Bad Beliefs: Why They Happen to Good People

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2022.11.03 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Neil Levy, Bad Beliefs: Why They Happen to Good People, Oxford University Press, 2022, 188pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780192895325.

Reviewed by Alex Worsnip, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Neil Levy’s book is a treatment of the psychology and epistemology of beliefs about matters that, as Levy pithily puts it, “are controversial but shouldn’t be” (x). Levy’s paradigm examples are beliefs about climate change, evolution, and the safety and efficacy of vaccines: in particular, beliefs about these subjects that run contrary to the clearly established expert consensus about them. Levy wants to understand why such beliefs are held, in defiance of expert consensus. This may seem like a purely descriptive, empirical, psychological question. Yet in considering the social and psychological processes that produce such beliefs, Levy also wants to consider the normative question of whether such beliefs are formed rationally. The central claim of Levy’s book is a radical and surprising one:…

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