Friday, August 3, 2007

Postmodernism and Truth

Excerpt from "On Truth" by Harry G. Frankfurt:

“We live at a time when, strange to say, many quite cultivated individuals consider truth to be unworthy of any particular respect. It is well known of course, that a cavalier attitude toward truth is more or less endemic within the ranks of publicists and politicians, breeds whose exemplars characteristically luxuriate in the production of BS, of lies, and of whatever other modes of fraudulence and fakery they are able to devise. That is old news, and we are accustomed to it.

Recently though, a similar version of this attitude – or indeed, a more extreme version of it – has become disturbingly widespread even within what might naively have been thought to be a more reliable class of people. Numerous unabashed skeptics and cynics about the importance of truth (or about the related importance of long-established strictures against plagiarism) have been found among best-selling and prize-winning authors, among writers for leading newspapers, and among hitherto respected historians, biographers, memoirists, theorists of literature, novelists – and even among philosophers, who of all people might reasonably have been counted upon to know better.

These shameless antagonists of common sense – members of a certain emblematic subgroup of them call themselves “postmodernists” – rebelliously and self-righteously deny that truth has any genuine objective reality at all. They therefore go on to deny that truth is worthy of any obligatory deference or respect. Indeed, they emphatically dismiss a presumption that is not only utterly fundamental to responsible inquiry and thought, but that would seem to be – on the face of it – entirely innocuous: the presumption that “what the facts are” is a useful notion, or that it is, at the very least, a notion with intelligible meaning. As for the entitlements to deference or to respect that we ordinarily assign to fact and to truth, the postmodernists’ view is that in the end the assignment of those entitlements is just up for grabs. It is simply a matter, they insist at how you look at things.”


Cindy said...
How pathetic is it to comment on one's own blog????I love this quote, but it does not make a distinction between the value of opinions and/or unique perspective. I'd like to comment.I often defend opinions that I do not embrace as valuable if they demonstrate internal consistency and the purveyor of the opinion shows respect for my own different one. I believe that not one man has a corner on absolute truth, so in the spirit of respect, I seek to find the value in perspectives of others. (We may all be looking at the same object and describing what we see objectively but with different language.) I believe that we become arrogant and ignorant when we fail to listen to others out of prejudice or fear of differing worldview presuppostions.Acknoledgement and respect of differing viewpoints gives one the wisdom of greater understanding when carried out with due credulity. Many people, uncomfortable or easily intimidated by diversity, wrongly perceive my respect as a totalistic condoning of perspectives that may be untrue and unreliable. This practice does not in any way negate or cheapen one's own perspective or anything that represents objective truth. I believe if we are all seeking the best possible understanding of truth, that truth will make itself evident and will refute all falsehood
August 4, 2007 8:27 PM