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Ethics of Truth in a Post-Truth World

Public Policy H&S - Humanities & Sciences

Course Description

This course will explore changing notions of truth in a world in which technology, global risks, and societal developments are blurring the boundaries of humanity and boring through traditional notions of nation states, institutions, and human identity. It will also offer a parallel journey to consider truth in your own life and how truth contributes to your own resilience in the face of life challenges. We will ask one over-arching question: Does truth matter anymore? If so, why and how? If not, why not? Either way, how does truth relate to ethical decision-making by individuals and institutions and to an ethical society? How does truth relate to a life well lived? Seven themes will organize our exploration of more specific topics: science and subjectivity; identity; memory; authenticity; artificial intelligence; imagination; and a life well-lived. Examples of topics to be explored include, among others: truth and technology (from ChatGPT to home devices); white supremacy; DNA testing and the 'identify as' movement, and identity; University history (Rhodes, Georgetown slavery, Yale Calhoun College, Junipero Serra...); the connections among truth, memory, and history; new questions in gender and racial identity; Chinese beautifying app Meitu and other social media "truth modifiers"; the sharing economy; the impact of AI and DNA testing sites on legal truth. We will consider how we determine and verify the truth; how we "do" truth; the role of truth in ethical decision-making; the importance of truth to effective ethical policy; and the relationship of the truth to a life well lived. An analytically rigorous short final paper in lieu of exam. This three-credit seminar may be taken as a stand-alone course or may accompany PUBLPOL 134 Ethics on the Edge to fulfill the Public Policy major ethics requirement. The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates will not be at a disadvantage. Everyone will be challenged. Distinguished Career Institute Fellows are welcome and should contact Dr. Susan Liautaud directly at Students wishing to take the course who are unable to sign up within the enrollment limit should contact Dr. Susan Liautaud at *Public Policy majors taking the course to complete the core requirements and students taking the course for Ways credit must obtain a letter grade. Other students may take the course for a letter grade or C/NC. To satisfy a Ways requirement, this course must be taken for at least 3 units.

Cross Listed Courses

Grading Basis

ROP - Letter or Credit/No Credit





Course Repeatable for Degree Credit?


Course Component


Enrollment Optional?


Course Component


Enrollment Optional?


This course has been approved for the following WAYS

Ethical Reasoning (ER)

Does this course satisfy the University Language Requirement?



PUBLPOL103F is a completion requirement for: