Jamie Carlin Watson’s Winning Votes by Abusing Reason: Responsible Belief and Political Rhetoric
In Winning Votes by Abusing Reason, Jamie Carlin Watson combines research from epistemology, political philosophy, psychology, and economics in constructing a sophisticated argument that challenges unspoken commitments held by those engaged in politics. Watson’s main focus is what he calls the ‘problem of political rhetoric’. He asks whether we can ever really learn anything from the testimony of politicians. He is not optimistic. Watson argues that political rhetoric is damaging to our reasoning faculties. He sees no solution to this problem, and recommends that we focus on individual or local efforts to improve our reasoning. In what follows, I outline the structure of Watson’s argument before noting two potential ways we might resist his conclusion.
Watson’s main concern in the book is with ‘epistemic character’, which he describes as ‘the set of rules, strategies and dispositions we use to reason about the world’ (p. 22).1Our epistemic characters are threatened by the problem of...
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