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Post Truth

Are we living in a post-truth world, where "alternative facts" replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? In my latest book Post-Truth (MIT Press 2018), I trace the development of this phenomenon from its roots in science denial, cognitive bias, and postmodernism through the rise of "fake news," "information silos," and alternative media. What exactly is post-truth? Is it wishful thinking, political spin, mass delusion, or bold-faced lying? By analyzing recent examples—inflated claims about inauguration crowd size, bogus crime statistics, and unfounded allegations about the 2016 popular vote—I've concluded that post-truth is not merely an attempt to fool us into believing falsehoods, it is an assertion of ideological supremacy. Yet post-truth didn't begin with the 2016 election; the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change offers a road map for more widespread fact denial. Add to this the wired-in cognitive biases that make us feel that our conclusions are based on good reasoning even when they are not, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media, and the emergence of fake news as a political tool, and we have the ideal conditions for post-truth. In Post-Truth I also argue that we can fight back, but that the first step in combatting post-truth is to understand where it came from.

I'm trained as a philosopher—and I do keep my hand in academic work through both scholarship and teaching—but my goal in writing these days is to engage a much larger audience in the kind of philosophical dialogue that can help to change the way that we think about the problems of everyday life and how philosophy might have a role in making the world a better place.

In some ways, this is a return to what philosophy had always been about, before the academics got ahold of it, when Socrates and his followers considered anything and everything to be a suitable topic for philosophical discussion, in hopes that the pursuit of wisdom would lead not only to knowledge but also a better life. We are in as much need of this today, I believe, as we were 2000 years ago. Philosophy needs not only professors, but also practitioners.

I hope that you might enjoy learning a bit more about my current works in progress. Feel free to sign up for my mailing list or email me with your own ideas about how philosophy can be made more accessible and relevant to the quality of human life. I'd love to hear from you.

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