Spring 2023



In this course we will examine why we appear to be becoming more susceptible to believing in conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’ that reinforces our existing way of seeing the world. As an antidote to the seductive idea that we now live in a ‘post-truth’ world, we begin with an overview of epistemology, a foundational branch of philosophy that asks the question how do you know what you think you know is true? We consider the history of ‘The Noble Lie’ as told by elites to the masses starting with Plato, on through Al-Farabi to Machiavelli, ending with more contemporary marketing theories of Bernays, analyses of propaganda and mass media by Chomsky. After a brief excursus through the underbrush of social media, bots and algorithms, we pivot to investigate the history of conspiracy theory in the U.S. from the McCarthyite Red Scare to the government’s use of RICO laws; from the CIA’s use of the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ to discredit such theories of conspiracy to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; and finally, the alleged role of the U.S. government in the crack epidemic of the 1980’s, as well as the events of 9/11. We will use an interdisciplinary approach – with lectures, readings, film, group activities and assignments – to examine the philosophical underpinnings, the evolution and the effects of conspiracy theories, post-truth culture and disinformation.


This course is not offered every semester. If your campus is offering the course, visit your institutions' course registration site to enroll.


Bard High School Early College Queens, New York
Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories


BRAC University
Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories


Bruce Matthews

Bard Early College

Mahfuzur Rahman

BRAC University