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True to Life: Why Truth Matters (Bradford Books)

True to Life: Why Truth Matters (Bradford Books) [Kindle Edition]

Michael P. Lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


"A bracing antidote to the disease of postmodern cynicism that renders truth impossible and leaves us with nothing but wind-blown opinion. It challenges the reader to be 'true to life' because truth matters." - Douglas Groothius, The Denver Post"

Product Description

Gold Award Winner for Philosophy in the 2004 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards

Why does truth matter, when politicians so easily sidestep it and intellectuals scorn it as irrelevant? Why be concerned over an abstract idea like truth when something that isn't true—for example, a report of Iraq's attempting to buy materials for nuclear weapons—gets the desired result—the invasion of Iraq? In this engaging and spirited book, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. Lynch explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is. "We need to think our way past our confusion and shed our cynicism about the value of truth," he writes. "Otherwise, we will be unable to act with integrity, to live authentically, and to speak truth to power."

True to Life defends four simple claims: that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of inquiry; and that truth can be worth caring about for its own sake—not just because it gets us other things we want. In defense of these "truisms about truth," Lynch diagnoses the sources of our cynicism and argues that many contemporary theories of truth cannot adequately account for its value. He explains why we should care about truth, arguing that truth and its pursuit are part of living a happy life, important in our personal relationships and for our political values.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1572 KB
  • Print Length: 216 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (1 Oct 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00352LB2G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #805,384 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth: worth caring about for its own sake 30 Jun 2011
By Sphex
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are plenty of people in the world who would like you not to care too much about the truth. These people - ideologues, tyrants, snake oil salesmen, faith healers, the worst kind of politician - don't have your best interests at heart. Michael Lynch, in virtue of having written this short and highly readable book, does not, it is safe to say, belong to this infamous group. Truth is one of those abstract concepts that is easily understood and used on a daily basis by everyone with a normally functioning adult brain. So why read a book about it? In part, precisely because truth is ordinary and everyday, and it's easy to take it for granted. In part, to reassure ourselves that it is not the social construct some would have us believe. Truth can be extruded almost out of existence by the finest minds, or squeezed into an abstruse corner by sophisticated academics with too much time on their hands. Lynch resists these efforts, and sets out to defend four claims: "that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a worthy goal of inquiry; and that truth is worth caring about for its own sake". He salvages truth from those who would shrug their shoulders, for whatever reason.

In Orwell's 1984, "the most terrifying aspect of the Ministry of Truth isn't its ability to get people to believe lies, it is its success at getting them to give up on the idea of truth altogether". Few of us will ever find ourselves in circumstances as desperate as Winston's, thank goodness, but, even for those of us relatively comfortably off in liberal democracies, there are more subtle forces at work, eroding our confidence when it comes to questions of truth.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Truth Matters 5 Jan 2005
By Katherine Wylie - Published on
This book has all of the qualities that might be attributed to the term "thought-provoking". Common questions regarding the attainability, relativity, and inherent goodness of truth, are addressed. Also includes popular criticisms of truth as a means to and end and truth as fiction- are analyzed rigorously. Easily accessible to everyone from the casual reader to the doctoral candidate. Katherine Wylie
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed defense of the importance of truth 25 May 2005
By Charles Fletcher - Published on
If you've read much of the philosophical literature on truth, there is a strong chance that you have asked whether the discussion is relevant to your life and circumstances. It is very easy to pigeonhole this subject as academic and move on to others that seem more applicable to everyday life.

In a much needed work on the topic, Lynch argues that the concept of truth *is* important in one's personal and political life. The book proceeds by exposing the existing theories that have contributed to the attitude that the concept of truth is either unnecessary or insignificant, and providing specific reasons to tie truth to our desire for leading a full and authentic life.

Though previous reviews have claimed that Lynch's "politics intrude at several points," I would argue that any political color found in the book is merely supplemental, and can be taken or left aside from the central theses. Also, given that the book is intended to bridge the gap between the seemingly academic and the moral and political, some degree of commentary on current political events are a natural element to the book.

The takeaway is that the book is a stimulating read, and I would recommend it to anyone who either is interested in truth as a subject to itself, or is dubious/curious about its relation to everyday life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars True to Life 18 Aug 2008
By David D. - Published on
Michael Lynch offers a thoughtful account of the import of truth as it applies to our lives individually and collectively. His is not an introduction to theories of truth (Thus, suggestion that he takes for granted the trouble in defining truth is unfair). Rather, it is an exposition on the value of truth as objective in contrast with relativism in general. As individuals, we can value truth and pursue it for its own sake and collectively, we can and should demand truth, particularly in light of tenuous political claims that affect our lives globally. Such demand is inherently predicated on a sense and endorsement of truth as objective, which is precisely Lynch's point, among others.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lynch v. Heersinki 28 May 2011
By Kenneth H. Watman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I suspect my comment comes too late, but, having finished Professor Lynch's book and enjoyed it, I am motivated to write, even if no one reads what I say.

Professor Lynch does commit both the naturalistic fallacy and the is/ought fallacy. But he does not conflate them. Indeed the key to his argument is that he doesn't. Instead he applies a pollster's or psychologist's empirical approach to the "ought" problem. Maybe the better way to put it, he applies a kind of Delphi method to the "ought" problem. But he does not use a naive "intuitionist" or "sentimentalist" approach, as does Hume. Professor Lynch is more thoughtful than that. So Mr. Heersinki's criticism is solid, and would be even more so were he to make the following distinctions in Professor Lynch's methodology.

Rather than committing straight-forwardly the naturalistic fallacy, a simply confusion between "is" and "ought," Professor Lynch is more provocative. He repeatedly founds his "ought" statements on what he believes most people think or almost instinctively feel. So he asks if he or we would like to be brains in vats, and he is correct to say neither he nor I nor most of the rest of us (probably) would choose that option. He argues therefore, what most people think is an indication, empirically valuable data, of whether the truth is an objectively existing "ought." In other words, he is saying, "XXX million people must be on to something for them to all feel alike."

But it is here he makes a fundamental error, not of logic but of empiricism. Though one's first reaction is to say that it is a deep fallacy to implicitly assert the truth of a proposition based on what some number of people thinks it is true, I do not believe the truth value of widely shared feelings and beliefs can be so easily dismissed. Certainly, the earth is not flat, no matter whether everyone in the world thinks it is, and it is highly likely the Theory of Evolution is true, regardless of the large number of Creationists.

But I do not automatically dismiss the views of Creationists. Rather, a view held by so many motivates me to think, not dismiss. Similarly we also know empirically there is "wisdom in crowds," at least as to certain questions. When a great many people believe something to be true, it deserves our attention, though that alone is not sufficient to support agreement.

That attention it deserves arises from the demonstrable truth that what a great many people think often turns out to have substance or partial truth, though hardly all the time. Put another way, what a great many people believe or feel are legitimate data for addressing "ought" questions. If one is asking whether finding and acting according to the truth brings happiness or a certain satisfaction to many people, instrumentally or as an end in itself, an empirical finding that the truth does bring those things cannot be ignored as irrelevant to certain, important "ought" propositions..

If it is empirically supportable that finding and acting according to the truth brings happiness or a certain satisfaction to many people, then one to say to many (most)(all) people, "You ought to seek the truth, if you have as your goal happiness or a certain satisfaction." Our study of human behavior empirically supports this contingent "ought" assertion.

In that way, the is/ought distinction can be substantially blurred or even eliminated. Professor Quine does something similar, I believe, in his criticism of skepticism, Hume, and the analytical/synthetic distinction.

What remains then is for Professor Lynch is to show empirically how many people actually believe as he says they do. His argument based on what you and I might believe, explicitly or tacitly, just isn't remotely good enough to even suspect his "ought" conclusion is true. He can substantiate that conclusion only if he can show empirically that most do indeed find happiness or that certain satisfaction when finding and acting according to the truth of the world or the semantic position that asserts it.
4.0 out of 5 stars True Dat 14 April 2010
By bronx book nerd - Published on
I recently began delving into philosophy and am reading a number of books on philosophical subjects. I read and reviewed the The Dream Weaver: One Boy's Journey Through the Landscape of Reality (Anniversary Edition) (2nd Edition)and am currently reading Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (FSG Classics)and The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (CourseSmart). I firmly believe that philosophy has a lot to offer to get a better understanding of reality and to form sound beliefs. At the same time this new endeavor is a challenge and yet another reason why I should have paid more attention while in college, particularly since I attended Columbia where the required core curriculum course Contemporary Civilization covered all of the major works in the subject.

True to Life attempts to make the case that not only is truth something good to strive for its own sake but also something necessary for a well-functioning liberal society. For each of his own arguments, Lynch presents possible opposing views as well as his refutations to those views. Overall, I think he makes a convincing case that the pursuit of truth is necessary because it is both instrumentally good and because it is good for its own sake. I will not pretend to be able to restate his case but I will attempt to add a couple of other reasons why the pursuit of truth is good. First, lying can become a habit, one that can become more comfortable with the more it is practiced. This can lead to decline in other virtues and an increase in other vices. For example, the person who gets comfortable with lying about why they are home getting late from work, while perhaps initially for no bad reason, may soon be tempted to engage in some other wrongdoing during the time that now covered by the lie. Second, lying deprives, in a sense, other people of the opportunity to exercise other good character traits. For example, being honest about a harm caused gives the offended person the chance to exercise forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Obviously that would not be the primary purpose of truth-telling, but the reality is that these characteristics are also ones that need introduction and practice for one to become "good" at them, as in to know when to exercise them properly.

That said, as a layperson, I found Lynch's book to be relatively easy to comprehend and appropriately challenging when the details called for it. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting a thorough understanding of the philosophical viewpoints on truth, both those that see it as a worthwhile pursuit, and those that do not.
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