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The Ethics of Truth

The Ethics Centre and the Museum of Contemporary Art joined forces to present The Ethics of Truth a rich, participatory conversation to find truth in a post-truth world on Setember 8 at the MCA.

With a slew of new terms like “post-truth”, “alternative facts”, and “fake news” populating the venacular, it seems truth has fallen in rank.

At The Ethics of Truth we brought together experts to guide an audience through an exploration of the current standing of truth within society, asking the difficult questions such as: If truth is losing status, who is responsible? vIs it crafty politicians trying to shape the world to their benefit? Or are our own fallible minds and memories to blame, as celebrated Chinese artist Sun Xun suggests?

 “… one’s own memory and consciousness are both intriguing black holes. Your memories can deceive you.”

The event formed part of the MCA Conversation Starters series, and was designed to coincide with Sun Xun’s first Sydney exhibition. A curated program brought together psychology, philosophy and linguistics to reveal to us the role we’ve played in creating a post-truth world. 

Philosopher Dr Simon Longstaff ran a thought experiment to test whether attendees felt truth should always be upheld above anything else. As Executive Director of The Ethics Centre and co-curator of the Festival of Dangerous IdeasSimon has been working with people of diverse ethical viewpoints and different interpretations of truth for a decade.
Professor of linguistics Nick Enfield presented the traits of human language and mind that have created this post-truth world. He is the head of the University of Sydney’s Post-Truth Initiative, a multidisciplinary unit that “examines fake news, alternative facts, lies, bullshit and propaganda with the aim to understand them, and to advise on how the truth might survive this climate”.

Memory researcher Dr Celine Van Golde demonstrated the fallibility of our perceptions. She is the founding director of Not Guilty: The Sydney Exoneration Project, a psychology and law program that reviews possible wrongful convictions. She is a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney.

Kym Middleton hosted the event. She is the head of editorial and events at The Ethics Centre. Kym began her career as a news and current affairs journalist producing long form television programs, news coverage, and multimedia documentaries. Uncovering truth, fact, bias, conflicting narratives, claims, and counterclaims have long been a part of her work.