Agnotology, Audits and (Un)Certainty

story  Michael Betancourt, March 8, 2011 all rights reserved.


This is a theory fragment:

The various demands occasionally heard both before and after the crises of 2008 about "audit the Fed" or "audit Fort Knox" or "audit ________" have a basic problem: it is not what the results from the audit might be, but the credibility of any result produced with those making the demand; this is not a "post-modern" plurality or relativity of values, but representative of something else, a different process, whose action superficially resembles relativity of values, but is not.

Like other nontroversies, (President Obama's Birth Certificate comes to mind), the issue with these "audit" calls stems from the culture of ignorance produced by agnotism, and the agnotologic process. It is not that there are systemic unknowns, but systemic uncertainty about the factuality of any claim made, any evidence presented, any empirical proof shown. It does not matter what the results of any audit might be because there is no longer a space in which we as an audience can agree upon what those results might signify, what the epistemic value of that evidence might be: the ability to determine fact has been dissolved by the process employed to produce those facts in themselves.

It is the breakdown of the procedures that create knowledge and establish the reliability of information that are attacked when agnotology comes to dominate. Thus, no matter what the result of such an audit might be, it is the audit itself that is in question. The ones calling for these audits begin with the assumption that whatever audit they currently have available to them is of no value--the most obvious symptom that their thinking is caught in the trap of agnotism.

The problem posed by a dominant regime of agnotology is that it authorizes doubt about any result--literally any piece of information--that does not match a preconceived frame of reference. It makes challenges to established patterns of thought difficult if not impossible: the affect of agnotology, perversely, is a reinforcement of certainty since it undermines alternatives that could challenge those ideas; thus, it leads to an unwillingness to compromise, and an inflexibility of thought.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  March 8, 2011  all rights reserved.

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