Epistemic Vices: Individual and Collective

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University of Liverpool

Flex1, 502 Teaching Hub

Liverpool

L69 3BX

United Kingdom

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Event description
This workshop is on epistemic vices (e.g. closed-mindedness, arrogance, hubris).

About this event

Interest in these vices has grown over the last decade, with the recognition that they play an important role in understanding major social and political developments. Quassim Cassam’s 2019 book, Vices of the Mind, shows how the epistemic vices of major political actors played a decisive in the 2004 Iraq War and the Brexit referendum, to take just two examples. Since epistemic vices affect individual and collective deliberation and decision-making for the worse, it’s crucial to study them. Traditionally, however, philosophers have focused on the epistemic virtues (e.g. open-mindedness, humility) rather than the vices, so the time is ripe for systematic study of the epistemic vices. This event does that. It will feature a mix of senior and early career researchers from several leading UK universities. The aim is not only to represent the best current work on epistemic vices, but also to explore avenues for future research, and to bring early career researchers into the conversation.

Schedule

9:30-10:30 Lani Watson (Edinburgh): “Vicious questioning: What it is and why it matters”

10:30-11:00 Tea & Coffee

11:00-12:00 Henry Roe (Sheffield): “The Met police, institutional racism, and communal epistemic vice”

12:00-13:30 Lunch

13:30-14:30 Alice Monypenny (Nottingham): “Epistemic vice and characterological harm”

14:30-15:30 Daniella Meehan (Glasgow): “Epistemic blame and vice epistemology”

15:30-16:00 Tea & Coffee

16:00-17:00 Quassim Cassam (Warwick): “The vices of vice epistemology”

17:30 Drinks & Dinner

For further details please email Robin McKenna and Ian James Kidd (both, please).

Attendance is free.

Abstracts

Lani Watson: “Vicious questioning: What it is and why it matters”

Drawing on examples taken from contemporary politics, I discuss the nature and impact of bad questioning in the public sphere and argue that it is an intellectual failing often expressed in intellectual vices such as negligence, closed-mindedness and arrogance. This 'vicious questioning' degrades the professional character of, for example, journalists and politicians and undermines the wider role that they play in our epistemic communities. Greater attention should therefore be paid to questioning practices in public and political forums in order to check and maintain the epistemic and characterological integrity of key social institutions.

Henry Roe: “The Met police, institutional racism, and communal epistemic vice”

I examine an oppressive social practice, institutional racism (in the context of London’s Metropolitan Police Service), and argue that the phenomena involved in this practice are plausibly characterised as epistemic vices. Miranda Fricker (2010) appears to agree and argues that this case supports her argument for non-summative collective vice (and virtue). I disagree, on the basis that there is little evidence of the kind of Gilbertian joint commitment that the account demands, and propose (what I call) communal epistemic vice to help explain the practice in question. As such, I locate the source of groups’ vices within situated individual agents whose behaviour is shaped by prevalent group norms and social pressures embedded in agents’ organisational contexts, rather than in joint commitments. To end, I’ll consider some implications of this view, not least what it might say about the amelioration of oppressive social practices like institutional racism.

Alice Monypenny: “Epistemic vice and characterological harm”

The concept of epistemic harm appears briefly within both virtue and vice epistemology but is largely undertheorized. The idea that individuals can be harmed epistemically has been taken seriously and explored by feminist scholars, most notably within Miranda Fricker’s social epistemology of epistemic injustice. In this paper, I develop an account characterological harm as a form of epistemic harm resulting from changes to an individual’s epistemic character. I then argue that the development of vice does not necessarily constitute a characterological harm

Daniella Meehan: “Epistemic blame and vice epistemology”

In this talk, I will discuss the relationship between epistemic blame and vice epistemology. I will assess the argument that epistemic vices are blameworthy or otherwise reprehensible, exploring the different definitions of blame and vice that key accounts in the literature propose. I will offer the view that epistemic vices are blameworthy but only in an attributabilist understanding of blame which entails that blame is a constitutive feature of epistemic vice.

Quassim Cassam: “The vices of vice epistemology”

In this talk I’ll look at some vices of vice epistemology. One such vice is the tendency to explain problematic epistemic conduct by reference to the thinker’s supposed epistemic vices when other explanations are more appropriate. I’ll focus on two kinds of case: ones in which the allegedly vicious epistemic conduct is instrumentally rational and the other in which it has more to do with the thinker’s political ideology than with his or her epistemic failings. I’ll conclude by taking a closer look at the relationship between epistemic vices and ideologies, and between vice explanations and ideological explanations.

Date and time

Location

University of Liverpool

Flex1, 502 Teaching Hub

Liverpool

L69 3BX

United Kingdom

View Map

Organiser School of the Arts - University of Liverpool

Organiser of Epistemic Vices: Individual and Collective

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