Senior Literature Review Fall 2018

James’s Research Presentation


James presented his research on indoctrination. He identified four main propositions about the nature of indoctrination.

  1. It consists in instruction motivated by particular kinds of intentions.

  2. It consists in a non-rational way of instructing others.

  3. It consists in the inculcation of a doctrine or belief system.

  4. It consists in inculcating a style of belief that is resistant to evidence.

One of the theories James reviewed maintains that indoctrination produces non-evidential belief. James didn’t think this was right because people who are indoctrinated sometimes have quite elaborate ways of interpreting evidence. They do so badly, but that’s different from having beliefs that are not based on evidence. In response, Bay said that isolation from the world is a way of indoctrinating people. That seems right to me. Maybe this is a sufficient but not necessary condition of indoctrination.

Coleman said that we need to have some agreed upon criteria for success. I think that’s a good point about everyone’s project. It’s especially pressing for the projects of analyzing a concept, like indoctrination for James or forgiveness for Bay. Authors frequently do not make their understanding of this point explicit. So those of us reviewing the literature have to dig out the implicit assumptions they are making. That’s a good way of adding value for the reader of a literature review since it is something that is hard to get from just reading the original source.

Bay also pointed out that truths can be used for the purpose of indoctrination. For instance, a truth about a crime committed by someone in the country illegally can be presented in a way that suggests something false about the prevalence of crime by immigrants in general. That’s a nice point. Unfortunately, we have a lot of examples of varieties of falsehood in the air right now.