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Title: The question of truth: how facts, space and time shape conversations in IR
Authors: Fazendeiro, Bernardo Teles 
Keywords: Temporality; Interpretivism; Spatiality; Theory and practice; Foundational theory; Metatheory
Issue Date: 19-May-2023
Publisher: SAGE
Serial title, monograph or event: European Journal of International Relations
Volume: 29
Issue: 4
Abstract: Truth is as regularly invoked in International Relations (IR) as it is contested. Due to increased plurality, truth is no longer taken for granted, with some suggesting that relativism is on its way. At the same time, despite uncertainty as to the meaning of truth, research and factual verification persists, as findings remain hotly debated in IR, sometimes leading to entrenched, almost irreconcilable debates among scholars. This essay suggests that one way in which to bridge truth claims in the face of potential, albeit unwarranted, relativism is to distinguish between meaningful and factual truth. Factual truth is about assessing whether (raw) data qualifies as data at all, while meaningful truth – upon which most debates in IR are based – grounds our interpretation; it reveals reality’s various facets according to specific spatial and temporal concepts. Viewing conversations in IR as concerned with meaningful as opposed to factual truth allows scholars to lay relativism to rest. The essay also claims that conversations that confuse meaningfulness for factual verification – as in the debates between liberal institutionalists and structural realists in the 1990s – lead to scholarly entrenchment with no resolution in sight. Distinct temporal and spatial assumptions are often incompatible. As a result, such meaningful conversations are less about factual verifiability than about containing reification and enlarging the perspectives with which to exercise political judgement.
ISSN: 1354-0661
DOI: 10.1177/13540661231173858
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CES - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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