Portrait of Søren Kierkegaard

The Ethics of Doubt: Kierkegaard, Scepticism and Conspiracy Theory

Genia Schönbaumsfeld’s €2.5m (UKRI funded) ERC Advanced grant project seeks to break new ground by bringing Kierkegaard’s existential conception of doubt into dialogue with the contemporary mainstream, focussing on the relation between the intellectual vices, such as a lack of intellectual courage, and various forms of scepticism, both inside and outside of academia.

Doubt is thought’s despair; despair is personality’s doubt.

Upcoming events

Recent tweets

The Wittgenstein, Newman, and Hinge Epistemology conference (9-10 December 2024) is inviting abstracts for submission. The keynote speakers include our very own Genia Schönbaumsfeld!

Submit an abstract below by 30th August if you're interested!

One of the project's post-docs, @Tays95, has written an interesting article for @ConversationUK about Descartes, radical scepticism, and conspiracy theories. A fascinating read!
@SotonPhilosophy @HumanitiesUoS @ahrcpress @ERC_Research

The Kierkegaard and Scepticism workshop was a success! Many thanks to all of our speakers for giving such superb papers, which made our first event so engaging! The talks will be available on our website soon.
@SotonPhilosophy @HumanitiesUoS @EpistemicAngst @ERC_Research


About the project

While the ancient sceptics regarded scepticism about knowledge as a way of life, philosophers from Descartes to the present day have viewed it primarily as an intellectual problem that requires only a theoretical solution. This project intends to challenge this common assumption by focussing on a figure almost entirely overlooked by mainstream epistemology, Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard.

Core aims of the project are:


To bring Kierkegaard’s existential epistemology into dialogue with the contemporary mainstream –

in particular in respect to the relation between the intellectual vices, such as a lack of intellectual courage, and various forms of scepticism. Although virtue epistemology is currently a booming topic, the connection between intellectual courage and knowledge remains unexplored, both within epistemology itself as well as in wider cultural debates.


To examine the similarities between radical scepticism (the thought that we may know nothing about the world) and global conspiracy theories.

Since radical scepticism is taken very seriously in epistemology, while conspiracy theories tend to be dismissed, this raises the questions: If something is wrong with global conspiracy theories, is something equally wrong with radical scepticism? Conversely, if we cannot dismiss radical scepticism, can we similarly not dismiss global conspiracy theories?

Radical scepticism and global conspiracy theories


To apply Kierkegaard’s insight that knowledge requires courage to a central challenge of our time: loss of faith in knowledge, expertise and authority.

Never has such an investigation been more pressing than in the current pandemic, which has given rise to an unprecedented surge in conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’.

Fake News

It takes courage to will to be sound, honestly and sincerely to will the true.

The €2.5 million (UKRI funded) ERC Advanced grant project (ID EP/Y029569/1), led by Prof. Genia Schönbaumsfeld and hosted by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Southampton, will run for five years and deliver ground-breaking results along three dimensions: historical (Kierkegaard’s existential response to doubt), theoretical (the relation between intellectual vice and scepticism), and applied (the relation between intellectual courage and knowledge scepticism in the wider culture).

This website is a gateway to information and news about the project, the members of the project team, workshops and major conferences, as well as to resources for researchers, students and interested members of the public.