Beliefs inform decisions. False beliefs lead to bad decisions. In our age of highly sophisticated science and technology, incredible amounts of money and time are still spent due to false or unjustified beliefs. This module aims to develop critical thinking by examining the ways in which people develop false beliefs and to identify what criteria can demarcate the boundaries between proper knowledge and misleading or unjustified knowledge claims.
The module consists of two parts. The first provides a general introduction to the key concepts and main concerns of epistemology (the theory of knowledge), and examines the topic of demarcation on the highly popular topic of homeopathic medicine. The primary aim of this part is to reveal the typical sources of socially shared “quasi-scientific” misconceptions. The second part of the module extends the scope of the first by collecting and examining a number of cases from the fields of medicine, psychology, AI, mathematics, ethics, politics and religion, where popular knowledge claims can be contested. The primary aim of this part is to provide a systematic understanding of what distinguishes real knowledge from unjustified, false or confused knowledge claims.
Students interested in philosophy in particular are encouraged to attend. The second part is intended for students with a deeper interest in the methodological foundations of science, religion and morality.