Looking for truth in the Facebook age? Seek out views you aren't going to 'like'

  • Written by Matthew Sharpe, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University

This is the second article in a series in which philosophers discuss the greatest moral challenge of our time, and how we should address it. Read the first article here.

“Post-truth” was the Oxford English Dictionary “word of the year” for 2016. As we move into 2018, let’s hope the hype surrounding this term gives way to more measured assessments. The term has all the uses and disadvantages of the hyperbole it represents.

On one hand, it draws attention to the profound challenges facing today’s news media and liberal democracies. On the other, it makes it seem like we have entered into a new dystopian world where politicians no longer want or need to tell the truth, and the media is so awash with “fake news” that citizens cannot trust it.

Yet this won’t do. It is easy to imagine that Australia’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, wishes that the media no longer had the will or wherewithal to report the truth. When Steve Bannon called the mainstream media the new “opposition party”, it is clear that he wanted it to be true.

Yet CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times are still trading. It is Bannon who has fallen from power. In Australia, too, media outlets continue to express biases and all the shortcomings that beset the mortal frame. Yet trying and failing to tell the whole truth, and nothing but, is a very different thing from disregarding truth altogether.

Read more: The greatest moral challenge of our time? It's how we think about morality itself

Traditional news services now face unprecedented competition in the age of the internet and social media. The need to attract large numbers of clicks favours sensationalism over serious research and partisanship over patient reportage.

Yet none of this makes truth-telling impossible. That is a claim which favours people who want to truck in half-truths and misrepresentations, and excuse themselves by saying that everyone else does it. Trump is a big fan of throwing around the term “fake news”. So is Vladimir Putin.

Nor do such challenges remove the vital role of truth-telling in sustaining open societies. On the contrary, citizens need to be able to “keep the bastards honest” more than ever, especially when they take to donning saviour’s clothing. Speaking truth to power is the great moral challenge of our time.

What’s Francis Bacon to Facebook?

At the beginning of modern scientific culture, philosopher Francis Bacon made a series of observations about how our minds work. They remain as relevant as ever in this apparent age of post-truth. For example:

The human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects, from which rays are emitted that distort and disfigure the truth.

When any proposition has been once laid down (our mind) forces everything else to add fresh support and confirmation.“

By contrast, we have a tough time accepting anything we don’t, well, "like”:

and although the most cogent and abundant evidences may exist to the contrary, yet we either do not observe or despise them, … sometimes with violent and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of our own first conclusions.

Looking for truth in the Facebook age? Seek out views you aren't going to 'like' Francis Bacon. Wikimedia Commons

In short: “people always believe more readily that which they prefer to be true”, rather than what happens to be true.

When it comes to prescribing his “new instrument” for inquiry, Bacon coaches his readers in how and where to actively seek out things that elude, challenge, upset or reframe their established beliefs.

So you can see what Francis Bacon is to Facebook.

Facebook generates your feed based on your past likes. Its business model figures you’ll be more likely to stay on the platform by being fed items that please rather than oppose or challenge you.

In other words, social media weaponises the “idols of the human mind”, which Bacon said prevent people from finding the truth. A Baconian Facebook would select your news items based on what you are likely to disagree with rather than playing to your prejudices.

Liberals and leftists would be made to “friend” devoted readers of Breitbart. They in turn would be fed the New York Times and the Washington Post. And perhaps the accelerating uncivil polarisation of public life would actually slow.

What’s Spinoza to sharing?

Shortly after Bacon, another modern giant, Benedict de Spinoza, also distinguished the ways we follow the prejudices and “likes” of our tribes from how he believed people should seek the truth.

We are social creatures, Spinoza observed. His Ethics deftly analyses the way our emotions and opinions “love company”. We very often do or believe things simply because others around us do. Moreover, “everyone endeavours, as far as possible, to cause others to love what he himself loves, and to hate what he himself hates”.

Share that.

Indeed, fuelled by this echoing and mirroring of our passionate beliefs, we readily jump to generalisations about whole groups, based only on whether we like or dislike some individuals:

If a man has been affected pleasurably or painfully by anyone, of a class or nation different from his own, and if the pleasure or pain has been accompanied by the idea of the said stranger as cause … the man will feel love or hatred, not only to the individual stranger, but also to the whole class or nation whereto he belongs.

Today’s social media feeds upon these characteristics, fuelling tribalism and incivility. But Spinoza agrees with Bacon that the only way to halt the hatred is to cultivate people’s awareness of their own tendencies to select, simplify and screen information.

We are not post-truth. But it is up to citizens to be alert to lies and distortions. And it’s up to our educational institutions to keep alive the many resources in our tradition which can prevent hyperbole from becoming fact.

Authors: Matthew Sharpe, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/looking-for-truth-in-the-facebook-age-seek-out-views-you-arent-going-to-like-91659

Australia Today

A Personal Parenting Assistant to Survive Those Early Baby Years

Andrea Edwards

CATH RESNICK When you have a baby your whole world changes, not only are you concentrating on feeding, changing nappies and generally surviving each day, but there’s also the bigger picture issues to worry about like vaccinations and the development of your child.   Mum of six and psychothe...

Read more

Top Amenities You Enjoy by Renting Luxury Caravans for Road Trips

Hayley Potter

Do you love to undertake road trips? What the luxury cruises on the ocean are for ocean travelers, luxury caravanning is the same for land-lubbers. Traveling in a luxury caravan is now something more than treading the red carpet. Luxury caravans are big beauties that offer velvet smooth rides with t...

Read more

Here Are Some Extra Reasons for You to Visit the Cayman Islands

Roxana Oliver

It’s no secret that the term ‘heaven on Earth’ gets tossed around a lot. We too are tired of seeing it used for places that have sandy beaches, palm trees, sunny weather, and nothing more. Sure, these destinations are gorgeous, but our definition of heaven on Earth is a little bit different. So, ...

Read more

Some 'bloody' rocket science gives Pacific Rim Uprising an extra lift

Michael Milford, Professor, Queensland University of Technology

Pacific Ring Uprising.Universal Pictures/LegendaryPacific Rim Uprising is the sequel to 2013’s smash hit Pacific Rim, in which humanity united to create Jaegers (giant human-operated armoured robot machines, or mechas) to fight Kaiju (giant alien monsters, which rose from the ocean). While the...

Read more

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on musical chairs in the Senate

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Mathias Cormann congratulates new Senate arrival Amanda Stoker, who replaces George Brandis.Mick Tsikas/AAPMichelle Grattan speaks with Deep Saini about the week in Australian politics. They discuss the fallout from Super Saturday – Labor’s win in the Batman byelection against the Greens...

Read more

Not getting a social licence to operate can be a costly mistake, as coal seam gas firms have found

Hanabeth Luke, Lecturer, Southern Cross GeoScience, Southern Cross University

And if you wait too long to survey a community, it can end up being too be too late to turn the tide of opinion.Richard Swinton, Author providedIn a wide-ranging recent speech, Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said there was:…an opportunity for all of us to turn our social lic...

Read more

My Favourite Album: Dead Letter Circus’s Aesthesis

Mandy Stefanakis, Sessional lecturer in music education, Deakin University

Still from Dead Letter Circus's song While You Wait, from the album Aesthesis. YoutubeMusic is a phenomenon like no other. It grabs you by the throat and tenaciously drags you into its clutches, shakes you up and down and never lets go.The night after my first teaching gig at Deakin, in early 2015, ...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Top Amenities You Enjoy by Renting Luxury Caravans for Road Trips

Do you love to undertake road trips? What the luxury cruises on the ocean are for ocean travelers, luxury caravanning is the same for land-lubbers. Traveling in a luxury caravan...

Here Are Some Extra Reasons for You to Visit the Cayman Islands

It’s no secret that the term ‘heaven on Earth’ gets tossed around a lot. We too are tired of seeing it used for places that have sandy beaches, palm trees...

FV by Peppers: Brisbane's Hottest New Hotel

Brisbane’s hottest new hotel, FV by Peppers has officially opened its doors with Mantra Group’s Chief Operating Officer Tomas Johnsson and the Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development and...

Long Island Boasts Signature Calendar of Events for Travelers in 2018

LONG ISLAND, NY (March 5, 2018) – There are many reasons to visit Long Island – New York City's Beachfront Backyard in 2018 from our most notable, the 120-miles of...

Places That Will Make You Want to Visit Indonesia This Year

Royalty, culture and history coalesce in Yogyakarta     Seasoned travellers wanting more than boutique shopping, hip bars and cutting edge restaurants are invited to try a new Indonesian island or include one...


NEW ZEALAND FLASH SALE!!!!    For the next THREE DAYS ONLY, STA Travel is having massive flight and Campervan hire sales for New Zealand!!    Fly one way for $129, and RETURN FOR $275!! Campervans start from $47 a day!    If...


Mantra Hotels is set to launch its biggest ever Global Sale with massive savings on more than 130 Mantra, Peppers, BreakFree and Art Series Hotels, booked between 13 - 21...

Bangkok's Winter Festival "Love and Warmth at Winter's End"

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has graciously initiated the organisation of a winter festival under the theme 'Un Ai Rak Khlai Khwam Nao' (Love and Warmth at Winter's End)...

Give Your Valentine a Villa in Mykonos

Need a Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gift?  For $66 Give Your Valentine a Villa in MykonosThis Valentine’s Day, if you are still debating on a meaningful gift for your loved one...

Fashion & Beauty

A New Avenue to Quality Haircare; At your Doorstep

It may be hard for many men and women to find the right quality hair system for their hair. Whether their hair type is thick, thin, coarse and sparse or...

“Nourishing” Australia – Australians appreciating good quality skincare health, for the whole family

Today’s modernized ingredients of preserved, fragrance based suncare and skincare is rapidly growing as a competitive market. The overwhelming development and release of the latest and trending of true quality...

The Most Interesting Beauty Trends around the Globe 

Thanks to the wonders of the Digital Age, which has fostered an immense growth in terms of connecting people, we are now blessed with the opportunity to not only follow...

Fashion and Style at a Single Click

Developing a proper balance between having good style and being fashion savvy is never an easy step. This is why a lot of people develop habits of checking for help...

Indulge in Rich Colors and Designs with a Significant Summer Collection of Clothes

We’re gearing up for the summer, and there’s a lot of fashion and styling tips that you need to follow. However, of all of them, you need to understand the...

How green is your tan?

Not as sunny as summer, or as chilly as winter - Autumn is the season of happy mediums, and to keep your in-between season glow, self tanning options are the...


How to Lose Weight After 40

As you age, your metabolism slows down, which makes losing weight much harder. Additionally, your hormones start to fluctuate significantly, causing easier weight gain. Sticking to the same tricks you...

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle Despite A Busy Career

If you’ve been swamped at work lately and really focused on achieving that next big promotion or getting an important project completed, you may have found that your focus has...

AHRIA - Husband created a skincare range for his wife and child

Meet the Dad who was so worried about the chemicals his pregnant wife and baby were absorbing… Forget perfume or flowers… this husband created a skincare range for his wife...

Cinzia Cozzolinos shares her 7 Day Feb-Fast Detox

Nutritionist and Founder of Nutrition Darling and Smoothie Bombs shares her 7 Day Feb-Fast Detox.  Cinzia Cozzolinos Tips are below and her 7 Day Plant Based Eating Plan is...

Malcolm Turnbull - Ground-breaking flu vaccines to protect millions of Aussies

The Turnbull Government will provide two new ground-breaking flu vaccines to over three million Australians aged 65 years and over - free of charge. This is a direct response to last...


Here we go a "new hangover cure", sure thing whatever.   Alcovit Australia states from the start it is NOT a Hangover Cure, it is NOT something that allows you to drink...


How to Incorporate Rustic Elements into Your Modern Interior Design

Creating a rustic-modern look in your home means embracing the charms of nature and giving your home an organic touch. This enchanting style exudes balance because it combines sleek modern...

How to Create a Stylish Patio

When decorating your home, it’s important to look at the big picture and pay as much attention to the exterior as you do to the interior. Sure, it probably will...

Make Your Home More Child-Friendly

If you have a little one on the way and are preparing for all of the huge life changes that accompany the birth of a new baby, don’t forget to...

Increase Security at Home with Roller Shutters

Once your dream house is complete, it is important to protect all aspects of it. People do not realize the impact of housebreaking until it happens in their vicinity. The...

Most Common Australian Plumbing Problems and How to Fix Them

Every day, thousands of people from Australia are battling their pipes and dreading the plumbing problems they cause. These problems can be small, like a clogged toilet, or huge, like...

How to Freshen up Your Traditional Home Décor

Although a traditional home does have a certain type of vintage beauty, it may seem slightly outdated without some chic, modern details. Furthermore, by freshening up your traditional home, you’ll...


Celebrity Chef Matt Golinski to spice up kitchen at Peppers Noosa

Celebrity Chef Matt Golinski has joined the team at Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas to head up the kitchen at View Restaurant as the hotel’s new Food Ambassador and Advisory...

Trending Health Coffee Making the world “Skinny”

Around the world we have revolutionized health food, diet anti-craving quick fixes, weight loss programs and many more program derived feature based products. Overheard by the latest trending news on...

1 Food You Need to Try in Sydney

Sydney is not the ultra-expensive city it once was. Small businesses, new age fast food and other innovations have taken over the market, setting their own price points that attract...

The New innovative world of JURA – Australians appreciating art in a coffee cup

Today’s modern society is rapidly growing at a tremendous rate; The unstoppable growth and deliverance of the latest and greatest of worldly technology has hit above measures this morning in...

Dive into the World’s Best Bowl Food with Lonely Planet Food

Discover 100 one-pot recipes from cultures around the globe with Lonely Planet Food’s The World’s Best Bowl Food, published this March.   The new book is divided into six chapters: Breakfast Bowls Soups Salads &...


To celebrate that same sex marriage is finally a reality in Australia, SKYY Vodka is releasing a limited edition can with a twist: a premix drink that says YYES to...