Monday, January 23, 2012

The Failure of Applied American Epistemology

"Epistemology" is defined as: "a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge; the theory of knowledge, esp the critical study of its validity, methods, and scope" (Dictionary).

The teachings of Epistemology inform us that one of the fundamentals of understanding what we commonly call "knowledge," is the realization that our "knowledge" is substantially a matter of "belief" (The Pillars of Knowledge: Faith and Trust?).

Where the American brand of Epistemology has failed is not in its academic, conceptual, theoretical, or experimental accomplishments and dynamics.

Instead, that failure has been an inability to apply Epistemology as an honest, forthright, and effective tool for the enhancement of a fundamental need in American society and culture.

That fundamental need is the need to know how to use knowledge as a tool to help us govern our nation.

This need exists because we express and project, to the world, that we are a nation with a philosophy of government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

This notion of a government by, of, and for the American people, is seen as an American myth in other countries, and is seen more and more as a myth by Americans themselves.

One damaging aspect of this phenomenon, this failure to efficiently and effectively apply the principles of Epistemology, is that American society and culture have experienced a severe weakening of the ability to properly understand and process information, so as to convert it into knowledge.

This has resulted, at best, in an overblown exaltation of the realm of opinion, combined with an intense diminution of the realm of knowledge; while at worst it has resulted in widespread social detachment from reality, in varying degrees (i.e. various degrees of social dementia; Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his book Strategic Vision, focusing on this failing aspect of American society, writes: "its populace is self-deluded and, frankly, ignorant about the rest of the world").

This dynamic shows up clearly, by coming out of the fog, during American election cycles and wars, but can also be readily observed by consideration of the following:
1) the failure to properly comprehend the effect that government propaganda has had on American "knowledge,"

2) the failure to properly comprehend the effect that corporate propaganda has had on American "knowledge,"

3) the failure of the mass media to effectively apply Epistemological principles,

4) the failure of educational institutions to effectively apply Epistemological teachings,

5) the epidemic spread of the problem due to psychological reliance on government,

6) the growing personality trait of authoritarianism within the populace, and

7) the growing plague of dementia.

In closing this post, Dredd Blog encourages all readers, to the extent that you can, to study Epistemology and Hermeneutics, to ease up on using opinion as a club, to very rarely use the word "truth" as a club, and to wonder some about The Tenets of Ecocosmology.


  1. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his book Strategic Vision, mentions "public ignorance" as one failing aspect of American society.

  2. "Information is not knowledge." - Albert Einstein


  3. Kind of exceeds Chomsky modeling MSM on academia, etc.
    But then that was his choice.
    Am just trying to say you have illuminated the whole range of causes. Where to go from there? Any texts, links, or do we sit here waiting like students for Socrates to return from lunch.

  4. Man is neither infallible nor omniscient; if he were, a discipline such as epistemology—the theory of knowledge—would not be necessary nor possible: his knowledge would be automatic, unquestionable and total. But such is not man’s nature. Man is a being of volitional consciousness: beyond the level of percepts—a level inadequate to the cognitive requirements of his survival—man has to acquire knowledge by his own effort, which he may exercise or not, and by a process of reason, which he may apply correctly or not. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of his mental efficacy; he is capable of error, of evasion, of psychological distortion. He needs a method of cognition, which he himself has to discover: he must discover how to use his rational faculty, how to validate his conclusions, how to distinguish truth from falsehood, how to set the criteria of what he may accept as knowledge. Two questions are involved in his every conclusion, conviction, decision, choice or claim: What do I know?—and: How do I know it?

    It is the task of epistemology to provide the answer to the “How?”—which then enables the special sciences to provide the answers to the “What?”

    In the history of philosophy—with some very rare exceptions—epistemological theories have consisted of attempts to escape one or the other of the two fundamental questions which cannot be escaped. Men have been taught either that knowledge is impossible (skepticism) or that it is available without effort (mysticism). These two positions appear to be antagonists, but are, in fact, two variants on the same theme, two sides of the same fraudulent coin: the attempt to escape the responsibility of rational cognition and the absolutism of reality—the attempt to assert the primacy of consciousness over existence.

    “Consciousness and Identity,”
    Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 78–79