Jonathan Rauch is a journalist, an essayist for The Atlantic magazine, and the author of The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. During our conversation, Jon talks about what The Constitution of Knowledge is and how its norms and practices are the backbone of how our civilization attempts to ascertain the truth and how this innovation in civil discourse has led to an unprecedented rise in peace, freedom, and knowledge.
He talks about the two modern threats to that foundation - from both the left and the right - from "cancel culture" and "troll culture." Cancel culture, found throughout history, is a coercive and intimidation method to shut down speech, often deteriorating into a spiral of silence, providing a false sense of uniform belief. He also talks about "troll culture," and how disinformation is, at its root, aimed to confuse the populace, with a demagogue or a strongman leader waiting to step into the vacuum to provide the "truth" people so desperately desire.
These dual threats are overt attacks to the center, to the mainstream - what Jon calls the "reality-based community." They're direct assaults on the collective immune system of the nation, and they brilliantly play on our deep-seated, evolutionary tribal biases. Jonathan offers insight into how to accurately assess our unsettling times, and how we might upgrade our own individual software, to help to inoculate ourselves and our society.
On a personal note: I think Jonathan's book is one of the best, and most important that I have come across in years. He is a master diagnostician, and his clarity of observation is brilliant, deeply-needed, and timely.
(03:10) Why Jon wrote "The Constitution of Knowledge"
(05:47) How do we know what we know?
(07:33) What is epistemology?
(08:10) What is The Constitution of Knowledge?
(15:53) What The Constitution of Knowledge has brought to the world
(22:55) The modern threats to free speech in America
(27:23) What is cancel culture and the "spiral of silence"?
(33:30) The importance of social courtesy and free speech
(39:18) What is troll culture?
(48:40) How can citizens protect against future disinformation?
(58:04) Braver Angels’ work to depolarize America
(01:02:28) Evidence to combat "The Big Lie," Trump's claim that he won in 2020
(01:10:35) Reasons for hope
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