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Why Truth Matters Paperback – 7 Jun 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (7 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826495281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826495280
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 865,542 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.' Straight.com, 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 www.butterfliesandwheels.com.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
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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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 29 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. D. Welsh TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 7 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. First, although it takes quite a few pages for the fact to sink in, the authors are two philosophers writing mostly to rebut the propositions of literary critics and sociologists. I was hoping for a full-on, broad-spectrum explanation of the need for truth, and this book is nothing of the sort. Indeed, the authors spend more time detailing the ideas they propose to demolish than arguing the case for truth in general.

It's a fairly short book; 181 small pages followed by 15 pages of notes and an index. Mind you, that is quite enough for the subject, and the writing is crisp with no extraneous flab. We are given eight chapters, starting with "The Antinomies of Truth". This short chapter is, in a way, a microcosm of the whole book, and explains the various mechanisms that people use to avoid unpleasant truths - such as taboo, obfuscation, and sheer downright denial. The second chapter, "Truth, Doubt, and the Philosophers", also struck me as good solid stuff, dealing with the attitudes to truth of a mixed bag ranging from Herodotus to Montaigne, Wittgenstein, and Thomas S Kuhn. Interestingly enough, Montaigne's enthusiasm for Pyrrhonist epoche (suspension of judgment) is praised, although I wondered whether it is just a sophisticated form of "mental reservation" - one of the ways of coping with unpalatable truths implicitly condemned in Chapter 1.

At this point, I felt that the book took a decided downward turn as the next two chapters deal with "The Truth Radicals" and "The Social Construction of Truth". If you are at all familiar with postmodernism, deconstruction, or "Theory", you might just groan and skip past them.
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