It’s official, we are living in a “post-truth” world.
Oxford Dictionaries elevated the term “post-truth” to the status of international word of the year. It’s the international word because Oxford maintains two teams dedicated to the differing American and British English, and while the teams usually choose different words important to their respective cultures, this year they both selected this same word.
Inspired by both Brexit (the name attributed to the result of the U.K. referendum deciding to leave the European Union) and the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the United States, “post-truth” addresses a prominent style of discourse involved in both events.
The official Oxford definition of “post-truth” is stated as:
Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
Such a definition deserves qualification and discussion.
A Critical Eye
On first sight, “post-truth” might be taken to mean that one should not consider appeals to emotion and personal belief when evaluating arguments. This is, at best, an oversimplification. If something is personally painful, it counts as a perfectly good reason to stop doing it.
The qualification that objective facts are “less influential” is, I think, meant to characterize a situation where inappropriate appeals to emotion and personal belief triumph over more appropriate appeals to facts.
In the context of the aim of our work at Trusted Clothes – to raise awareness and concern regarding the impact of the modern fashion industry on the world – having our audience emotionally connect with the millions of underpaid and underacknowledged garment workers around the world is a fully reasonable goal.
While many appeals to emotion should not be prioritized over facts, in some cases they should. Better, when objective facts coincide with appeals to emotion, there are multiple and multifaceted reasons for accepting the conclusion.
At Trusted Clothes, we hope you empathize with a lot of what we write. But we also hope that you read our posts critically, question sources and numbers, and express alternate views. Change means recognizing truth and sometimes the truth hurts.
About the Author
Michael Baumtrog, affectionately known as “Bommer”, has a PhD in Philosophy and is interested in practical reasoning, ethics, and their connections to social justice. Aside from his native Canada, he has lived in Europe and South Africa. At Trusted Clothes, Bommer works on mentoring new writers as well as editing past blog posts. He also owns and operates his own proofreading, copy-editing, and translations business called “Clarity and Style”