Challenging the rise of hate and misinformation

Thursday, March 3, 2022
Jennifer Saul

It wasn’t long ago that politicians could self-destruct by making a racist comment or supporting a conspiracy theory. But in recent years, Jennifer Saul has noticed two disturbing trends coinciding: the spread of hate and the rise of conspiracy theories in political discourse. 

An analytic philosopher and Waterloo Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language, Saul’s research brings together the tools of philosophy, psychology and linguistics to examine this increase in racism, sexism and misinformation. These social problems lie beyond the typical territory of philosophy, a field that is historically dominated by white men and focuses more on ideals and theory than social justice.

“Philosophy is traditionally about uncovering timeless truths, but you can’t write about what it means to have a just society without addressing slavery and injustice and the real problems that keep us from achieving justice,” Saul says. “My work looks at questions like ‘How do people use words to get each other to do horrible things?’ Philosophy can help us make sense of the urgent and important things happening in the world around us.”