Quassim Cassam introduces the idea of epistemic vices, character traits that get in the way of knowledge, such as closed-mindedness, intellectual arrogance, wishful thinking, and prejudice. Using examples from politics to illustrate the vices at work, he considers whether we are responsible for such failings, and what we can do about them.
Vice epistemology is the philosophical study of the nature, identity, and epistemological significance of intellectual vices. Such vices include gullibility, dogmatism, prejudice, closed-mindedness, and negligence. These are intellectual character vices, that is, intellectual vices that are also character traits. I ask how the notion of an intellectual character vice should be understood, whether such vices exist, and how they might be epistemologically significant. The proposal is that intellectual character vices are intellectual character traits that impede effective and responsible inquiry. I (...) argue that situationist critiques of virtue epistemology pose no significant threat to this proposal. Studies by social psychologists of belief in conspiracy theories suggest that it is sometimes appropriate to explain questionable beliefs by reference to intellectual character vices. Neither ‘regulative’ nor ‘analytic’ epistemology has any good reason to question the epistemological significance of such vices. (shrink)
I focus on two questions: what is knowledge, and how is knowledge possible? The latter is an example of a how-possible question. I argue that how-possible questions are obstacle-dependent and that they need to be dealt with at three different levels, the level of means, of obstacle-removal, and of enabling conditions. At the first of these levels the possibility of knowledge is accounted for by identifying means of knowing, and I argue that the identification of such means also contributes to (...) a proper understanding of what knowledge is. (shrink)
Humans are not model epistemic citizens. Our reasoning can be careless, our beliefs eccentric, and our desires irrational. Quassim Cassam develops a new account of self-knowledge which recognises this feature of human life. He argues that self-knowledge is a genuine cognitive achievement, and that self-ignorance is almost always on the cards.
Self and World is an exploration of the nature of self-awareness. Quassim Cassam challenges the widespread and influential view that we cannot be introspectively aware of ourselves as objects in the world. In opposition to the views of many empiricist and idealistic philosophers, including Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein, he argues that the self is not systematically elusive from the perspective of self-consciousness, and that consciousness of our thoughts and experiences requires a sense of our thinking, experiencing selves as shaped, located, (...) and solid physical objects in a world of such objects. Awareness of oneself as a physical object involves forms of bodily self-awareness whose importance has seldom been properly acknowledged in philosophical accounts of the self and self-awareness. The conception of self-awareness defended in this book helps to undermins the idealist thesis that the self does not belong to the world, and also the claim that the existence of subjects or persons is only a derivative feature of reality. In the final part of the book, Cassam argues that the existence of persons is a substantial fact about the world, and that it is not possible to give a complete description of reality without claiming that persons exist. This clear, original, and challenging treatment of one of the deepest intellectual problems will demand the attention of all philosophers and cognitive scientists who are concerned with the self. (shrink)
Sensory experience seems to be the basis of our knowledge of mind-independent things. The puzzle is to understand how that can be: how does our sensory experience enable us to conceive of them as mind-independent? This book is a debate between two rival approaches to understanding the relationship between concepts and sensory experience.
How is knowledge of the external world possible? How is knowledge of other minds possible? How is a priori knowledge possible? These are all examples of how-possible questions in epistemology. In this highly original book Quassim Cassam explains how such questions arise and how they should be answered.
This paper identifies and elucidates a hitherto unnamed epistemic vice: epistemic insouciance. Epistemic insouciance consists in a casual lack of concern about whether one’s beliefs have any basis in reality or are adequately supported by the best available evidence. The primary intellectual product of epistemic insouciance is bullshit in Frankfurt’s sense. This paper clarifies the notion of epistemic insouciance and argues that epistemic insouciance is both an epistemic posture and an epistemic vice. Epistemic postures are attitudes towards epistemic objects such (...) as knowledge, evidence, or inquiry. Epistemic vices are defined as character traits, attitudes, or thinking styles that systematically obstruct the gaining, keeping or sharing of knowledge. Epistemic insouciance is not just a posture but an affective posture. Such postures are distinguished from epistemic stances, which are policies that one can adopt or reject. Epistemic malevolence is an example of an epistemically vicious epistemic stance that issues in active attempts to undermine the knowledge possessed by a specified group of individuals. An example of epistemic malevolence in action is the so-called ‘tobacco strategy.’ I argue that epistemic malevolence undermines knowledge by instilling doubts about respectable sources of evidence. (shrink)
Some of the most problematic human behaviors involve vices of the mind such as arrogance, closed-mindedness, dogmatism, gullibility, and intellectual cowardice, as well as wishful or conspiratorial thinking. What sorts of things are epistemic vices? How do we detect and mitigate them? How and why do these vices prevent us from acquiring knowledge, and what is their role in sustaining patterns of ignorance? What is their relation to implicit or unconscious bias? How do epistemic vices and systems of social oppression (...) relate to one another? Do we unwittingly absorb such traits from the process of socialization and communities around us? Are epistemic vices traits for which we can blamed? Can there be institutional and collective epistemic vices? This book seeks to answer these important questions about the vices of the mind and their roles in our social and epistemic lives, and is the first collection of its kind. Organized into three parts, chapters by outstanding scholars explore the nature of epistemic vices, specific examples of these vices, and case studies in applied vice epistemology, including education and politics. Alongside these foundational questions, the volume offers sophisticated accounts of vices both new and familiar. These include epistemic arrogance and servility, epistemic injustice, epistemic snobbishness, conspiratorial thinking, procrastination, and forms of closed-mindedness. Vice Epistemology is essential reading for students of ethics, epistemology, and virtue theory, and various areas of applied, feminist, and social philosophy. It will also be of interest to practitioners, scholars, and activists in politics, law, and education. (shrink)
An epistemological how-possible question asks how knowledge, or knowledge of some specific kind, is possible. Familiar epistemological how-possible questions include ‘How is knowledge of the external world possible?’, ‘How is knowledge of other minds possible?’ and ‘How is a priori knowledge possible?’ These are the three questions that I tackle in my book. In each case, I explain how and why the question arises and propose a way of answering it. The main negative claim of the book is that transcendental (...) arguments are of little use in answering how-possible questions. A transcendental demonstration of the necessity of a certain kind of knowledge does not amount to an explanation of its possibility. The main positive claim is that such questions call for what I describe as a multi-levels response. I give an account of the multi-levels approach and put it to use in explaining how various kinds of knowledge are possible.Epistemological how-possible questions are not directly concerned with whether knowledge is possible, but if we cannot explain how a certain kind of knowledge is possible then the reality of that kind of knowledge is called into question. How-possible questions are obstacle-dependent. We ask how knowledge …. (shrink)
This volume brings together some of the most important and influential recent writings on knowledge of oneself and of one's own thoughts, sensations, and experiences. The essays give valuable insights into such fundamental philosophical issues as personal identity, the nature of consciousness, the relation between mind and body, and knowledge of other minds. Contributions include "Introduction" by Gilbert Ryle, "Knowing One's Own Mind" by Donald Davidson, "Individualism and Self-Knowledge" and "Introspection and the Self" by Sydney Shoemaker, "On the Observability of (...) the Self" by Roderick M. Chisholm, "Introspection" by D. M. Armstrong, "The First Person" by G. E. M. Anscombe, "On the Phenomeno-Logic of the I" by Hector-Neri Casta((n-))eda, "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" by John Perry, "Self-Identification" by Gareth Evans, and "The First Person--and Others" by P. F. Strawson. The only reader of its kind, Self-Knowledge fills a major gap in the history of philosophy and will be an accessible addition to a wide range of courses. (shrink)
A familiar claim is that knowledge of our own thoughts, beliefs and other attitudes is normally immediate, that is, not normally based on observation, inference or evidence. One explanation of the possibility of immediate self‐knowledge turns on the transparency of the question ‘Do I believe that P?’ to the question ‘Is it the case that P?’ This paper explains why occurrent mental states such as passing thoughts do not fall within the purview of the transparency account and proposes a different (...) account of how we know our own passing thoughts. It is also argued that the transparency account fails to explain how knowledge of our own beliefs can be psychologically or epistemically immediate. Finally, questions are raised about the presumption that knowledge of our own beliefs is epistemically immediate. (shrink)
There is widely assumed to be a fundamental epistemological asymmetry between self-knowledge and knowledge of others. They are said to be ’categorically different in kind and manner’ , and the existence of such an asymmetry is taken to be a primitive datum in accounts of the two kinds of knowledge. I argue that standard accounts of the differences between self-knowledge and knowledge of others exaggerate and misstate the asymmetry. The inferentialist challenge to the asymmetry focuses on the extent to which (...) both self-knowledge and knowledge of others are matters of inference and interpretation. In the case of self-knowledge I focus on the so-called ‘transparency method’ and on the extent to which use of this method delivers inferential self-knowledge. In the case of knowledge of others’ thoughts, I discuss the role of perception as a source of such knowledge and argue that even so-called ’perceptual’ knowledge of other minds is inferential. I contend that the difference between self-knowledge and knowledge of others is a difference in the kinds of evidence on which they are typically based. (shrink)
This paper outlines and criticises two models of terrorism, the Rational Agent Model and the Radicalisation Model. A different and more plausible conception of the turn to violence is proposed. The proposed account is Moderate Epistemic Particularism, an approach partly inspired by Karl Jaspers’ distinction between explanation and understanding. On this account there are multiple idiosyncratic pathways to cognitive and behavioural radicalisation, and the actions and motivations of terrorists can only be understood by engaging with their subjectivity in a way (...) that depends on a degree of empathy. Scepticism is expressed about attempts to model radicalisation and predict political violence. This scepticism is based on reflections concerning the nature of complex particulars. The implications of MEP for counterterrorism are briefly discussed. (shrink)
I know that the laptop on which I am writing these words is dusty. How do I know? I can see that it is dusty. Seeing that it is dusty is a way of knowing that it is dusty. How come? According to what I’m going to call the entailment view, ‘S sees that P’ entails ‘S knows that P’ and it is only because this is so that seeing that the laptop is dusty qualifies as a way of knowing (...) that it is dusty. Generalizing from this, the entailment view concludes that Φ-ing that P is a way of knowing that P if and only if ‘S Φs that P’ entails ‘S knows that P’. (shrink)
IN REASONS AND PERSONS, Derek Parfit defends a conception of the self or person which he labels "Reductionist." It is a conception which owes much to Hume's view of the self as a bundle of causally connected perceptions. Indeed, Parfit's account might be thought of as capturing the best insights of the bundle theory, while avoiding many of the objections to which cruder versions of that theory appear to be liable. Parfit's preliminary characterization of Reductionism is in connection with the (...) notion of personal identity. A Reductionist view of personal identity holds that: the fact of a person's identity over time just consists in the holding of certain more particular facts, and these facts can be described without either presupposing the identity of this person, or explicitly claiming that this person exists. These facts can be described in an impersonal way. (shrink)
A point that Strawson often emphasises in his writings is that the concepts of knowledge and perception are closely linked. For example, the idea of such a link does important in his exposition and defense of a causal analysis of perception. According to this analysis a material object M is perceived by a subject S only if M causes an experience in S. Why should this be? One reason, according to Strawson, is that such a causal requirement on perception is (...) implied by perception’s knowledge-giving role. This is one sense in which, in the words of Strawson’s last book, ‘we could not explain all the features of the concept of sense perception without reference to the concept of knowledge’. (shrink)
This article examines the concept of the so-called embodied self. It attempts to answer the metaphysical question about the relation between body and self, the phenomenological question about the nature of our awareness of our own body, and the epistemological question of whether anything is special about the knowledge we have of our own bodies. It considers arguments in favour and against the claim that the person is identical with body. It also evaluates whether bodily awareness is a form of (...) self-awareness. (shrink)
: Barry Stroud suggests that when we want to explain a certain kind of knowledge philosophically we feel we must explain it on the basis of another, prior kind of knowledge that does not imply or presuppose any of the knowledge we are trying to explain. If we accept this epistemic priority requirement we find that we cannot explain our knowledge of the world in a way that satisfies it. If we reject EPR then we will be failing to make (...) all of our knowledge of the world intelligible all at once. I respond to this dilemma by questioning EPR and arguing that it is, in any case, a requirement that is satisfied by explanations of our knowledge in terms of non‐epistemic seeing. Since non‐epistemic seeing is not a form of knowing, such explanations show how knowledge of the world can come to be out of something that is not knowledge of the world. (shrink)
The Kantian project of investigating the necessary structure of experience presupposes answers to three questions: what is the purpose of such an investigation, what is the source of necessary features of experience, and by what means is it possible to establish the necessary structure of experience? This paper is a critical examination of Strawson's answers to these questions in The Bounds of Sense and his later work. The realism that is implicit in The Bounds of Sense is much more explicit (...) in Strawson's later work but relies on problematic assumptions about the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper argues that vice-charging, the practice of charging other persons with epistemic vice, can itself be epistemically vicious. It identifies some potential vices of vice-charging and identifies knowledge of other people as a type of knowledge that is obstructed by epistemically vicious attributions of epistemic vice. The hazards of vice-charging are illustrated by reference to the accusation that parents who hesitate to give their children the MMR triple vaccine are guilty of gullibility and dogmatism. Ethnographic and sociological research is (...) used to make the case that this charge is, in a significant range of cases, epistemically unjust and hinders attempts to make sense of vaccine hesitancy. This epistemic injustice consists in the representation of vaccine hesitant parents as less than full epistemic agents. A case is made for a more tolerant and inclusive approach, not only to vaccine hesitancy but also to other forms of unorthodoxy or non-compliance. The primary objective in these cases should be to achieve Verstehen of seemingly alien outlooks and practices so that policy makers and practitioners in public services can more effectively educate a sceptical public about the risks of vaccine hesitancy. (shrink)
Transcendental epistemology is an inquiry into conditions of human knowledge which reflect the structure of the human cognitive apparatus. The dependence thesis is the thesis that a proper investigation of such conditions must lean in important respects on the deliverances of science. I argue that Kant is right to object to the dependence thesis, but that the best objections to this thesis lead to the conclusion that the conditions of knowledge which Kant identifies are not, in any interesting sense, a (...) relection of the structure of the human cognitive apparatus. (shrink)
The terminology of ‘essence’ and ‘accident’, which it is customary to trace back to Aristotle, has been given a new lease of life by recent writing on logic and metaphysics. Aristotle's notion of ‘essence’ is notoriously difficult and obscure, but the works of Putnam 1 on natural kinds, Kripke 2 on naming and Wiggins 3 on identity may be seen as providing a new rationale, with a distinctive scientific twist, for talk of essences. This revival in the fortunes of essentialism (...) merits closer examination, for whilst it may be that modern versions of essentialism have avoided some of the difficulties of Aristotle's account, they have imported others which may prove no less intractable. (shrink)
I discuss the claim what makes self-knowledge epistemologically distinctive is the fact that it is baseless or groundless. I draw a distinction between evidential and explanatory baselessness and argue that self-knowledge is only baseless in the first of these senses. Since evidential baselessness is a relatively widespread phenomenon the evidential baselessness of self-knowledge does not make it epistemologically distinctive and does not call for any special explanation. I do not deny that self-knowledge is epistemologically distinctive. My claim is only that (...) talk of its evidential baselessness is insufficient to account for its epistemological distinctiveness. (shrink)
This article explicates the notion of doubt and the relationship of doubt to belief and conviction. It distinguishes three types of political virtue—leadership, systemic, and corrective—and considers whether doubt is a political virtue in any of these three senses. It is argued that while doubt is not a leadership virtue, it is a systemic and a corrective virtue. Specifically, it is potentially an antidote to methods, ideological, and psychological extremism. A distinction is drawn between extremism and forms of radicalism that (...) have resulted in social progress. It is possible for doubt to play a role in countering extremism without thereby also countering progressive radicalism. The concluding section develops a theory of deradicalization and identifies the role of radical doubt in deradicalization programmes. The proposed empirically informed account of deradicalization highlights the role of narratives in radicalization and deradicalization. (shrink)