MoMA R&D

Salon 20 Truth Be Told

Throughout history, truth has preoccupied all disciplines and ways of thought, strongly correlated as it is with the principles that shape our collective sphere, such as trust, democracy, justice, and freedom. Today, all over the world, and particularly in the US, it is preoccupying people to the point of [healthy] obsession.

In this Salon we will discuss what truth looks like in different fields, from science to poetry, philosophy, design, and, yes, even journalism, and how the arts can offer alternative ways to unearth and tell the truth. Among the many questions we will tackle are: What is the relationship between reality and truth? Have facts really lost currency? When obfuscation—whether imposed or spontaneously provoked by historical circumstances—rules, what role can art play in guiding people toward truth? What are some great examples from photography, literature, or performance? How can fiction help? What can we learn from religion, and is there anything that we should instead unlearn? How has the digital sphere changed our connection with truth? Are digital media weapons for transparency, or do they contribute to the distortion of our collective grasp of truth? How can, and should, museums speak truth to power? Has truth gone the way of beauty; it now in the mind of the beholder?

This salon took place on March 27th, 2017.

Speakers

Reading Resources

SOME THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Clifford, William, The Ethics of Belief, Contemporary Review, 29 (December 1876–May 1877)

Ellul, Jacques, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes,(January 12, 1973)

Ingber, Stanley, The Marketplace of Ideas: A Legitimized Truth, Duke Law Journal (1984)

Nietzsche, Frederich, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873)

KEY PERSONALITIES

Arendt, Hannah, Truth and Politics, The New Yorker (February 25, 1967)

On the Nature of Reality: Albert Einstein in Conversation with Rabindranath Tagore, Modern Review (1931)

Popova, Maria, In Search of a Better World: Karl Popper on Truth vs. Certainty and the Dangers of Relativism, Brainpickings (January 26, 2017)

Popova, Maria, The Life of the Mind: Hannah Arendt on Thinking vs. Knowing and the Crucial Difference between Truth and Meaning, Brainpickings (September 16, 2016)

ON SCIENCE

Read:

Twilley, Nicola, Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them, The New Yorker (February 11, 2016)

Overbye, Dennis, Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory, The New York Times (February 11, 2016)

Watch:

Cadieux, Caitlin, and Pollock, Nicolas, What Do Black Holes Sound Like?, The Atlantic (May 25, 2016)

Ajaka, Nadine, Dark Matter, Animated, The Atlantic (March 15, 2017)

ON COGNITION

Gefter, Amanda, The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality, Quanta Magazine (April 21, 2016)

Gilbert, Daniel, How Mental Systems Believe, American Psychologist, vol. 46, no, 2 (February 1991)

Stafford, Tom, How Liars Create the Illusion of Truth, BBC (October 26, 2016)

POST-TRUTH

Read:

Borel, Brooke, Fact-Checking Won’t Save Us from Fake News, FiveThirtyEight (January 4, 2017)

Duca, Lauren, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,TeenVogue (December 10, 2016)

El-Bermawy, Mostafa, Your Filter Bubble Is Destroying Democracy, Wired (November 18, 2016)

Kolbert, Elizabeth, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, The New Yorker (February 27, 2017)

Shanejan, Scott, From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece, The New York Times (January 18, 2017)

Subramanian, Samantha, Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex, Wired (February 15, 2017)

Tavernise, Sabrina, As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth, The New York Times (December 6, 2016)

Viner, Katharine, How Technology Disrupted the Truth, The Guardian (July 12, 2016)

Watch:

Curtis, Adam, [Hypernormalisation](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afBmN7icFRw, BBC, via YouTube (2016)