Navigating Tribal Truth

I’ve been a regular at the IAI’s “How The Light Gets In” (HTLGI) festival at Hay-on-Wye in recent years, but was unable to attend this year (though I may make it to the London event later in the year). They’ve started putting-up the video recorded sessions since the May bank holiday weekend event.

As a fan of Rebecca Goldstein, this is one I was looking out for, with Hilary Lawson (an integral part of IAI and HTLGI) and Homi Bhabha hosted by Rana Mitter.

After Post-Truth
How do we navigate a world where truth is tribal?

Apart from a slight blip (where Mitter raises a rhetorical question about Heisenberg and Nazism!) and a digression (on whether to “blame” post-modernists), it’s a very good session. Proper dialogue closing in on points of agreement, so much so that Lawson is required to add some disagreement barb for effect in his own closing remark.

I have lots of notes on what each says, but just watch it. Summarising the overall discussion:

All assertions are somewhat “tribal” from a position of identity of the person making the assertion, even a scientist making a would-be scientific assertion or a philosopher analysing its truth value. That’s nothing new, even if the social-media “post-truth” world seems to exaggerate and more transparently expose such tribal positions.

We shouldn’t abandon capital-T objective Truth of the real world out there as a concept that is the focus of science, but we should abandon it as the privileged form of truth in human discourse in general. In discourse all truths are in some sense perspectival and metaphorical, and the focus should be the process of the discourse. Rather than the objective truth, the focus is epistemological; how we get to know. The process must include looking and listening with respect for the other and giving credit for some recognisable version of their position (some minimum form of Rappaport or Steel-Man). Part of what Homi Bhabha calls “Interpretational Good Practice” (and I call Rules of Engagement). Even as a philosopher of science, defending the objective truth of realism in science, Rebecca Goldstein the fiction author majors on affect and love in human relationships. Attention to the other in the moment.

(Aside – tickled to notice that Lawson tags himself PoPoMo, exactly as I do.)

Watch this one, here.

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