The Idealogue, Bigotry, and Epistemic Closure

Epistemic closure or confirmation bias has been a focus of mine for the past several years because of its personal relevance and because of political relevance in my country. This preference for self-referentiality produces the ideologue which I recently shared I realize I am one myself, though avowedly “in recovery.” (One reader replied that actually I was merely “in denial.”)

I have also referenced several times a Rutgers University political science professor, Stephen Bronner, whose research has focused on this phenomena which he has described as “bigotry.” According to Bronner, the bigot utilizes selective attention to draw his conclusions having his mind made up even before he begins to conduct his research. Now of course, this is true to some degree…at least…for all of us but the bigot cannot dare to consider this “preflective judgment” for that would threaten his perceived sense of objectivity. Most of us purport merely to have an opinion or perspective on a matter but the bigot has “fact” and cannot dare to question the premise in arriving at this “fact.”  Brenner writes:

Emphasis on the reactionary’s imperatives of argument fails to capture his preflective judgment or, perhaps more importantly, the way in which the opinion of the Other is ignored. To this extent, indeed, the issue is not simply that the elitist lacks knowledge of the Other. As Salmon Akhtar, explains, “Prejudice frequently exists despite our knowing the facts. Lack of knowledge often plays a lesser role that the active jettisoning of available information that does not support one’s emotionally needed convictions and plans. It is more often a matter of ignoring than ignorance. (The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists by Stephen Eric Bronner)

When I address this issue, I always think of this brilliant poem by Emily Dickinson:

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —


One thought on “The Idealogue, Bigotry, and Epistemic Closure

  1. Anne-Marie

    I think this is what the resurrection is about. The stone opening and new life happening. My Benedictine reading for today was about freshening our eyes to see the gifts, the spark of the divine in everyone – the elderly, the young, the poor etc. and to grow in learning to reverence “the other” in “a century alive with distinctions it will not admit and an insight into the sacred, scarred and bleeding, that it does not see.” Joan Chittister



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