Trust, Lies, and Misinformation

Speaker: Hannah DeBrine

When should we tell the truth? When should we believe someone?

Citizens today are subject to a wide variety of misinformation. But despite the risks, we can't get by without trusting other people. How can we deal with misinformation? In whom should we place our trust?

This lesson will introduce some basic concepts from epistemology (the theory of knowledge), with a focus on feminist epistemology, in an effort to give students some tools to evaluate sources of knowledge and to assess their own beliefs. We will emphasize that sometimes it is an injustice to take someone to be a poor source of knowledge, though we have a corresponding responsibility to tell the truth.

There are two versions of this lesson, geared for students of different ages. Younger students will discuss our moral obligations with respect to telling the truth. Older students will discuss what reasons we need for trust in others, and ways in which we may wrong someone by failing to believe them. In either case, students will examine case studies, practice giving reasons for claims, and work on formulating epistemological questions. Teachers will be given the option of selecting from different case studies.

About the Speaker

Hannah is a PhD candidate in the philosophy department. After completing her undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, she has been involved in multiple Philosophy for Children programs. Her experiences as a queer woman have emphasized for her both the importance of trust in one's community and the injustice of speaking from knowledge and being dismissed; this led to her research on trust and epistemic partiality.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 6th - 12th grade and community college

Preparation: For middle school students, no preparation is necessary. For more advanced students, teachers may choose to have their class complete a short philosophical reading with a few accompanying comprehension questions in advance of the lesson.

Courses: ELA, History-Social Science, Science; any class where students are asked to evaluate the trustworthiness of sources

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