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William O

Practical Benefits of Epistemological Discipline

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One thing we retain from studying a philosopher carefully is a general sense of what the philosopher said, as well as a general sense of what our reaction to it was. The details leave our memory after a certain period of time in most cases, but the most important points become hard coded into our consciousness in at least a general way. (For example, the details of Plato's Line analogy, which I just studied, will probably leave me in a few months or a year, but a sense of the distinctions he drew within the perceptual and conceptual levels will probably stay with me.)

 

This makes the principle that we should base our beliefs on evidence and good reasoning even more vivid and urgent than it was already. If you aren't careful enough in your evaluation of Kant and don't arrive at a firm conclusion about him that integrates all the evidence, you may find yourself, in five years when you have forgotten all about Kant, unable to spot the error in some Kantian argument or policy. It's not that you won't have the explicit knowledge about Kant, because you would have forgotten a lot of that at some point either way, but you won't have your psycho-epistemology set up and attuned in such a way that spotting the error comes to you naturally.

 

Moreover, your psycho-epistemology has a strong influence over what you will find interesting. For example, if you study logical positivism (without arriving at a strong evaluation of it), then you will find yourself more inclined toward ideas that are actively anti-integration. Studying something doesn't just give you more knowledge about that thing, it changes what makes sense to you, and that may lead you in a downward or upward spiral.

 

I think the main practical application of these observations is that we should try not to leave an evil idea in our memory uncontested. If you read something dangerous, you should make sure you know a good refutation for it before letting yourself forget about it, or you might end up acting on it or uttering it in an unguarded moment.

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Not to take away from your main point, but after one gets to a threshold of habitual, solid reasoning (as opposed to avoiding or rejecting and all the bad results from that), I don't think there are many ideas which would be "dangerous" in the sense of getting you to act in an uncharacteristically irrational way. You would simply reason through the idea at a later time, instead of accidentally folding the idea into the already tangled mess of your halfway-rational consciousness.

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...I don't think there are many ideas which would be "dangerous" in the sense of getting you to act in an uncharacteristically irrational way. You would simply reason through the idea at a later time..

 

Yes. I Agree with you. If one has made a habit of reasoning and not leaving any idea uncontested, it is definete that one would reason through the  idea, even at a later point of time.

 

Its important to note that conclusions are likely to generate an emotional response (contempt as opposed to approval). After a period of time for any given idea, we are more likely to retain the concept and emotional response than the minute details and reasoning. And perhaps this itself would be sufficient, as it becomes highly unlikely that we would act for that concept which has a negative emotion response/conclusion attached to it, even though we may not be aware of the details and reasons that brought forth the conclusion.

 

Above said, does not undermine the habit of reasoning and contesting any new idea, or an existing idea when new facts emerge.

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Not to take away from your main point, but after one gets to a threshold of habitual, solid reasoning (as opposed to avoiding or rejecting and all the bad results from that), I don't think there are many ideas which would be "dangerous" in the sense of getting you to act in an uncharacteristically irrational way. You would simply reason through the idea at a later time, instead of accidentally folding the idea into the already tangled mess of your halfway-rational consciousness.

You have a good point here, but I think there are still significant benefits to arriving at a firm conclusion about the philosophers you study for a fully rational person. It wouldn't be that the philosopher's ideas would influence your behavior, as you note, but you might not have a strong rebuttal to the philosopher's ideas when you need it, or you might not be able to identify the philosopher's ideas in action as easily when you need to. See the Kant example I gave in the OP.

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