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The Project

Deceit and Self-Deception. How We Should Address Fake News and Other Cognitive Failures of the Democratic Public.

The worry about the production and dissemination of misinformation and fake data is widespread in democratic societies, so much that a number of problematic political events and processes are seen as the consequences of citizens’ resulting distorted beliefs. From Brexit to Trump’s election in the US, from the rejection of refugees to the objection to vaccines across Europe: all these are taken as instances of the effect of distorted information on citizens’ behavior and attitudes. This project aims to offer the first comprehensive typology and philosophical analysis of the many cognitive failures, hastily grouped under the label “fake news”, of the democratic public and a normative assessment of the different institutional responses that have been developed to tackle them.

Accordingly, this project aims at: 1) a critical analysis of the cognitive traps affecting democratic life; 2) a careful normative assessment of the proposed suggestions to address the issue, questioning their potential risk of undermining democratic principles and values as much as the cognitive distortions which the suggestions are supposed to mend; 3) a normative consideration of cognitive failures and of possible remedial cognitive virtues from the viewpoint of democratic ethics.


Project Investigators


Prof Anna Elisabetta Galeotti

Principal Investigator 

Anna Elisabetta Galeotti is Full Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Eastern Piedmont, Vercelli.  Her research interests range from toleration, multiculturalism, equal respect to deception and self-deception in politics. Among her English publications: Toleration as Recognition, Cambridge University Press 2002;  “Autonomy and Cultural Practices: The Risk of Double Standards” European Journal of Political Theory, 2015, “The Range of Toleration” Philosophy and Social Criticism 2015,  “Cultural Conflicts: A Deflationary Approach” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 2017, Political Self-Deception, Cambridge University Press 2018, “Rescuing Toleration”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 2019


Prof Ian Carter

Associated Investigator

Ian Carter is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Pavia. His research interests include freedom, rights, distributive equality, and the methodology of conceptual analysis. Most recently he has been working on basic equality, the concept of the person, and respect for persons. He is the author of A Measure of Freedom (Oxford University Press, 1999) and La libertà eguale (Feltrinelli, 2005). Over the last decade he has published articles in a number of journals including Ethics, Economics and Philosophy, Journal of Political Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, and Social Philosophy and Policy.


Prof Valeria Ottonelli

Associated Investigator

Valeria Ottonelli is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Genoa, Dept. of Classics, Philosophy and History. Her main research interests focus on the theory of just migration policies and on the normative theory of democratic institutions and participation. In relation to the latter topic, she has published extensively on voting paradoxes and democratic legitimacy, the ethics of democratic participation and the practice of democratic deliberation. Her work has appeared in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Theory, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, International Migration Review, Political Studies, and the Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. She is currently engaged in a research project on the virtue of political prudence in everyday democratic politics.


Prof Gianfranco Pellegrino

Associated Investigator

Gianfranco Pellegrino is Associate Professor at LUISS Guido Carli Rome, where he teaches Political Philosophy and History of Political Thought. His interests are in distributive justice theories, migration and environmental ethics. He wrote on global justice, on the ethics of climate change and the Anthropocene  (“Robust Responsibility for Climate Harms”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2018) and on climate migrants (“Climate Refugees: A Case for Protection”, in G. Pellegrino e M. Di Paola, eds, Canned Heat. Theoretical and Practical Challenges of Global Climate Change, London/Delhi: Routledge, 2014).

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