Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The anecdotal President

The announcement of President Bush's latest nomination for the Supreme Court has crystallized in my mind the real problem with the way he thinks. I don't think he's as dumb as some would like to suggest, but I do believe that he thinks in a fundamentally flawed manner.

The problem is with his epistemology. "Epistemology?" I hear you say. Yes, epistemology, the field of philosophy that deals with knowledge. George W. Bush's fundamental problem is his model for how he decides he knows something.

Take the nomination of Harriet Miers. How did he arrive at the conclusion that she was the best candidate for the job? Not through any process of research, reference to independent authorities or systematic collection of data, but simply through personal experience. For George W. Bush, you can only know something by experiencing it first hand. He prefers a personal sample of one to an impersonal sample of thousands or millions and he prefers anecdotes to large bodies of unbiased evidence.

So the President really does believe his nominee is the best person for the job. Sadly, he simply can't conceive that there is any way to know that a candidate is suitable other than knowing them personally. In his mind, appointing his long time friends and associates to incredibly important positions is not cronyism. He really does believe that he's selecting the best people. He just doesn't understand that his epistemology restricts the candidate lists to people he personally knows.

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