Meditations on the Politics of Limited Knowledge


Welcome to Humble Piety, a blog humoring drferris as he ponders knowledge and belief in the public sphere. The posts range widely in content: from theology and religion to economics and social science to natural science and epistemology to politics and political theory. Often approaching feature-length articles, these long-form posts may be unwieldy for the blogosphere but hopefully justify their verbosity. This evolving meditation finds roots in a loving faith in the power of knowledge while exploring the contours of an indispensable democratic principle of “epistemic humility”: the virtuous recognition of the limits of our knowledge.

David R. Ferris is pursuing a Ph.D in philosophy at Emory University, having previously studied at Harvard and New York University.

  1. Obama is making a good faith effort to work with an opposition which largely doesn’t value epistemic humility. Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian in their thinking. To them, rightness doesn’t lie in negotiation, but in alignment with authority. Authority is a mix of God, natural law, limited government, low taxes, American exceptionalism and numerous other ideas. These ideas are backed up more by fiat than by facts.

    Seeking their cooperation can even be seen as a weakness to them. Shifting means you admit your position isn’t optimal. Why should they shift when they’re aligned with God and/or the real America? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to remember they proceed from different values.

    This dynamic is at work in health care reform. We’re starting to see indications that Obama will not abandon health care. I hope that if bipartisan reform can not be attained, that he will use budget reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority. Obama can then say he tried to work with the Republicans, but that we had come too far and waited too long to let it fail completely.

  2. Anonymous politico-spiritual oracle,
    The wind, judging by its length in some of your articles, is at your back. May it keep on blowing hard, repelling certain misguided flights of fancy (,2933,586929,00.html) and thwarting this creeping fascism.

  3. Dear Mr. Ferrish,
    I noticed that your blog is for believers in the public sphere. If so, Hobbes Leviathan does not seem to be the best example. A public sphere consists in a collection of individualities which seem to missing in Hobbes. The public sphere is completely reduced to the monarch.No individual rights except for self defence and negative liberty anything the monarch does not forbid. That is why the Nazi philosopher Carl Schmit was so inspired by Hobbes Leviathan. Hobbes’ public sphere is in fact divized politics or state religion in which individual persons have transferred all their rights to the monarch. Hobbes even rejects reprensentatives of the monarch because it would lead to division, and division leads to war. Hobbes public sphere seems a totalitarian unity from which non-Christian and non-English speaking people are excluded. You may call it the social force of religion, others might experience such “public sphere” as suffocating, misleading, totalitarian, propagandist rhetoric, fascist, stalinist, primitive, barbaric and murderous.

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