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What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues

April 2012, ©2012, Wiley-Blackwell
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What can we know and what should we believe about today's world? What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues applies the concerns and techniques of epistemology to a wide variety of contemporary issues. Questions about what we can know-and what we should believe-are first addressed through an explicit consideration of the practicalities of working these issues out at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Coady calls for an 'applied turn' in epistemology, a process he likens to the applied turn that transformed the study of ethics in the early 1970s. Subjects dealt with include:

  • Experts-how can we recognize them? And when should we trust them?
  • Rumors-should they ever be believed? And can they, in fact, be a source of knowledge?
  • Conspiracy theories-when, if ever, should they be believed, and can they be known to be true?
  • The blogosphere-how does it compare with traditional media as a source of knowledge and justified belief?

Timely, thought provoking, and controversial, What to Believe Now offers a wealth of insights into a branch of philosophy of growing importance-and increasing relevance-in the twenty-first century.

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Preface ix

1 Introduction 1

2 Experts and the Laity 27

3 Epistemic Democracy 59

4 Rumors and Rumor-Mongers 86

5 Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorists 110

6 The Blogosphere and the Conventional Media 138

7 Conclusion 169

Postscript: Government Surveillance and Privacy 175

References 188

Index 197

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David Coady is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He has published widely on topics in applied epistemology, including expertise, conspiracy theory, rumor, and the blogosphere. He is the editor of Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate (2006) and he has also published on metaphysics, the philosophy of law, police ethics, the ethics of horror films, and the ethics of cricket.

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“All in all, an intelligent, accessible, and provocative book that will encourage epistemologists to examine the real-world implications of their theories.”  (Philosophy in Review, 1 October 2014)

“Overall, Coady’s book is a well-organised and well-conceived piece of philosophy that constitutes a powerful case for the legitimacy of applying epistemology to contemporary issues.”  (Journal of Applied Philosophy, 22 October 2013)

“This book implements an excellent idea. The idea is that applied epistemology is worth pursuing. Applied epistemology, like applied ethics, employs philosophical resources toward solving real-world problems.  What To Believe Now defends provocative views…  If the book encourages further work in applied epistemology, then it will have accomplished considerable good.”  (Earl Conee, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 1 January 2013)

“Undoubtedly, this book will interest contemporary epistemologists.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.  Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.”  (Choice, 1 November 2012)

“Since it addresses topics of considerable importance, it should command, if not a mass audience, then one that reaches well outside the narrow confines of academic philosophy. Those particularly likely to find it useful include political theorists, students of social networks, and perhaps some policy makers.”  (Danny Yee's Book Reviews, 2012)

'What should we believe?' This is one of the core questions of epistemology, but it is often discussed in the abstract as if it were a question of purely theoretical interest arising for agents living nowhere and nowhen. David Coady takes epistemology out of the study and into the streets  by asking what  we   (as citizens of a more-or-less democratic societies) should believe now  (in the early 21st Century) about matters of political pith and moment.  A fine book, a fun book, and a book which might actually do a bit of good.

Charles Pigden, University of Otago


This original and accessible work advances applied epistemology with vivid examples, and provocative and balanced commentary. A terrific stimulus to reflection, discussion, and improved critical thought about everyday issues.

Jonathan Adler, The City University of New York

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Purchase Options
What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues
ISBN : 978-1-4443-6210-7
2600 pages
January 2012
$31.99   BUY

What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues
ISBN : 978-1-4051-9994-0
212 pages
April 2012, ©2012
$38.95   BUY

What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues
ISBN : 978-1-4051-9993-3
212 pages
April 2012
$96.95   BUY

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