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Instructor: Molly O’Rourke-Friel. This course meets TR 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. in VN G311.

“I know I am right, just Google it.”

“You should do your own research.”

“Trust the experts.”

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

These are likely familiar phrases. Each is making a claim about what one ought to believe, what one is justified in believing, what is rational, and how people who hold different beliefs ought to be treated. (The formal name for these are “epistemic” claims.) Arguably, investigating the nature of claims about beliefs is as important now as it have ever been. Many say we are in an unprecedented and toxic belief environment: a post-truth area of “alternative facts”, an information landscape in which seemingly inescapable echo chambers threaten our ability to access and respond rationally to evidence, a time in which extreme political and social polarization make agreement about the nature of the world be live in incredibly difficult. In this class, we will investigate this characterization of the “belief part” of our lives and engage with the following questions. Whom should we trust? What is an expert? When and why should we defer to experts? What should we believe if experts disagree? Should we revise our beliefs if our peer disagrees with us? What is an echo chamber, and can we know if we are in one? Ought we revise our beliefs if we suspect we may be in an echo chamber? Ought we blame people for how they come to believe things?


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