Dom Taylor

Philosophy and Religion Librarian

University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

The incoherence

of post-truth

Ways in which post-truth is

neither accurate

nor useful

 

plan

2.

DEFINING POST-TRUTH

3.

2 PROBLEMS WITH POST-TRUTH + 2 OBJECTIONS

4.

5.

QUESTIONS + EXAMPLES FROM CLASS

6.

the value of true belief + circularity of post-truth

ANALYSING AND TESTING THE DEFINITION

is post-truth a real

LEVERAGING THE SPACE OF REASONS

lateral + vertical interpretation 

1.

REFRAMING THE QUESTION: WHAT IS TRUTH?

opting for pragmatism and veering away from the metaphysical and/or abstract notions of truth

building on the oft-cited OED definition

reframing

the question

what is truth?   

1.

SIDESTEP ABSTRACT, METAPHYSICAL, AND/ OR MYSTICAL TRUTH

2.

TRUTH AS A PROPERTY

What is the property that makes _________ true? (Wrenn, 2015)

3.

TRUTH-EVALUABLE INFORMATION

What is the property that makes information true? 

4.

FOCUSING ON TESTIMONY

Evaluating second-hand information is a big part of academic research, as well as the 'fake news' phenomenon. 

 assertion

1.

DECLARATIVE ACT

Assertions, in this context, are semiotic declarations, often expressed in the form of linguistic statements.  Assertions are actions. We do things with assertions (e.g., we claim).

2.

COMMITMENT 

3.

TRUTH EVALUABLE

Assertions are evaluable using truth-related concepts (e.g., accuracy). They can be true or false, in some sense.

When one asserts, one commits to a position, sincerely or insincerely, even if that position is modified and/or negotiated. 

WE CAN EVALUATE ASSERTIONS AS BEING MORE-OR-LESS CORRECT

Therefore, assertions are constrained by norms of our social practices, which includes coordination between agents and our causal interactions with our shared world.

norm(s) of assertion     

Implicit or explicit rules, guidelines, and/or responsibilities that are internal to and govern what counts as a warranted assertion. (Brandom, 1989;  Lackey, 2007; McKinnon, 2015)

OVERVIEW

EXAMPLES OF PROPOSED NORMS

  1. One must know something in order to assert it. (Williamson, 2000).
  2. One must reasonably believe something in order to assert it. (Lackey, 2007).
  3. One must have supportive reasons for something in order to assert it. These supportive reasons vary depending on context. (McKinnon, 2015).

basic norm   of assertion         

JUSTIFICATORY RESPONSIBILITY"

   (Brandom, 1989, p. 641)

SUFFICIENT + NECESSARAY CRITERIA:

  1. "Commitment": putting an assertion within a context of prior assertions and licensing it for use in future assertions (Brandom, 2001, p.190). ---->Committing to the idea that an assertion (i) entails further assertions and (ii) is entailed by prior assertions.
  2. "Entitlement" : Using one's commitments to provide justifications in a manner that fits social practices, including triangulating our beliefs and perceptions with our community and shared world (Brandom, 2001, p.190)

*We place our assertion in a justificatory framework, in "the  logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says." (Sellars, 1997/1953, p.76).

*We expect the space of reasons to be impacted by our causal and perceptual interaction within our shared world. This fits a version of objectivity.

what is truth?             redux      

TRUTH, FOR OUR PRACTICAL PURPOSES, IS THE PROPERTY THAT MAKES ASSERTIONS/TESTIMONY WARRANTED

1.

FULFILLMENT OF JUSTIFICATORY RESPONSIBILITY

2.

JUSTIFICATIONS ARE ENTAILED BY OTHER JUSTIFIED ASSERTIONS AND ENTAIL JUSTIFIED ASSERTIONS

3.

WHEN REQUIRED ASSERTIONS ARE TIED TO THE EXTERNAL WORLD

The space of reasons includes our shared world

truth as a conceptual + linguistic  tool

1.

LANGUAGE AND CONCEPTS

  • In order to generate and apply concepts, one must know the conditions under which a concept may be misapplied.

{

It is unnecessary to see concepts as given in an ahistorical sense.

2.

SOCIAL CONTEXT AND WORLD

  • We need to "triangulate" our perceptions and responses with our community and the share external world (Davidson, 1990/2001b).

pizza triangulation

HUNGRY INTERPRETER

ASSERTION MAKER

COORDINATION/COMMUNICATION

"There is pizza in the fridge."

"Is there pizza in the fridge?"

CONTEXTUAL TARGET OF GOALS/ SHARED WORLD STIMULUS

GOAL/INTENTION

GOAL/INTENTION

{

EVALUATION + USE OF ASSERTIONSRELATIONSHIPS,CONTEXT (E.G., SINCERITY OR PLAUSIBILITY)

COORDINATION OF ACTIONS REGARDING PIZZA

post-  truth     

definition

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

"Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" ("post-truth,"  2018).

elaboration

(i)The proliferation of false information

(ii) The attitude that truth is, at best, a convenient coincidence that can be superseded by ideological, instrumental, and/or emotional concerns  

(iii) The attitude that acting on certain beliefs, specifically false ones, can be a good in and of itself.

APPARENT CONDITIONS OF

POST-TRUTH

example

(i)The proliferation of false information:

Misleading and inaccurate tweets of videos

LOW HANGING FRUIT: TRUMP

(ii) The attitude that truth is, at best, a convenient coincidence that can be superseded by ideological, instrumental, and/or emotional concerns:

Inaccuracy was deemed less important than 'imminent threat.'  

(iii) The attitude that acting on certain beliefs, specifically false ones, can be a good in and of itself:

There was something good about these misleading tweets--it was apparently a matter of national significance.

problems with this view

(i) The example shows a concern for truthfulness. Trump was challenged and, in his own way, attempted to justify his views.

(ii) Instrumental falsehoods are usually put forward and/or believed for a reason (e.g., another perceived justification or truth). Post-truth seems to offhandedly allow for widespread delusion. This is a strong and unwarranted claim.

* Post-truth seems to be, at best, a convenient yet overly reductive shorthand to describe assertions we disagree with (that are often legitimately problematic!).

 

Can be used by anyone against any view, e.g., Trump's appropriation of "fake news."

(A) Assertions made for convenience or comfort are still conditioned by an interest in 'getting things right.'

(B) Assertions made "by virtue of the absurd" seem, in most cases, to be less valuable than warranted assertions (Kierkegaard, 1843/2006, p.60). All things being equal, having warrant is a type of good in making assertions that nullifies the value of absurd.

some objections

the upshot

1.

LACKS PLAUSIBILITY

It is difficult to figure out how one can be sincerely post-truth, Given the conceptual/linguistic value of truth + value of warranted assertions over falsehoods. There is still a widespread concern with getting things right.

2.

LACKS COHERENCE + PLAUSIBILITY

3.

MISTAKES TRUTH WITH PASSING AS TRUTH

Saying that there is "no truth," "too many truths," or that interpreters don't care about truth, confuses the endorsement of cognitively primed assertions with warranted assertions.  

Viciously circular. It implies that there is no concern for truth by being concerned with truth.  

POST-TRUTH:

4.

CONVENIENT, BUT AN ELITIST RED HERRING

Post-truth paints the majority of people as operating without a concern for truth—that their emotions override any type of practice that has truth-orientation. It distracts from trying to encourage better practices of justificatory responsibility. 

leveraging

the space of reasons

interpretation

VERTICAL (e.g.,close reading)

Determining the warrant and meaning of assertions more or less on its own terms.

For textual documents, this includes:

  • Looking up definitions of complex terms, jargon, and non-English words (e.g., Latin)

  • Assessing  the internal consistency and coherence of the text. Are there contradictory facts or arguments? Are there leaps in the logic of the text (e.g., non sequitur)?

  • Identifying clear indications of meaning (e.g., a thesis statement, arguments, or beliefs)

  • Working out the structure of the text

Source: Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 3048994). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. 

LATERAL (e.g., taking bearings)

Determining the warrant and meaning of an assertion through its context.  For textual documents, this includes:

  • Reviewing secondary sources cited/footnoted in the original text. Is the original source's interpretation accurate ? Do the secondary sources provide more meaning?

  • Reading commentary, analysis, and criticism of the original text

  • Evaluating the historico-political context of the original text and its author(s).

conclusions

1.

OUR APPROACH TO TRUTH MUST FIT OUR PURPOSES

2.

WARRANTED ASSERTION IS A USEFUL CONCEPTION OF TRUTH WITHIN ACADEMIC RESEARCH + POPULAR MEDIA

the priority of practical uses over abstract conceptions

3.

POST-TRUTH IS INCOHERENT + IMPLAUSIBLE + DISTRACTING

focus is needed on creating the conditions that encourage information evaluation and proliferation to operate according to justification within the space of reasons (e.g., Correia, 2018, emphasizes contextual debiasing )

4.

THERE ARE TECHNIQUES TO MAKE THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN ASSERTIONS IN THE SPACE OF REASONS EXPLICIT

contextualizing assertions within the space of reason: on entailment and being entailed by

contextualizing assertions within the space of reason: on entailment and being entailed by

Questions?

Thanks

examples from class

example technique to emphasize lateral interpretation

MALAPROPISMS + COMMUNICATION

At a BBQ, a friend tells you, "I'm going to get a hutdog ."

+

"hut" + "dog"

WE NEED TO APPEAL TO SALIENT CONTEXTUAL INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS STATEMENT

Citation


INDIGENOUS RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES + CITATION

  • In general, students were not citing sources, let alone citing according to a given style.

  • I consulted with students, elders, and Indigenous professors, and relevant literature to emphasize the relational nature of citation, rather than focusing primarily on academic integrity. 

  • As a result, we framed citation in terms of Indigenous scholar and educator Evelyn Steinhauer's criteria for research: "Respect, Reciprocity and Relationality (as cited in Wilson, 2008, p.58). 

  • Result: instructors said citation was more prevalent as a practice among students. This did not markedly improve the alignment with citation style standards.

References

Blake, A. (2017, November 29). Sarah Huckabee Sanders just tacitly endorsed using anti-Muslim propaganda. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/11/29/the-trump-white-house-just-tacitly-endorsed-anti-muslim-propaganda/

 

Brandom, R. (1983). Asserting. Noûs, 17(4), 637–650.

 

Brandom, R. (2001). Articulating Reasons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

Correia, V. (2018). Contextual debiasing and critical thinking: Reasons for optimism. Topoi, 31(1), 103-111.

 

Davidson, D. (2001a). Epistemology externalized. Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (pp.193-204).Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.(Original work published 1990).

 

Davidson, D. (2004). The problem of objectivity. Problems of rationality (pp.3-18). Oxford, UK: Oxford University press. (Original work published 1995).

 

Elgin, C. Z. (2017). True enough. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 

Graham, D. A. (2017, November 29). It's not an act. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/its-not-an-act/547010/

 

Kierkegaard, S. (2006). Fear and Trembling. (C. S. Evans & S. Walsh, Eds., S. Walsh, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1843).

 

Lackey, J. (2006). The Nature of Testimony. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 87(2), 177–197.

 

Lackey, J.  (2007). Norms of Assertion. Noûs, 41(4), 594–626.

 

Lenker, M. (2016). Motivated Reasoning, Political Information, and Information Literacy Education. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(3), 511–528. https://doi.org/10.1353/pla.2016.0030

 

Lynch, M.P. (2015). Pragmatism and the price of truth. In S. Gross, N. Tebben, & M. Williams (Eds.) Meaning without representation: Essays on truth, expression, normativity, and naturalism (pp.245-261). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


McKinnon, R. (2015). The norms of assertion: Truth, lies, and warrant. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

References

Post-truth. Def. 2. (2018). OED Online. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/58609044?redirectedFrom=post-truth&

 

Price, H. (2011). Truth as convenient friction. In R.B. Talisse & S.F. Aikin (Eds.) The pragmatism reader: From Peirce through the present (pp.451-470). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

 

Sellars, W. (with Rorty, R. & Brandom R.). (1997). Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1956)

 

Verheggen, C. (2013). Triangulation. In E. Lepore & K. Ludwig (Eds.) Companion to Donald Davidson (pp. 456-471). West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

 

Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and Its Limits. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

 

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony. Back Point, Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

 

Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information. Stanford History Education Group Working Paper (No. 2017-A1).

 

Wrenn, C. (2015). Truth. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

The incoherence of post-truth

By Dom Taylor

The incoherence of post-truth

Ways in which post-truth is neither accurate nor useful as a concept (ACRL ND-MB 2018 Symposium)

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