What Is New in Our Time

The Truth in ‘Post-Truth’: A Response to Finlayson


  • Rupert Read University of East Anglia




climte-change, climate-denial, libertarianism, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein


Finlayson argues that ‘post-truth’ is nothing new. In this response, I motivate a more modest position: that it is something new, to some extent, albeit neither radically new nor brand new.

I motivate this position by examining the case of climate-change-denial, called by some post-truth before 'post-truth'.

I examine here the (over-determined) nature of climate-denial. What precisely are its attractions?; How do they manage to outweigh its glaring, potentially-catastrophic downsides? I argue that the most crucial of all attractions of climate-denial is that it involves the denier in a kind of fantasised power over reality itself: namely, over the nature of our planetary system, and thus of life itself. Climate-denial pretends to give the denier a power greater than that of nature, including in nature's 'rebellion' against humanity, what James Lovelock calls Gaia's incipient and coming 'fever'.

Climate-denial seems to give the denier freedom from truth itself, in the case of the most consequential truth at present bearing down upon humanity. The most crucial of all the attractions of climate-denial is then that it provides would-be libertarians an ultimate freedom. They reject the reality of human-triggered climate-change, in the end, because they are unwilling to be ‘bound’ by anything, not even truth itself.

Climate-denial has been around for a while, but not for more than 30-35 years or so. I thus suggest that Finlayson is right to be sceptical of the claim that post-truth is radically new and extremely recent, but I suggest that it is relativelynew and has been with us for only about a generation or at most two.

Keywords: climate-change, climate-denial, libertarianism, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein

Author Biography

Rupert Read, University of East Anglia

Rupert Read is Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, specialist in philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and environmental philosophy. His published works include Kuhn (co-authored, 2002), Applying Wittgenstein (2007), Philosophy for Life (2007), There is No Such Thing as a Social Science (2008), Wittgenstein Among the Sciences (2012), A Wittgensteinian Way with Paradoxes (2012) and A Film-Philosophy of Ecology and Enlightenment (2018). His editorial experience includes The New Hume Debate (co-edited, 2000), Film as Philosophy: Essays on Cinema after Wittgenstein and Cavell (2005), and The New Wittgenstein (co-edited, 2000).