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

Michael P. Lynch. Liveright, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63149-361-4
Philosopher Lynch (The Internet of Us) delivers a well-intentioned but flawed polemic that attempts, but fails, to resolve the causes of 21st-century American political polarization. Arrogance, he suggests, is the “single attitude most closely associated with our national consciousness,” and it leads Americans to view anyone associated with the other party as “dishonest, uninformed, and downright immoral.” This problem is amplified, he writes, by cognitive biases, the fear of ignorance and desire to have confidence, the “preference-tracking structure of our digital platforms” that allows users to filter out facts that would challenge their convictions, and bad-faith news reporting. He takes both conservatives and liberals to task, though the case for liberals’ arrogance offers much sparser and more anecdotal evidence (a conversation at a party) than the one on conservatives (which analyzes, for example, persistent misunderstandings of #BlackLivesMatter and Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling). For Lynch, democratic society requires that all have an intellectually humble attitude and pursue truth as a universal good, but he doesn’t clarify what, specifically, would result from the widespread adoption of this attitude, and the book’s end descends into an obscure, abstract meditation on the nature of truth. This plea for civic, civil deliberation fails to distinguish itself from the glut of similarly impassioned, similarly vague Trump-era political philosophy books. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/16/2019
Release date: 08/13/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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