2022 Advanced Study Institute

Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

Advanced Study Institute in Cultural Psychiatry

The Fragility of Truth:
Social Epistemology in a Time of Polarization and Pandemic

June 28 - 30, 2022
Montreal, Québec

PDF icon 2022 ASI Conference Program

Advanced Study Institute Conference and Workshop (June 28 - 30, 2022)

The COVID pandemic, political polarization, and the climate crisis and have all revealed that large segments of the population do not trust the best available knowledge and expertise in making vital decisions regarding their health, the governance of society, and the fate of the planet. What guides information-seeking, trust in authority, and decision-making in each of these domains? Finding reliable information to make decisions presents enormous challenges in a world in which the internet increases access to information, accelerates the viral spread of images and ideas, and creates loops that amplify extreme positions. Many people seem to be captured by an array of increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories and ill-informed interpretations of events. Are we facing a new level of self-destructive irrationality in human behaviour, or has the age of pandemics and the digital niche simply revealed the fragility of human knowledge-seeking? Is conflict over meaning along tribal lines intrinsic to human thought and sociality? How do people make sense of complex events and chart a course in a sea of information, misinformation and deliberate disinformation? How have social media changed the dynamics of information seeking, certainty and authority? What role do scientific and technocratic communication play in these dynamics? This Advanced Study Institute will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, philosophy and public health to consider the challenges posed by the new information ecology. Sessions will address: (1) theories of social epistemology, rationality and irrationality, science and pseudoscience; (2) case studies of the dynamics of misinformation; (3) pathologies of information seeking and belief, paranoia, delusion; and (4) strategies for healthy knowledge ecologies.

The format will be a 2-day Workshop (June 28-29) for researchers working on these issues followed by a public Conference (June 30) directed to mental health practitioners, researchers and students. The workshop will involve intensive discussion of pre-circulated papers by participants. After peer review, selected papers will be published in a thematic issue of Transcultural Psychiatry.

Guest Faculty: Lisa Bortolotti, Kenneth Camargo, Harry Collins, Robert Danisch, Igor Grossman, Thomas Hills, Emily Mendenhall, Diana Miconi

McGill Faculty: Kimiz Dalkir, G. Eric Jarvis, Laurence J. Kirmayer, Vincent Laliberté, Cécile Rousseau, Samuel Veissière

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