Truth as Politically Normative

Guest lecture by Michael Lynch, Professor of Philosophy (University of Connecticut).


Imagine a community of people – the “Facebookians” – whose political discourse is guided solely by values of commitment and conformity. Roughly speaking, the “Facebookians” think they should only make political claims that are liked by their friends and willing to defend themselves from their enemies. For the Facebookians, it is correct to claim that Trump is a stable genius, when, and only when, it meets those conditions. Now suppose most “Facebookians” are unaware of their own norms. Like us, they call people who defend their political views “sincere,” describe their own political judgments as “true” and insist they’re concerned with “evidence” and “facts” – even though they aren’t ever motivated by, or responsive to, actual evidence and facts in politics. They are, as it were, blind to the norms that really move them, mistaking truth for conformity and chasing shadows on the digital walls. In this talk, I use this disturbing thought experiment to examine the normative function – if any – truth has in democratic political discourse.

Drawing on earlier work by Huw Price and others, I argue that reflection on this sort of scenario reveals that truth has a more than disquotational function in such discourse – a function that, while very thin, still plays a crucial democratic role. But I will also suggest – based on the obvious similarities between our own actual political discourse and those of the “Facebookians” – that this role is often merely regulative and aspirational.

Everyone is welcome and no registration is needed. 

The lecture is organized by Klemens Kappel and Sille Søe and funded by the DFF project Absence of information in decision-making processes (ABSENCE) and the Section for Philosophy.