Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture

Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture

by Michael P. Lynch


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The “philosopher of truth” (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker) returns with a timely critique of our culture’s narcissistic aversion to admitting when we are wrong.
Taking stock of our fragmented political landscape, celebrated philosopher and TED speaker Michael Patrick Lynch argues that we are becoming a culture of dogmatic know-it-alls. The spread of what Lynch calls “epistemic arrogance” makes us think we have nothing to learn from one another, rewards an unbending commitment to one’s own opinions, and glorifies a defensive rejection of those who are different. Synthesizing years of research, Lynch offers a philosophical perspective on this crisis of arrogance in the age of the Internet. Delving deeply into three core ideas—overconfidence in our knowledge, the politics that feed off this tendency, and the way our social media encourages the supposed “end of truth”—Lynch offers solutions for how we, individually and collectively, can reverse this dangerous trend. A bracing and thought-provoking work, Know-It-All holds a mirror up to American culture and reveals the sources of our fragmentation to launch a powerful argument for the value of humility.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631493614
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 132,909
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michael P. Lynch is the director of the Humanities Institute and a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut. His previous books include True to Life, an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times Book Review. A recipient of the Medal for Research Excellence from the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Lynch has held grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times. He lives in Storrs, Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Preamble: No Ordinary Question 1

1 Montaigne's Warning 9

Nothing More Wretched 9

Like Ears of Corn 14

A Very Social Attitude 18

2 The Outrage Factory 27

Google Knows All 27

Fake News and Information Pollution 30

Sharing Emotions 35

3 Where the Spade Turns 51

Why We Don't Change Our Minds 51

What Kind of Person Are You? 53

From Belief to Conviction 62

4 Ideologies of Arrogance and the American Right 75

Roots of Authoritarianism 75

Telling It Like It Is 79

The Logic of Status Threat 84

Arrogance, Ignorance, and Contempt 92

5 Liberalism and the Philosophy of Identity Politics 103

Arrogant Liberals 103

Misunderstanding the Politics of Identity 104

The Rationality Brand 121

The Politics of Contempt 130

6 Truth and Humility as Democratic Values 139

Socratic Lessons 139

Intellectual Humility 149

A Space of Reasons 154

Truth and Democracy 163

Acknowledgments 171

Notes 173

References and Additional Sources 183

Index 197

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