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Capitol Assault: Epistemic Defects

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Incited by Trump and his enablers, Trump supporters attacked the capitol of the United States. While this is mostly a matter of law and politics, it does raise issues in both epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and ethics. I have been working informally on epistemic epidemiology and this provides an ideal case. While Trump, his enablers and some of his supporters know that the election was not stolen, some of his followers seem to honestly hold this belief. This raises questions about the specific defects in their belief forming mechanisms. As with cancer, one must inquire whether the defects are localized (beliefs about Trump) or widespread. One must also wonder about the seriousness of the defects. Given that these people violently attacked the capitol, it is likely that most suffer from broad and serious epistemic defects. I hold the view that these people must have epistemic defects because the evidence against their view is widespread and strong. There is also the fact that even a bit of reflection will reveal that their beliefs cannot be true. As one example, Trump’s legal team was well on its way to a hundred law suits about the election but suffered defeat after defeat (sometimes in the courts of Trump appointed Republican judges). Trump’s legal team was also careful to never make accusations of widespread fraud in court, since lying in court has consequences. A rational thinker would conclude that Trump had no evidence—otherwise it would have been presented in court. As a second example, there is the paradox of the vast conspiracy. To claim the existence of a widespread conspiracy against Trump, the conspiracy theorists had to keep expanding those they claimed were involved—this seems to now go all the way to Vice President Mike Pence. The paradox is that they need to claim a huge conspiracy but if that conspiracy is so huge then Biden would have won simply by the conspirators voting for him. Given the lack of evidence for their beliefs, one must wonder. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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