Thanks to President Trump, Twitter, and other related phenomena, we have recently been hearing much about the ‘post-truth society’. I will now say with some confidence that there is no such thing as a post-truth society, and never will be.
It’s easy to get carried away with ‘post-modern’, ‘post-structural’, and the like. As robotics develops we might soon be hearing about ‘post-human’! But the very fact we sometimes find, as we always have, people, not least powerful people like politicians, businesspeople, officials, and so on, being ‘economical with the truth’ if not downright lying, confirms why truth matters and will continue to matter. Would anyone try to avoid the truth if it wasn’t important?
I suspect that when we talk about (moral) obligations to speak or uncover the truth we are talking loosely. It would be more accurate to say that we often have good reasons to rely on truth – and specific truths – and so we set up obligations to respect it. There is nothing arbitrary about perjury being a criminal offence. That is to say, truth is important enough to dictate our morals and even law, and not the other way around.
This is not to say we will ever always stick to the truth, or even should do. Sometimes, a white lie is the kindly thing to do. (The crucial thing is about taking unfair advantage.) But we’ll always be finding too many truths we need to know about, and tell others about, to leave ourselves with a post-truth society.