How convenient! The epistemic rationale of self-validating belief systems

Philosophical Psychology 25 (3):341-364 (2012)
Maarten Boudry
University of Ghent
This paper offers an epistemological discussion of self-validating belief systems and the recurrence of ?epistemic defense mechanisms? and ?immunizing strategies? across widely different domains of knowledge. We challenge the idea that typical ?weird? belief systems are inherently fragile, and we argue that, instead, they exhibit a surprising degree of resilience in the face of adverse evidence and criticism. Borrowing from the psychological research on belief perseverance, rationalization and motivated reasoning, we argue that the human mind is particularly susceptible to belief systems that are structurally self-validating. On this cognitive-psychological basis, we construct an epidemiology of beliefs, arguing that the apparent convenience of escape clauses and other defensive ?tactics? used by believers may well derive not from conscious deliberation on their part, but from more subtle mechanisms of cultural selection
Keywords PERSISTENCE  INFORMATION  EXPLANATION  PERSEVERANCE  MODEL  CONSPIRACY THEORIES  Epidemiology of Beliefs  Cultural Selection  Cognitive Constraints  BEHAVIOR  EVOLUTION  SELECTION  PSYCHOLOGY  Epistemic Defense Mechanisms  Immunizing Strategies  Self-Validating Belief Systems
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.579420
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Relevance.D. Sperber & D. Wilson - 1995 - Blackwell.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.Daniel C. Dennett & Jon Hodge - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):435-438.

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