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SCOOP-PPE Lecture by Marco Meyer: New Ways to Deceive: Epistemic Malevolence in Organizational Wrongdoing

When:Mo 21-02-2022 15:00 - 17:00
Where:M.0161 (Kouwerzaal, Muntinggebouw, first floor). Entry either through Grote Rozenstraat 31 or Grote Kruisstraat 2/1.

Abstract: What role does deceiving customers and regulators play in organizational misconduct? We study the eighty highest-penalty cases of organizational misconduct in the United States from 2000 to 2020, representing more than a third of total penalties inflicted over that period. We show that the majority of these cases involve epistemic malevolence (n=58, 73%), i.e. directly and knowingly causing harm that consists in deceiving others. We also provide indicative evidence that acts of epistemic malevolence are often rooted in epistemic vice, a disposition to act in epistemically malevolent ways grounded in the organization’s culture and governance. Existing research has often linked epistemic malevolence to the strategy of “sowing doubt”, with companies contesting or discrediting findings about harms caused by their products. However, we find that organizations have found new ways to deceive. Rather than sowing doubt, organizations undermine the ability of researchers, journalists and regulators to identify harms in the first place by shielding information about the harmful impact of their products from public view. Based on this analysis, we suggest how regulators can better detect, organizations better protect against, and researchers advance knowledge about epistemic malevolence in organizations.
(Marco Meyer, University of Hamburg; Chun Wei Choo, University of Toronto).

This lecture is a joint initiative of the Sustainable Cooperation (SCOOP) Gravitation Program with the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program (PPE) of the University of Groningen.

Short Bio: Marco Meyer is a Junior Research Group Lead (“Freigeist” Fellow) at the Department of Philosophy, University of Hamburg. From 2017 to 2021 he was the Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, University of York, Politics Department. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Groningen. He received a Master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford University, a BA degree in Philosophy & Economics from Bayreuth University, and a BA in European History from Bayreuth University. A foundational question in his research is what organizations have a duty to know about their impacts on society. He investigates how organizations can collect that knowledge as a basis for decision making, especially when algorithms are involved. What do organizations have in common that do this really well, and what those who fail? He has made contributions to the ethics of finance, business ethics, and applied epistemology. Recent papers have appeared in the Journal of Political Philosophy; Politics, Philosophy and Economics; the Midwest Studies in Philosophy, and collected volumes in Oxford University Press.