Tutkija Tiisala Tuomo

192400 €

Political Epistemology Needs a Theory of Power: Epistemic Bubbles, Social Structures, and the Fate of Democracy

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

The last decade has witnessed a political crisis unfold in democratic societies, marked by the rise of populism, unprecedented opportunities for the spread of disinformation on digital platforms, and the related disintegration of a shared public sphere. According to the influential “post-truth” diagnosis of these developments, democracy is threatened because objective truth no longer functions as the foundation of the public sphere. In response, the crisis in democracy has rekindled philosophers’ interest in thinking about the relationship between truth and power. What is more, the insight that epistemological questions intersect with political problems has given rise to “political epistemology” as a new field of research in social and political philosophy. This project shows that political epistemology, in its current state, lacks an adequate theory of power. To fill this gap, then, the project first explains why the concept of ideology, both in its classical form as false consciousness and in its recent non-cognitivist reformulations, cannot provide a solution. Instead, second, the project develops a new approach in political epistemology by systematically elaborating Michel Foucault's controversial, and often misunderstood, notion of "a politics of truth", which enables a political analysis of relations of dependence between practices of inquiry and governance also when inquiry produces truths. Third, the fruitfulness of the resultant new approach will be illustrated by the diagnosis of epistemic bubbles it provides. Instead of constraining attention to questions of epistemic failure (e.g., bias and prejudice) some groups have and others do not, the new approach enables political epistemology to conceptualizes how epistemic bubbles depend, in part, on social structures that are shaped by relations of power, paradigmatically in the algorithmic design of the digital platforms that now largely organize the public sphere for twenty-first-century democracy.