The Courage of Untruth?


Michel Foucault defined parrhesia as “the free courage by which one binds oneself in the act of telling the truth.” Could telling objective untruth also be a parrhesiastic act, insofar as it requires courage and initiates subjectivation? Climate deniers, anti-vaccinationists and other groups that delegitimize the authority of science present themselves as courageously standing up against the dominant discourse, as rebellious subjects who speak the inconvenient and unaccepted truths. It is not difficult to prove that their truths are untruths, but it remains problematic to distinguish true courage from its simulacra. This article argues that Foucault’s investigations of truth, subjectivity, and power become of great use in the face of today’s confusion. The phenomenon of post-truth cannot be explained simply as the product of postmodern relativism. The will-to-truth, along with the will to constitute oneself as a truth-telling subject, persists, requiring critical analysis more than ever. What may prove politically efficient is to engage in the kind of critique that would account for actual power relations and unmask false courage rather than debunk specific concepts or ideas.


Michel Foucault, parrhesia, truth, post-truth, courage, subjectivity, power

How to cite:

Herer, Michał. “The Courage of Untruth?” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 6, no. 2 (2022):  62-69. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2022.0016.


Michał Herer
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Warsaw
Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, 00-927 Warsaw, Poland


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