- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 8, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195315804
- ISBN-13: 978-0195315806
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.5 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Truth: A Guide 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Admirably sketching the battle lines currently staked out over the idea of objective truth, a Cambridge professor of philosophy makes his subject lively and accessible even as he parts some of its deepest waters, with absolutists-traditionalists-realists on the one side and relativists-postmodernists-idealists on the other. The absolutists believe in "plain, unvarnished objective fact"; the relativists say with Nietzsche, "There are no facts, only interpretations." Blackburn scrutinizes the claims of both sides with a collegial but critical eye, carefully distinguishing positions and identifying places where the two sides are speaking past each other, covering, among others, Protagoras, Plato, Hume, James, Nagel, Wittgenstein, Locke, Rorty and Davidson. He constructs a simple diagram that makes sense of four contrasting attitudes toward truth: eliminativism, realism, constructivism and quietism. Out of this inquiry emerges a middle position: truth is real if accepted in a minimalist way; relativism is not necessarily incoherent; and we can respond to science with "well-mannered animation" that is indistinguishable from belief. As Blackburn recognizes, this solution will not please everyone: absolutists may find it treasonous, relativists too conservative. But the overall result is to salvage a plausible version of truth. 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. (Aug.)
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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
"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'--and its infinite complications."--Seattle Times
"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
"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--and without dissolving the knots he carefully undoes them, and then, in some cases, reties them. A wonderful embracing tour through the minefield of philosophical controversy that will inform the novice and delight the afficionado."--Stanley Fish
"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
Top customer reviews
Though short, Blackburn's "Truth" traverses a broad terrain, exploring many points of the map of human knowledge and thinkers of all stripes. Blackburn begins with a fine discussion of a 19th-century row, involving William James, about the ethics of belief and ends with David Hume on historical understanding. In between come Socrates versus Protagoras on relativism; accounts of minimalist theories of truth; discussions of moral relativism, Wittgenstein, Kant, Berkeley and recent philosophy of science; some subtle dissections of Richard Rorty and a less subtle sally against Prince Charles: "Even that great public skeptic about the value of science, Prince Charles, never flies a helicopter burning homeopathically diluted petrol, that is, water with only a memory of benzine molecules, maintained by a schedule derived from reading tea leaves, and navigated by a crystal ball."
Many readers will get lost as Blackburn chattily weaves his way through all this. The book ties together material from his lectures and essays, and does not have the unity of his earlier pop-philosophy books, "Think" (1999) and "Being Good" (2001). But several parts of it repay close study, such as a perceptive chapter on "the skeptical torrent of Nietzsche." Nietzsche's remarks on truth include something persuasive for almost everybody and so, unsurprisingly, are self-contradictory.
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Who are the intended readers? The general public, or philosophical specialists?Read more