The truth about truth

If there’s one thing the internet makes clear, it’s that many, many people validate a vulgar version of the pragmatic theory of truth– that the “truth” is what most people believe. OK, that’s overstating it. The pragmatic theory of truth says that the truth is what the community of inquirers believes to be true. What’s depressing to me about this is how even in some of the highest circles of intellectuals, truth, at least with respect to human affairs, seems to be something like a peer-pressure consensus of belief, as it was in middle school. This seems to be a runaway self-fulfilling prophecy of today’s sympathy for so-called “post”-modernism and its derivatives.

To begin with, so-called “post”-modernism is not a departure from modern intellectual history, but is merely its over-ripe late phase. At bottom, it is a re-hash of the subjectivity and initial skepticism of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). Heidegger (in his Nietzsche Lectures) makes a good case for Descartes’ having been the one who discovered/invented the notion of subjectivity. Personally, I view that discovery as a consequence of Descartes’ earlier work in hydraulics, his conclusions regarding the atomic structure of matter, and those conclusions’ basis in evidence rather than in speculative metaphysics. Imagine how jarring it was to be one of the first people to “discover” (not speculate) that the world you felt was solid wasn’t as solid as you took for granted.

 

 

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