UserpicA Plea for Calm
18.07.13, 09:11 AM


Epistemic Virtue



Shouldn’t we philosophers be setting a good example of epistemic virtue? We are supposed to be rational, judicious, calm, impartial, non-ideological, just, fair, balanced, careful, scrupulous, accurate, above-the-fray. But such virtues have not been evident recently. Instead we have seen hysteria, presumption of guilt, ignoring of evidence, ignoring of due process and procedural justice, sloppiness, inaccuracy, ideology, vindictiveness, lack of reflection, simple stupidity, ideological fervor, ad hominem invective, and so on and on. This has been sickening to behold and shameful to the values we as philosophers are supposed to live by.

            It is true that many people have not been guilty of these vices and failings. They have insisted on basic principles of reason and justice (and have been traduced for doing so). I salute them. I suspect that the bitter divisiveness that we have seen will only continue and deepen, because it reflects a basic difference of moral psychology. The divisiveness will not concern a single case but be pervasive and general. The ideologues and nutcases will hate the rationalists, while the rationalists will despise their opponents. None of this will be pretty. The ideologues will dig in, as ideologues always do, while the rationalists will grow ever more impatient and contemptuous. This will play out in the day-to-day workings of academic departments and personal relationships. Unless and until the epistemic virtues are respected, I expect to see continued strife and bad feeling. This will do nobody any good

Return to Home