Philosophy 'Question Time': Philosophy in the Post-Truth Era
It is often said that we live in a post-truth world. And it is not hard to find examples of the disregard of truth and knowledge. Many of you will recall Gove’s pronouncement that the public has had enough of experts. Or Trump’s blatantly false assertion that there were many more people at this inauguration than at Obama’s.
The purpose of this Question Time is to shed light on the philosophical aspects of life in a post-truth world. Truth, knowledge, and belief, are, of course, key concepts in philosophy. What is truth? Wat is knowledge? And why do they matter to us? How do we form beliefs and how should we form them?
On the panel, we have people who work in different philosophical fields and on a broad range of topics. They have different perspectives that all bear on answering these questions, and on related questions that you might have.
Professor Fabienne Peter (Chair)
Fabienne Peter joined the Warwick Philosophy Department in 2004 and is currently the Head of Department. Much of her work has focused on the intersection between political philosophy and epistemology, especially on the significance of epistemic constraints for the justification of political decisions. She has written on political disagreements, for example, and on the role of expertise in politics. Together with Rowan Cruft (Stirling) and Jonathan Heawood (Impress), she is about to launch an AHRC-funded research project on “Norms for the New Public Sphere”. The project will be looking at the opportunities and challenges that the new social media pose for the public sphere and it will seek to develop norms for a well-ordered public sphere, including appropriate epistemic norms.
Ryan Acosta Babb
Ryan is a 4th year Mathematics and Philosophy student. He is writing his dissertation on Kant's moral proof for faith in the existence of God. This topic is riddled with fascinating questions about the limits of knowledge and the kinds of assent we can give to a proposition once we transgress those limits. In particular, Kant claims that we need to believe in God "as a need connected with duty" (CPrR 5:125), yet we cannot have any knowledge of God. How could such a belief be sustained? The foundation for this faith should be very strong if it is to support such a crucial aspect of our lives as morality. Can it meet this demand?
Ryan is also interested in questions about truth and proof in mathematics. In light of the "limitative results" in 20th century logic, we may have to consider whether mathematics, a traditional ideal of truth and certainty, may not have any use for the concept of "truth" as usually conceived.
Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson
Keith Ansell-Pearson has been a member of Warwick's Philosophy Department since 1993. He specialises in modern European Philosophy and published two new books in 2018, on Nietzsche and on Bergson. His book on Nietzsche's Search for Philosophy centres on Nietzsche's neglected middle writings and although it does not address the issue of 'post-truth' and the way Nietzsche has been positioned in the debates, the conceptions of philosophy that Nietzsche puts to work in these writings, and that the book explores, show that he is very much a thinker dedicated to the search for truth in his practice of 'the passion of knowledge. The image of Nietzsche as a 'post-truth' thinker is thus a gross caricature.
Dr Lucy Campbell
Lucy Campbell joined the department as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in 2018. One of her main research interests is in 'self-knowledge': the knowledge we have about our own minds. But self-knowledge can go wrong. Sometimes, for example, we get it wrong about why we hold the beliefs we do, making us more susceptible than we might like to think we are, to post-truth thinking.
Dr Mathew Coakley
Mat Coakley is a Teaching Fellow in philosophy and the department’s Senior Tutor. He works on how to evaluate political and social policies via the evidenced impact on those affected and also has a project on arbitrariness – what it is and why it is bad. Most of his work is predicated on the assumption that it matters what is true, matters that we have the tools to assess it, and matters that other impulses that drive claims – emotion, self-interest or a lazy disregard of the facts – don’t ultimately hold sway.
Irene dal Poz
Irene is a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick and Monash University. Her research explores the ethics of self-cultivation from the perspective of Foucault’s notion of governmentality. Particularly, it problematizes the conditions under which practices of self-government become possible for those who are both outside the legal framework and the most vulnerable within it. This research deploys Foucault’s genealogical method that rejects a traditional metaphysical account of truth conceived as the ultimate foundation for praxis. Through this critical approach, Foucault allows us to rethink ethics and politics without appeal to an absolute truth existing independently of subjectivity.