Are Denialists the others? Truth, deception and interest in the post-truth era


  • Alyne de Castro Costa Fórum de Ciência e Cultura da UFRJ e PUC-Rio



Public debates about denialism seemingly rely on the ambiguity of deception (engano): “professional deniers” are those who deceive, scientists those who do not deceive, and “ordinary people” those supposedly more susceptible to being deceived. However, studies show that deniers see their attitude as a precaution against deception. Explanations depicting them as anti-science, anti-democratic or ignorant thus fail to grasp the phenomenon in its complexity. Here, I turn to the Nietzschean notion of a “will to truth” to posit negationism as a deleterious effect of science’s own image as a disinterested shield against error, deceit or self-deception. Moreover, I suggest that the opposition truth/deception makes us all potential deniers, and propose, as protection against this risk, to recognize the interests leading people to dispute facts. I also discuss the sociopolitical context in which negationism emerged and outline some thoughts for a notion of truth more compatible with today’s “matters of concern.”


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Special Issue: Science and Values