Call for Presentations

1st Global Conference

Truth and Truthfulness

Tuesday 4th November – Thursday 6th November 2014
Prague, Czech Republic


Call for Presentations:
Truth as a value, or as a goal to be aimed at, is almost universally regarded as a good thing and the concepts ‘truth’ and ‘truthfulness’ play a part in many aspects of human experience. They feature also in the work of academics, including philosophers, sociologists, and theologians, some of whom are sceptical about whether there is any such thing as truth, while others have devoted much thought to the development of competing theories of truth, and to spelling out the differences that such theoretical understandings make to the ways in which we perceive the world and interpret information we gather about it. The English philosopher Bernard Williams recognises this in his book Truth and Truthfulness, in which he notes that the centrality of the ‘commitment to truthfulness’ in current social thought spans ‘historical understanding, the social sciences and even…the interpretations of discoveries and research in the natural sciences’.

But what do claims about truth and truthfulness mean?

This question is important, not only for philosophers, sociologists and theologians, but also for archaeologists, historians, psychologists, statisticians, mathematicians, and physical scientists, including cosmologists. For example, while archaeologists might attempt to uncover the truth about ancient civilisations, cosmologists pursue the truth about the nature of matter and the origins of the universe. The truth as an ideal and how it may be represented or sought, also figures significantly in media and the arts – in literature, theatre and fine art; in narrative and documentary film; in print, film and digital journalism. Finally, it is important to remain conscious that what we mean by ‘truth’ and by ‘truthfulness’ is also important for ordinary people and for many professionals, for example, teachers, weapons inspectors, lawyers, tax collectors, welfare benefits officials, insurance assessors, psychotherapists, priests, the police and politicians.

Truth and truthfulness: their nature and place in human life, will explore the ways in which ideas of truth and truthfulness are used by ordinary people as well as by academics and professionals, in a range of contexts, including the visual and figurative arts. The project will also engage with issues that are closely related to truth and truthfulness – conceptually, ethically and practically, including many that arise in relation to lying and deceit (including self-deceit) and from concern with knowledge and belief, certainty and doubt.

Proposals are invited for individual contributions and for symposia of three closely related presentations that address the project’s concerns on or around the following topics:

1. Conceptual issues about the nature of truth and its relationship to knowledge and belief; certainty and doubt; lying and deceit – focusing, for example, on questions such as:

  • What does it mean to talk of truth?
  • What does truthfulness involve?
  • What is the difference between ‘feeling certain’ and ‘being certain’?
  • How is truth related to knowledge and belief?
  • Does lying always involve the intention to deceive?
  • Is self-deceit conscious or unconscious?

2. The part that truth and truthfulness play in human experience in private, professional and public life; religious life and faith. Questions here might include, for example:

  • Is telling what we believe to be the truth necessarily good or virtuous? For example must a doctor always tell his patients the truth?
  • Does telling the truth necessarily involve saying what is true or does it merely involve saying what one believes to be true?
  • Can a politician whose is exposed as living
  • Can two people give conflicting accounts of an event, and yet both be telling the truth? If this were the case, what problems would it cause the police and other legal professionals?
  • What relationship does talk of ‘truth’ within religious faiths have to talk of truth in other areas, including history and science?
  • Is there such a thing as ‘personal truth’? If there is, does it matter as much as communal or publicly accepted ‘truth’?

3. The impact of truth as a value, ideal or goal, in cultural settings, including literature; theatre; narrative and documentary film; print, film and digital media. Questions here might include:

  • What does it mean to say of a drama, or a novel, that it is ‘true to life’.
  • Are documentary films necessarily a better vehicle for conveying the truth than feature films?
  • To what extent can we trust that the outpourings of individuals through social media, have any relationship to the truth?
  • Can biographical and autobiographical writing ever be trusted as giving a true picture of their subjects?
  • To what extent is ‘reality TV’ true to life?
  • How can we trust that newspapers and other news media, including digital media, are telling the truth? (What sense of truth are we using here?)

4. The part that truth, knowledge, certainty and doubt play in academic research in any area, including:

  • Climatology, cosmology, evolutionary science, earth sciences and medicine, including psychiatry.
  • Sociology, psychology, economics, political science, history, archaeology and anthropology.
  • Philosophy, theology, logic, mathematics and statistics.
  • Drama, literature, journalism, media studies, the visual and figurative arts.

Questions here might include:

  • Can scientists and social scientists ever be certain that they know the truth about anything? What would it mean for them to be certain?
  • Do some academic disciplines have greater claims to the truth than others?
  • To what extent is the work of statisticians involved with representing truth or in attempting to approach it?
  • What claims to knowledge can legitimately be made by those who study events in the past, including historians, archaeologists and geologists?
  • How important is the language academics use if they want to convey the truth, or to persuade others of the truth of their views?

In order to support and encourage inter-disciplinarity engagement, it is our intention to create the possibility of starting dialogues between the parallel events running during this conference. Delegates are welcome to attend up to two sessions in each of the concurrent conferences. We also propose to produce cross-over sessions between these groups – and we welcome proposals which deal with the relationship between The Erotic, Revolt and Revolution, Making Sense of Suffering and Truth and Truthfulness.

What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 11th July 2014. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 19th September 2014. Abstracts should be submitted to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats, following this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Truth 1 Abstract Submission

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:
Gavin Fairbairn & Susan Fairbairn: gstruth@inter-disciplinary.net
Rob Fisher: truth1@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the Ethos series of research projects, which in turn belong to the Critical Issues programmes of Inter-Disciplinary.Net. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore discussions which are innovative and challenging. All papers accepted for and presented at this conference are eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

Details on the conferences running alongside this project in 2014 can be found here: Making Sense of: Suffering, Revolt and Revolution and The Erotic

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.