Epistemic vices in a non-ideal world

Meehan, Daniella (2024) Epistemic vices in a non-ideal world. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Recent developments in epistemology have shifted away from idealised perspectives on knowledge acquisition towards an examination of the myriad of ways in which our epistemic practices go astray. This evolution has given rise to the field of non-ideal epistemology, which explores the realities that emerge when individuals and communities falter in their epistemic practices (Barker et al. 2018; Bernecker et al. 2021; Mckenna 2023). This focus extends across various dimensions of applied and social epistemology, addressing issues such as bad epistemic characters, the erosion of trust, epistemic injustice, ignorance, fake news, and corruption.

A significant manifestation of this recent shift in non-ideal epistemology is evident in the burgeoning field of vice epistemology. Epistemic vices are dispositions, attitudes and ways of thinking that make us bad thinkers, in so far as they prevent us from acquiring and sharing knowledge, manifest bad motives, and desires, or disrupt both individual and collective epistemic functioning (Kidd et al. 2020). These vices are harmful to the vice-bearer in so far as they distort and impair cognitive faculties, leading to flawed reasoning, and biased judgement, hindering the attainment of epistemic goods such as genuine understanding and knowledge (Cassam 2019a; Medina 2012, 2020; Priest 2020). These harms also extend beyond the individual, contributing to the perpetuation of misinformation and the erosion of trust within social networks and communities (Baird and Calvard 2018; Fricker 2020; Medina 2020; Sullivan and Alfano 2020).

The acknowledgement of the social nature of epistemic vices is being increasingly recognised. This recognition underscores that epistemic vices can extend beyond individuals and be held by collectives, including educational institutions, online environments, and prisons (Kidd 2019, 2020; Fricker 2020; Medina 2020; Tanesini 2021).

In light of the harms arising from these bad epistemic practices, inquiries into how to respond to and address these wrongs have been crucial. This has led to considerations of responsibility and ameliorative solutions, seeking to rectify these adverse effects (Cassam 2019a; Holroyd 2016; Sherman and Goguen 2019; Tanesini 2021). These ameliorative solutions also extend beyond individual-based strategies to include structural and social solutions.

This thesis contributes to these growing debates by focusing on the harms associated with epistemic vices and exploring ways to address them.

In Chapters 2 and 3, I focus on some foundational aims in vice epistemology, evaluating three prominent accounts of epistemic vice: obstructivism, motivationalism and personalism (Battaly 2016a, 2018a; Cassam 2016, 2019a; Tanesini 2018, 2021). Within these chapters, I also focus on the harmful nature of epistemic vices and whether vice-bearers should be held responsible for their vices, and if so, what form this responsibility would take. In Chapter 4, I evaluate the role of blame as a response to vice more closely, focusing on its epistemic and ameliorative nature.

In Chapters 5, 6 and 7, I turn to assess themes in applied epistemology. Still focusing on the harms of epistemic vices and possible solutions, I examine whether epistemic nudging, a paternalistic method of nudging individuals towards epistemically desirable outcomes, may assist in the mitigation of epistemic vice (Adams and Niker 2021; Grundmann, 2021:213; Miyazono 2023:2). I then focus on how epistemic vices are manifested in online environments, particularly those where information disorder is present (Wardle 2019). Finally, I conclude with an examination of institutional vices, which I argue can act as indicators of institutional trustworthiness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: I would also like to thank the Society for Applied Philosophy for their partial funding of my research.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisor's Name: Carter, Professor J. Adam, Simion, Professor Mona and Gordon, Dr. Emma
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84365
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2024 10:39
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2024 14:11
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84365
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84365
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