes the other or that one is subsumed by the other.  It means there are harmonies, with each component remaining itself with concessions in tuning.  Religion and Science, on the surface of the words, can indeed be reconciled.  And Faith and Reason are made polar and mutually exclusive opposites willfully, not necessarily.

I can certainly sympathize with an argument that reconciliation means something like “make align.”  I favor the definitions that focus on making “exist or be true at the same time.”

For reason to operate, it requires assertions whose truthfulness is filtered structurally (formally) and substantively (informally).  Reason is a faculty, not an operation or machine.  Logic is the machine and operation.  Reason is not science – science, also, is an operation, an approach.  Reason as a faculty is about giving thought to, and due processing and consideration beyond faith in, concepts and perspectives.  It is the ability to comprehend and to make comprehensible.

Matters with more faith than science can be approached reasonably.
Continue reading

Meaning will take care of itself

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke:

A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus?

If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.


First, I find a contradiction in “all human activity” not including “looking for life’s meaning.”  If I try to find implications in his juxtapositions, I might conclude that “to live” is “to play”, looking for life’s meaning is not-play (not living) as though the two are mutually exclusive activities by virtue of word choice.

I believe he’s saying that “looking for life’s meaning” is a meaningless extraction on its own, being done apart from searching for Truth, Beauty, and Love.  But he seems to have extracted searching for those things from searching for life’s meaning (why or how any of those three things matter) as though they aren’t a part of “life.”

To “search for” something to me implies that the object of the search is a target.  On one hand, the target can be defined, and you’re looking to find it.  On the other hand, the target is ethereal and you’re looking to establish its existence for some reason.  And “for some reason” implies some purpose or objective, which then implies meaning: what is Truth, Beauty, and Love such that they can be play; and why is searching for them worth expending playtime for?

For the sake of play?  That can’t be.  Too shallow.

Play is the quintessential example of “living in the moment” or the present. Living in the present does not mean living in ignorance of meaning beyond the present. It means being totally present in the now, with consciousness of interconnectedness and “meaning”…a meaning that forms awareness.  Without this, “play” is reduced to nothing more than a bubble of self-indulgence or enacted daydreams, whereas it could be about exploration of consciousness.  Play can be about the meaning of life and the magic that meaning makes possible.

Let’s focus on Beauty for the moment.

In Strong’s Systematic Theology, he argues that beauty, for it to be recognized, requires a recognizer — a being with the capacity to appreciate and enjoy aesthetics and masterfully applied design.  And that being has some relationship to the abstract of beauty, some chemistry that produces joy of beauty in its recognition. Continue reading

Meaning will take care of itself

NOTE: see the expanded thinking process on this, version 2, as it were.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke:

A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus?

If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.


I once had a conversation with young fella who asked me, “How do we listen to God?” I replied that one of God’s words can take several years to form in a way in which we can “hear” it, and getting a sentence out … well, you do the math.

That was to say that “meaning” is more than implication. Meaning involves messages from an author. If the message be encrypted, then then we must learn the language. If its comprehension require experience, we must gain it.

But for sure, “meaning” comes in layers: grammar, syntax, experience, competence, definitions. I too often see humans yell commands at their dogs with the expectation that the dog will somehow comprehend the “meaning” beyond associating a human bark to some current circumstance.

Meaning can continue as long as the story lasts, adding more fullness to the “meaning” and thrilling us with twists and turns — discovery. Our story. The human story. The story of the universe.

You can’t force meaning, for then it is contrived. You can’t assume meaning, for then you arrogate. You cannot truncate meaning, for then your comprehension is stunted.

Best to be as a child learning language, and listen & observe, and following some basic commandments. Meaning will take care of itself.

High Water Mark

Does water know it can rise only to the level of its current bounds? Sometimes we forget that there are higher banks than our current trough, leading us to accept that we have reached a high state of awareness and mental acuity. Then we reach a canyon whose walls are composed of minds much more brilliant than ours, and we find ourselves a babbling brook.

At first this might seem a failed analogy until you realize that, no matter how high the bank or bounds, it’s the amount of water available that allows for volume enough to strain the lateral limits and rise to the vertical. The bounds — the margins and their heights — are markers of aspiration that we ourselves cannot define but to which we can contribute. We are not the measure of ourselves nor our current borders the end of possibilities.

The amount and quality of thought we generate within the bounds provides the volume; and the force of thought, the current.  The bounds provide us channel and height to reach.

We each have our limits in both volume and bounds to which we can aspire.  Expecting a brook to fill a canyon is unrealistic and unfair.  But we are free and able to choose our channels.  That we find ourselves in one deeper than we can fill is not shameful, but rather awesome and inspirational

…unless we personalize the contrast and turn admiration into scorn.  Then we change the brook to a slough, depleted of oxygen and stagnant of inspiration, uninspirable, uninspiring.

On the flip-side, If we think we have reached the vertical limit of our current bounds and think ourselves “arrived” or more fulsome that another, we arrogate rather than irrigate.  Perhaps we are merely a momentary flash-flood, ephemeral in a high-water state, whose only affect is to wash away the untethered and overwhelm inspiration.

From Guidelines to Religion

Guidelines are not the same as rules. When a guideline gets narrowed to a requirement, it becomes a rule. A rule becomes dogma when it is enshrined into a belief system, which becomes religion when applied externally, to others.

Lately, when I’ve been thinking about path-walking, I have wondered: how does a guideline become a rule?

It helps to start with taking the word guideline apart. Guide + line. A boundary that lets you be aware of when you have wandered into an area or direction that will not result in the destination you intend.

At some point in being channeled by a guideline, we begin to apply measures to how well we’re operating within it. Measures give you a sense of the current trajectory of your path — how far you are from the ideal center of the trajectory you want.

When we rest on the measures, they solidify to rules. We replace general with specific. We confuse direction with plotted itinerary. We learn to place our steps in a specific way in order to say we’re on track.

You replace learning of the Divine with learning the skills involved in placing your feet in a certain way in order to be called The Way to the divine or to divinity. You obey the rules rather than get the most from what the landscape and obstacles in your course teach you.

You read the words of the specific road signs without understanding the terrain they point you through.

This result is mostly a combination of memory lapse and not understanding what a guideline is. Memory lapse plays its part in not remembering that the rule you derived from a guideline is merely a memory aid of what the guideline is meant to do. It’s a snapshot of a passing landmark as you travel down the path at speeds where you barely notice details.

It’s not understanding that a guideline is a recommendation or general definition of what it means to accomplish thus and such. It is easily confused with rules when we want to codify specific elements of the guideline – create a recipe of landmarks and formalize particular pathwalking navigation skills.

You cannot fail at pathwalking if you maintain a divine-ward trajectory defined by guidelines that allow you to perceive the core.  You can fail if all you’re tracking are the surface rules at the expense of consciousness of the core.