Understanding in a Post-Truth World? Com-prehension and Co-naissance as Empathetic Antidotes to Post-Truth Politics


  • Andrew Trevor Kirkpatrick Deakin University


Post-Truth, Donald Trump, Whitehead, Merleau-Ponty, Postmodernism, Debord, Camus, Dialectics, Process Philosophy, Alt-Right, Ontology, Neoliberalism, Phenomenology


The election of Donald Trump and the accompanying alt-right fervor of fake news and alternative facts has brought into focus the so-called post-truth era. This paper argues that the term ‘post-truth' amounts to little more than the mainstream articulation of the postmodern condition, or what Frederic Jameson calls ‘the cultural logic of late capitalism.' Accordingly, I contend that the post-truth era does not reflect an absence of truth, but rather its inverse; it involves a proliferation of truths. The thoroughly postmodern ‘marketplace of ideas' has seen truth reduced to a ‘thing' that can be packaged and sold in order to meet individual preferences. Though this is often veiled as a ‘democratization of truth', the tendency of markets to manufacture demand has resulted in the production of competing, surplus truths, which are then sold at the lowest, most efficient price possible. I contend that this oversimplification of reality has paved the way for an individual like Trump to assert himself politically. Importantly, such a simplified approach to truth can only occur when we assume that truth is a static ‘thing' or ‘object'. What this attitude betrays is an underlying ontological commitment to being. In light of this, it is argued that missing from post-truth politics are attempts at understanding. Unlike truth, understanding is taken as a dialectical movement that assumes an ontology of becoming. Through appeals to Whitehead and Merleau-Ponty, it is argued that understanding is much more than an intellectual process by which we come to know things; it is also the mode through which nature produces itself. This becoming of nature can be explained in terms of com-prehension and co-naissance”as literally a ‘co-grasping', ‘co-birth' or ‘co-knowing'. In light of this, understanding will be presented as an empathetic alternative to truth and the mode through which we can overcome the stasis afflicting cultural and political life.

Author Biography

Andrew Trevor Kirkpatrick, Deakin University

PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University, Australia




How to Cite

Kirkpatrick, A. T. (2017). Understanding in a Post-Truth World? Com-prehension and Co-naissance as Empathetic Antidotes to Post-Truth Politics. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 13(3), 312–335. Retrieved from https://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/633