What to Do with Post-Truth

Nordic Wittgenstein Review 8:63-79 (2019)
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Recent political developments have made the notion of 'post-truth' ubiquitous. Along with associated terms such as 'fake news' and 'alternative facts', it appears with regularity in coverage of and commentary on Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, and the role – relative to these phenomena – of a half-despised, half-feared creature known as 'the public'. It has become commonplace to assert that we now inhabit, or are entering, a post-truth world. In this paper, I issue a sceptical challenge against the distinctiveness and utility of the notion of post-truth. I argue, first, that the term fails to capture anything that is both real and novel. Moreover, post-truth discourse often has a not-fully-explicit political force and function: to ‘irrationalise’ political disaffection and to signal loyalty to a ‘pre-post-truth’ political status quo. The central insight of the speech act theory of J. L. Austin and others – that saying is always also doing – is as indispensable for understanding the significance of much of what is labelled ‘post-truth’, I’ll argue, as it is for understanding the significance of that very act of labelling. Keywords: post-truth, speech acts, Trump, brexit, Austin.



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Lorna Finlayson
University of Essex

References found in this work

How to do things with words.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press. Edited by Marina Sbisá & J. O. Urmson.
On Bullshit.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1986 - Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
On bullshit.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1986 - Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
On Bullshit.Harry Frankfurt - 1986 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (223):300-301.
How to Screw Things with Words.Lorna Finlayson - 2014 - Hypatia 29 (4):774-789.

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