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Epistemology = strategies for separating truth and falsehood
Officially, epistemology is “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope.”
But for the sake of this newsletter, epistemology means “strategies for separating truth from falsehood.”
Your epistemology = your strategy for separating truth from falsehood
Mainstream epistemology = culturally approved strategies for separating truth from falsehood
Here are a few examples of epistemologies or epistemic models:
Empiricism — “I’ll observe the world, then come up with theories that explain them.” (This is the basis of modern science)
Rationalism (17th C) — “I’ll come up with beautiful theories and arguments, then use them like maps to understand the world.”
Logic — “I’ll compute statements like variables in a math equation.”
Modern science — “I’ll come up with a falsifiable hypothesis, test it with experiment, collect data, analyze results, and see if others get the same results under the same conditions.”
Skepticism — “I won’t believe anything that sounds crazy.”
Mysticism/intuition — “I’ll see what God whispers to me about it.”
Appeal to Authority — “I’ll see what the New York Times or the CDC says about it.”
See what I mean? Some of these are formal, some informal, but each is a different strategy for separating truth from falsehood.
The goal: Be right more often, with less effort
Everyone has to separate truth from falsehood, so everyone has a personal strategy for doing so, whether we’re aware of it or not. We’re all amateur epistemologists, so we might as well be them on purpose, instead of by accident. Right? Right.
I’m an amateur too. I’ve read about 0.0001% of the literature a professional philosopher of epistemology would read, so feel free to not take me seriously at all.
But here’s the thing:
Modern society does a terrible job teaching us good epistemology. “Scientific rigor” often spends more time and effort to arrive at wrong conclusions, than truckers on Facebook spend to arrive at right ones. (This is not an isolated incident — Editors-in-Chief of the world’s leading medical journals have lamented similarly.)
A “good” epistemology is efficient with our time and energy — it gets results, without asking too much.
In this newsletter, I’m sharing the models that have worked for me, so that you can be right more often, with less effort.