Associate Professor of Philosophy Katheryn Doran presented a paper at the American Philosophical Association’s recent virtual Central Division Meeting. “Bad Epistemology: Errol Morris, Donald Rumsfeld, and G.E. Moore...When is the Absence of Evidence Evidence of Absence?” was presented in a Society for the Philosophical Study of the Contemporary Visual Arts session.
Doran said that philosopher turned director Errol Morris interviewed Donald Rumsfeld at length for his 2013 movie The Unknown Known. In her paper, Doran argued that the movie shows that Rumsfeld took many useful philosophical concepts, trotted them out to the media, but either didn't seem to understand them himself or, if he did understand them, had no interest in using them as they were meant to be used.
As an example, Doran said that “when cornered by a reporter about whether the US was aware of any evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or whether we were basing a consequential decision to invade on faith), Rumsfeld retreated to the logical term of art ‘the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ rather than admit the damning fact that we had no such evidence.”