The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth

Jonathan Rauch | 2021
Posted in: American History Epistemology Media Partisan Politics Political Philosophy Psychology Social Psychology
Purchase →

Jonathan Rauch, in his new book, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, argues that the Constitution of Knowledge is our best hope for accumulating knowledge. The Constitution of Knowledge is a system by which the worldwide reality-based community uses noncoercive means to persuade and to adjudicate disputes about reality. The reality-based community follows two core rules:

1. No one gets the final say. You can claim a statement is objectively true only insofar as it is both checkable and has stood up to checking. You must assume your own and everyone else’s fallibility and you must hunt for your own and others’ errors.

2. No one has personal authority. You can claim a statement  has been established as knowledge only insofar as the method used to check it gives the same result regardless of the identity of the checker and the source of the statement.

Freedom of speech and diversity of viewpoint are key ingredients to make this work.

Even if you apply these core rules, Rauch maintains, the truth is unobtainable. The job is rather to search for error — and error is something we can find. Once the mistakes are weeded out, what remains standing on any given day is knowledge.

As you can imagine, a community following these rules is going to find itself in conflict with those who operate by other rules: trolls, those putting out disinformation, and those trying to cancel people who challenge the cancelers’ ideologies. Rauch’s call for action: Go out and actively seek a variety of viewpoints. If everyone around you agrees with you, you are doing it wrong.