"He doesn't even share the epistemology of the father!"

>> Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take my word for it: you do not want to watch this exchange between Ron Reagan and Pamela Geller. In it, Geller argues that she knows what Reagan Sr. would have thought about Sarah Palin because she agrees with his politics whereas Reagan Jr. does not. Because she agrees with Reagan Sr., she knows him better than his son:

Geller: I don't think you can speak for your father, because you—you don't even espouse—

Pam, did you ever meet my father?
She didn't have to. As per the title of this post, her claim is an epistemological one: knowledge acquired via telepathy with dead political allies is superior to knowledge acquired by actually knowing someone. When she declares that Reagan Jr. "doesn't share the epistemology of the father," she's making a strong philosophical claim: because Reagan Jr. believes that knowledge acquired by actually knowing someone is superior to posthumous telepathic communication, Reagan Sr. did not. How does she know this? Her telepathy affords her access to documents unavailable to philosophical rubes:
Geller: Did you ever meet the Founding Father? I've read everything he said.
She has read the Complete Works of the Founding Father and you didn't even know they existed. Or that he did for that matter. But he did, they do, and she read them all despite never having met him, meaning she knows the Founding Father very well. Because she chose to read the Complete Works instead of communing with the Founding Father telepathically, she must believe that knowledge acquired by reading what someone has written is superior to posthumous telepathic communication. This points to a potential problem for her epistemological position: were Reagan Jr. to read a book written by Reagan Sr., Geller would be forced to claim that knowledge acquired by reading that is supplemented by actually knowing the author is superior to posthumous telepathic communication; but that cannot be true, as she earlier held that knowledge acquire by actually knowing someone was inferior to posthumous telepathic communication.

She further complicates matters by asserting that actually knowing someone is a valid means of acquiring knowledge about them so long as that person also agrees with the person he or she knew. Her philosophy must therefore be one that only superficially embraces paradox—or the word "epistemology" is not one Geller actually knows, and she said it because she thought it would make her smart.

She failed.

Then she doubled down:
Geller: You never met [Reagan Sr.] either. You know, you never met him either.
Wishing someone was not who they are so they can't know what they know doesn't make for a sound epistemological foundation. It doesn't even make any sense. In all seriousness, she actually is claiming that people who agree with a person are better able to speculate about that person's beliefs than people who merely knew him or her. That, obviously, is nonsense: I'm on the opposite end of the political spectrum from my father, but if you wanted to know what he would think about a given topic, you'd be much off asking me than Pamela Geller.


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