node created 2019/03/19
I'm kind of sick of the whole "bias" obsession. It's everyone's go-to counterargument these days, and it's a shallow, poorly developed one. It's like everyone's lost critical reasoning skills, which require delicate attention to the particular strategies and propositions deployed in a given argument, and found these set of stock biases to use instead. In fact it's impossible to purge an argument or line of thinking of all so-called biases (though these don't actually exist in arguments, they are deduced from arguments)--if it were, it wouldn't be an argument or thought.

The goal of catching our own mistakes is an admirable one, and I'm not advocating people stop doing that--I just think it too frequently bleeds into trying to find so-called biases in arguments (whether written or verbal). In fact, this is more or less a fool's errand. What people are actually trying to point out in arguments are logical fallacies which are traits of the argument. Biases contrarily occur at the individual level and are operational flaws, they only occur during the thought process, and it's only meaningful to talk about them in these terms (that is, as they manifest in the ongoing practices of a person)--they are not properties of a line of thought's encoding (the written or spoken argument). Fallacies or viewpoints expressed in an argument may hint at the biases of the author, but it's a non-sequitur to start talking about them (when critiquing an argument), as the only way one could actually confirm this is by observing the author at work in daily life. To say, such an such an author is biased, is useless. It doesn't contribute meaningfully to a critique of the argument, and it would need to be verified through observation of the author.

Demonstrating to someone that they have developed/fall prey to particular bias frequently and working to rectify that one-on-one is a totally different story, or trying to catch biases operating in yourself is a totally different story.