It is not that truth and facts have disappeared but that they are the object of deliberate distortion and struggle. Fact-checking and rumor-busting sites abound, but they are unable to reunite a fragmented set of audiences (attention-wise) and their respective trustful-/distrustfulness. — Wikipedia, on Harsin’s “regime of post-truth”

Architect and theorist Christopher Alexander argues that centers and repetition are the elements that make a physical space aesthetically viable, appealing, and comfortable. A cathedral exhibits order in having strong centers within its spaces; each chamber feels whole, while the tiling of wall sections makes both the interior and exterior orderly, he argues. On the other hand, a McMansion fails to have either strong centers or repetition; compared to a building designed by a good architect, its annexes and extensions appear poorly coordinated: boxy and ill-configured at best, bulbous and grotesque at worst.

In other words, successfully imposing order in a physical structure—creating aesthetic unity and unity of experience—is key to designing buildings that are both visually appealing and inhabitable.

Consider the idea that structures of thought—frameworks that people think with and use to evaluate ideas—are not so different.

In a world of stream-based information (social media being only one example), the process of verifying the fit and “truth” of an idea transforms, most of the time, from a deliberate process to reactive pattern-matching. New information no longer arrives in neat and tidy formats: a scientific article with citations, a status update from a waterfall-planned engineering process, or a research report dropped on your desk on a monthly basis. Now, it comes in news feeds and emails that must be triaged, and this triage is by nature a snap judgement, an affective pattern match. Kant calls this aesthetic process “logical tact”, and today the preferred term of art comes from Kahneman: “thinking fast”.

As far as snap judgements are concerned, truth is a matter of perceived fit within larger hierarchies: how well does a detail or data point fit into the larger epistemic systems and frameworks of thinking that we already trust—that even define trust for us? (This isn’t to say that truth isn’t deliberative; by convincingly arguing that an idea is false or wrong, I can take away its fit within systems of belief. The danger is that the arguments that are most powerful in this snap-judgement triage are highly context-specific.)

Either way, truth becomes a matter of fit and structure: how well does a detail/minor truth fit into a larger system? For example, an inconvenient truth is one which fits comfortably from a deliberative standpoint, but fits awkwardly socially.

We live in a “post-truth” world today, but a post-truth world is simply a fragmented-frame world, one which lacks strong repetition of ideas across centers. Even though most people think about restoring order as a matter of re-establishing facts and grounds, the projects that succeed will actually be the ones that create aesthetic unity of ideas—and do so across many different, self-contained, and usually non-interacting worlds.