Does democracy need truth? A conversation with historian Sophia RosenfeldHistorians in the News
tags: historians, democracy, Trump, Truth
Ever since Donald Trump announced his Presidential candidacy, in June of 2015, there has been considerable concern about whether his allergy to truth is endangering American democracy. Without a public sphere dominated by agreed-upon-facts, many say, a healthy society—and wise polity—become impossible to sustain. In her new book, “Democracy and Truth: A Short History,” Sophia Rosenfeld, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the relationship between truth and democracy was fraught for centuries before the time of Twitter and Trump. “Does democratic politics really ‘need truth to do its business well,’ as some have recently claimed?” she asks in the book. In addition to trying to answer that question, she argues that questions of truth have always been litigated and disputed, and that a politics dominated by shared notions of the truth has never really existed.
With Trump halfway through his four-year term in office, it seemed like a good time to talk about the state of truth in American society, so I called up Rosenfeld. During our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed whether it is healthy for a democratic society to debate issues like evolution and global warming, why people distrust experts, and whether public fact-checking is a good solution to the problem of fake news.
comments powered by Disqus
- Abraham Lincoln, Joe Biden and the politics of touch
- Why Good Friday was dangerous for Jews in the Middle Ages and how that changed
- The first African American major league baseball player isn’t who you think
- The story behind the towering Notre Dame spire and the 30-year-old architect commissioned to rebuild it
- A history of great cathedrals that have been lost to fire and war
- Livestream event: The Greater Reconstruction: American Democracy after the Civil War
- The Fate of the "AHA Interview"
- Gale Kenny on the Womens March, Church Ladies, and Grassroots Political Religion
- Russel Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum's New Book Shows Even Conspiracy Theories Have Gotten Dumber
- ‘Don’t they know Columbus never landed in America?’: Third-graders found error in their workbook. Here’s what they did about it.