This chapter identifies current post-factual politics as a result of the way references to emotions have been placed outside truth production in modern science and politics. As such, they have created a powerful binary of factual knowledge and emotions, which dominates the public discourse on truth. The frequent assertion that we find ourselves in post-factual times implies that at some point in the past there was a time when truth could easily be distinguished from a lie, and a time when it was clear that governing institutions held the truth. This chapter challenges such a view by citing the historical example of the Viennese obstetrician Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, who made himself unpopular in his day because of his discovery of the origins of childbed fever. While Semmelweis has been often portrayed as a tragic hero who could not achieve his aim because he was ‘too emotional’, viewing this historical anecdote in light of the development of the modern notion of truth as a fact-based and unemotional knowledge enables us to problematize further how truth breaks with accepted path-dependencies and institutional responsibilities and how it becomes negotiated. This paradoxical character of truth – as solid knowledge, while being revolutionary – calls for a subtler analysis of truth’s scenography.
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Partisanship, the second characteristics of truth’s scenography, is a strategy to undermine both truth and science. It has been made possible by the language of neutralization, which has developed as the leading discursive register of science and expertise. Portrayed as detached from emotions, scientists have coproduced a public discourse on science as a neutral enterprise without socio-political consequences. Because of their embrace of this idolatry of neutral science, modern governments - in their efforts to promote debates on facts and data - have referenced emotions as synonymous to partisanship and thus as corrupting to scientific inquiry. However, all knowledge is partisan to the extent that it becomes necessarily embedded in the socio-political order it reacts to, and it coproduces through the knowledge it delivers. The chapter discusses the conflict around the scientists’ participation in the March for Science and focuses on narratives and discourses through which partisanship is placed in the public discourse on science.
This closing chapter suggests paying attention to the particular ways in which emotions are referenced when science and expertise are discussed. Moving from what emotions are, toward what emotions mean in particular discussions, and understanding how they might conceal particular interests, are fundamental in understanding the success of post-factual politics. Referencing emotions as either ‘good’ and ‘useful’, or ‘disturbing’ and ‘irrelevant’, reveals a larger socio-political order that legitimizes some emotions while rejecting others; it also qualifies actors as relevant on the basis of their emotionality. In order to challenge post-factual attacks on science and expertise, we must rehabilitate the role of emotions within science; indeed, saving science from post-factualism might require us to politicize our scientific selves.
This chapter analyses the first characteristic of truth’s scenography: vexatious knowledge. Breaking with previously accepted knowledge, scientific discoveries make the new knowledge irritating, or even threatening, which raises an emotional dynamic that is nevertheless downplayed by the public presentation of truth. While the public performance of truth by scientists taking part in the March for Science demonstrates such detachment from emotional dynamics, an examination of the irritants and threats surrounding the discovery of AIDS or, once again, the Semmelweis case, shows how this neglect of the role of emotion in truth production disguises the socio-political interdependencies lying behind the alleged truth assertions, and makes it impossible to distinguish actual scientific breakthrough from a fraud that is only staged as such a breakthrough. It thus suggests that, in order to deal with post-factual politics, we need to pay more attention to how emotional appeals to facts are used and mobilized in the public discourse on truth and science.
Edited by Andrew Geddes, Marcia Vera Espinoza, Leila Hadj Abdou and Leiza Brumat
Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen
Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen
What does social justice mean with respect to later life? We need to comprehend the social injustices that are associated with old age, or what might be termed unjust ageing. These are inequalities that arise from the way that societies are organised rather than from diversities such as gender, race, ethnicity, personality or physical attributes that characterise all human societies. The good fortune to be born a woman does not have to result in injustice but, in patriarchal societies, it invariably means a subordinate economic status entailing lower income and more labour market precarity than a man, which in time means lower pension in old age. This inequality is not inevitable, but it is universal because societies are not arranged in ways to prevent it. The chapter looks at the policy measures required to ensure that social injustice is minimised in later life and the principles underpinning such a programme.