Linda Martín Alcoff on the Epistemology of Ignorance and the 2016 Presidential Election

Linda Martín Alcoff on the Epistemology of Ignorance and the 2016 Presidential Election

0745685447For those seeking philosophical explanations for the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, Professor Linda Martín Alcoff offers a perspective informed by the research for her 2015 book The Future of Whiteness (Polity Press).

As reported in an interview by Australia’s ABC National Radio, Alcoff’s book “explores the ongoing demographic shift that means white Americans of European descent are becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of the US population. As the spectre of minority status for draws closer, she argues, the material advantages of being born white are eroding.

She suggests we view Donald Trump and his supporters through this lens. Their ignorance, she says, is not just a lack of knowledge; it’s a deliberate effort to avoid knowledge.”

Alcoff expands upon this point in The Philosophical Salon:

“The problem is what has come to be called ‘the epistemology of ignorance.’ This is the idea that an individual, or more likely, a group or community or society, can develop mechanisms to protect and maintain and pass down to the next generation their colossal ignorance. Ignorance about their own country’s history, about their economic prospects, and about the environment in which they live, including both the social and the natural ones.

The idea here, which has been picked up by numerous philosophers working in epistemology (the theory of knowledge) in recent decades, goes beyond a lack of knowledge. It’s not just that folks are not knowledgeable. It is that their lack of knowledge is the product of some concerted effort, a conscious choice or, in actuality, a series of choices. Certain news articles, or news sources, are avoided, certain college courses are kept away from, certain kinds of people are never asked for their opinion on the news of the day. The boundaries of the bubble of ignorance are monitored, protected, even nurtured as a positive good. . . .”

See for Alcoff’s full article.