Not All Falsehoods
Emily Sullivan (Delft University Of Philosophy)

August 9, 2018, 4:15pm - 6:15pm
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

Jim Potter Room/Old Physics
University of Melbourne
Melbourne
Australia

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There is a fundamental epistemic assumption underlying discussions of fake and misleading news, namely that the problem with fake or misleading information is that it strays from the truth. However, telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth is not always epistemically desirable. For example, idealizations deployed in scientific explanations are misleading in that they do not strictly speaking tell the truth about the way the world is, but are nonetheless used to gain understanding about how the world actually is. Teachers often gloss over important details when introducing students to a topic, and thus provide less-than-true information for the purposes of furthering understanding. So, it cannot be that misleading information is problematic just because there is a lack of fidelity to the truth. In this talk, I argue that instead of truth, we should evaluate the epistemic merits or failings of a piece of misleading information based on 1) the function that the falsehood is playing in the explanation or news story, and 2) the epistemic interests of the hearers of that information.

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