Talk by Sebastiano Moruzzi: “Towards an Epistemology of Post-Truth”

The Centre for Engaged Philosophy and the Crick Centre have the pleasure to invite you to a talk by Sebastiano Moruzzi (University of Bologna):

When? Wednesday the 29th of May, 11am to 12:30pm
Where? ICOSS Conference Room

Abstract: The term ‘post-truth’ has been widely used in recent years to characterise a broad epistemic trend in which persons or groups form opinions by systematically disregarding the informed judgements of experts and, more generally, the epistemic authority of scientific institutions. Understood in this general sense, the term denotes a variety of  heterogeneous phenomena such as: (i) the tendency of accusing one’s political opponent of creating hoaxes or fake news in order to delegitimize her/his opinion; (ii) the appeal to emotions as a rhetorical expedient to downgrade the significance of statistical data; (iii) the so-called science-wars—namely a variety of anti-scientific movements such as theanti-vax supporters, the flat-earth society, the climate-change deniers, the creationists, etc. It is thus evident that post-truth is a rather complex and multifaceted concept that requires an accurate analysis of its epistemological, historical, psychological, and sociological aspects. 
In this talk, we will focus exclusively on some core epistemological features of post-truth especially in relation to the third category mentioned above—i.e.,the so-called science-wars. We present three models (alt-facts, alt-judgment and alt-enquiry) that could be used to account for the various phenomena that fall under the umbrella term “post-truth”. We then focus on one model—alt-enquiry— and we critically discuss the following conjecture: there is a common methodological pattern within the science-wars debate which has significant epistemological consequences on how to conceive of the structure of enquiry. The pattern goes as follows: there is a conspiracy thesis that is at the core of (what we call) the ‘anti-scientific doctrine’; this is coupled with a tendency to seriously downplay the epistemic significance of any institutional and/or scientific evidence that could defeat the core conspiracy thesis while at the same time boosting any bits of scientific evidence that can be taken as corroborating the proposed anti-scientific view. This epistemic double-standard, we argue, creates an alternative kind of enquiry–which we label ‘post-enquiry’—which, similarly to enquiry, is advertised as pursuing the goal of truth but, dissimilarly from enquiry, it doesn’t take truth and truth-conducive evidence to be always the main criterion of epistemic assessment.