This is a book about a war of ideas. The front lines of this war are well defined. On one side are those who believe in plain, unvarnished facts, rock-solid truths that can be found through reason and objectivity--that science leads to truth, for instance. Their opponents mock this idea. They see the dark forces of language, culture, power, gender, class, ideology and desire--all subverting our perceptions of the world, and clouding our judgement with false notions of absolute truth. Beginning with an early skirmish in the war--when Socrates confronted the sophists in ancient Athens--I look at the longstanding battle these two groups have waged, examining the philosophical battles fought by Plato, Protagoras, William James, David Hume, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Nietzsche and many others. Among the questions are: is science mere opinion, can historians understand another historical period, and indeed can one culture ever truly understand another?
I conclude that both sides have merit, and that neither has exclusive ownership of truth. What is important is that, whichever side we embrace, we should know where we stand and what is to be said for our opponents.
"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
272 pages; 5-1/2 x 8-1/4; 0-19-516824-0