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CANCELLED: Philosophy Workshop: The Seductions of Clarity

Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103

C. Thi Nguyen on "The Seductions of Clarity"


What are the tools of the epistemic and moral manipulator? Here's one: the manipulator can try to fake a sense of clarity and understanding, in order to convince an investigator to terminate their investigations. To do so, the manipulator can create a system which offers the pleasures and sensations of cognitive facility. Such a system would offer its adopters the sense that they could easily categorize and explain phenomena, and the sense that they could readily communicate their understanding. Freed from the demands of actual engagement with the truth, manipulators can engineer their belief systems in order to deliver exaggerated sensations of clarity. I discuss examples of false clarity in conspiracy theories and bureaucratic administration. Finally, I offer a lengthy case study in the deployment of quantification and metrics to create a sense of false clarity. Quantification, I suggest, is a particularly powerful tool for manipulation because of its ability to narrow our attention. When we become captured by quantified versions of our values, the apparent clarity of those quantifications can suppress our awareness of considerations and values which fall outside the scope of what is measured. Quantifications encourage us to put on value blinders. 

Presented by the Philosophy Department at The New School for Social Research.

Event Type

Lectures and Panel Discussions


General Public


The New School for Social Research, Department of Philosophy



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