Jamie Carlin Watson: Winning Votes by Abusing Reason

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We feel we’re special. We say everyone else is being duped. Everyone else is being deceived but I understand what’s going on...and it’s funny because every student has that same response.
Jamie Carlin Watson

Jamie Carlin Watson discusses his book Winning Votes by Abusing Reason: Responsible Belief and Political Rhetoric with Chris Richardson. Dr. Watson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences His primary research is on expertise, especially in the contexts of politics and medicine. His most recent book is Winning Votes by Abusing Reason: Responsible Belief and Political Rhetoric (Lexington Books, 2017). He is also co-author of The Critical Thinking Toolkit (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) and Critical Thinking: An Introduction to Reasoning Well, 2nd ed. (Bloomsbury, 2015).


In this short book, Coady distills the rich literature on rumors, conspiracy theories, democracy, and expertise into a clear, accessible discussion that challenges many of our preconceived notions about how to treat these topics when we encounter them in our lives.


This book is a clever guide to some of the main problems with how democratic systems produce information. He reviews the rich psychological and political literature on poor political decision-making, low-information voters, and nefarious political incentives, and uses them like a hammer to try to dislodge us from what is likely an unwarranted commitment to traditional democratic systems. Don't let Brennan's audacious title fool you; his conclusion is relatively modest, and is driven by the question: If there's a political system that's even moderately better than democracy, wouldn't it be reasonable to try it?

Noveck was the first Chief Technology Officer in the White House under President Obama, overhauling many of the outdated information systems in American government. She provides insights into the way information is spread through democracies and gives reasons for why that information is restricted in various ways. She argues that many of our processes are inefficient and biased because they exclude relevant people from the public debate. She defends her Open Government Initiative, offering suggestions for how to increase public dialogue for effective policy.

Though it is now a bit dated, this remarkably well-researched book explains in detail how filtering algorithms affect how we view the world. For better or worse, we are stuck with a world that frames ideas based in large part on how we want it framed. Pariser offers some insights for how to forestall these effects, though the prospects are not all that happy.

This one is a bit technical, but it is already having a groundswell of influence in philosophy and ethics debates. Fricker argues that the way we use knowledge can disadvantage certain groups. The result is a distinct form of injustice she calls "epistemic injustice." The goal of the book is to help us identify epistemic prejudices and to avoid epistemic practices that disenfranchise groups that are already marginalized and thus avoid perpetuating other social injustices.