When we think about the implications of living in a post-truth society, a word that immediately comes to mind is entitlement. It is no secret that we all think we are entitled to certain things, but the type of entitlement I am talking about here is much more absolute.
If I think I am entitled to anything I want, then I am certainly entitled to my own definition of truth. If I think that I can create definitions at will, then there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to do that.
When you combine that with a society that has given up a belief in any type of ultimate truth, then you have taken away the weapon that can disarm these individual definitions.
Let me give you a kind of ridiculous example. You are holding a ruler. That ruler is 12 inches long. I come along and say that I have a piece of string that is 12 inches long. You pull out your ruler, and you show me that the piece of string I have is actually 10 inches long. That is the way we generally operate. We know that the ruler is a consistently true way of measuring a piece of string, so when my true statement of having a 12 inch piece of string is measured against that truth, we find out that I am misguided in my opinion. I ought to then change my beliefs to conform to reality.
Now, suppose that you do not have your ruler anymore because society has decided that it is intolerant to define inches by simple markings on a ruler. I come back with my piece of string and say that it is 12 inches long. You might look at it and think that it looks a little bit short. After all, you remember seeing a ruler in the past, and you know what 12 inches looks like. You tell me that, and I immediately respond and say that is just your opinion. Your definition of 12 inches might indeed be wrong, and I tell you that there is no possible way you can measure it. You mention that there is a fabulous tool called a ruler that could help settle our disagreement, but I tell you that it is ridiculous to try to define something like an inch. After all, you can’t tell me that your inches are any better than mine. In fact, I am insulted that you would even suggest that I might be wrong. I am entitled to my own beliefs.
I know that this is a kind of ridiculous example, but if we ban any discussion of the ruler, there is no way that you can show me that I am wrong.
If we deny that there can be any type of absolute truth, then we have no way to balance out competing or even contradictory claims and discover which one is accurate.
Entitlement to personal truth is dangerous, and rather than strip away a belief in truth altogether, let’s try to discover that which is true. I might be right sometimes, and you might be right sometimes. However, isn’t it better to try to pursue actual truth than to fall into the swamp of self-defined truth?