Where’s My Chalky Makeup?
I had one or two things in mind to talk about before I tottered over to the computer, but they done got swept out of my mind and displaced from the agenda by reading this review by Simon Blackburn of several books on truth one of which was a book on truth that I take a particular interest in, owing to my fondness for the fly-specked lightbulb on the cover. It’s a funny thing…I’ve noticed it before…and probably mentioned it before…it’s a funny thing, but the reviews of this book 1. keep rolling in and 2. keep being surprisingly favourable. Or not at all surprisingly, you may want to urge, battering down my native modesty and diffidence. But – well, they’re not just favourable, they’re – you know – surprisingly favourable. Surprising kind of meaning very as well as surprising.
Oh well – I won’t go on. I’d like to, but I won’t. You get my drift, I daresay. I really am surprised. It’s the old Groucho Marx joke – you know the one.
So anyway here’s what the professor of philosophy at Cambridge said about the lightbulb book:
Postmodernism is often billed as attacking truth and science. This is how it is presented in the valuable little book Why Truth Matters, by the editors of the sceptical website butterfliesandwheels.com, Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom. They mount a spirited counterattack, reminding us – in the way that Cambridge philosopher GE Moore was famous for doing – that if it comes to a battle for hearts and minds, basic convictions of common sense and science beat philosophical subtleties hands down. Where Brian King horrifies us with his liars, Benson and Stangroom reveal a parallel rogues’ gallery of social constructivists, who look at how individuals and groups participate in the creation of their own perceived reality. These “rogues” include the feminist Sandra Harding and the neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty, but the doyen must surely be the French philosopher of science Bruno Latour. Latour’s confusion of words and things led him to the precipice of denying that there could have been dinosaurs before the term was invented. Presumably a similar argument would show that nobody before Crick and Watson had DNA. Why Truth Matters is an excellent example of philosophy done well but also, and not coincidentally, made accessible and exciting. Truth matters, it tells us “not in a dull perfunctory dutiful sense, but in a real lived felt sense – ‘on the pulses’ as Keats put it”.
So you see what I mean. Surprising.