Simon Blackburn on Truth and Truthiness

From the Oxford University Press blog:

Simon Blackburn is a Professor at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Truth: A Guide, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Think, and Being Good, among many other books. Today he weighs in on truth and truthiness, a subject he knows much about since writing his own book on “Truth.” Truth: A Guide offers a penetrating look at the definition of truth using the guidance of history’s most brilliant minds.

Blackburn_200There never seems to be the right time to write a book. No sooner had my book on Truth: A Guide gone to press than new outbreaks of the diseases for which it hoped to be a cure broke out all over the world. The new Pope, on the eve of his election, started fulminating about relativism and the world going to the dogs through not acknowledging the sovereignty of the Roman Catholic Church. And then the White House started sneering at the “reality based community” as the washed-up historical relics of a vanished age. And we have their apparent alternative, ‘truthiness’ introduced by comedian Stephen Colbert. According to Wikipedia this is ‘the quality by which a person claims to know something intuitively, instinctively, or “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or actual facts’.

This is certainly bad and certainly a phenomenon of our times. I think Colbert had bigger game in his sights however: truthiness is also something more akin to what a philosopher might call constructivism, or the sense that we are somehow in control of what the facts are, that they can be not only spun but actually constructed in accordance with our own agendas.

More here.  [Thanks to Rebecca Ford.]