Philosophy and the Post-Truth World
12 January 2017
How Philosophy can help make sense of ‘Post-Truth’ world
In the wake of the US Presidential Elections and the Brexit vote, Philosophy may help society reflect and question the many versions of the truth circulating in our modern digital age.
Speaking on World Philosophy Day in November, Irish President Michael D Higgins expressed concern about anti-intellectualism, spreading particularly among the insecure and the excluded: “A new politics of fear, resentment and prejudice against those who are not ‘like us’ requires the capacity to critique, which an early exposure to the themes and methods of philosophy can bring.”
Amid claims of a new “post-truth” society, the ability to discriminate between truthful language and rhetoric has arguably never been more important, argue Cardiff University academics.
Dr Huw Williams, organiser of a community Philosophy Café explains: “As philosophers working in the real world, on common problems, we are striving to engage people in Wales on important issues which they may not immediately relate to an academic subject. The current shifts and turbulence mean the skills of our subject are more relevant than ever, and it is encouraging that government policy in Wales has led to a greater emphasis on philosophy in the curriculum.”
In the spotlight currently are the concepts of lying and paltering or partial truth-telling.
Paltering has been the focus of a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in which half of participants of a Harvard Business School executive education course admitted to using the tactic in work-related negotiations.
“Being economical with the truth is nothing new” explains fellow philosopher Dr Dafydd Huw Rees. “But what is arguably on the rise in contemporary society is something more dangerous - giving up on the ideas of truth and lies at all. As engaged public philosophers, it is our job to do something about that."
“Reaching out to the wider world is routine for us” adds Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol lecturer Dr Huw Williams. “We are proud to be the long-standing home of the Philosophy Seminar series in Wales in conjunction with the Royal Institute of Philosophy.
"We are conscious of our role in engaging people across society, regardless of age, belief, language or culture. So we continue to reach out in more creative ways. The Philosophy Café in Grangetown sits alongside interaction online, on blogs such as the Epicurean Cure run by Dr Stephanie Rennick, whilst twitter accounts such as @meddwl are the latest initiatives” he adds.
In the past 12 months three major international Philosophy conferences were held in Wales, in tandem with events at national level. Within the University, the School’s 14 experts continue to publish widely on a range of subjects ranging from From Personality to Virtue co-edited by Dr Jonathan Webber to the latest, Global Justice: The Basics, co-authored by Dr Huw Williams.
With research interests in political philosophy, the philosophy of religion and deliberative democracy, Dr Dafydd Huw Rees teaches at the School under the auspices of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Dr Rees appeared on Radio Cymru’s Aled Hughes programme on Friday 6 January.
A regular columnist in a new Welsh-language literary publication O'r Pedwar Gwynt, Dr Huw Williams discussed the concept of a post-truth society on Radio Cymru’s religious and ethics programme, Bwrw Golwg on Sunday 8 January.