What is New in Our Time? The Truth in 'Post Truth': A Response to Finlayson

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Abstract

Finlayson argues that ‘post-truth’ is nothing new. In this response, I motivate a more modest position: that it is something new, to some extent, albeit neither radically new nor brand new.

I motivate this position by examining the case of climate-change-denial, called by some post-truth before 'post-truth'.

I examine here the (over-determined) nature of climate-denial. What precisely are its attractions?; How do they manage to outweigh its glaring, potentially-catastrophic downsides? I argue that the most crucial of all attractions of climate-denial is that it involves the denier in a kind of fantasised power over reality itself: namely, over the nature of our planetary system, and thus of life itself. Climate-denial pretends to give the denier a power greater than that of nature, including in nature's 'rebellion' against humanity, what James Lovelock calls Gaia's incipient and coming 'fever'.

Climate-denial seems to give the denier freedom from truth itself, in the case of the most consequential truth at present bearing down upon humanity. The most crucial of all the attractions of climate-denial is then that it provides would-be libertarians an ultimate freedom. They reject the reality of human-triggered climate-change, in the end, because they are unwilling to be ‘bound’ by anything, not even truth itself.

Climate-denial has been around for a while, but not for more than 30-35 years or so. I thus suggest that Finlayson is right to be sceptical of the claim that post-truth is radically new and extremely recent, but I suggest that it is relativelynew and has been with us for only about a generation or at most two.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-96
JournalNordic Wittgenstein Review
Issue number2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2019

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