This is what happens when you train neural networks largely on tone and its stylistic relics. They pick up formal features of arguments (not so much fallacies as tics) that have almost nothing to do with semantic content (focus on connotation over implication).
This is a secular problem in the discipline. It's got nothing to do with the Analytic/Continental split in the anglophone world. They've both got the same ramifying signal/noise problem, it's just that the styles (tics and connotations) are different in each pedagogical context.
And this is before we start talking about tone policing and topic policing, which are both rife and essentially make the peer review journal system completely unfit for purpose, populated as it is by a random sampling of pedants selecting for syntactic noise over semantic signal.
We've allowed a system of self-reinforcing and ratcheting filters to evolve that effectively *fuzzes* our contribution to the growth of human knowledge (, because it selects for properties only loosely related to those we claim to want. Let that sink in.
This is literally the opposite of what a filter is supposed to do: extract signal from noise, syntactic compression that preserves semantic content. Instead we are awash in syntactic artifacts optimised for minimal criticisable content and maximal pedantic posturing.
When you suspend the assumption that anyone who has been selected by the system *must* understand what they're talking about and/or have something to say, taking the maxim 'fake it till you make it' as a methodological frame, it all looks like competition over formal prowess.
Yet here 'formal' no longer means 'logical', but something closer to 'rhetorical' and 'bureaucratic'. Once you see this, you see that it's exactly the same effect that debating societies and MBAs have had on political and industrial management in the neoliberal era.
Once mighty cognitive institutions (e.g., universities, political parties, and industrial corporations) have gradually devolved ways that are essentially synergetic, as the stupidity in one provides leverage on the growth of stupidity in another. This is the cunning of stupidity.
And so we return to the (social) epistemology of ignorance, but with a couple new points of reference: the anthropologically inspired theories of James C. Scott (cf.…) and @davidgraeber (cf.…).
What we find in their work is an account of the socio-epistemic dynamics through which power breeds stupidity and stupidity breeds power, the genesis of stubborn knots around which active ignorance crystallises, generating complex defences that impede the flow of knowledge.
Here's what I mean by synergy between the devolution of cognitive institutions from various domains: the establishment of active ignorance in one place provides points around which alliances form, and through which leverage is exerted to establish it in other places.
The cunning of stupidity climbs the cognitive cliff face by finding purchase wherever it can within a given set of institutions and without. Bureaucratisation and managerialism are secular trends that have spread through the ratcheting the petty personal powers of the ignorant.
The real story of the dissolution and dissipation of the counter-culture of the 60s in the US and Europe is the story of its failure to generate new administrative norms to accompany the ethical, political, and aesthetic ones it had such success with: no persistent counter-power.
Instead we got the slow integration of the acceptable remnants of those norms into a different administrative culture, not simply that which had preceded the 60s (e.g., the party form), but which was born in the 60s, in the form of general purpose management and business schools.
The result was not simply the constitution of a new class of *managers* distinct from industrial workers, whose culture is projected downward through org charts in a way that aligns the interests of *bureaucrats*, but the universalisation of HR as the blueprint for its power.
I think most people on the left appreciate the point that media consolidation created an unprecedentedly homogeneous epistemic landscape in which the formation of political counter-consensus was effectively suppressed. I don't think they see the analogy in the dominance of HR.
I should show them the online forms I've had to fill in to complete academic job applications, whose mind-boggling irrelevance is nothing so much as a trap to discourage those who cannot play the relevant formal game. They build the filters, the obstacles, and the ignorance.
When you arbitrarily empower people who have no idea what it is they're exerting power over, the best intentions in the world will not stop the systemic proliferation of these knots of power/incompetence. The old banality of evil has a new face (…).
I'm neither an anarchist nor a Quaker, but their critiques of these institutional forms, rooted in the autocatalytic growth of power (both centralised/distributed and personal/impersonal), and the serious alternatives they have tried to build are incredibly instructive here.
To return to my story about administrative culture, I think this lets us understand the split between the socially liberal left and the economically progressive left that became formalised in the 90s, and which haunts every attempt to push us out of this autocatalytic nightmare.
Every liberal concession to the counter-culture of the 60s and the liberation movements that have persisted since then has been channeled through the administrative culture of which HR is the nexus. This produces some positive results, but they're always systematically skewed.
For instance, it's great that hiring processes have been evolving in a direction that actively tries to compensate for demographic bias, but when this is merely one aspect of broken filter that otherwise removes the most useful signals, it's a depressingly pyrrhic victory.
Similarly, it's great that the technical language of liberation movements and the deep thinkers who to bring their struggles to self-consciousness disperses into the wider world, but when its principal use is to play out petty micropolitical feuds in formal games, it's maddening.
Managerial overreach, bureaucratic metrics, and quasi-academic jargon are different facets of the same secular process of self-reinforcing power/ignorance. My hope is that academics' perennial hatred of management might form the basis of a teachable moment regarding our own sins.
That's the end of my thoughts on this topic for now, but as usual I will refer you to some more of my extant work on these themes:
1. My recent thread on communicative interaction, dynamic fallacies, and the (synthetic a priori) maxim 'fake it till you make it':
2. A couple recent threads responding to @cstross, discussing the broken education system and the relation between the plague of terrible metrics and general purpose management:
3. Another recent thread on the Foucault Wars, which lays out the basics of my theory of jargon as pathological technical vocabulary:
4. A discussion with @Chican3ry about the difficulties of reading philosophy and how to navigate the canon, which includes thoughts on Sellars idea that 'the history of philosophy is the language of philosophy' and a brief critique of 'Sokal Overfitting':
Sorry, should have tagged @deonteleologist, not only for nominal kinship but because he's was the occasional cause of both this Foucault Wars thread and the main thread we're currently in. Thanks!
5. A very old, but theoretically fresh post on 'The Systemic Problems of Contemporary Academia' with an eye to philosophy in particular. This contains my first attempt to think through these issues in information-theoretic terms:…
6. Some more recent threads that begin to think through some solutions, by narrowing the problem down to the role of public philosophy:

a) Video Essays as a Philosophical Medium:

b) Enlightenment and Opportunism:
7. 'The Going Price of Power' (…): An outline of the broader economic narrative I'm trying to construct, which ends with a discussion of managerialism and the secular trends I'm complaining about.
Finally, I'm going to reference a couple recent pieces by @OlufemiOTaiwo and @lastpositivist that have been jostling around in my brain as I'm articulating these thoughts:
And that's the morning thread! Additional thanks to @deonteleologist for occasioning some of these thoughts.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with pete wolfendale

pete wolfendale Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @deontologistics

15 Jan
So, here’s a way of reframing this question: which societies enabled coexistence and collaboration between people with divergent social styles, rather than imposing a dominant social style? Such social pluralism is very important indeed.
I suspect that the vast majority of the answers to the original question will fall foul of the tendency to project ideal social arrangements that reflect our own style of social understanding and engagement, and that this will lead them to talk past one another.
Consider the perspective of someone far away from you on in the neurological map, who doesn’t overlap with your socially calibrated genetic resources for social intelligence: the social heaven of an autist introvert may be the social hell of a bipolar extrovert, and vice versa.
Read 25 tweets
13 Jan
It's hard to believe it's been four years since Mark left. What a day to talk about the meaninglessness of death. If there's one thing Meillassoux is right about, it's that nothing less than the complete and total resurrection of the restless dead could make death meaningful.
Who wouldn't want to hear what he had to say about the absolute fucking state of this place (Earth)? That excuse to hear his insights might be a reason to hate this state just a little less. But we can't, and so it doesn't. How I wish it were otherwise.
Mark's death wasn't uniquely his own. There was nothing authentic about it. It was the same desperately sad story that you will hear over and over again throughout your life as unquenchable misery pulls meaningful people into an indifferent void.
Read 25 tweets
13 Jan
I know I'm being pretty harsh on Agamben, but I actually agree with him that we need a critique of healthcare provision (both physical and mental), because the systems established to gate access to diagnosis/treatment often diminish autonomy as much as they enable it.
But we need to be able to look at the concrete details of these institutions without giving ourselves a free pass to ignore the discourses of medicine, psychology, and psychiatry whenever we want. Bad critique is epistemically capricious where good critique is responsible.
This is as good at time as any to repost some unrolled threads from 2019 in which I talk about expanding Mark Fisher's work on the politics of mental health to healthcare more generally (…) and discuss bipolar disorder specifically (…).
Read 6 tweets
12 Jan
I'm strongly committed to the virtue of sincerity, but we are all put in positions in which we bend the truth to fit the shape of our discursive context, in ways that produce misunderstandings we can't anticipate. Sometimes (good) rules of thumb get read as (bad) iron laws.
Here's the most common white lie I tell students, friends, and strangers alike: there are no bad questions. I say this to disinhibit people, so they begin asking questions, and so the process of asking them will refine them and take us in an interesting dialectical direction.
This solicitation of thought in process, in which imperfections are encouraged as a way to draw out and develop ideas, is a crucial feature of the generosity required to perform Socratic midwifery properly, rather than 'own the [libs/trads/etc.]'. It's about sincerity, not irony.
Read 61 tweets
12 Jan
Here's a meta-thread organising the Laruelle thread ('Non-Laruelle') into chapters, which will be expanded as it continues to expand. Chapters will be subdivided into parts.
The beginning of the overall thread is here (), and chapter/part links will go to the first tweet in each section. There may be a few accidental forks her and there, but the thread is linear for the most part.
Read 8 tweets
11 Jan
Time to post a few more pieces of inspirational art in a final fit of procrastination.
I get pretty critical of certain strands of Marxism, and prefer to present myself as a left-accelerationist (in contexts where that's understood) or as a what @michaeljswalker 'class war social democrat' (in those where it isn't), but I try never to dismiss communism outright.
I may see myself as more an Owenite than a Marxist in some respects, but I cannot listen to this song without something stirring within me, and I recommend it to anyone quick to dismiss communists because of the historical arc of state communism in C20th:
Read 36 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!