The Uselessness of Logic in a Post Truth World

The word of the year is Post Truth.

In the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year.

Defined by the dictionary as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”.

Oxford Dictionaries’s word of the year is intended to “reflect the passing year in language”

So how do we navigate in a Post Truth world? How do we employ logic when how someone feels about facts is more important then the facts themselves?

The short answer, and the only answer is; we don’t. Logic and reason have no place in a Post Truth world.

Here, philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris puts it like this:

Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water”? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?

I can’t function in a Post Truth world.


4 thoughts on “The Uselessness of Logic in a Post Truth World

  1. I share your frustration, but also suggest expanding your sample size. If someone says a version of, “That’s not how I choose to think about water”, find someone else to speak with. There’s a lot of ignorance in the world. You’ll never escape it. But the entire world isn’t solely composed of the ignorant. You have some control over how much time and energy you spend with the fact-impaired.

    This isn’t a post-truth world. There are just people in it that behave post-truth.

    • I try to do that, but with most of the world run on and by those who subscribe to post truth principles, it isn’t easy. Even in my industry (in my day job I work for a newspaper), which is supposed to be the beacon of logic and reason, I see the post truth tendencies encroaching.

      • I’m retired, and I tend to see American history in my living memory as cyclical. I can’t properly codify it, but this post-truth period feels very similar to 1970-72, when there was a big gap in beliefs and politics between those who still believed Vietnam was winnable and Nixon was a hero, and those like me who felt it was already lost and Nixon was a paranoid crook.

        It all flipped by 1974, so I guess I’m experiencing the hope that it could again, that Trump will somehow bring about his own implosion or others will catch him in high crimes. Then we can do a resurrection of disco and punk 😀

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