Truth in an Age of Disinformation

Overview

Questions into the nature of truth are often puzzling because, on the one hand, we expect to get a definitive answer of the kind, ‘truth is x’. On the other hand, despite hundreds of years of looking, no perfect answer has ever been found. Philosophers have committed to answers such as truth is ‘correspondence with the facts’, or ‘system coherence’, or ‘practical utility’, or simply ‘general consensus’.

Only, all such definitions turned out to be defective in one way or another. Should we make do with a deflated or minimalist notion of truth, or opt for truth pluralism or even outright relativism about truth? More relevantly, can we salvage truth in an era of technical innovation and global connectivity as it too easily becomes the breeding grounds of disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories? This course will shine a light on truth and post-truth by studying the philosophical angles already taken and any new avenues that offer themselves.  

Programme details

Courses starts: 23 April 2025

Week 1: Truth and truthfulness 

Week 2: Truth as correspondence

Week 3: Truth as coherence

Week 4: Pragmatism about truth

Week 5: Relativism and scepticism

Week 6:Truth pluralism and deflationism

Week 7: Realism and anti-realism

Week 8: What is post-truth?

Week 9: Truth manipulation, conspiracies and 'alternative facts'

Week 10: Can truth be salvaged? 

Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend and participate in at least 80% of the live sessions on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.

Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 

Fees

Description Costs
Course Fee £285.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00

Funding

If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses

Tutor

Dr Julia Weckend

Julia has taught philosophy at the Universities of Reading and Southampton before joining Oxford University's Department of Continuing Education as a tutor in 2014. Her teaching focus, very broadly, is on aspects in metaphysics and epistemology, including theories of truth and how we acquire and justify our beliefs.  

Course aims

To gain an understanding of the key themes in the study of truth and post-truth, and related problems and concerns. 

Course Objectives: 

  • To become familiar with the central issues that preoccupy the theory of knowledge, belief acquisition and truth.
  • To examine and evaluate substantial theories of truth, as well as truth relativism and post-truth.
  • To read and discuss the relevant literature on truth and relativism.

Teaching methods

Pre-recorded lectures will be provided for students to watch ahead of the weekly meeting to be held on MSTeams. I will be making the powerpoint slides and a handout available to students each week. Students will also be asked to read a relevant paper or chapter from a book each week in preparation of the seminar discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • to be able to understand and describe the main philosophical issues concerning truth and relativism;
  • to articulate the main distinctions and ideas that these issues trade upon;
  • to develop a position of your own and constructively evaluate the positions that have been explored.

Assessment methods

Option A. Assessment will be by means of three mini essays of 500 words each

OR

Option B. Assessment will be by means of a single project equating to an essay of 1,500 words. It is recommended to submit a plan, set of notes, or first draft of the assignment before the end of the course.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work the required standard.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form

 

Application

We will close for enrolments 14 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (14 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment Form (Word) or Enrolment Form (Pdf)

Level and demands

No prior knowledge or previous experience in philosophy are required or assumed, though it will enable students to engage more fully in class discussions. The course will appeal in particular to those who enjoy wrestling with problems in analytical philosophy.

The Department's Weekly Classes are taught at FHEQ Level 4, i.e. first year undergraduate level, and you will be expected to engage in a significant amount of private study in preparation for the classes. This may take the form, for instance, of reading and analysing set texts, responding to questions or tasks, or preparing work to present in class.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.