Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Understanding in a Post-Truth World: Comprehension and Co-Naissance as Empathetic Antidotes to Post-Truth Politics

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Understanding in a Post-Truth World: Comprehension and Co-Naissance as Empathetic Antidotes to Post-Truth Politics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: ON STYLE AND CONTENT

The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than "that which appears is good, [and] that which is good appears" The attitude which it demands is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.--Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, [section] 12

This paper attempts to tie together a broad range of phenomena that help to constitute the pervasive, yet vaguely defined, 'post-truth' era. As a result, the footnotes in this paper include an eclectic mix of far-right conspiracy theories, mainstream news articles, and academic literature; not all of which are credible sources. But this reflects a broader point to be made about post-truth discourse; namely that it is the manifestation of a widespread incredulity that is said to afflict postmodern societies. (1) The inclusion of these sources is not designed to give them academic credence. Rather, in drawing on these diverse--and unorthodox--sources, the aim of this paper is to paint a picture of how these texts intersect with academic literature. In selecting these sources I have tried to avoid any overt bias or discrimination. I have included articles from what would be considered the mainstream Left of media organizations, along with articles from the mainstream Right. On a different axis, I have sought inclusions ranging from the codified law of White House executive policy to anti-establishment sources that would proudly reject the notion of 'authority' altogether. (2) This is not done in the pursuit of a tepid sense of 'balance,' but rather reflects an attempt to assemble a collage of post-truth fragments in order to make sense of them as a coherent whole. My training in academic philosophy, in particular in the philosophies of Whitehead and Merleau-Ponty, provides the context for this assemblage. Importantly, this is not a discipline specific paper, nor is it interdisciplinary. Rather, it is extra-disciplinary--that is, it is an attempt to go beyond academic disciplines altogether. Though this might run the risk of resulting in an undisciplined work, this is a risk I am willing to take. (3) In post-truth discourse, it seems that this kind of risk taking is increasingly required of academics.

For this reason, the narrative I am presenting could be said to represent a tale of two papers. The first tends towards the more 'spectacular' language of post-truth discourse. Unfortunately, this seems to be an indication of political praxis in the 21st century. By contrast, the second half of this paper consists of academic philosophy in its more technical sense. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking seems to be dangerously lacking from political praxis in the 21st century. As such, this paper must be taken as a movement that gradually progresses from the language and style of post-truth politics towards a more philosophical and academically rigorous argument. However, this is not to say that the first half of the paper is totally devoid of intellectual content. On the contrary, it is an essay in its most original sense and remains philosophical throughout. (4) So while there might appear to be a 'gap' between the two halves of this paper, it is important that these two halves are 'seen together' as a unified whole characterized by movement. In this way, the style and content of the paper are designed to implicate each other. By its conclusion, I hope it becomes obvious why I have chosen to write the paper in this way.

Due to the nature of this paper, a brief roadmap of its contents is required: first, I will outline a definition of post-truth politics, arguing that the term 'post-truth' amounts to little more than the mainstream articulation of the postmodern condition. It will then be argued that the postmodern 'marketplace of ideas' has reduced truth to the status of 'thing' to be packaged and sold in order to meet individual preferences. …

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