Andrew Spear
Grand Valley State University
Purpose This paper aims to analyze some of the epistemically pernicious effects of the use of the internet and social media. In light of this analysis, it introduces the concept of epistemic pornography and argues that epistemic agents both can and should avoid consuming and sharing epistemic pornography. Design/methodology/approach The paper draws on research on epistemic virtue, cognitive biases, social media use and its epistemic consequences, fake news, paternalistic nudging, pornography, moral philosophy, moral elevation and moral exemplar theory to analyze the epistemically pernicious effects of the internet and social media. Findings There is a growing consensus that the internet and social media activate and enable human cognitive biases leading to what are here called “failures of epistemic virtue.” Common formulations of this problem involve the concept of “fake news,” and strategies for responding to the problem often have much in common with paternalistic “nudging.” While fake news is a problem and the nudging approach holds out promise, the paper concludes that both place insufficient emphasis on the agency and responsibility of users on the internet and social media, and that nudging represents a necessary but not sufficient response. Originality/value The essay offers the concept of epistemic pornography as a concept distinct from but related to “fake news” – distinct precisely because it places greater emphasis on personal agency and responsibility, and following recent literature on moral elevation and moral exemplars, as a heuristic that agents might use to economize their efforts at resisting irrational cognitive biases and attempting to live up to their epistemic duties.
Keywords Social Media  Social Epistemology  Pornography  Epistemic Virtue  Exemplars
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DOI 10.1108/jices-10-2019-0117
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References found in this work BETA

After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory.Dan Sperber - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2):57.

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