Epistemic Viciousness

It all started with one of those suggested videos from YouTube (you know, the ones over on the right). I don’t know why, but for some reason this video, “Why Martial Arts Are Suddenly Being Exposed as Fake” was suggested. And, yes, it is/was pretty interesting (and the YouTube channel behind it, Thoughty2, also looks interesting). I don’t really have that much interest in martial arts (and I have even less now), but during the video Gillian Russell, a professor of philosophy, was mentioned and a term she came up with, “epistemic viciousness” was introduced. I won’t deny that this term appears to be so cool that wanted to create a blog post about it.

It comes from a paper written by Ms Russell, called (unsurprisingly in this context) Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts. In the abstract, she writes,

Though the word ‘viciousness’ normally suggests deliberate cruelty and violence, I will be using it here with the more old-fashioned meaning, possessing of vices. Vices (such as avarice, alcoholism and nail-biting) are common, and most of us struggle with a few, but ‘epistemic’ means ‘having to do with knowledge and the justification of belief’ and so epistemic viciousness is the possession of vices that make one bad at acquiring true beliefs, or give one a tendency to form false ones.

Ms Russell has a presence on the net that looks interesting in this regard (and perhaps others as well). but I want to return to the video for some words of wisdom in these days of widespread epistemic viciousness.

  1. Never take anything as proven when you haven’t seen evidence of it being proven time and time again
  2. Never trust a master who claims to know everything but never actually backs it up
  3. Always question the beliefs that have been driven into your head by others

… oh, wait, I’ve watched a video by this guy before. Now, I understand how this all came to be.

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