Epistemic Humility

Could we be wrong?

Research shows that students who learn about politics along with only like-minded peers are more “susceptible to becoming politically intolerant.” Education researchers Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy have found that “people who talk in like-minded groups rarely discuss the ideas held by their opponents, and they likely do not consider the question ‘Could we be wrong?’ Instead, they reaffirm each other’s views and move opinions within the group toward polarized extremes.” (Political Classroom, 148). Democratic education requires the teaching of “cognitive empathy” —the ability to understand opponents’ points of view—and the habit of continually asking: “Could I be wrong?” 

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Epistemic humility: In the philosophy of science, epistemic humility refers to a posture of scientific observation rooted in the recognition that knowledge of the world is always interpreted, structured, and filtered by the observer, and that, as such, scientific pronouncements must be built on the recognition of observation's inability to grasp the world in itself. 


Cognitive Dissonance: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.” 

Frantz Fanon

Intellectual honesty: Four signs of intellectual honesty: "One's personal beliefs do not interfere with the pursuit of truth; relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted even when such things may contradict one's hypothesis; facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another; references are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided." 



“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” 

Charles Darwin

“The very possibility of civilized human discourse rests upon the willingness of people to consider they may be mistaken.”

Richard Hofstadter 

“When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe ... that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment. As all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" 

John Maynard Keynes

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”  

 John Stuart Mill

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right.” 

Learned Hand

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