Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Open Society's New Enemies and the Assault on Truth

Michael Ignatieff

President, Central European University, Budapest

March 20, 2018, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Science Center, Lecture Hall D, 1 Oxford Street


As a philosopher of science, Karl Popper was unique, among 20th century political thinkers, in the emphasis he placed upon scientific knowledge as a precondition for political freedom in a democratic society. Openness was, above all, a moral and intellectual commitment to falsification and to constant self-correction and self-criticism.  The 21st century’s ‘new enemies’ of open society—ideological nationalism and authoritarian populism, empowered by new technologies—pose a challenge to Popper’s epistemological ideal of a free society and ask us to think again about ‘the marketplace of ideas’ model of democratic debate. The lecture responds to these challenges by exploring how to restore the authority of scientific knowledge in public debate. Video available here.



Rakesh Khurana

Danoff Dean of Harvard College; Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Harvard Business School

James T. Kloppenberg

Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University

Julie A. Reuben

Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education

Moderated by

Sheila Jasanoff

Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School

About the speaker

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF is a university professor, writer, and former politician. His major publications are The Needs of Strangers (1984), Scar Tissue (1992), Isaiah Berlin (1998), The Rights Revolution (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013), and The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World (2017). Between 2006 and 2011, he served as an MP in the Parliament of Canada and then as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition. He is a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and holds eleven honorary degrees. Between 2012 and 2015 he served as Centennial Chair at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. Between 2014 and 2016 he was Edward R. Murrow Professor of the Practice of the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is currently the Rector and President of Central European University in Budapest.