William Egginton at the LARB:
This point goes to the heart of Zabala’s book, as well as to the mistaken concerns about the hermeneutic tradition he defends. To say, with Zabala, that “there is no ‘neutral observation language’ that can erase human differences,” and that “these differences are not the source of our problems but rather the only possible route to their provisional solution,” is not to embrace or give succor to those making power grabs using bald assertions of “alternative facts,” but the very opposite. It is to say that “facts, information, and data by themselves do nothing. ‘Facts remain robust,’ as [philosopher of science Bruno] Latour says, ‘only when they are supported by a common culture, by institutions that can be trusted, by a more or less decent public life, by more or less reliable media.’” Let’s be quick to douse the realist canard that is sure to arise at this point — that relativist arguments are self-negating since, if all statements of fact are subject to cultural, historical, and institutional contexts, then so is this one — by stating the obvious: of course Zabala’s (and my) positions are subject to the same frame-dependency as anyone else’s, but this is no more self-refuting or paradoxical than to say that all truth statements are made in a natural language that not everyone understands, including this one.