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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg December 22, 2021

Are we Really Past Truth? A Historian’s Perspective

  • Sophia Rosenfeld EMAIL logo
From the journal Analyse & Kritik


The prevalence of the term post-truth suggests that we have, in the last few years, moved from being members of societies dedicated to truth to being members of ones that cannot agree on truth’s parameters and, even worse, have given up trying. But is this really what has happened? The author argues that, under the sway of the Enlightenment, truth has actually been unstable and a source of contention in public life ever since the founding moment for modern democracies in the late eighteenth century; the ‘post’ in ‘post-truth’ elides this complex history even as it accurately describes some of the conditions of our moment. What that means, though, is that rather than attempt to turn the clock back to past models and practices for restoring the reign of truth, we should be looking for new, post-Enlightenment paradigms for how to define and locate truth in the context of democracy, as well as new mechanisms for making this possible.

Corresponding author: Sophia Rosenfeld, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2021-12-22
Published in Print: 2021-11-25

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