After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
“Why is it now that we have the most access to facts, do facts mean the least?” This is the initial question to start off a video by Veritasium called Post-truth: Why facts don’t matter anymore (embedded below). Derek Muller at Veritasium seems to present a position that sees objective facts being valueless at worst or devalued at best; believing that people are generally moving towards a world of complete subjectivity where facts don't matter.
Before getting into it, let's look at things a bit more clearly and get information from someone smart.
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher, who, through his Theory of Communicative Rationality, claims three kinds of formal reason which each have their own validity claim. The three being Aesthetic-expressive, Moral-practical, and Cognitive-instrumental. To hopefully make this more relatable, these can be seen as information from the following three domains, I, We, and It(s). The “Big Three” areas of life. So now that we can more clearly relate to these areas, let’s look at Habermas’ validity claims which are truth, truthfulness, and rightness. We then have the following domains and their respective validity claims:
For the ‘It(s)’ domain of Nature we have cognitive-instrumental formal reasoning which is the objective and inter-objective gauge for objective fit. This is information about how something objectively works on an individual level and within a collective system measured quantitatively. In short the validity claim answers ‘Is it measurably true?’.
For the ‘I’ domain of Self we have aesthetic-expressive formal reasoning which is the subjective truthfulness of one’s interior space. Nothing from this subjective space is able to be measured objectively. Therefore an individual must subjectively feel or experience something and must then subjectively be honest about the subjective personal feeling of fit. If a person is honest or truthful about how they report their interior space then the person will be validating information from this domain. In summary the validity claim answers ‘How truthful or honest is it?’.
For the ‘We’ domain of Culture we have Moral-practical formal reasoning which is a gauge of inter-subjective fit or moral rightness. Again, not a place for objective measurements, though a place for moral fit within a collective. This information gets at truth that does not exist in the other two. Not about measurement or honesty, though answering the question of ‘How right or moral is it?’.
And thus we have:
Truth, Truthfulness, and Justness
The True, The Beautiful, and The Good
Objective Truth, Subjective Honesty, and Inter-subjective Morality
Personally, I think that this is a natural movement from the industrial mentality of objective achievement, which has given us the internet and modern tech while valuing the objective domains, towards a more balanced vision additionally accepting of the value presented in the subjective domains. Relatively speaking, it may seem that “facts mean less” though only because other data is now also seen as valuable, though not because truth itself has been devalued. It is however, precisely because we have the most access to facts can we see that facts aren’t the whole picture. What we are missing is truthfulness and morality, whose lack of presence is evident within corporate and governmental action these days. Propaganda gets twisted to wage immoral wars on the objectively impoverished. Clearly the facts are starting to point us in a better direction towards including more information within our decisions. Decisions that incorporate truth, truthfulness, and justness within the “Big Three” areas of life.
Personally, I see this as a positive movement away from the corporate world of a singular bottom line and "externalities" towards Integral Corporations whose multiple bottom lines will attract consumer purchases based upon greater truth, morality, and honesty.
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