STEVE FULLER AND THE POST TRUTH CONDITION (2): post-truth is meta-truth

Commenting on the OED definition of « post-truth » Steve Fuller remarks: « This definition is clearly pejorative. Indeed, it is a post-truth definition of ‘post-truth’. ». Fuller’s wager is that a non-pejorative concept of « post-truth » can be found.

Fuller further argues that such a non-pejorative conception has been at work sometimes implicitly sometimes explicitly for a very long time, since the origins of philosophy in the struggle over truth between Sophists and Socrates.

Bernard Stiegler argues that we may be entering a « post-truth » episteme (« Trumpocene »), but his argument remains stuck in the pejorative sense of « post-truth ». However, nothing in the notion precludes starting from an open definition of the post-truth episteme and then distinguishing positive and negative tendencies.

Following Machiavelli and Pareto, Fuller distinguishes between tradition and institution-oriented lions and innovation and freelance-oriented foxes. In his analysis both are post truth, only in different ways. Echoing Feyerabend he calls them respectively « inductive » and « counter-inductive ».

These two epistemological types are not mutually exclusive in practice. Both foxy and leonine tendencies can be found in varying proportions in a single individual. However, Bruno Latour is more of a lion, having declared in favour of « strengthening » institutions and Steve Fuller more of a fox in his anti-expert turn and in his defence of « protscience ».

This is in line with more general differences between the two thinkers, both theoretical (as we have seen) and practical. For example, Bruno Latour is in favour of the principle of precaution, whereas Steve Fuller is a proponent of the proactionary principle, and could be styled (may he forgive me this word) an epistemological accelerationist.

For Steve Fuller the lions (consensus, method) emphasise their difference with the foxes (dissensus, non-method as multiple methods), whereas the foxes prefer to highlight their fundamental proximity underneath the lion’s publicity and propaganda to the contrary.

This difference over distance (or not) between the two positions ties into a more general disciplinary methodological trait: lions tend to be demarcationists and specialists, foxes are interdisciplinary and transversal. Once the lions have entrenched their disciplinary matrix the foxes are marginalised. They are defined as losers by the only game in town. The best way they can survive, and perhaps one day prevail, is by becoming « meta- » and showing up the cognitive tradition for what it is, a game, and by seeking to transform the rules.

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