BA Liberal Arts with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Truth and Truth Telling

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT10522
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Truth and Truth Telling introduces students to theories of truth in continental philosophy and explores contemporary politics of truth telling.


The famous dialogue between Jesus and Pilate on ‘What is truth’ introduces students to two different understandings of truth: epistemological truth and performative truth. This categorical distinction is reflected in the course title and subsequently determines the structure of the course.


In the first part (5 weeks) epistemological truth is explored by a detailed study of philosophical theories of truth, ranging from Aristotle to Nietzsche.


In the second part (6weeks) the performative aspect of truth telling will be discussed. Students will concentrate on Michel Foucault’s seminal text Fearless Speech in order to analyse classic problems such as ‘belief versus knowledge’ in the light of contemporary debates on ‘fake news’ or ‘new ideological truth regimes’ such as the phenomenon of the ‘influencer’.

Weeks 8 and 9: This part of the course will be dedicated to the existential dimension of truth telling and to a case study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.


  • To develop critical thinking through the study of classic theories of truth and engaging with contemporary debates based on a close reading of key texts.
  • To appreciate the ethical and political aspects of truth telling.
  • To understand the historical development of truth theories in analytic and continental philosophy.
  • To acquire critical and analytical skills to examine contemporary forms of truth telling


Knowledge and understanding

  • To have acquired a sound knowledge of classical philosophical truth theories 
  • To become aware of the historical transformation of key concepts in the discourse on truth and truth telling. 
  • To gain an in-depth familiarity with epistemology and performative speech.
  • To understand the difference between the epistemological and existential dimension of truth telling.


Intellectual skills

  • To be able to be critical about the current phenomena and practices of truth telling.
  • To enhance contextual awareness and improve hermeneutical skills in reading primary texts.
  • To gain firm understanding of using different methodologies in analysing media sources.
  • To acquire solid knowledge and research skills in using online databases such as JSTOR


Practical skills

  • To gain experience of working to fulfil the requirements of a specified brief.
  • To practice working as part of a team.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

-          To understand and critically evaluate contemporary forms of truth telling and their ideological background.

-          To manage and undertake self-defined research tasks and present the outcomes to a wider audience

To develop competence in textual analysis and academic writing.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
- Careful generalisation on the basis of analysis of specific examples
Group/team working
- Working as part of a team
Project management
- Working to fulfil the requirements of a specified brief
Oral communication
- Communication skills (written or oral)
- Research skills
- General knowledge of organisation theory - Philosophical and Religious truth theories - Critical awareness of different contemporary political, social and theological ideologies - Profound and informed knowledge of performative aspects of truth telling

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0%
Essay 100%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on draft essay plan


Verbal and peer feedback on draft essay plan


Written and verbal feedback on essay



Recommended reading

Compulsory Readings:

Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech. A Politics of the Performative (London: Routledge, 1997).

Foucault, Michel. Fearless Speech (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001).

Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense In: On Truth and Untruth, ed. and tr. by Taylor Carman (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010), pp. 15-51.

Ward, Graham. Unbelievable. Why we belief and why we don’t (New York: I. B. Taurus, 2014).


General Readings and online resources:

Glanzberg, Michael (ed). The Oxford Handbook of Truth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

JSTOR: (accessible via your University account)

For digitised primary sources:


Also recommended online sources:

Week 7: Michel Foucault at Berkeley (audio):

Week 9: Explore the links attached to the Wikipedia entry:


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Hoelzl Unit coordinator

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