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Classes | Talks

Democracy Without Truth

Thu, Feb 8, 2018
  • 7:30PM
RUN TIME: 2hrs
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Thursday February 08, 2018
Performances no longer available.

Co-presented by BAM and Think Olio
With Manuel Rodeiro

In The Republic, Plato makes the very undemocratic case that the ideal society is a technocracy, or a state governed by experts. This argument stems from his belief in a universal “Truth”; once it is “discovered” we should rely on it to determine social policy. But if the Platonic conception of Truth is abandoned and we move towards a more pragmatic conception of “truth” (as a means of coping with reality rather than strictly copying it), then wholeheartedly embracing democracy makes sense.

In this first edition of The Great Experiment: Questioning Democracy, seminar participants investigate our current notion of truth in democracy. Taking philosopher Richard Rorty’s infamous claim—“truth is what our peers will, ceteris paribus, let us get away with saying”—as a starting point, we explore the implications of accepting truth as nothing more than talk. We discuss the many instances of this playing out in our contemporary public discourse: climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and the like. And finally, we ask: How can we navigate a middle path between Plato’s complete reliance on expertise at the expense of democratic decision-making, without unduly undermining the role of experts in guiding public policy?

The Great Experiment: Questioning Democracy is open to all curious people, regardless of educational background. The format of each seminar comprises three 15-minute lectures, followed by discussion and text analysis with a professor.