Know-It-All Society
Taking stock of our fragmented political landscape, Michael Patrick Lynch delivers a trenchant philosophical take on digital culture and its tendency to make us into dogmatic know-it-alls. The internet—where most shared news stories are not even read by the person posting them—has contributed to the rampant spread of “intellectual arrogance.” In this culture, we have come to think that we have nothing to learn from one another; we are rewarded for emotional outrage over reflective thought; and we glorify a defensive rejection of those different from us.Interweaving the works of classic philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Bertrand Russell and imposing them on a cybernetic future they could not have possibly even imagined, Lynch delves deeply into three core ideas that explain how we’ve gotten to the way we are:• our natural tendency to be overconfident in our knowledge;• the tribal politics that feed off our tendency;• and the way the outrage factory of social media spreads those politics of arrogance and blind conviction.In addition to identifying an ascendant “know-it-all-ism” in our culture, Lynch offers practical solutions for how we might start reversing this dangerous trend—from rejecting the banality of emoticons that rarely reveal insight to embracing the tenets of Socrates, who exemplified the humility of admitting how little we often know about the world, to the importance of dialogue if we want to know more. With bracing and deeply original analysis, Lynch holds a mirror up to American culture to reveal that the sources of our fragmentation start with our attitudes toward truth. Ultimately, Know-It-All Society makes a powerful new argument for the indispensable value of truth and humility in democracy.

Know-It-All Society Details

TitleKnow-It-All Society
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 13th, 2019
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139781631493614
Rating
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, Sociology, Philosophy, Education, History, World History

Know-It-All Society Review

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    In parts philosophical, in parts political, in parts cognitive psychology and critical thinking. Mostly however it is about the everyday stance we take with our beliefs, convictions, knowledge, and humility in its limits. Of course, it is easy to see the flaws of your political opponents and get on one's high horse and cheerlead one's own tribe. It is easy to do that especially on social media. We all have convictions and our central political and religious convictions are integral to our identi In parts philosophical, in parts political, in parts cognitive psychology and critical thinking. Mostly however it is about the everyday stance we take with our beliefs, convictions, knowledge, and humility in its limits. Of course, it is easy to see the flaws of your political opponents and get on one's high horse and cheerlead one's own tribe. It is easy to do that especially on social media. We all have convictions and our central political and religious convictions are integral to our identity. However, we don't want to close our minds to the knowledge we don't have or think we know everything and our views are closed to further ideas and arguments. In other words, we don't want our convictions to become blind convictions. At the same time, we don't want to become wishy-washy and believe every floating bit of info of the internet. Convictions are held for a reason but if they are to be held one should try to make sure those reasons are good. The main point of this book is about humility not arrogantly believing our convictions and shutting out anything that disconfirms them but at the same time not being a jellyfish and accepting any assertion. It is a tightrope one has to walk off having an open mind but not so open your brains fall out. A very good antidote to bubbles we get trapped in our social lives both online and off.
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  • Ryan Boissonneault
    January 1, 1970
    If you had to summarize the main problem with our political culture in one sentence, you might borrow the line from Yeats that reads, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Or, if you prefer, you could go with Bertrand Russell's formulation: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.”Michael Lynch’s latest book is a timely elaboration on this phenomena, including the psychological, sociological, and te If you had to summarize the main problem with our political culture in one sentence, you might borrow the line from Yeats that reads, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Or, if you prefer, you could go with Bertrand Russell's formulation: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.”Michael Lynch’s latest book is a timely elaboration on this phenomena, including the psychological, sociological, and technological reasons for its perpetuation. Here’s a quick outline of the problem: those that know the least are the most certain, because, unlike those who know the most, they are blissfully unaware of the extent of their own ignorance and of the true complexity of the world. This is the psychological origin of overconfidence and intellectual arrogance and is confirmed by the much-replicated research on the Dunning-Kruger effect and the “illusion of explanatory depth.” Further, our technology and culture make things much worse. Most people get their information online, and from a small sliver of the web that caters to the views they already hold (resulting in rampant confirmation bias). Once online, people encounter the most passionate, dogmatic personalities that create the impression of infallibility and expertise, while the more knowledgeable—and therefore more modest personalities—are ignored or labeled as “meek” or “ineffectual.”The dogmatists therefore attract the most followers, likes, and shares, spreading information that is superficial, simplistic, and emotionally volatile. People then argue, not to get at the truth of an issue that is far beyond their own knowledge or expertise, but to flaunt their identity as a member of whatever tribe is most closely associated with that particular belief. Lynch brilliantly elaborates on these points using timely examples and the wisdom of several prominent philosophers including Socrates, Montaigne, Bertrand Russell, Hannah Arendt, John Dewey, and others. He shows how beliefs lead to convictions and then to contempt for all those who don’t share the same convictions. Politics then becomes a game of identity for everyone, as the search for truth is replaced by the accumulation of badges of identity that are then shared via social media. Is there a way out of this? The final chapter of the book presents a solution: the embodiment of the most underrated political virtue of them all—intellectual humility. Strip away the passion and we are left with glaring deficiencies in our knowledge. The world is more complex than we suppose and our knowledge and intelligence are less impressive than we suppose—as repeatedly confirmed by psychological research. This doesn’t mean that we should abandon the concept of truth; it means we should pursue it with more humility and rigor. Lynch provides us with an example to emulate—Socrates. Socrates recognized the nature of his own wisdom in that he had no pretensions to knowledge and sought to challenge every one of his beliefs. In many ways, Socrates represents the ideal of a solution: a dispassionate and humble pursuit of the truth using rigorous logic and respect for evidence, dialogue, and discussion. This is what makes the institutions of science, academia, and the press so critical for the continuation of rational dialogue and mutual respect that must be present for any democracy to work. What matters most, in the long run, is not the conclusions we reach, so much as the manner in which we reach them. If we abandon the concepts of truth, fallibility, civility, and rational debate—in service to short term political gains—all hope is lost.
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  • Peg
    January 1, 1970
    No one likes a know-it-all. They can quickly turn a pleasant conversation into a tedious affair. Despite their annoying propensities, they remain relatively harmless. A know-it-all society, however, can be downright dangerous to the democratic fabric of the country. So says Michael Patrick Lynch in his slim yet deeply considered study of society’s growing problem of intellectual arrogance in Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture. Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the Un No one likes a know-it-all. They can quickly turn a pleasant conversation into a tedious affair. Despite their annoying propensities, they remain relatively harmless. A know-it-all society, however, can be downright dangerous to the democratic fabric of the country. So says Michael Patrick Lynch in his slim yet deeply considered study of society’s growing problem of intellectual arrogance in Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture. Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut and the director of the Humanities Institute, has previously written about the nexus of technology and human knowledge in The Internet of Us. He expands here on another side effect of our 24-hour information superhighway—intellectual arrogance—and how it is poisoning our politics, our communities, and our minds. Lynch describes in readably academic prose how the information pollution we subject ourselves to everyday has increased the incivility of our discourse, most appallingly epitomized by the present occupant of the White House. Instead of debate, the polarized Left and Right stand on opposite sides hurling insults, a shared intellectual arrogance calcifying their beliefs into a tribal arrogance that speaks in dialectically dangerous terms of “we” and “them” and places ego above truth. People have stopped listening to others’ ideas, Lynch says, and instead rest in the false security of believing they know everything there is to know. As a result, our democracy is impoverished and stunted by bias and dogmatism.How did we arrive at this troubled state of affairs? Look no further than society’s over-reliance on the internet and social media to communicate ideas and information. When the most arcane piece of information (not always true) is a mere Google keyword search away and the “outrage factory” of social media encourages people to emote and virtue signal to their respective tribes then…Houston, we have a problem. Much of our “Google-knowing,” as Lynch puts it, revolves around the daily, shallow intake of information that requires zero intellectual discipline in its acquisition and makes no demands for a deeper contextual exploration. As a result, we’ve become a society where people believe they know more than others but actually know less than they think. This is where we all need to step back and, as Lynch puts it, “own our limitations.” In other words, exercise intellectual humility. “Our tendency to overestimate our knowledge isn’t just a phase; it is part of human nature,” Lynch writes, and a panoply of some of the greatest philosophical minds are his best sources to attest to that. Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century nobleman, politician, and superb essayist, took a break from politics and retreated to a tower (literally, a tower) to escape the intellectual arrogance of his day and age. He believed there was a plague on Mankind, “the opinion that he knows something.”We still suffer the symptoms of that plague in varying degrees, but the wisdom of those who’ve come before can offer some remedy. Lynch threads other great thinkers throughout the fabric of his argument: Hume, Locke, Hobbes, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Arendt, and of course, Socrates, dance onto Lynch’s pages with their insights and warnings. (Philosopher Pro Tip: We’re all stumbling in the dark, but the wisest people know that they are.) Lynch’s audience would be those open to questioning their assumptions, or at least wondering why so many people today posture as experts on everything. If you pick up this book looking for reinforcement of your political position, just know the author employs powerful and contemporary examples of the ways intellectual arrogance has dirtied the political climate on both the Right and the Left. No one gets out of this book unscathed. This is where the value of reading Lynch’s book becomes apparent: it holds up a shiny mirror to our face and tells us, in the words of Ayn Rand, to check our premises. Do we really know what we know? What is “knowing”? Have we built our beliefs on solid reasoning and evidence? Do we seek dialogue with others of differing opinions to listen and perhaps even learn? Are we operating out of good faith in our social media practices? Lynch invites us to consider these and other questions in the spirit of the Socratic method, which encourages a quest for knowledge by constant inquiry. After all, dogmatism and intellectual humility cannot share the same space. Learning is an infinite act, and it behooves us as a culture and a democratic society to acknowledge what we know and, more importantly, what we don’t.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    We are currently living in an age of extreme political polarization, where those on opposite sides of our political spectrum no longer trust those on the other side, and it seems that each side has its own, mutually exclusive, version of the truth. Many people point to a lack of civil discourse as feeding this polarization, but this book argues that the real roots are found in intellectual arrogance. The bulk of this book is devoted to explaining the psychological and social influences that lead We are currently living in an age of extreme political polarization, where those on opposite sides of our political spectrum no longer trust those on the other side, and it seems that each side has its own, mutually exclusive, version of the truth. Many people point to a lack of civil discourse as feeding this polarization, but this book argues that the real roots are found in intellectual arrogance. The bulk of this book is devoted to explaining the psychological and social influences that lead us to embrace tribal convictions and to presume that 'we' know better than 'them'. It also explores the manifestations of this intellectual arrogance on both sides of the political divide. But the most important part of the book is the final chapter, when the author argues that we need to embrace an intellectual humility if we are break out of this polarization and make our politics functional again. He argues that there are two components to this humility: honestly recognizing what you don't know, and a willingness to learn from evidence and the experiences of others. Intellectual humility makes us willing to engage in civil discourse and strive to find common ground, perhaps even to compromise. And those are all good things that we need to be able to do again.
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  • Csimplot Simplot
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book!!!!!
  • Huong
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written. Clear explanation of patterns and political, historical causes of behaviors. A little hard to read for ones with limited political vocabulary.
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