top of page


BBC Sounds - Moral Maze: Moral certainty in a pandemic

The mathematician John Allen Paulos once said, “uncertainty is the only certainty there is”. One year on from the beginning of the first lockdown, never has this felt more true. In light of this, how certain should we be in our judgments about the decisions that were taken by those in power over the last twelve months? One strongly-held view is that had the government and its advisors been more decisive, acting with greater moral clarity in the early stages of the pandemic, more lives would have been saved. While for others, hindsight is 20:20 and context is everything, and any decisions taken in the midst of extreme uncertainty must be judged accordingly. In the last year we have witnessed anything but moral clarity in our passionate debates about the balance of harms and the clashes of good versus good. Public health has been pitted against livelihoods, family life, culture and the right to protest. What lessons should we take from the pandemic about the moral value of certainty? Uncertainty, particularly if it is prolonged, is psychologically bad for us and something we instinctively want to avoid for the sake of our mental health. In leadership, we admire those who have a clarity of vision, who are not paralysed by indecision and who keep their doubts to themselves. Others, however, believe that the reason society is so polarised is because too many people are certain they are right, and that moral certitude often has the effect of pandering to one group of people while alienating another. Is it a moment to embrace complexity, humility and self-reflection? Or has the last year provided a moral clarity about all sorts of things, notably injustices, that must now push back hard against any lingering doubt? With Raghib Ali, Lord David Blunkett, Jonathan Calvert and Quassim Cassam (from 24:51).

Prof. Quassim Cassam, of the University of Warwick's Department of Philosophy, has spoken with BBC Radio 5 Live about his book Conspiracy Theories.

00:00 / 12:54

Broadcast on ABC (Australia) Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue, Sat 16 May 2020, 8:45am.

Quassim discusses the rise of conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

State of Play - Conspiracy Theories & Coronavirus

Broadcast on State of Play with James Wilkinson, 13 May 2020

With the planet in lock-down and citizens spending more time online than ever before conspiracy theories are spreading like wildfire. People are clambering for explanations, however far-fetched, for the unprecedented circumstances they find themselves in. This often results in turning to the murky corners of the internet filled with conspiracy theorists, preaching their version of the facts, often for notoriety and personal profit. In this episode James Wilkinson speaks with Warwick University Professor of Philosophy Quassim Cassam for an in-depth conversation on conspiracy theories, the psychology behind them and the shady characters trying to get you to believe.

00:00 / 42:31

Broadcast on The Gateway on with Ty Joplin, 11 Dec 2019

To better understand the forces driving conspiratorial knowledge and its influence, Al Bawaba spoke with Quassim Cassam, a professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick who is an expert on conspiracy theories.

His new book, Conspiracy Theories, details their persistent popularity as well as staking out their potentially fatal consequences. He contends that the root cause of many conspiracy theories lie the political alienation its propagators experience, and thus a key solution rests in empowering marginalized communities.

00:00 / 21:09

Broadcast on ABC (Australia) Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue, 7th September 2019

Conspiracy theories like the ones about 9/11, Sandy Hook and climate change have a political agenda and should not be ignored argues philosopher Quassim Cassam. But dismantling them is no easy task.

Self Knowledge, Global Catastrophe and Simulated Worlds
00:00 / 46:41

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 7th February 2019

Self-knowledge, intellectual vices & conspiracy theories are debated by Professor Quassim Cassam and presenter Matthew Sweet.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 6th December 2018

Who's pulling your strings - from advertisers and peer pressure to political campaigns and self-deception - hidden persuaders are everywhere. Journalist Poppy Noor, historian Sarah Marks, psychologist and magician, Gustav Kuhn, the philosopher, Quassim Cassam and Robert Colvile from the Centre for Policy Studies join Matthew Sweet to track them down. We're all confident that we know our own minds -- but do we? And if we don't, why not?

bottom of page