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Vice Epistemology

Vice Epistemology is the title of an 18 month project (1 April 2016 to 30 September 2017) funded by the AHRC. Professor Quassim Cassam, who has been awarded an AHRC Leadership Fellowship, is carrying out research into the nature and significance of 'intellectual vices', also known as 'epistemic vices'. Intellectual vices are character traits (e.g. closed-mindedness), attitudes (e.g. prejudice) or thinking styles (e.g. wishful thinking) that obstruct the acquisition, retention or transfer of knowledge. Over the last few decades epistemologists have been very interested in epistemic virtues such as open-mindedness, conscientiousness and integrity. Different theories of epistemic virtues have been developed and 'virtue epistemology' is a flourishing area of philosophical research. This project is motivated by the thought that a realistic picture of human knowledge and human thinking should be as concerned with intellectual vices as with intellectual virtues.

Vice epistemology is a new and original programme of research that has already resulted in two publications, 'Vice Epistemology' and 'Stealthy Vices' . Professor Cassam is also writing a book called Vices of the Mind. His research on this topic builds on his previous research on self-knowledge .

Intellectual vices are practically as well as philosophically important. The relevance of intellectual vices for belief in conspiracy theories is discussed here. A workshop on the role of intellectual vices (and virtues) in evidence-based clinical practice was held at Green Templeton College, Oxford in 2016. Further workshops are planned on radicalisation and public policy.

Project Investigators:

Professor Quassim Cassam