What is true? Why should truth matter in a liberal democracy? Not very long ago, these questions would have seemed odd. Yet, we now live in a world in which truth seems up for grabs and people’s feelings seem more important than scientific knowledge and facts.
In this seminar, we will consider numerous aspects of the uneasy relationship between truth and politics in our troubled times. Topics will include the philosophical underpinnings of truth-telling in liberal democracies; the relationship between truth and justice; “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and political lies; American exceptionalism, “post-truth,” and the denial of facts and science; the benefits and dangers of social media; and what it means to “live within the truth.” We will consider the perspectives of a variety of thinkers and political actors, both present and past, including Plato, John Stuart Mill, Hannah Arendt, Cass Sunstein, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Donald Trump.