Epistemic Vice: A Critique of Quassim Cassam’s “Conspiracy Theories”
“Virtues are praiseworthy personal qualities that are beneficial to us and to our fellow human beings. Vices are blameworthy personal qualities that are harmful to us and to our fellow human beings. Among our virtues and vices are intellectual or epistemic virtues and vices. Their main impact is on our intellectual and epistemic flourishing. Open-mindedness, intellectual humility and sensitivity to evidence are epistemic virtues. Some corresponding epistemic vices are close-mindedness, intellectual arrogance and imperviousness to evidence. Epistemic vices are character traits, attitudes or ways of thinking that systematically obstruct the gaining, keeping or sharing of knowledge.” – Quassim Cassam, Political Epistemology
In his 2019 book Conspiracy Theories, respected philosopher Quassim Cassam applied his expertise in epistemology to the subject of conspiracies. Cassam assesses epistemic vices and ideological predispositions that can lead to an excessively conspiratorial world view, the function of conspiracy theories as political propaganda, and the dangers of conspiracy theories, including the long history of anti-Semitic theories that have helped facilitate atrocities.
While Cassam brings some valuable ideas forward, his work is hurt by his use of two pivotal historical events, the JFK assassination and 9/11, as some of his main subjects for illustrating his thesis. He considers the Warren Commission and the 9/11 Commission to be the definitive accounts of these historical events, and seeks to diagnose the psychology and epistemic vices of those who disbelieve them. But by basing his entire argument on appeal to authority rather than evidence, Cassam demonstrates the very epistemic vices he denounces.
For the JFK case, he fails to mention the 1979 House Committee that found conspiracy as the most plausible explanation for JFK’s death and the fact that the Warren Commission omitted Oswald’s extensive ties to U.S. intelligence. He cites Gerald Posner’s 1993 book Case Closed as the authoritative refutation to all challenges to the lone gunman theory, instead of actually contending with the arguments and evidence used by scholars and experts who dispute it. Notably, the book was published before the 1994 release of Assassination Records Review Board JFK documents that have transformed the documentary record of JFK’s presidency.
Similarly, Cassam commends the epistemic virtue of the 9/11 Commission despite the fact that the chair and vice-chair of the Commission described it as “set up to fail” and that Commissioner Senator Max Cleland resigned because he viewed it as a “cover up” and a “national disgrace”. He doesn’t mention the conflicts of interest of many Commission members such as executive director Phil Zelikow, who co-wrote a book with Condoleezza Rice and was a member of the Bush administration’s foreign intelligence advisory board, tightly controlled the investigative process, and wrote an outline of the entire report before their investigation even started, as reported by New York Times reporter Phil Shenon. He doesn’t comment on Page 146 of the Commission report, which admits that it is reliant on unverified, second-hand testimonies acquired through torture, the tapes of which were destroyed by the CIA.
Cassam does not mention that less than a third of the questions asked by the Family Steering Committee, the group of victims’ family members who fought against Bush administration resistance to create the Commission, were answered by the Commission. He doesn’t note the fact that hundreds of victims’ family members are currently suing the Saudi government over Saudi support for the hijackers. He doesn’t explain the US’ historical relationship with Al Qaeda, the fact that the hijackers were identified by multiple intelligence agencies beforehand, or the whistleblowers whose Al Qaeda investigations were blocked by higher ups in the lead up to 9/11 despite warnings of an imminent terrorist attack from at least eleven foreign intelligence agencies. He doesn’t mention the three econometric studies published in reputable journals finding high probability of insider trading indicating foreknowledge of 9/11. He doesn’t comment on the anthrax attacks, originally blamed on Al Qaeda and Iraq but later found to have come from a U.S. lab, and the widely disputed FBI conclusion that these attacks could have come from a single suspect.
A comprehensive elucidation of the evidence refuting the Warren Commission and 9/11 Commission narratives is far beyond the scope of this essay, but it is clear that a cursory examination of the aforementioned points dismantles any justification for intellectual obedience to either account. Neither narrative stands up to the standards of justified belief formation outlined by the epistemic theories of reliabilism, which focuses on the reliability of the processes responsible for belief formation, or evidentialism, which focuses on how evidence is used to justify belief. This essay will focus on the epistemic vices embedded in our cultural conditioning that led an intelligent and sincere intellectual like Dr. Cassam to make unsubstantiated judgments about these two tremendously consequential historical events.
In formal reasoning, deductive arguments are supposed to guarantee the truth of an argument’s conclusion given the truth of the premises. Inductive arguments make less lofty promises, claiming only to be probable given the truth of their premises. The strength of an inductive argument is generally measured by its conditional probability, meaning an extremely strong inductive argument is one that is highly probable. Attributing causality to political phenomena is often difficult due to the complex interaction of potentially contributing variables and voids in relevant documentary evidence, such as those caused by private decision making and national security state secrecy. These epistemic limitations demand that most political arguments be inductive, and that theories provided as the most likely explanations for political phenomena remain flexible enough to change with new evidence.
A theory, which we might define as a set of assumptions used to make sense of complexity, must be used to attribute causality to political phenomena. Political theories should aim to the closest possible approximation of truth in consideration of the available evidence. Through argumentation, competing theories can be evaluated on the soundness of their premises, evidentiary support, and the inductive process used to link premises to conclusions. A superior theory of political phenomena will have greater explanatory power than an inferior theory, which can be exposed by its inability to address anomalous or contradictory facts.
Yet as Cassam notes, reasoned and factual refutation of theories often fails to change the opinion of theorists. This is in part because confirmation bias can lead proponents of inferior theories to dismiss or omit anomalous or contradictory facts, likely to avoid the mental perturbation that comes with revising a simplistic or faulty mental model.
CIA veteran Richard Heuer discusses this issue at length in Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, perhaps the most prominent book on the agency’s trade-craft standards of intelligence analysis. Heuer stresses the importance of cultural and personal biases in intelligence analysis, asserting that the reasoning process takes place within the context of a perceptual foundation that most analysts are not entirely aware of:
“People construct their own version of “reality” on the basis of information provided by the senses, but this sensory input is mediated by complex mental processes that determine which information is attended to, how it is organized, and the meaning attributed to it. What people perceive, how readily they perceive it, and how they process this information after receiving it are all strongly influenced by past experience, education, cultural values, role requirements, and organizational norms, as well as the specifics of the information received.” (Heuer, 29)
The military industrial complex’s influence in setting cues with the mainstream press, and the deep nexus of financial and corporate interest that weds them (the same multi-trillion transnational asset management firms that are top shareholders of defense contractors are top shareholders of the corporate media monopolies, as expanded upon in Peter Phillips’ Giants, Christian Sorensen’s Understanding the War Industry, and Michael Parenti’s Inventing Reality), has historically given these institutions great influence over the society’s “frame”: the commonly agreed-upon interpretation of reality, the realm of acceptable opinion, and the value system that guides the society’s goals and its resource allocation.
A relevant example of the power of this frame control can be seen in the U.S. media’s near lock-step reporting in the lead up to Iraq. These structural forces influencing public perception have helped shape critical inquiry into certain subjects, such as the JFK assassination and 9/11, as taboo in the national conversation. Different cultural conditioning may explain why many foreign heads of state and top officials have been willing to question the official JFK narrative, such as Charles de Gaulle and Fidel Castro, and the official 9/11 narrative, such as Italian prime minister Francesco Cossiga and Supreme Court President Ferdinando Imposimato, Venezuelan presidents Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, Egyptian presidents Mohamed Morsi and Hosni Mubarak, Fidel Castro, and many others.
Starting a thread of prominent people who’ve questioned the official 9/11 narrative. Starting off with some global leaders/politicians before moving onto US officials, journalists, academics, etc. Feel free to drop examples below. (h/t @petercastagno_ for several of these.)
— Gumby, JD (murdered) (@gumby4christ) August 2, 2021
Heuer’s assertion can be further elucidated by hermeneutics, the philosophy of interpretation. As Jens Zimmerman wrote in his introduction to the discipline:
“Hermeneutic thinkers argue that language guides our perception intrinsically. For them, language includes any images, signs, or symbols by which we understand and communicate our experience of the world. They believe that our perception of the world and our thoughts depends on an intricate linguistic web of words and concepts that develop historically over time. Words and terms we inherit through our upbringing provide guiding concepts for our recognition of meaningful human experience.
This symbolic universe into which we are inducted from childhood on provides what hermeneutic philosophers call our pre-understanding of the things we interpret.”
This passage is particularly relevant for understanding the linguistic and cultural boundaries that frame communication of conspiracies. The phrase “conspiracy theory” is laden with negative connotation, applying epistemic vice attribution to the proponents of such theories. But this is problematic, because as Cassam concedes, there are many proven conspiracies on the public record. William Blum’s Killing Hope, for example, provides a well documented history of CIA covert operations that include plots to assassinate foreign leaders and elaborate schemes to subvert and overthrow democratically elected governments.
This glaring contradiction between the historical reality of conspiracies and the pejorative phrase conspiracy theory is a source of cognitive dissonance in the public consciousness. The conspiracy theory phrase serves as a linguistic logjam, blocking serious analysis of potential conspiracies. The conflation of evidence-based theories and baseless theories under a single umbrella reflects the ahistorical assumption that the suggestion of a potential conspiracy is absurd, fueling the frustration and paranoia that enables baseless theories to flourish.
Another linguistic malfunction is the use of the word “Truther” to ridicule people who question the official 9/11 narrative. Our culture’s epistemic corruption is demonstrated by “Truth” as a symbol to connotate fringe lunacy when used in the context of one of the most consequential events in recent history, the Casus Belli for a “War on Terrorism” that has killed up to 6 million people and cost $8 trillion dollars according to recent professional estimates, whose official narrative is based on a “set up to fail” Commission from an administration that lied 935 times in the lead up to the Iraq War.
In Chapter four of Cassam’s book, the philosopher appears to applaud Bush administration insider Phil Zelikow’s refusal to scrutinize whatever he deemed to be conspiracy theories in his pre-written account of 9/11 that ignored the majority of the victims’ families’ questions. Zelikow’s narrow boundaries of inquiry violate CIA analyst Richard Heuer’s dictum of the importance of being open minded to competing hypotheses, as well as considering the possibility “denial and deception”:
“You may reject the possibility of denial and deception because you see no evidence of it, but rejection is not justified under these circumstances. If deception is planned well and properly implemented, one should not expect to find evidence of it readily at hand. The possibility should not be rejected until it is disproved, or, at least, until after a systematic search for evidence has been made and none has been found.” (Heuer, 152)
Cassam demonstrates the epistemic vices of intellectual arrogance and closed-mindedness when citing Lawrence Wright’s theory of failures of intelligence sharing between the FBI and CIA as the primary cause of 9/11 having “no deeper meaning” and “just how large bureaucracies work”. This theory fails to deliver conclusive explanatory power to those whose views are informed by the history of US support for Al Qaeda throughout the 1990s in Azerbaijan and Kosovo, the history of FBI assets Ali Mohammed and Anwar al-Alwaki, foreign intelligence connections to the hijackers, FBI leadership’s obstruction of Al Qaeda investigations throughout the 1990s up until 9/11, the “Phoenix Memo“, identification of hijackers by intelligence unit “Able Danger“, Pentagon Unit DO5, the NSA and numerous foreign agencies, and many other facts that render the simplistic “intelligence failure” hypothesis inadequate.
Cassam’s a priori assumptions regarding the possibility of insider involvement in 9/11 is rendered more questionable by his acknowledgement of the epistemic validity of Operation Northwoods, a 1962 false flag plot by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. and blame them on Cuba, which was rejected by JFK. Cassam holds Northwoods in a different camp than other potential conspiracies because the government has now admitted to its existence. By this standard, would Cassam have refused to contend with the strong evidence of US involvement in coups against Guatemala and Iran until CIA declassifications decades later?
Shortly after the Northwoods proposal and JFK’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson carried out the Gulf of Tonkin, a now publicly acknowledged subterfuge that facilitated the escalation of the Vietnam War. This pattern of manufactured pretexts for imperial wars can be viewed as a structural imperative, from the Mukden Incident false flag that justified imperial Japan’s invasion of Manchuria to the propaganda campaign behind Operation Desert Storm to Dick Cheney’s proposed false flag to start war with Iran and many more. While Cassam uses the history of antisemitism as an argument to discourage theorizing about potential conspiracies, timely exposure of false flags used by the Nazis in the Reichstag Fire and Gleiwitz Incident could have helped to impede Hitler’s imperial, fascist power grab, and historical awareness of such tactics can help prevent future atrocities.
One recent example of the reality of false flags can be seen by Patrick Clawson, a former IMF and World Bank economist and current director of the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who illustrated the acceptability of suggesting such crimes in high level foreign policy circles in a speech to his think tank in 2011. After lamenting the difficulty of “crisis initiation” and listing a number of instances of what he implied were historical false flags, Clawson brazenly suggested carrying out a new false flag to start a war with Iran. Notably, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned the senate in 2007 that a tiny group within the Bush administration might seek to cause a “provocation in Iraq or a terrorist attack in the US blamed on Iran” to start a war with the country.
This history should form a contextual background for the infamous “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” 2000 document by the neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century, which called for a huge increase to the military budget and an expanded imperial presence in the Middle East and Eurasia. Ten of the twenty five signatories of PNAC’s founding statement of principles went on to serve in the Bush administration. They acknowledged that their agenda was politically unpalatable in the absence of “a new Pearl Harbor”: “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
General Wesley Clark claims that the neoconservatives were already openly planning to take out seven countries in five years the days after 9/11. At a public event in 2008, Pentagon policymaker Doug Feith corroborated this agenda, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia (Clark included Lebanon). These countries have all faced intense subversion throughout the “war on terror”, a global assertion of hegemonic political authority that coincided with a massive expansion of the U.S. military budget and national security apparatus, the erosion of civil liberties and international law, carte blanche for the US-Israeli reshaping of the Middle East, and the rejection of pre-9/11 calls for a “peace dividend” that would see the U.S. cut its military spending after the Cold War victory.
Cassam’s attribution of the “huge slices of luck that were needed for Mohammad Atta and his fellow hijackers to pull off their operation,” is an example of slothful induction, the fallacy of appealing to coincidence despite strong evidence for alternative inferences. It would seem wiser to examine the “huge slices of luck” that gave the neocons the “new Pearl Harbor” they needed to actualize their preconceived agenda.
One example of this “luck” can be seen by the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, which targeted the two senators opposed to the immediate passage of the Patriot Act and were used by the Bush administration to help fuel fears of Iraqi WMDs. The anthrax, originally blamed on Iraq, was found to have come from a US lab. The subsequent FBI investigation pinning blame on a single scientist was widely refuted by scientific review panels, DOJ attorneys, mainstream media investigations, elected officials, and the suspect’s colleagues. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is among those who were tipped off beforehand of the coming anthrax attacks from a “high level government source” – how would this government source know in advance of the attack?
Consider the blatant lies NORAD commander Ralph Eberhart gave the 9/11 Commission regarding his agency’s failure to follow standard protocol and intercept planes veering off course, leaving the country “completely undefended” during “those entire 109 minutes”, as Senator Mark Dayton put it.
“We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us, it was just so far from the truth,” Chairman Thomas Kean told the Washington Post. “It’s one of those loose ends that never got tied.” Despite these lies and the total failure to protect the most heavily defended area of the nation, no officials responsible were fired.
As investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed noted, a number of military and intelligence experts have expressed bewilderment with the FAA and NORAD’s dereliction of the U.S.’ most restricted air space:
“As Lt. Col. (ret.) Robert Bowman, director of the Star Wars programs under Presidents Ford and Carter, has said, standard operating procedures were systematically violated. Many military and intelligence experts across continents — such as Stan Goff, US Army Special Forces Master-Sergeant (ret.); Andreas von Bulow, former State-Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Defence (1976-1980) and Minister for Research and Technology (1980-1982); Gen. Anatoli Kornukov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force; among others — remain perplexed on this point, and dissatisfied with the 9/11 Commission Report’s inadequate explanations of this monumental failure.”
Another glaring inconsistency in the Commission’s report is the official explanation of Dick Cheney’s 9/11 response with the testimonies of other officials, such as Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke. The Commission Report states that Cheney did not enter the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, or “the bunker”, until 10:00 AM, around 20 minutes after the Pentagon attack. But Mineta, Clarke, official reports from Secret Service agents, White House photographer David Bohrer, and even Cheney himself in an earlier interview, claimed that he had been in the bunker before the attack.
This contradiction’s importance is shown by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission. Mineta claimed that upon entering the bunker at approximately 9:20 AM, he found Cheney conversing with a young man. Mineta testified that the young man repeatedly informed Cheney that the plane was coming closer, and that he asked Cheney if “the orders still stand”. Cheney assertively said that they did. Considering the copious evidence that Cheney was in the bunker at the time Mineta testified, in addition to the Pentagon’s inexplicable lack of defense, the implication that Cheney could have issued a stand down order should be taken seriously.
The strength of the inductive arguments supporting the official JFK and 9/11 narratives is eroded upon acquaintance with the broad range of evidence ignored or glossed over by the conflict of interest-ridden Commissions that created them. They fail to adequately address the totality of the facts involved in the cases and remain cemented in improbable conclusions, demonstrating the epistemic vices of closed-mindedness and imperviousness to evidence rather than the epistemic virtues of intellectual humility and open-mindedness that could be exhibited by applying a more sophisticated, non-monotonic reasoning method capable of evolving with new information.
In chapter three of Cassam’s book, the philosopher argues that research of 9/11 or the JFK assassination is “a distraction from big-picture social issues such as injustice and inequality.” Cassam also asserts that conspiratorial explanations personalize issues that are better understood with institutional or structural explanations.
However, understanding the history of networks of powerful actors engaging in covert organization doesn’t obviate incorporation of broader structural forces in one’s analysis, it enriches it. The injustice and inequality Cassam rightly calls to attention have been caused in significant part by structural conspiracies. The CIA was created by Wall Street lawyers and has executed countless conspiracies for corporate state interests, such as the ruthless subversion of peoples attempting self determination with Latin America with Operation Condor, the use of salafist militias to overthrow sovereign nations in West Asia with Operation Cyclone and Timber Sycamore, the systematic mass murder carried out against peasants in Vietnam and Indochina with Operation Phoenix, and the savage imperial campaigns in the Congo, Angola, Mozambique, and the African continent with Operation IA Feature and other covert operations.
As CIA whistleblower Phil Agee explained, the CIA works in the direct interest of U.S. imperialism and undermines any successful alternative, more egalitarian development model that could pose a threat to the status quo:
“What counter-insurgency really comes down to is the protection of the capitalists back in America, their property and their privileges. U.S. national security, as preached by U.S. leaders, is the security of the capitalist class in the U.S., not the security of the rest of the people.”
In this sense, conscious imperial strategizing can be understood as an imperative of the competitive capitalist geopolitical structure. The military-industrial complex, or military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex (MICIMATT) as retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes it, relies on permanent enemies to justify its existence. As James Douglass argued in JFK and the Unspeakable, JFK’s order of withdrawal from Vietnam, his diplomatic back channels with the Soviet Union and Cuba, and his repeated clashes with the extremist elements of his administration represented a serious threat to the structural imperative of the military industrial complex. Before 9/11, the end of the Cold War inspired calls for a “peace dividend” that would cut military-industrial complex funding and transition to a more international law-based world order. JFK’s assassination and 9/11 both served to preserve and empower the most extreme elements of the military-industrial complex, shifting resources away from immediate social needs and impending ecological crisis.
Another reason historical awareness of conspiracies is important is the possibility of future false flags and political assassinations. The failure to publicly reconcile with the glaring failures of the 9/11 Commission has even led some public officials to call for a “9/11 Style Commission” into the 1/6 Capitol Riot and Covid-19, implying that the 9/11 Commission is a gold standard of epistemic inquiry. As Dr. Richard Falk, the preeminent professor of International Relations at Princeton University and former U.N. special rapporteur for Palestine, wrote to Citizen Truth:
“It is shocking to invoke the 9/11 Commission as a positive model in a Congressional call for inquiry into the January 6th assault on capitol.The 9/11 Commission was what an official inquiry should not be– dodging the hard questions and rendering a report that whitewashed the official version of the 9/11 events without adequately exploring why it happened and what went wrong.”
Dr. David Hughes, Professor of International Relations at the University of Lincoln, who argued in his 2020 article “9/11 Truth and the Silence of the IR Discipline” that the official 9/11 narrative has been sustained in part by the reluctance of academics to scrutinize the evidence, offered a similar comment to Citizen Truth about the 9/11 Commission and its relevance to 1/6:
Nancy Pelosi’s call for “an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission” to investigate events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is an insult to the victims of 9/11 and their families, because it maintains the pretense that the 9/11 Commission Report is credible. As anyone who spends even a few minutes investigating will find, and as anyone who reads David Ray Griffin’s 2005 book on the subject will know, the Commission is a whitewash.
It is written in the form of a story rather than a proper scientific investigation into the events of 9/11. It makes no mention of WTC 7, a 47-storey building not hit by a plane which spontaneously descended into its own footprint at 5:20pm that day in the manner of a classic controlled demolition. Much of the report relies on testimony by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that was obtained under torture. The Commission’s co-chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, conceded that the report was delayed, underfunded, obstructed, and “set up to fail.”
The original chairman of the Commission, Henry Kissinger, had to resign after 9/11 widows called him out on his business ties to the Bin Laden family. Even the New York Times wrote of Kissinger’s appointment, “Unfortunately, his affinity for power and the commercial interests he has cultivated since leaving government may make him less than the staunchly independent figure that is needed for this critical post. Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed.”
Far from being independent, the Commission’s executive director, Philip Zelikow, was a close friend of the Bush family and was also the lead author on the 2002 US National Security Strategy that flowed from the events of 9/11. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney testified off-the-record behind closed doors, ensuring a complete lack of transparency.
The events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, may be worthy of a proper investigation, but that will not happen if the investigation is modeled on the 9/11 commission. It is quite wrong, both factually and ethically, to hold up the latter as a model investigation.
In this context, the call for a “9/11 Style Commission” would appear to signify the desire to duplicate a bureaucratic charade that absolved the nation’s trillion per-annum military-intelligence-industrial complex of their striking failure to protect the most heavily defended areas in the nation. If the 1/6 inquiry were to follow the model provided by the 9/11 Commission, it would also have failed to investigate the striking evidence that elements within the state colluded with the perpetrators, such as Saturday’s revelation of an FBI informant among the Proud Boys. The a priori assumption that the suggestion of such possible collusion is a ludicrous “conspiracy theory” would shield potential traitors from legitimate investigation. Indeed, to properly match the 9/11 Commission, the 1/6 Inquiry would have to reward the remarkable failure of the national security state with new powers to erase civil liberties, as evidenced by the proposed Domestic Terrorism bill.
Public support for such a draconian bill requires historical ignorance of state involvement in terrorist false flags. Consider the terrorism campaign of Operation Gladio, originally blamed on communists but found by the Italian parliament and European Commission to have been carried out by the CIA, Italian intelligence, and fascist elements. As terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra testified to an outraged Parliament: “the knowledge should now be clear that there existed a real live structure, occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving strategic direction to the outrages.” As scholar Daniele Ganser has noted, this “occult and hidden” structure gives an illustration of how a small clique within the state can carry out covert crimes while the majority of officials and elected representatives remain unaware. Another example of this dynamic can be seen by Sen. Tom Daschle’s claim that “none of us knew about the secret government” in reference to the Continuity of Government program initiated after 9/11 that may still be ongoing today.
Former Washington Post journalist and Gladio investigator Arthur Rowse issued a grim warning of the consequences of omitting this sinister dimension of history from public discourse: “As long as the US public remains ignorant of this dark chapter in US foreign relations, the agencies responsible for it will face little pressure to change their ways.”
For these reasons, this author hopes Dr. Cassam considers the potential of epistemic vices like intellectual arrogance, close-mindedness, and imperviousness to evidence to enable unjustified disbelief in certain conspiracies, and the destructive consequences of ceding historical narratives to actors with demonstrable histories of mendacity. Instead, epistemic virtues like open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and sensitivity to evidence can lead us to an ever closer approximation of truth, which we can use as the map to address the greatest problems facing our species.
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