By: Neilan Sylvester D’souza
Information and knowledge have always been crucial for human civilizations in the world since ancient times. Ever since the invention of knowledge; its generation, justification and conservation as truth has always been debated because it cannot be easily agreed on by all.
It is generally assumed that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief. But In epistemology (the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge) a formulation of the value problem first occurs in Plato’s Meno. Socrates points out to Meno that a man who knew the way to Larissa could lead others there correctly. But so, too, could a man who had true beliefs about how to get there, even if he had not gone there or had any knowledge of Larissa.
Socrates says that it seems that both knowledge and true opinion can guide action. Meno then wonders why knowledge is valued more than true belief and why knowledge and true belief are different. Socrates responds that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief because it is tethered or justified. Justification, or working out the reason for a true belief, locks down true belief (Five Dialogues, 2002). Keeping this in mind how do we access or learn to create knowledge which is justified in a world of misinformation or fake news.
The main reason why fake news and misinformation has found popularity in these times is because majority of the people today simply do not have the time to critically analyze the information that they are being exposed to; adding to the boom of information resources and numerous means of accessing information (Information Age – mid 20th Century onwards) including the pace at which information is being produced and consumed leaves very little space and time for people to fully understand or critically analyze information. Thus, this drawback is what has easily helped fake news or misinformation to gain prominence.
We do not have to look far for examples, lets focus on the ongoing corona virus pandemic itself; when medical professionals and associated international institutions like the WHO raised serious alarms about the dangers of contracting the rapidly spreading virus and urged people to follow safety guidelines including vaccinations to stop/reduce the severity of the virus, great numbers of people refused to believe in this matter and rather agreed to misinformation popularized by unreliable sources that this virus isn’t so dangerous as it seems and is just a common flu; also that vaccines are only a commercial push; and heard immunity itself can weaken the virus. Such instances itself proved very catastrophic for all of us.
One way through which misinformation and fake news can be condemned is when we the people take time to verify the information which we come across by referring and cross referring its sources by ourselves and calling out when we find faults. Through this we may be able to curb the spread of misinformation and make way to build responsible and rightly informed communities.
Although it is impossible to engage in this process for all the information which exists, let us begin with the information which we are most interested in, so that at least those whom we engage with on any particular knowledge are not influenced by the prevailing misinformation and fake news.