Tauranga Public Lecture Series: Truth is our only weapon - critical thinking and post-truth

Date Monday 3 September 2018
Time 6pm - 7pm
Where Trinity Wharf Tauranga
Presenter Dr Tracy Bowell, Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning
Contact Joanna Kearney
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

The dangers of giving ground to a new, post-truth order of public debate are recognised in President Obama’s call to arms: If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.

On the face of it, in response to such a call, there is an urgent need to reassert the value of good argument and of critical thinking. Indeed, in the present environment in which governments present alt facts, and mainstream journalism is disparaged by some politicians, critical thinking is being seen by some as a form of activism. When I teach and write about critical thinking, I often present critical thinking as transformative and as a source of empowerment, a means of acquiring knowledge and habits of mind that enable one to speak truth to power. But the echo chamber of social media sourced news and current affairs coverage makes it harder to acquire and employ the skills and habits of mind of which responsible and critical inquiry are comprised.

In the early parts of this lecture I will address the challenges to good argumentation and reasoning posed by the post-truth order, arguing that we need an approach to critical thinking that not only teaches the skills of good reasoning and critical analysis of others’ reasoning, but that enculturates the values of which responsible inquiry is comprised, values such as open-mindedness and epistemic humility, and enables the awareness of intellectual vices – gullibility, closed- mindedness, intellectual arrogance and wishful thinking. I also reflect upon the need to respect the role of emotion in our responses to the world and of our lived experiences of it. Many of the responses that we have when thinking about and discussing socio-political issues are both cognitive and emotional. We need to harness the potential of emotion and the facts of lived experiences as a route to reason – as a means of opening up the mind to considering alternative ways of thinking and of being in the world and with each other.

This lecture is now full, and registrations are closed.