Is Truth Obsolete?

Source: letter to the editor of The New York Times from Casey Williams, Ph.D. student in literature at Duke University, freelance writer and journalist, April 18

…Even if we felt comfortable asserting the existence of something like “truth,” there’s no going back to the days when Americans agreed on matters of fact – when debates about policy were guided by a commitment to truth and reason. Indeed, critique shows us that it’s doubtful that those days, like Trump’s “great” America, ever existed….

Even in a “post-truth era,” a critical attitude allows us to question dominant systems of thought, whether they derive authority from an appearance of neutrality, objectivity or inevitability or from a more Trumpian appeal to alternative facts that dispense with empirical evidence. In a world where lawmakers still appeal to common sense to promote regressive policies, critique remains an important tool for anyone seeking to move past the status quo.

This is because critical ways of thinking demand that we approach knowledge with attention and humility and recognize that, while facts might be created, not all facts are created equal.

While Trump appeals more often to emotions than to facts – or even to common sense – critique can help those who oppose him question the Trumpian version of reality. We can ask not whether a statement is true or false, but how and why it was made and what effects it produces when people feel it to be true. Paying attention to how knowledge is created and used can help us hold leaders like Trump accountable for what they say.

And if we question all ideas – not just the ones we dislike – perhaps our critiques can also reveal new ways of thinking and suggest political possibilities undreamed of by either Trump or his centrist opponents.

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2 responses to “Is Truth Obsolete?

  1. What a windbag. Is “Critique” a person or a thing?

  2. In answer to the question of the title, may I suggest this NYT piece: http://nyti.ms/2pijLFo
    A quote: “Are truth and kayfabe, then, irreconcilable? In some contexts, probably. But devotees of the former might be well served to think of the latter as complementary rather than competing.” The valuable insight the article presents is an explanation of *kayfabe*.

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