ok so let's talk Lakatos and epistemology and politics. this thread has been brewing for me for a while, but i finally got around to it b/c @hakan_geijer expressed interest, so thank you for motivating me, friendo :)
what i'm going to try to cover in this thread is:

1. Lakatos's philosophy of science, which he outlined in The Method of Scientific Research Programs

2. Extending this framework to general, descriptive epistemology

3. Applications to issues in political movements
so first, let's talk about Lakato's framework of Scientific Research Programs

in his (rather long) article, The Method of Scientific Research Programs, Hungarian philosopher of science Imre Lakatos tried to offer a nuanced defense of Popper's falsificationist philosophy
this work was a response to work primarily by Kuhn which drew into question the extent to which falsificationism was really how science worked, as Popper and others argued. see Kuhn's magnum opus The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for lots of fun discussion
Lakatos's response includes many many examples and discussions, but the essence of his framework for thinking about how science works is as follows:

1. Scientific theories are not atomic wholes, they have rich complex structure, with many many many sub-theories, laws, axioms etc
2. This vast collection of parts is structured also in terms of how important they are. More important parts are more "core", and less important parts are more "peripheral".
3. Science doesn't just have "theories", rather it has research programs, which constitute distinct collections of theoretical components AND the relative importance. the research program in some sense "is" those more core aspects that distinguish it from other research programs
4. "Falsification" is not whole cloth, throwing out whole theories, since atomic theories don't exist in this framework. instead, when experiments fail, some component of a research program must be at fault, so the more peripheral parts of a research program get replaced first
5. Over time, as changing the periphery fails to address experimental mismatches, scientists work further up, moving their changes to the core of the research program. a Kuhnian "revolution" happens when the bulk of scientists erode the core of the dominant research program...
5 (cont). ... and in doing so, replace it with the core of another research program which was _probably_ already in existence as a competitor
6. "Falsification" is a retroactively-applied label given to the body of experiments that lead to the erosion of the core being a necessary step. It's not a single moment, nor is it a non-social process. It's in some ways a kind of "boredness" with a research program
now, I'm of the opinion that this framework is useful as a model for how people IN GENERAL deal with knowledge/beliefs, not just as a description of science

I think that this is a good framework for understand how humans have and revise their belief systems and so forth
that is to say, I think that we can use this if we want to describe the in-practice epistemology of people

or maybe this is better termed doxalogy/doxology, but that word is already used; alternatively, we could call it memetics
I think that people themselves have whole slews of little micro beliefs, memes (in the Dawkinsian sense), and other things (values, predispositions, desires, urges, etc.) that are relevant to how they act and which constitute, in the aggregate "what they believe and desire" etc
and I think that the best way to think about these is that they are structured by a prioritization, a gradation of importance, and that some of these are more important, more "core", while others are less important, more peripheral
and I think that humans also confront challenges and threats to these beliefs all the time. we must, unless we're omniscient!

so we are constantly confronted with things that contradict our beliefs and desires and so forth, and we must somehow determine what to do with that
these things are not necessarily deeply interesting ones. EVERYTHING is structured like this

for instance, you believe the coffee is on the shelf but then you go to get it b/c you want to make coffee and its not there -- conflict w/ your beliefs
and you can respond to this in many different ways. you can just accept that the coffee is not on the shelf and go looking elsewhere, or you can refuse to believe it and look around on the shelf b/c it MUST be there, or whatever
all of these are alternative ways of revising your belief set, because your belief is not JUST that the coffee is on the shelf, it's a whole pile of interrelated beliefs:

the coffee is on the shelf; no one took the coffee of the shelf; the coffee may be behind something
those are beliefs that reside near the periphery of your beliefs, but there are more core ones too, such as

my eyes are working reliably, i don't make errors in perceiving the world, my memory of where i've put things is reliable
when you confront the lack of coffee on the shelf, you're more likely to get rid of the peripheral stuff first

ie you keep "my eyes are working", but maybe you abandon "the coffee is on the shelf" etc. and now believe

the coffee is not on the shelf, someone took it off, etc
or maybe you look around and cant find the coffee anywhere else, so you continue believing that the coffee is on the shelf, and abandon a different belief: the coffee is visible on this shelf

so now you dig around behind the other things on the shelf b/c maybe its back there
or maybe all of this fails so you end up backing up further and have to revise some more core beliefs:

john told me the coffee is on the shelf, john was correct in his reporting of the coffee location

so maybe now you reject the correctness of john's report!
ok so now you haven't found coffee and you think john was just wrong

you've revised your beliefs, by first sacrificing the less important ones. this happens all the time for the trivialist of beliefs!
it's beliefs that stem from your eyeballs and also from people telling you things or things you've reasoned about

its everything
this is Lakatosian Epistemology, this is the framework that I think is most useful for thinking about people's beliefs

its Lakatos's method of scientific research programs extended to all human beliefs (and also wants and urges and so forth!)
so now, how can we loo at political issues through this lens?

let's ask the question: how does one come into the beliefs one has? partially its through this process of confrontation with the world, and revision, but to revise you must have beliefs in the first place
we can extend our beliefs in light of existing beliefs, core ones, such as our eyes working or people being honest

if you believe your parents are truthful, then it's natural to believe what they tell you. the one belief, combined with their statements, gives rise to new beliefs
same for, say, pastors, or teachers, professors, scientists, or say.. news media, political pundits, political critics

in fact, most of the things you believe about the world are like this

you don't have first hand experience with most of the things you believe about the world
your beliefs about physics, chemistry, the goings-on in other countries or even the other side of town

these are almost ENTIRELY beliefs that you have b/c someone you trusted (believed-to-be-truthful-and-accurate) told you
almost all of your beliefs are mediated by trust in other people, they are beliefs grounded in more core beliefs of the truthfulness and correctness of people and institutions
from here we can talk about a few things related to political matters, so let me write them down before i proceed:

1) naive horseshoe theory

2) propaganda, PR, changing beliefs

3) lies, fake news, unchanging beliefs

4) sophisticated horeshoes and gods that fail
so let's go through these in order. let's talk about naive horseshoe theory, because its a quick one and relates to @philosophybites's trite take
why is it that some people seem convinced of horseshoes? why are there such ideas as "The left and the right are very similar!" at all?

there are two dimensions here actually, we can ask what the beliefs are of the left and right that might give rise to this perception...
...and we can also ask what the beliefs of the Horseshoe Theorists are that give rise to this belief.

I think that there are, in fact, many things that the far left and far right have in common in terms of their beliefs. i mean, water is wet, the sky is blue, etc. of course
but also politically i think there ARE often overlaps. beliefs such as

life is value and should be protected

social bonds are important

violence is sometimes justified

the US government is suspect
these are all beliefs that are kind of shared by the American far left and American far right

but, importantly, there are a lot of OTHER beliefs that are quite different. for instance

embryos are people

private property is bad

Black ppl have equal moral worth as white ppl
the left and the right often differ on those beliefs, and many others of course, and so when you mix these all together, you get very different political ideologies that DO have some similarities!

beliefs are not atomic wholes, so of course there can be, and are, overlaps!
the only real question then is why do Horseshoe Theorists see horseshoes everywhere?

and I think the most likely reason is twofold:

on the one hand, the Political Spectrum of left and right is a VERY common thing, it saturates out political discourse and forms a core belief...
...for many people. so when you encounter a seeming conflict: "left" and "right" groups that seem to you to be similar, then the easiest revision to your linear spectrum is .. to just loop it around. horseshoes.

Horseshoe Theorists are also deeply embedded in a culture that instills beliefs about WHICH BELIEFS ARE POLITICALLY SALIENT

that is to say, they have core beliefs which look like this:

Beliefs about the legitimacy of violence are More Politically Defining than other beliefs
and beliefs like

Distrust of the Government is More Politically Defining than other beliefs

and so when they look at the things that OTHERS believe in, they judge the far left and far right as being "more alike" precisely because they, the Horseshoe Theorists, place greater...
...emphasis on violence, government-support, etc. _as definitive of a political ideology_

to put it another way, for a Horseshoe Theorist, the belief "Violence Is Ok" is more important for deciding the similarity of an ideology than the view "Embryos are People"
ok so that's my take on Naive Horseshoe Theory. next up is Propaganda, PR, and Changing Beliefs
so: propaganda, PR, the entire education process, books, schools, churches, etc etc everything like that, this is all mediated belief

these are all means by which we come to believe a thing in virtue of what other things and people say, and the beliefs we have about those things
the whole world is a giant machine trying to inject beliefs into your brain and the only thing that prevents you from becoming a giant mess conflicting beliefs is that you don't believe everything you hear, read, etc.
you dont believe it because of more core beliefs -- because believing it conflicts with more core beliefs

maybe those beliefs are about the source of the information -- Fox News is untrustworth -- or maybe its because of other kinds of belief -- c is the maximum speed possible
this gives us a good framework for thinking about how to engage in SUCCESSFUL propagandizing however

if you want someone to change someone's beliefs, you have to address the things that prevent them from changing them
you have to attack the more core beliefs, not the periphery that can change

in other words, you have to look at what Lakatos says about how falsification happens: eroding more core beliefs, not peripheral ones
this coheres with research into changing peoples minds about climate change. at least one study was done which showed that conservatives were more willing to change their beliefs about climate change if they were presented with market-based solutions rather than government ones
by understanding the relative importants of beliefs of conservatives

ie, that

"market economics is Good, socialized economics is Bad"

is more core than

"the climate is not changing"

and more core than

"climate change can only be stopped w/ socialized solutions"
by understanding what their CORE beliefs are -- markets are good -- you can figure out how to attack the peripheral belief that socialized solutions are the only solutions, and thereby erode the support for "the climate is not changing"
you preserve their core belief in the Market, because you KNOW its more core than their climate denialism

now this doesn't work with all conservatives of course! everyone is unique, but there are trends and cultural groups and so forth
successful propaganda can only be made by first understanding the cultural groups and their associated belief sets and how they draw the core/periphery gradient
you want to be a good propagandist, you gotta first understand your audience, hence why @ContraPoints and others are so good at pulling alt right edge lords over to be far left:

they know alt right edgelords are immediately skeptical of normies, and they can Chan it up to match
ie, @contrapoints knows that in-group channer edgelord status is REALLY important, as a meta-belief about trustworthiness of others

and only lower down can you find things like "left-right allegiance" or "facts"

so when they want to change channer minds, they know how
ok thats enough for Propaganda, PR, and Changing Beliefs. let's talk about Lies, Fake News, and Unchanging Beliefs
again, the world is a giant machine trying to inject beliefs into your brain, and that machine is also the primary way you "know" things about the world

almost NOTHING you believe about the world is from direct experience, you are necessarily relying on trust and coherence
so then, reasonably, one can conclude that the things you're exposed to are a large part of why you believe what you believe about the world

the news you see, the education you get, your parents, etc.

this is no shock, probably
but when you want to understand how it is that people can believe, say, Fox News, or Infowars, or Trump or random MGTOW guy, or whatever

or when you want to understand how it is that people can believe CNN or NPR or Biden or Clinton

well, it's the same reason
their whole life experience up till now has built, and reinforced, a set of beliefs, that leads to these people being trustworthy in their eyes

its not just that the parents said believe fox, and fox said believe infowars and trump, or whatever
sure its partly those things, but its also the fact that these are the _only_ sources of information for some people!

so when they hear about, say, the wildfires in Cascadia, they're not getting any information except rightwing propaganda
when they read about economics at school in their social studies classes, they're only getting a false narrative of American Capitalism and anti-socialist ideology

when they read history books they only get the version that treats the Bible as a reliable source
when __every__ little fact about the world outside your little bubble is filtered through such an ideological barrier, your entire belief set is internally well-justified and self-consistent!
and this is true of every political alignment, not just right wings, this is true of liberals too. everything is filtered through some form of ideological barrier, because you're not bombarded with all possible things, only some. you dont have time for all of them!
sometimes the ideological barriers are very well-defined and labelable as left or right, sometimes theyre accidental hodgepodges b/c parents dont know that a school is very religious and their kids get propagandized accidentally but at home they're liberal lefties
this entire internal consistency and self-buttressing, and the way in which beliefs of trustworthiness in various people and institutions are CORE not PERIPHERY, this is very important for how these folx resist changing their beliefs
because when you come to them and you say "look at these facts, watch this video, etc can't you SEE that cops are bad???"

you're asking them to change a core belief about the trustworthiness not just of the cops, but of every MORE TRUSTED person who led them to trust the cops
when you say "abolish police, they're bad"

you're also saying to them "Your friends, your parents, your pastor, your news, they've all misled to you!"

and honestly who's going to believe that???
we talk about the absurdity of conspiracy theories b/c how can you possibly keep a huge secret like the Moon Landing Hoax? it takes a titanic amount of effort on a LOT of people's parts to keep that sort of lie under raps
it requires scientists, government officials, the news media, etc are all in on the lie, that they've all coordinated this Big Con

but that's EXACTLY how you sound when you go to a right winger and say "cops are killers"
"Your friends, your parents, your pastors, your news media, your mayors, your police officers, they've all been coordinating a Big Con since the day you were born"

that sounds nuts, you sound like a conspiracy theorist
all of their beliefs are filtered through an ideological barrier and no matter how TRUE the thing is that you say, it still conflicts with their whole set of beliefs, it requires that they tear down and deconstruct SO MUCH of what they "know" to be true
and importantly:

it is IRRATIONAL for ANYONE to do that

you simply cannot throw out your entire understanding of how the world works just because some random person says one tiny thing that conflicts with an existing belief you have
scientists don't throw out relativity just because on experiment fails

Falsification is not done by one small experiment failing
if you were that susceptible to VAST changes in how you understand the world, you would be dead, because you would not only be wildly susceptible to manipulation by other people

you'd also just stop knowing that you should eat food and drink water!
it is a FEATURE not a BUG that core beliefs are hard to change because its how you exist at all. you need SOME things that are stable
this same perspective, btw, can be used to understand why people are violently against all sorts of social progress, eg trans rights, etc etc

you're presenting things that conflict with core beliefs that structure their ability to understand the world
when you threaten core beliefs like that, you're threatening people's ability to survive, and so fight or flight instincts kick in and suddenly "trans women are women" mutates into a visceral concern about existential threats to life and limb
its not just about gender, its about the entire structure of their belief network, about the ways in which beliefs about trustworthy sources of information become called into question
now finally lets talk about Sophisticated Horseshoe Theory and Gods That Fail
a long standing interest of mind is this phenomenon that's discussed in the book The God That Failed, where far leftists swing rightward and become conservatives

its titled that because of the idea of a loss of faith in the God of Communism and the Soviet model
but why is it that we have that particular swing? or to put it another way, why do so many political shifts seem to be BIG ones, from Trostkyist to Neo-Conservative, or from Fashy Edgelord to Tankie?
why aren't all political shifts smaller, more "local"?

why not Trot-to-CouncilCommunist or Fash-to-NeoCon?

well some ARE but why not ALL?
and i think the answer is, they actually ARE small

remember my original response to horseshoe theory: political ideologies are not atomic wholes, they are complex and have parts, so of course the left and right have some overlaps of the parts
well those ideologies also have different core-periphery gradients

just because two people are Trotskyists -- they believe the same things -- does NOT mean that their beliefs are ranked the same
some Trots rank Marxist Theory higher than they rank Proactive Internationalism, while others rank the reverse

if you rank Marxist Theory higher, then when your belief is challenged, you'll give up on Proactive Internationalism, and reject "left imperialism", or whatever
maybe you become a Maoist instead, or something, i dunno

but if you rank Proactive Internationalism higher than Marxist Theory

then when you have a conflict, maybe you drop Marxist Theory and become a Proactive Internationalist Capitalist

ie a Neo-Conservative
Francis Fukuyama left the neo-con movement because he lamented all of the Trotskyist internationalism he found there

everyone was so eager to Spread Communi-- I mean uh.. Democracy and Capitalism
the same is true of the Fashy Edgelord to Tankie shift

i mean, tankies ARE edgelords, they're very left edgelordy. clearly they have a lot in common with the fash edgelords
and what drives that shift is that they rank their edgelordy channer bullshit higher than the economic or social theories that seem to be the more important distinguishing factors

not all Tankies are commited leftists, some are just in it for the lulz
ok, thats it, thats my shpiel

have fun, @hakan_geijer :)
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