While there are more than a hundred thousand words on LW about the structure of good epistemology, as far as I can tell there is no nuts-and-bolts explanation of the most common anti-epistemology. I will try to rectify this omission, because I think I comprehended it.

The prototypical question of epistemology is some form of experiment, such as "what will I perceive when I pour these two liquids together?". After "what will I perceive" is packed into "what will happen", the question becomes observer-independent, and it is only natural that reality—the thing that answers the question—is itself observer-independent. The terrain would be there even if there were no maps of it. (Maps are intentionally created to predict approximate answers to a small subset of possible questions with much less effort/expense than it would take to answer the question in the terrain itself, by sacrificing the map's ability to answer the vast majority of possible questions correctly, let alone more cheaply than reality.)

In the unholy mirror image, the prototypical question is "who is most popular?". While it is possible for individuals to be mistaken, the answer has the form of a consensus (technically, common knowledge). Consequently, "reality" is inherently observer-dependent; it makes no sense to ask for the consensus of zero maps. There is no mention of the terrain in the theory (since an outright denial would be suspiciously specific), thus to the extent people are unable to compartmentalize away its practical intrusions into life, the stupidity can be overturned.

This would be bad enough in a hunter-gatherer band, but gets much worse in a society much larger than Dunbar's number, due to division of labor. Just as it in no longer possible for everyone to have the maps to answer all practical questions, and there is a niche for experts on subjects, it is no longer possible for everyone to know what society's consensus is on all questions, and there is a niche for experts at subjects. These experts at fields speak on their topic with authority (I will use this as a technical term).

How does this authority work? At the bottom level, "what the fields at which expertise can be had are?" is a matter of social consensus itself. Within a particular field, the consensus of experts is a Schelling point, thus the consensus of the whole society converges there. If there is a single expert in a local group, they can sometimes substitute their personal opinion into this role. Since the whole system is founded on the fact that, economically speaking, the expert's knowledge is unknowable to laypeople, authority is inherently opaque and subject to abuse, and people expect that it will be abused to some degree.

Diversion/illustration: when the priesthood of Disney tells of a new revelation, parents buy the little idols, and the schoolbags decorated with the deities' images, for their children not because they literally believe the legend, but because it would be weird not to. In this case, the system works even though the motives are completely transparent.

Given that authority is valuable, its supply must be restricted in some way. Some fields have formal and explicit credentials; this is too straightforward to elaborate further. Other fields have no such thing, instead relying on informal challenges. If a layperson (or fellow expert) thinks that another person is a shallow fake, they can ask questions from the field, and expect answers conforming to the genre conventions of the field in question. They don't have to actually understand the answer (see unknowability), they only need a cursory familiarity with the field, sufficient to judge the literary style of the answer.

Hang on. Am I saying that according to the anti-epistemology, "learning a field of study" reduces to "familiarising oneself with a particular pattern of bullsh!t"? Yes. Fake it 'til you make it.

Part of each field's jargon are the terms used to express approval/disapproval. Most fields don't overlap (too much) with other fields, thus their respective experts have no reason to have turf-wars with them. There are arbiters of aesthetics (architects, various artists, their respective critics), arbiters of popularity (journalists), arbiters of morality (politicians). Follow the pattern, keep the goggles on! Arbiters of health (medical professionals), arbiters of truth (scientists).

Uh oh.

People who (even unknowingly) operate on correct epistemology have a tendency to claim universal authority, to call statements following the conventions of other fields either "non-sense" or "false" if the statement also happens to look factual. Their justification ("the web of causality is connected, it has no isolated subgraphs") is parsed as BS from the genre of Science, thus the overall claim is understood to be "I am an initiate of Science, I get to overrule experts of other fields, and I feel comfortable betting on the chance that society will back me up on this". Such a claim from a not-already-visibly-awesome person would not just be a demonstration of outrageous (over)confidence, surpassing the schizophrenics' delusions of grandeur ("I am Elvis" is humble by comparison), but a power-grab of staggering proportions. Remember, experts get to approve/disapprove of anything that falls into their socially-accepted magisterium.

And as far as the people running on anti-epistemology can tell, STEM types are getting away with making this claim, at least once they are adults. I can't twist my point of view far enough to actually feel their reaction, but I'm sure it must be terrifying. That is why they are shouting about "epistemicide", "other ways of knowing", and seeing it not work. When we bemusedly point at the terrain and say "it never existed", it is perceived as if we were bemusedly saying "do you expect I will spare it just because you beg?". Is it any surprise they try to fight back by trying to lower the social standing of science?

That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be. Goggles off!

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It seems to me the post is making a bunch of claims and doesn't really argue for them and instead goes on to make more claims. 

The claims are also quite unclear. Like for example:

Am I saying that according to the anti-epistemology, "learning a field of study" reduces to "familiarising oneself with a particular pattern of bullsh!t"? Yes. Fake it 'til you make it.

I was hoping to compress the description of behaviors that are otherwise baffling (surprising, difficult to explain, high-entropy) but common.

  • Garden-variety believers of various woo (homeopathy, religion, etc.) and the observation that their beliefs apparently don't control their anticipation too much;
  • academic postmodernists saying "reality is socially constructed" and "different things are true to different groups of people";
  • that even in front of "serious" people who look like they should really know better (e.g. on job interviews) the usual advice is to show confidence and never say "I don't know", because to a large degree the setting works like a BS-generator-test;
  • the people who talk about "decolonizing science", vaguely treat it as a conspiracy, and try to insult it by calling it things that carry negative affect in their culture.

The particular claim you quoted is that, since in the anti-epistemology it is assumed that statements don't refer to anything, there is no difference between e.g. "being an astrologer" and "successfully pretending to be an astrologer". People go up to you, ask "why did I stub my toe yesterday?", you say "ah, it happened because mercury is retrograde and Jupiter is in the house of Gemini", and if they think you sounded like what an astrologer is supposed to sound like, they walk away feeling satisfied but without having learned anything.

The prototypical questions of epistemology are: what is truth ? what is knowledge? how is knowledge attained? can knowledge be obtained?

You seem to be using "epistemology" ,to mean a fairly narrow set of prescriptions about how to do epistemology well (equivalent to object level ethics as opposed to meta level ethics).

Empire verification has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are that not every proposition is subject to empirical verification, and you do not have time to personally verify everything anyway. Outsourcing knowledge to other people is a defensible trade off. Most of the information people have comes from other people.

And those people should not be randomly selected .. they would need some kind of authority or credentials.

Mere popularity might be an insufficient credential, but that doesnt mean there is no middle ground.

I'm not arguing against relying on other people and outsourcing knowledge. I'm barely arguing for any action; mostly I'm describing what tends to happen regrettably often to people who base the definition of "knowledge" around answering questions like "who is popular" rather than "what will this program do". In fact, both epistemologies will contain the concept of empirical verification! In the anti-epistemology, going to everyone in class and privately asking "hey, is Alice popular?" is the analog of empiricism.

In what way is it "anti"? If you are trying to answer questions about popularity, that is a reasonable epistemology.

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In the anti-epistemology, going to everyone in class and privately asking “hey, is Alice popular?” is the analog of empiricism.

Or it just is empiricism? Popularity is an aggregate of subjective value. Aggregating individual assessments of valuekl by a survey is a reasonable way of assessing that. At what point did it stop being epistemogy?

That is my point: the people who think in this way are not unreasonable, they are not evil mutants or anything. They just happened to "ask the wrong question" at the starting point, and if they follow it tenaciously, they wind up with insane conclusions.

Once you have a stable epistemology based on an observer-independent reality, you can say that "oh, by the way, minds are part of causality a.k.a. reality, thus people can have beliefs about what other people believe". In the cartographic analogy, this comes out clunky: "maps are part of the terrain, therefore maps can depict facts about other maps", which I suspect is intentional, to make the claim that this is a degenerate edge case, not a central example. You can hold your nose and survey opinions.

But this is very much a second step. Try to take it first, and you stand a good chance of falling headlong into the bizarro-worldview where polls stand in for laboratories, opinions are the only sort of evidence there is, and engineers must have found a way to LARP nigh-infinite confidence because apparently their technobabble can convince most people in a way that crystal healers cannot.

Who told you that empiricism is The Way?

In physics it is not rare to define things by what measurements they give out and often giving an "objective" contruct it is sufficient how to translate from one coordinate system / measurement to other measurement setting / coordinates. Good epistemology isn't particularly characterised by having "invariant public objects".

I can come up with sense of "who is most popular" that has an objective answer. If you asked everybody privately to rank every other persons popularity and had a vote count of some kind some person would probably come on the top of it. I get that there is an attempt to point in that the shared conciousness will regard one member of being more likeable and this mutual understanding building is more muddy than any kind of extrapolated opinion.

I think avoidance of weirdness is not a main motivating factor. Just knowing that this will lead into a rich childhood would be a different and more accurate description on what is going on. It is a "cool story bro", if hearing it is fun and you care to be entertained then the veracity isn't that big of a issue.

The limitor off-course for knowledge seekers is that the applicability is reached by focusing on the technical claims. This will bar-off some kind of moves. But those not aware of those limitations might worry about the universal reach being used for wrong purposes ie scientism, opinions trying to disguise as fact. But the fire of truth will only burn falsehoods, otherwise it will be ambivalent. Trying to use "destroyed by truth" to cruelty will be on shady foundation and likely to self-undermine.

I don't mean to inspire cruelty. If I successfully gave you understanding, you can use it for kindness, pity or cruelty as you see fit. Mostly I wrote the last paragraphs in the tone of "Humans are Cthulhu" as seen through the eyes of someone who thinks in this anti-epistemology.

Your answer to "objective popularity" is only slightly different from common knowledge, and it has the same properties of being fundamentally observer-dependent. Ask some Greens and some Blues separately "is X popular?" where X is a politician, and you get two very different results. Similarly, "possible joke #3852 is funny" is true for one audience, false for another. "The Sun goes around the Earth" is true for a bunch of hunter-gatherers, false for a group of astronomers. Wait, wait, what? "true for some group" i.e. observer-dependence of the answer-generating process.

Compare the alternative. If someone sticks to "either the question is ill-posed, or the answer must be observer-independent" a bit too strictly, they will end up either concluding that popularity is a wrong concept and doesn't exist, or falling into the mind projection fallacy and concluding that there must be a little "is-popular" label attached to people.

From The simple truth:

“Frankly, I’m not entirely sure myself where this ‘reality’ business comes from. I can’t create my own reality in the lab, so I must not understand it yet. But occasionally I believe strongly that something is going to happen, and then something else happens instead. I need a name for whatever-it-is that determines my experimental results, so I call it ‘reality’. This ‘reality’ is somehow separate from even my very best hypotheses. Even when I have a simple hypothesis, strongly supported by all the evidence I know, sometimes I’m still surprised. So I need different names for the thingies that determine my predictions and the thingy that determines my experimental results. I call the former thingies ‘belief’, and the latter thingy ‘reality’.”

If for whatever reason someone builds their epistemology around popularity as a prototypical use-case, they will necessarily make experimental results dependent on peoples' expectations in some way. They will say, using the words from the quote, that ‘reality’ is literally made out of ‘belief’.

Blue and Greens are likely to agree what an election result is and statements like "politican X beat politician Y in the vote" can't really be denied even if they are not fun for your side.

The anti-epistemology is not in the question but how you take the question. While it can be illuminating to use a question that most naturally fits that kind of interpretation answering that question is not itself a problem. The concept of Family Feud is different from a trivia contest but the difference doesn't live in the prompts.

The prototypical questions of epistemology are: what is truth ? what is knowledge? how is knowledge attained? can knowledge be obtained?

You seem to be using "epistemology" ,to mean a fairly narrow set of prescriptions about how to do epistemology well (equivalent to object level ethics as opposed to meta level ethics).

Empire verification has its advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are that not every proposition is subject to empirical verification, and you do not have time to personally verify everything anyway. Outsourcing knowledge to other people is a defensible trade off. Most of the information people have comes from other people.

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