By Maurizio Bisogno
Suspension of judgement is an intentional cognitive act. In relation to any statement we have three choices: accept it, deny it or withhold it. In other words, we can believe it, disbelieve it or not be able to accept or reject it. This cognitive act in philosophy is also called epoché. The reflection on this type of questions is part of a branch of philosophy called theory of knowledge or epistemology. The ancient Greeks started discussing the philosophical problem of knowledge with great depth and the philosophers have continued to reflect upon it up to our times. Epistemic appraisal is the justification of believing. I am to approach the question of the vaccines using those devices.
The pro-vaccines believe the vaccine works, the anti-vaccines do not believe it works and the others choose to suspend their judgment, by saying they don’t have evidence or enough information. But in each case, what is that the believer has that the non-believer and the sceptic do not have? It seems that the pro-vaccines and the anti-vaccines know something meanwhile the person that choose to not believe or disbelieve does not have that knowledge. Is it true?
We could put things in another fashion: what is invoked here is the question of What is knowledge? What is opinion? We hear people saying that everybody is entitled to their opinion, but how many times we discover that our opinions are simply false and induce us in error? What makes that knowing is different from having an opinion? How do we know that to be vaccinated is right? We could say: we know it is right because the politicians say it is right, and thy say that because the doctors affirm it; and the doctors say so because some scientists say this is right. Fundamentally, we don’t know anything about the vaccines, and we believe that someone knows about them; what we know is: they must know. We accept that the vaccines work because the authorities say so.
Let’s take the case of the religious believe; here we have the theist, the atheist and the gnostic. The first one believes in God, the second one disbelieves in God and the third one – consciously and intentionally – does not choose between believing in the existence or non-existence of God. Would you say the believers has faith or has evidence for the existence of God? With regard to the vaccines our knowledge has the same pattern because there is nobody who can discern – amongst the series of claims made about them – what is knowledge and what is pure opinion.
Our mind works like that, there is not much we can do about it. When we believe we do so because we believe something about something else. It is not a tongue twister. The one who knows something does so because he or she has evidence for another thing. Let’s make an example. My evidence that vaccine works is the fact that the doctors say it works; and their evidence is that the “science” says it works… and so on. At the end (or at the start of this chain) there is someone who has a knowledge of things which can function as evidence for other things. Someone has decided, and has the power to do so, that his or her knowledge is evident to them without requiring other things to justify them; they think they have reached a claim that is self-evident or directly evident to them and on the basis of that understanding they create evidence for other things; for example, what they know create the evidence of the claim that the vaccine works. Or, it does not seem that they have that kind of evidence. What is the foundation, the structural evidence they have which creates the evidence for the claim that the vaccine works and has not serious and dangerous side effects? Is it true that the vaccine works and does not have side effects? By asking this simple question you will find out how much you know about it and how much of what you believe in relation to vaccines is vague opinion based on hearsay. We accept to limit our civil liberties, to intake drugs and to abide to rules and regulations, we are forced to change our behaviours without knowing; we only guess they are right; we are in fear, and when people are fearful they can be made to believe anything, therefore they can be induced to act as they want them to act. If you didn’t suspect that at beginning of this article, I will tell you now my feeling: : it seems that a group of tricksters and con artists is ruling the world!©Maurizio Bisogno