Sheila Jasanoff Photo

Sheila Jasanoff

Appointment
Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies
Office Address
79 John F. Kennedy St. Littauer Bldg 354
617-495-7902
Jasanoff, Sheila, and Hilton R. Simmet. "No Funeral Bells: Public Reason in a ‘Post-Truth’ Age." Social Studies of Science 47.5 (October 2017): 751-770.

Abstract

The label ‘post-truth’ signals for many a troubling turn away from principles of enlightened government. The word ‘post’, moreover, implies a past when things were radically different and whose loss should be universally mourned. In this paper, we argue that this framing of ‘post-truth’ is flawed because it is ahistorical and ignores the co-production of knowledge and norms in political contexts. Debates about public facts are necessarily debates about social meanings, rooted in realities that are subjectively experienced as all-encompassing and complete, even when they are partial and contingent. Facts used in policy are normative in four ways: They are embedded in prior choices of which experiential realities matter, produced through processes that reflect institutionalized public values, arbiters of which issues are open to democratic contestation and deliberation, and vehicles through which polities imagine their collective futures. To restore truth to its rightful place in democracy, governments should be held accountable for explaining who generated public facts, in response to which sets of concerns, and with what opportunities for deliberation and closure.