This talk places our current “fake news” moment in a historical context. Rather than a clear-cut message about the importance of “truth” and the problem of “lies”, the historical record shows a subtler picture. Perhaps what we need to understand are the deeper reasons why discerning the “truth” is such a difficult and politically sensitive terrain, especially in the media age. Then too, more than mere “fact checking”, we might need to address why “facts” are fundamentally different from the more elusive and more psychological condition called “certainty". History demonstrates that even if we were to solve the problem of mis-information, the question of why people believe what they believe is much more complex.
Carolyn Biltoft is Assistant Professor in International History. She earned her PhD in Modern World History from Princeton University in 2010. Her work approaches the dynamics of global capitalism since 1850 through the lenses of intellectual and cultural history. Each of her current projects focuses in some way on the relationships between mythology, religion and “mental states” as a point of entry for rethinking the history of capitalism and the history of economic thought. Her current book project, Mythos-Economicos: Archaic Analogies and Modern Economics, explores the prevalence of mythological references and analogies in economic theory from the 18th century to the present era.