Towards a response to epistemic nihilism

In Alison MacKenzie, Jennifer Rose & Ibrar Bhatt (eds.), The Epistemology of Deceit in a Postdigital Era: Dupery by Design. Springer Nature. pp. 39-59 (2021)
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This chapter develops an account of epistemic nihilism—roughly, the rejection of truth’s intrinsic or instrumental value in favor of statements that reject or obscure truth to secure an advantage for the speaker—by examining three instances of such nihilism: lying, bullshit, and trolling. It further argues that epistemic nihilism, exacerbated by changes in the media landscape, can pose a significant threat to liberal democratic institutions and ideals by undermining the democratic ideal of good faith engagement on a level playing field, while also encouraging undemocratic actions (e.g., terrorism) among interlocutors who take the nihilist’s claims seriously. Finally, this chapter argues that in extreme cases, we are justified in denying epistemic nihilists a platform from which to speak by drawing a parallel with vexatious litigant laws that deny individuals the right to petition courts for redress on the grounds that abuse of that right results in significant harm to both individuals and the legal system itself.

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Jake Wright
University of Minnesota, Rochester


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