JR Seminar: Truth, Politics, and Democracy

Primary Number: POLS 43002-01

ConStudies Number: X

ConStudies CRN: X

Primary CRN: X

Instructor: McAdams III, A. James (AMCADAMS)

Day/Time: MW 11am-12:15pm

Attributes: WRIT - Writing Intensive (WRIT)

Location: X

What is the relationship between truth and politics? Why should truth matter in a liberal democracy? Not very long ago, these questions would have seemed odd. Yet, we now live in a world in which truth seems up for grabs and people’s feelings are more important than scientific knowledge and facts. We are also living in a world in which liberal democratic values, norms, and institutions are in crisis. Politicians of all political persuasions act as though staying in power is more important than serving the public good. Hence, they become masters of Untruthtelling. It’s no surprise that citizens no longer trust their leaders and are susceptible to manipulation by conspiracy theorists, predatory opinionmakers, and demagogues. What a mess! In this seminar, we will consider numerous aspects of the uneasy relationship between truth and liberal democracy in our troubled times. Topics will include the philosophical underpinnings of truth-telling; the relationship between truth and justice; “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and political lies; American exceptionalism, “post-truth,” and the denial of facts and science; the benefits and dangers of social media; strategies for restoring popular confidence in truth; and what it means to “live within the truth.” We will consider the perspectives of a variety of thinkers and political actors and pundits, both present and past, including John Stuart Mill, Machiavelli, Vaclav Havel, Mark Zuckerberg, Tucker Carlson, and, yes, Donald Trump.