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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 43, 2018

Quassim Cassam
Pages 1-20

Epistemic Insouciance

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.

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