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Trump’s Supporters: More Epistemic Epidemiology

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The senate has acquitted Trump, thus setting two precedents. One is that a president with adequate backing from the senate can engage in impeachable offenses in the last days of their term without consequences. While there are bad faith arguments that impeachment cannot occur when a politician is out of office, this ignores the established precedent for doing so and ignores the fact that impeachment is not solely about removal from office but can also result in a ban on holding office. The second is that a politician, with adequate backing from their party, can engage in insurrection and attempt to overthrow an election with no consequences. Both are dangerous to American democracy. Trump’s victory also impacts his followers by either reinforcing their false beliefs or encouraging their bad behavior (or both). I recently finished teaching the ethical theory of St. Thomas Aquinas and this provided me with the inspiration to write more about Trump’s supporters. While this is not completely faithful to Aquinas’ view, people can go wrong because of two reasons. One is a failure of knowledge: they want to do good, but their beliefs are in error. The other is moral failure: they are aware they are doing wrong but do so anyway because of moral defects. A person can, of course, also have false beliefs while acting wrongly because of moral defects. As in past essays, I divide this failings into epistemic defects (errors of belief) and ethical defects (moral failures). One area where Trump’s supporters fail is in their moral assessment of Trump’s virtues. It is normal for people to have biases in favor of those they like and see them as better than they are. In most cases, this bias stays within healthy and sane limits. For example, parents tend to see their children as better than they are, but usually this does not become delusional or pathological. Those who create images of people they like also tend to stylize and improve on the original—think of a drawing done for. . .

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