Truth: A Guide Paperback – 8 Jan 2007
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Blackburn's lively new book 'Truth: A Guide' will challenge and surprise you.... The great achievement of 'Truth' is to encapsulate the major lines of argument on this intractable question within the covers of a book you can read in a day or two. His chapter on Nietzsche, the fountainhead of modern philosophy and the patron saint of relativism, is worth the price of admission by itself. (Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com)
Admirably sketching the battle lines currently staked out over the idea of objective truth, [Blackburn] makes his subject lively and accessible even as he parts some of its deepest waters.... Blackburn considers truth 'the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy,' and, with wit and erudition, he succeeds in proving that point. (Publishers Weekly)
Fluid, highly literate, and deeply informed.... Highly recommended for academic philosophy and literature collections. (Library Journal)
The pleasure of reading this beautifully written and crafted book is almost sensual, so complete does each sentence seem in its witty unfolding. Blackburn takes up the knottiest philosophical issues (truth, justice, belief, evidence, interpretation)
Gently leads the reader on a guided tour of one simple question (whether there is a universally applicable set of data that can be called capital-T 'Truth')
If you're annoyed, even incensed, at the relativism and ironic nihilism of the youth (or their free-thinking professors), and you're looking for a vicarious voice to denounce the abject postmodern menace and stand up for Western rationalism, this could be the book for you. (Barry Allen, The Globe and Mail)
Between the Scylla of relativism and the Charybdis of absolutism, Simon Blackburn does not merely navigate, but pleasure-sails, visiting and appreciating each. Whether you are appalled by postmodernism, incensed by smug scientism, or simply 'perplexed,' you'll find Blackburn's 'guide' edifying. Learn here what truth is, why it is so elusive, and what hope there is for human knowledge. (Louise Antony, Professor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University)
About the Author
Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He was Edna J. Doury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, and from 1969 to 1990 was a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is the author of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and the best-selling Think and Being Good, among other books.
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Top Customer Reviews
Chapter 1 - "Faith, Belief and Reason" - draws in three more similarly abused and important terms. While this might seem to be multiplying our difficulties before we have begun, these are all connected and their meanings interdependent. People either give reasons for or have faith in the truth of any particular belief. That sounds simple, inclusive and nicely symmetrical, and surely covers all bases. The harmony is an illusion. The absolutist, often of a religious temperament, cannot resist the allure of dogma, while relativism "chips away at our right to disapprove of what anybody says." Both sides bicker over questions of authority.Read more ›
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For instance, one may say that you ARE reading this review -- yet on what rational basis should anyone say that you SHOULD read this review? In fact, on what basis should you do anything at all? To push this yet further, on what basis should courts of law make their decisions - or indeed governments? How does one make the giant leap across the divide, from fact to value? It is a crucial problem, and Blackburn considers it from various angles -- many of them historical.
A secondary question (at least insofar as it does not have the same prominence in the book) is how one may know what in fact "is"? How should one be able to establish the "facts" in the first place?
Generally speaking, Blackburn's writing has explanatory power -- although I did lose the thread at times, particularly where it was assumed that the reader would remember details of the previous chapters. Further than this, what would seem to make the book most worthwhile is Blackburn's ability to think his way into the heart of the problems, and to take one with him. Nor does he veil the real difficulties with premature answers. This has one thinking again and again: "How do we ever get around THIS one?"
In the final analysis, Blackburn is still something of a traditionalist. "We can take the postmodernist inverted commas off things," he concludes. "Truth, reason, objectivity and confidence" are stil very much alive, in spite of some "bewildering" problems. On what basis may we believe this? Blackburn considers: "Once we have an issue to decide, it comes with its own norms." We produce "well mannered animation by whatever is shown to work". This seemed to me not unlike the Polanyian "universal intent" -- the scientific method applied to human action.
I found his commentary of the various positions regarding truth to be fair and easy to comprehend. Overall, I have come to revisit this book multiple times while writing my dissertation.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in better understanding a widely argued topic.