Feb 23, 2018 • Philosophy Colloquium: Elizabeth Anderson


Fri, 02/23/2018 - 15:00 to 17:00

The Spring 2018 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Elizabeth Anderson, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan. 

The title of her talk is "Epistemic Bubbles And Authoritarian Politics." (Abstract below.)

Location: Maloney Seminar Room, Social Sciences 224, 3-5pm.


Contemporary U.S. political discourse is structured by "epistemic bubbles."  In social epistemology, an epistemic bubble is a self-segregated network for the circulation of ideas, resistant to correction of false beliefs.  Dominant models of epistemic bubbles explain some of their features, but fail to account for their recent spread, increasing extremity, and asymmetrical distribution across political groups.  The rise of populist authoritarian politics explains these recent changes.  I propose three models of how populism creates epistemic bubbles or their functional equivalents:  (1) by activating cognitive biases in ethnocentric and authoritarian partisans; (2) by promulgating biased group norms of information processing; and (3) by replacing empirically-oriented policy discourse with an identity-expressive discourse of group status competition.  Each model recommends different strategies for popping epistemic bubbles.  My analysis suggests that social epistemology needs to get more social, by modeling cognitive biases not as operating inside individuals' heads, but as operating collectively and externally, via group norms for framing the meanings of political events, processing information, and discussing politics.


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