Philosophy Course: Truth & Skepticism in a Post-Truth Age
Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.
Learn about philosophy the smart way with Philosophy courses at CCE, The University of Sydney.
Post-truth is the disregard for truth even when empirical evidence and good reasoning have shown some ‘fact’ to be unlikely; it is a mental attitude which makes evidence secondary in the formation of beliefs. In this course we will study the philosophy and psychology of truth, belief states, Relativism and Skepticism. Skepticism has suffered criticism because it is taken to imply an unacceptable relativism of all knowledge; I will argue that Skepticism and Relativism are two separate theories and need not entail each other. Philosophical Skepticism is an alternative to both a fundamentalist approach to truth, and the post-truth disregard for evidence: both fundamentalism and post-truth give up on the difficult task of engaging in good empirical inquiry and rational argumentation. In the course we will also look at the problems of scientific knowledge, media and politics. Scientific knowledge is particularly important in debates about global warming.
- Introduction to current concerns over the issue of ‘post-truth’. Manipulation of information is certainly not a new issue; we will consider the differences between the past and now.
- Justified Belief States and Probable Knowledge. Probability Theory does not require certainty in absolute truth; rather it attempts to provide a ‘tool box’ for assessing information and making decisions.
- The psychology of Truth: We will look at the difference between ‘belief-in’ something and the ‘belief-about’ something. This difference will also concern the difference between empirical and religious belief systems. Our brain may not process these different kinds of knowledge in the same way.
- Relativism and Skepticism: Skepticism has suffered criticism because it is taken to imply an unacceptable relativism of all knowledge. I will argue that Skepticism and Relativism are two separate theories and need not entail each other.
- David Hume: Hume’s Post-Skepticism accepts that there is no absolute foundation for truth but then goes on to develop a theory of human nature which shows that humans cannot live in the condition of skepticism.
- Nietzsche, Truth and Relativism. Nietzsche says that: “Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live.” What does he mean by this? One of the implications of Nietzsche’s theory is that human history is the history of the most successful ‘fabricators’.
- The Pragmatist Alternative: It is perhaps the unique insight of American pragmatism that humans may not care if something is ‘true’ only that it works. We will consider whether pragmatism can indeed keep the best insights of Skepticism and yet maintain that there is at least a ‘practical’ test for truth.
- Contemporary Moral Skepticism. Moral Realism, Quasi-Realism, and Skepticism.
- Contemporary Scientific Skepticism. Scientific knowledge is particularly important in debates about global warming. We will consider some contemporary theories which attempt to overcome the skeptical position on truth.
- Truth in Contemporary Politics and how Skepticism can help.
- Expert trainers
- Central locations
- Small class sizes
- Free, expert advice
- Student materials – yours to keep
- Certificate of completion