Pre-thinking:

The more we read and watch online, the harder it becomes to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. It’s as if we know more but understand less, says philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch. In this talk, he dares us to take active steps to burst our filter bubbles and participate in the common reality that actually underpins everything.

Who is He?

Michael Lynch is a writer and professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, where he directs the Humanities Institute.

What is truth and why does it matter? Does information technology help or hinder its pursuit? And how do we encourage more productive public discourse? These are some of the questions that animate Michael Lynch’s work as a philosopher.

Why You Should Watch:

His work concerns truth, democracy, public discourse and the ethics of technology. Lynch is the author or editor of seven books, including The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data (http://amzn.to/2vIja1B),  In Praise of Reason: Why Rationality Matters for Democracy (http://amzn.to/2uH46oi) , Truth as One and Many and the New York Times Sunday Book Review Editor’s pick, True to Life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. “Just because a way of accessing information is faster it doesn’t mean it’s more reliable.
  2. Agree or disagree with Lynch’s statement and explain why to someone.
  3. Achieving a common reality is not a technological problem, “It’s a human problem, having to do with how we think and what we value.” Explain this statement to someone.
  4. “It seems as if the more information we share and access online, the more difficult it can be for us to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. It’s as if we know more but understand less.” Explain this paradox.
  5. “We’re polarized: not just over values, but over the facts. One reason for that is, the data analytics that drive the internet get us not just more information, but more of the information that we want.” Should we abandon the algorithms that personalizes the internet for each of us?
  6. There are three things we need to do to to reconnect with one fundamental, philosophical idea: that we live in a common reality.
  7. First, we need to believe in truth. I the abstract each persons’ truth may differ, but in practice, we do agree on all sorts of facts. We agree that bullets can kill people. We agree that you can’t flap your arms and fly. We agree — or we should — that there is an external reality and ignoring it can get you hurt. The second thing can be summed up by the Latin phrase that Kant took as the motto for the Enlightenment: “Sapere aude,” or “dare to know.” Or as Kant wants, “to dare to know for yourself.” But daring to know, daring to understand, means risking the possibility that you could be wrong. It means risking the possibility that what you want and what’s true are different things. That third thing is: have a little humility. By humility here, I mean epistemic humility, which means, in a sense, knowing that you don’t know it all. But it also means something more than that. It means seeing your worldview as open to improvement by the evidence and experience of others. How could you achieve this
  8. “Democracies can’t function if their citizens don’t strive, at least some of the time, to inhabit a common space, a space where they can pass ideas back and forth when — and especially when — they disagree. But you can’t strive to inhabit that space if you don’t already accept that you live in the same reality. To accept that, we’ve got to believe in truth, we’ve got to encourage more active ways of knowing. And we’ve got to have the humility to realize that we’re not the measure of all things.” Is this mindset what it takes to be a good citizen?

 Making Connections:

Learn more about Humility & Conviction in Public Life, the innovate applied research project aimed at renewing rational public discourse.

Democracies don’t work if we don’t acknowledge that we all live in the same world, facing the same problems — even if we disagree over how to solve them, writes Michael Patrick Lynch in the *New York Times*’s The Stone.

If we want to live in a tolerant society where we are not only open-minded but willing to learn from others, we need to balance humility and conviction — and admit that we don’t know it all, writes Michael Patrick Lynch in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Available from Amazon…

The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data

In Praise of Reason: Why Rationality Matters for Democracy 

Truth as One and Many 

 

Available from Amazon…

 Finding Love that Lasts: Breaking the Pattern of Dead End Relationships

How to see past your own perspective and find truth with Michael Patrick Lynch

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