Epistemically closed basketball players

Imagine you are a newly hired basketball coach. You meet with your team, survey their talents, and find something remarkable: a certain number of the squad members do not believe that baskets exist.

Some of this number may be extremely talented. They are, perhaps, great dribblers, great passers, great rebounders, and so on. But they simply do not understand the fundamental end of playing a basketball game: to score more points than one's opponent.

You might still be able to make use of some of these players. You might be able to use their rebounding skills, or their ability to bring the ball up court, or their exquisite passing. And you might be able to have completely rational discussions with them about any of these sub-aspects of the game.

But, so long as they continue to deny that baskets exist, it will simply be hopeless to try to engage them in a rational discussion of any overall game plan. Their denial of existence of the very telos of the sport means that any game plan you suggest, involving actually scoring more baskets than the other team, will be incomprehensible to them. They will instead want to talk about "grabbing the ball more often," or "dribbling past other players," or "passing in an unexpected way." But these actions will be understood as ends in themselves, rather than as means towards the end of outscoring one's opponent.

Applications of this metaphor are left to the reader.


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