In the TLS, Jerry Fodor reviews Simon Blackburn’s Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed.
“Reading Simon Blackburn’s new book
Truth: A guide for the perplexed prompted these dour reflections. Blackburn thinks there is currently a cultural crisis over the relativity (or otherwise) of truth and knowledge. He pitches it pretty strong. The conflict plays out, he says,
‘not only between different people, but grumbles within the breast of each individual. [It] is about our conception of ourselves and our world, about the meaning of our sayings, and indeed the meaning of our activities, and of our lives . . . . the stakes in this war are enormous
. . . . Today dogmatisms feed and flourish on the desecrated corpse of reason. Astrology, prophecy, homoeopathy, Feng shui, conspiracy theories, flying saucers, voodoo, crystal balls, miracle-working angel visits, alien abductions, management nostrums and a thousand other cults dominate people’s minds, often with official backing. ‘Faith education’ is encouraged by the British Prime Minister, while Biblical fundamentalism, creationism and astrology alike stalk the White House.’
Blackburn offers as an antidote a balanced, informed, civil, literate and reasonably neutral account of the dispute between philosophical Relativism and philosophical Absolutism. His thought seems to be that our perplexities might be resolved if only we could get straight about the metaphysics and epistemology of truth. “