The Value of Truth (Honors)
Truth has been under assault from many directions in recent years. Postmodernists attempt to undermine truth by attacking the very idea of an objective, mind-independent Reality. Corporate lobbyists and their politicians attempt to hide the truth by silencing scientists and critics. The mainstream media drowns important news items in a sea of “infotainment” pieces. The once firm boundaries between fiction & nonfiction, propaganda & news, and fraud & honest labor all seem to be failing. And now we’re told that even reality television is not real! Does truth not matter anymore? Why should we care about truth and truthfulness? Are we truthful to others about who we are as individuals? Is there even a fact of the matter about who you are? How might the devaluation of truth affect our relations to one another? Can a society really be free and democratic if it does not value truth? This course attempts to answer these questions by examining material from multiple media sources (e.g., documentaries and films, newspaper and magazine articles, public-access audio and visual clips, novels, and philosophical essays). This seminar connects most directly with sub-themes from Chapters I-III of Pacific Seminar I—in particular, Thinking for Oneself, Free Speech and Knowledge, Scientific Thinking, Critiques of Capitalism, Media, Minorities and Tolerance, and Obedience to Law.