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Why Truth Matters [Paperback]

Jeremy Stangroom , Ophelia Benson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 May 2007
Truth has always been a central preoccupation of philosophy in all its forms and traditions. However, in the late twentieth century truth became suddenly rather unfashionable. The precedence given to assorted political and ideological agendas, along with the rise of relativism, postmodernism and pseudoscience in academia, led to a decline both of truth as a serious subject, and an intellectual tradition that began with the Enlightenment. "Why Truth Matters" is a timely, incisive and entertaining look at how and why modern thought and culture lost sight of the importance of truth. It is also an eloquent and inspiring argument for restoring truth to its rightful place. Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom, editors of the successful ButterfliesandWheels.Com website - itself established to 'fight fashionable nonsense' - identify and debunk such nonsense, and the spurious claims made for it, in all its forms. Their account ranges over religious fundamentalism, Holocaust denial, the challenges of postmodernism and deconstruction, the wilful misinterpretation of evolutionary biology, identity politics and wishful thinking. "Why Truth Matters" is both a rallying cry for the Enlightenment vision and an essential read for anyone who has ever been bored, frustrated, bewildered or plain enraged by the worst excesses of the fashionable intelligentsia.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (31 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826495281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826495280
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 601,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"'In this book, Benson and Stangroom are wide-ranging in their knowledge and in the thinking about what they know, and so the books appears laid out almost like a collection of essays that are connected by the theme described above. Anthropology, evolutionary psychology and sociobiology, feminism, philosophies of various sorts, and the politics of Nazism are all touched on or addressed. Each chapter is interesting in its own right.... The book is beautifully written, and sprinkled with passages of both insight and literary value.' Entelechy: Mind and Culture 'British philosophers Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom array their immense talent... in Why Truth Matters. What they're on about is a prevailing intellectual indifference to coherence, logic, rationality, and evidence. It's a world-view that holds that there is no historical truth and almost everything is a mere social construction. Discovery is conflated with invention, myth is elevated alongside empirical evidence, and no lines are drawn between fact and fiction....Most of us will get the main point Stangroom and Benson are making: truth matters because human beings are the only species capable of finding it out.', July 13, 2006 'As polemics go, it is short and adequately pugnacious. Yet the authors do not paint their target with too broad a brush. At heart, they are old-fashioned logical empiricists - or, perhaps, followers of Samuel Johnson, who, upon hearing of Bishop Berkeley's contention that the objective world does not exist, refuted the argument by kicking a rock. Still, Benson and Stangroom do recognize that there are numerous varieties of contemporary suspicion regarding the concept of truth....They bend over backwards in search of every plausible good intention behind postmodern epistemic skepticism. And then they kick the rock.' --Inside Higher Ed, June 2006

About the Author

Jeremy Stangroom is co-editor (with Julian Baggini) of The Philosophers' Magazine and the successful philosophy books, What Philosophers Think and Great Thinkers A-Z. He and Ophelia Benson are editors of

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The false, the phoney, and the therapy 29 Jan 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
The shocks of The Great War of 1914-1918 spawned a social movement known as "nihilism". Values once held meaningful were rejected by those who felt the conflict demonstrated such beliefs to be invalid. The Second World War may be considered the foundation for a similar movement arising in post-War France - "postmodernism". A close cousin of nihilism, the "French philosophy" strives to place all cultures on an equal footing. That equalitiy, moreover, is absolute - any declared stance must be granted equivalent respect with any other. Accompanied by many synonyms such as "cultural relativism" and "post-structuralism", the pestilence quickly spread in Western Europe where its symptoms are clearly seen in media presentations. More significantly, it became firmly established in the US, particularly in universities where it generated such programmes as "Women's [in a variety of spellings] Studies", "African Studies", all with a strong anti-Enlightenment and anti-science orientation. Benson and Stangroom here apply some vigorous therapy to counter the assault on rational thought. Although brief, this book is direct and incisive, clearly exhibiting the malaise infesting our universities and political institutions.

The purpose of this book is to re-establish that "truth" is indeed a valid concept. Postmodernism's contention that there are as many "truths" as there are tellers of it cannot be sustained. Benson and Stangroom, who founded the Website "butterfliesandwheels", explain that truth is empirically based and not a highly variant cultural phenomenon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This elegantly argued work examines the reason why and the ways in which modern thought and culture dispensed with the primacy of truth, whether that of historical fact or science. Differences about the best way of discovering or defining truth are as old as civilization but the existence of truth itself was not in doubt. Benson and Stangroom defend objective truth, reason and rationality, making an inspired plea for restoring truth to a place of honor. Their arguments encompass examples from inter alia anthropology, psychology, feminism, politics and assorted philosophies.

The late twentieth century saw an assault on truth like never before. The legacy of the Enlightenment fell out of fashion and in its place came a bewildering tumult of irrational pseudo-philosophies like deconstruction, postmodernism, relativism and multiculturalism. A variety of ideological and political agendas gained prominence, various fundamentalisms resurfaced, pseudoscience & superstition sneaked into academia and the denial of historical fact became commonplace.

Seeking truth is a preference. Some people feel comfortable with ideological/religious authorities thinking for them. Others choose to inhabit a mental sphere where notions about truth are flexible and constantly shifting, mixed with emotion, wishful thinking and daydreaming. Then there are those who genuinely prefer to pursue truth even when it leads to the disturbing, painful or unpleasant. The authors argue that people who do not hold truth in high esteem are the ones most likely to believe that the ends justify the means.

The Enlightenment legacy is being challenged today by an array of
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the concept of truth 31 Aug 2009
By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Why Truth Matters by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom, Continuum, 2006, 212 ff.

Exploring the concept of truth
By Howard A. Jones

Overall, this book is probably more suited to serious students of philosophy than for the general reader because it uses many terms, concepts and references (universalism, neopragmatism, cultural relativism, nihilism, etc.) the significance of which can only be appreciated by a fair amount of previous scholarship. Incidentally, nihilism is not a movement that originated from the carnage of The Great War. It is a term that has been applied to the scepticism of Pyrrho, the atheism of Nietzsche, and even to the anatta of Buddhism.

We all think we know what `truth' means: congruence with the way the world is. But the authors show that there are many shades of truth: `any kind of political theorizing is . . . likely to include an element of wishful thinking' - as when we were told that BSE could not harm humans and that contaminated meat was safe to eat. Indeed, our mistrust of politicians is partly because of their extensive use of `spin', a euphemism for lies, deceit and distorted truth.

As with Humpty Dumpty in his confrontation with Alice, there are many for whom the word `truth' means whatever they want it to mean. Thus, religious fundamentalists believe in the truth of their scriptures and the words of their respective prophets: adherents of other religions would disagree. The authors discuss the academic freedom of staff at Brigham Young University in the light of religious prescription. Benson and Stangroom also urge caution in assessing the truth of data when research is funded by commercial organisations.

This is a thought-provoking book that makes many valuable points, often in quite witty fashion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, amusing, but essentially negative
Previous reviewers have given a very good overview of the contents of this book, which makes my task easier. I'll simply give my reactions to reading it. Read more
Published 14 months ago by T. D. Welsh
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome antidote to fashionable nonsense
This book is in the same vein as "Intellectual Impostures" by Sokal & Bricmont, but is an easier read and more wide ranging in its targets. Read more
Published on 2 April 2012 by William Broadhead
5.0 out of 5 stars Important and Timely
This is an important and timely book which confronts a lot of fashionable relativistic nonsense. Working in academia and sometimes in danger of being swamped by postmodern... Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2012 by Ian Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Why Truth Matters ... And Why the Question Needed to be Asked.
Why does truth matter? Why is it necessary to ask this question at all?

The answer is because truth has fallen out of fashion in some quarters the subject here isn't the... Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2011 by F Henwood
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about Truth
This book is about Truth in our day to day understanding of the word. Thus it is not a philosophical dissertation on the nature of Truth, which I thought it was when I bought it. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2011 by Don Bird
2.0 out of 5 stars More than truth
The premise of the book, that `wishful thinking and denial had replaced a rational acceptance of grim truth', is gateway to 181 pages of in-depth corrective. Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2008 by SL Boyes
2.0 out of 5 stars A good point of view but a frustrating read
Apologies in advance to academics wanting a review as thorough as Stephen A Haines' below.

This book came up on my Amazon recommended list after I read books on the... Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2007 by Mr. Stuart Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Readable, informative and absorbing. A terrific defense of reason and clear thinking. Should be assigned to all students!!
Published on 28 May 2006 by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful, Well-Written Book
Why Truth Matters is a book that deserves to reach a wide audience. It is a thoughtful book that is also accessibly written without patronising the reader. Read more
Published on 17 May 2006 by Roger
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, witty and intelligent.
This is an excellent take down of the kind of vague mumbo jumbo pseudo-intellectual trash that is often hard to argue against, for the pure fact no-one knows what is being said! Read more
Published on 16 May 2006 by solent56
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