030116 Social Epistemology of Bad Beliefs: Filter Bubbles, Informational Cascades, and Identity Beliefs (Michelini, Seselja)

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Why do individuals harbor false beliefs? Frequently, people lack the necessary evidence to form accurate ones. However, in specific instances, individuals possess ample evidence and yet persist in adopting bad beliefs—false beliefs held in contradiction to the available evidence. Think of climate change deniers. Empirical evidence indicates that most climate change deniers are aware that scientific results contrast their beliefs, but they hold them nonetheless. Why is that so? What brings people to form bad beliefs? This course embarks on the quest to unravel this very question, drawing from the rapidly expanding philosophical literature on the subject. We'll begin by exploring what it means to respond appropriately to evidence. Subsequently, we'll review the most important philosophical accounts of bad beliefs. These accounts take for granted that the cause of bad beliefs is not to be found in the cognitive deficiencies of the individuals, but rather in their socio-epistemic environment. Think again of climate change deniers. May it be that they hold such false beliefs because they trust the wrong experts? Or maybe because by doing so, they will get some benefits from others in the group? Or could they be stuck in a filter bubble, in which scientists are regarded as charlatans? While the primary focus of our literature exploration will be social epistemology, we'll also draw insights from social science and social psychology. Moreover, a brief section of the course will be dedicated to examining computational models that simulate the formation of bad beliefs. The course aims at fostering discussions among students through activities and "games" during the lectures. You will be encouraged to write and discuss various aspects of the topic. The course will be conducted in English, and the reading list will be provided as the course progresses. No prior knowledge is required to enroll.