Maria Carmela Agodi Ilenia Picardi Luca Serafini

The socio-pragmatic dimension of truth. How knowledge claims refused by science find support in public discourse

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Post-truth theories inscribe the credibility gained in the public sphere by forms of knowledge refused by science within the framework of an epistemic crisis involving the value of truth for which irrational, populist, and conspiracy groups are to be blamed. In this contribution, we test the presence of widespread argumentative repertoires in support of knowledge refused by science among laypeople who are generally trusting science. Through a situationally framed protocol for focus groups, participants were asked to discuss knowledge claims refused by science concerning health and wellness issues. The analysis is based on 14 focus groups related to four different topics: 1) vaccination hesitancy; 2) the Five Biological Laws; 3) the benefits of alkaline water and of an alkaline diet; and 4) the risks associated with 5G technologies. Multiple argumentative repertoires were identified that mobilised a) experience of the fallibility of medical science; b) the unaccountability of institutions legitimated to produce health-related knowledge; and c) pragmatic investments and participation in networks of associations on which healthcare practices are based. The socio-pragmatic dimension of knowledge appears to be the ground for reconsidering the integration of knowledge claims in ecosystems sustaining everyday life choices


  • socio-pragmatic dimension of knowledge
  • argumentative repertoires
  • situationally framed focus group
  • associations
  • health issues


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