Truth: A Guide


The author of the highly popular book Think, which Time magazine hailed as "the one book every smart person should read to understand, and even enjoy, the key questions of philosophy," Simon Blackburn is that rara avis—an eminent thinker who is able to explain philosophy to the general reader. Now Blackburn offers a tour de force exploration of what he calls "the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy"—the age-old war over truth.

The front lines of this war ...

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Truth : A Guide

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The author of the highly popular book Think, which Time magazine hailed as "the one book every smart person should read to understand, and even enjoy, the key questions of philosophy," Simon Blackburn is that rara avis—an eminent thinker who is able to explain philosophy to the general reader. Now Blackburn offers a tour de force exploration of what he calls "the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy"—the age-old war over truth.

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—Blackburn offers a penetrating 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, and many others, with a particularly fascinating look at Nietzsche. Among the questions Blackburn considers are: is science mere opinion, can historians understand another historical period, and indeed can one culture ever truly understand another.

Blackburn concludes 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Blackburn (philosophy, Univ. of Cambridge; Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy) wants to help readers attain a philosophical understanding of the concept of "truth." What does it mean, he asks, to make a statement that asserts this concept? The average person, perhaps, has no trouble doing so, but analysis of it goes to the heart of philosophical puzzlement. Blackburn reviews what philosophers, writers, novelists, scientists, and disparate thinkers have had to say about it, including Plato, Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Locke, Hume, Wittgenstein, William James, Rorty, and Nietzsche-especially Rorty and Nietzsche owing to their central and contrasting views. In this detailed consideration, Blackburn himself seems to favor objective standards for truth rather than the subjectivist, relativist position. His writing is fluid, highly literate, and deeply informed, but by its very nature it will be tough going for anyone who is not philosophically inclined and oriented. Highly recommended, then, for academic philosophy and literature collections.-Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"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,

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195315806
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 682,304
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

1. Clifford's Duties
2. Fiction and MythJames
4. Kinds of Animation
1. Turning the Tables: the Recoil Argument
2. Modern Judo
3. The Variation of Subjectives
4. The Moving Bull's-eye
5. Doing it Ourselves
1. Who Tell the Tale?
2. A Gestalt Switch
3. You Tell Me, or Down with Pilate
4. Moral Relativism
5. Man the Measurer
6. Summary
1. Facts or Interpretations?
2. Twilight of the Idols
3. Perspectivism
4. Adequate Words
5. Heraclitus and the Flux
6. The Darwinian Element
1. Getting Puzzled
2. Four Responses
3. Eliminativism
4. Realism
5. Deconstructing the Issue
6. The Constructivist Corner
7. The Example of Wittgenstein
1. Paradise Lost
2. First Impressions
3. Holism
4. Davidson's Mantle
5. Rorty's Talking World
6. Keeping our Feet on the Ground
7. Interlude: Law, Tennis, and the Coffee-house
8. A Political Message
1. No Miracles
2. Science Red in Tooth and Claw
3. Explaining from Within
4. Animation and Belief Again
5. Underdetermination
1. Conceptual Schemes
2. Mind Reading
3. Mirroring
4. Infirmities
5. Collectives and their Histories
6. Peace Breaks Out

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