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Trust and Hostile Epistemology

C. Thi Nguyen in conversation with Johnny Brennan

A key vulnerability for cognitively limited beings such as ourselves arises from trust. Much of the current misinformation crisis seems to derive from misplaced trust – trust in anti-science celebrities, trust in conspiracy theory forums and propagandistic media networks sources. Because we are so cognitively small, in order to cope with the world, we must trust each other, and that trust makes us profoundly vulnerable. That trust can be exploited, even when we have done our due diligence. 

In this event, C. Thi Nguyen will discuss his idea of “hostile epistemology” as the study of the ways in which environmental features exploit our cognitive vulnerabilities – especially those vulnerabilities that are unavoidable because they arise from the essential condition of our epistemic lives. We are essentially finite beings, with limited cognitive resources. We are perpetually reasoning in a rush, because there is far too more information than we could ever fully process. Our desperate attempts to cope with a cognitively overwhelming world will inevitably leave holes in our armour. And the world can take advantage of those vulnerabilities. In the face of all this, how can the individual, with their inadequate understanding, select which group to trust?

C. Thi Nguyen is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah and the author of Games: Agency As Art. He writes about games, trust, art, intimacy, echo chambers, metrics, and much more.



Johnny Brennan is the Assistant Director in the Office of Institutional Support at Bard College, where he also teaches in the First-Year Seminar and Philosophy programs. His research focuses on trust – what it is, its social importance, and what significance it has for issues of moral status, moral injury, knowledge, and expertise. His work has been published in Philosophical Studies, Journal of the American Philosophical Association, European Journal of Philosophy, Philosophy & Technology, and Social Epistemology.


Tuesday 21st May

4pm PT/7pm ET/9am (Wed.) AET

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