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Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312274947, Paperback)The pursuit of truth, says Felipe Fernández-Armesto, is "the quest for language that can match reality." He believes that the nature of that quest has never quite been fully understood; Truth aims to fill the void. He identifies four key methods of determining the truth--what we feel, what we are told, what we figure out, and what we observe--which are given poetic names such as "the hairy ball--teeth optional" and "the cage of wild birds." These four methods always exist together in every culture, although each one may be differently valued in different places at different times.
But Western philosophy after Descartes, in Fernández-Armesto's assessment, has been largely hostile to these ways of knowledge, and has steadily come to question the very existence of truth. His summation of post-Cartesian philosophy is a largely negative one, which veers dangerously close to ad hominem assaults. Nietzsche, for example, who "was praised too much in his youth for his superior powers of mind and never achieved prowess or position to match," is dismissed as "a sexually inexperienced invalid" whose philosophy was "warped and mangled out of his own lonely, sickly self-hatred." Pragmatism and existentialism, two of the 20th century's most important philosophical movements, are found inadequate; the former is "the philosophy of lovers of technology," while the latter "represents the retreat of Luddites and pessimists into the security of self-contemplation." But even though "philosophical subjectivisms, scientific uncertainties, and dumbing, numbing linguistics" have served to undermine the notion of truth, Fernández-Armesto believes, they cannot destroy it thoroughly. It seems that even in the face of relativism, truth will win out.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:28 -0400)
"We need a history of truth to illuminate the unique predicament of our times and - Felipe Fernandez-Armesto argues - help us escape from it. He shows how - at different times, in different societies - people have tried to tell the difference between truth and falsehood. And he exposes the concepts of truth which have underpinned those techniques."--BOOK JACKET. "This is a book of unusual audacity: short, clear, readable, opinionated - but uncompromising in raising big issues, using rich language and embracing a vast range. Its coverage touches every period and kind of human experience, from the truth-telling technologies of primitive societies to the private mental worlds of great philosophers; from the building of the pyramids to cubist art; from spiritualism to science and from New York to New Guinea. Its subjects include humankind's earliest thoughts, abiding anxieties and hopes for the future."--BOOK JACKET.
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