Article/Publication Details

Vice Epistemology of Believers in Pseudoscience

(Original title: Vice Epistemology of Believers in Pseudoscience)
Filozofia, 2021, vol. 76, No 10, pp. 735 - 751.
Language: English
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Abstract

The demarcation of pseudoscience has been one of the most important philosophical tasks since the 1960s. During the 1980s, an atmosphere of defeatism started to spread among philosophers of science, some of them claimed the failure of the demarcation project. I defend that the more auspicious approach to the problem might be through the intellectual character of epistemic agents, i.e., from the point of view of vice epistemology. Unfortunately, common lists of undesirable character features are usually based on a priori reasoning, and therefore might be considered artificial or too vague. When we base our position on contemporary behavioural sciences, we can see that the epistemic character of believers in pseudoscience is for the most part determined by two related factors. Firstly, these epistemic agents show a higher level of cognitive laziness. By this I mean an inability or unwillingness to engage in reflective thinking and a reluctance to account for counterevidence. Secondly, they yield more easily to metacognitive overconfidence. This can be broadly understood as so-called “knowledge illusion”, the inability to recognize one’s own intellectual limits. The deficiency usually stems from a misunderstanding of the division of cognitive labour and of the agent’s role in epistemic society. I find the proposed epistemological approach to pseudoscience crucial. Only if we understand the descriptive aspects of the problem, can we think of normative solutions to it.

Keywords

Cognitive biases, Demarcation, Intuitions, Knowledge illusion, Metacognitive overconfidence, Pseudoscience, Reflective thinking, Vice epistemology