Transcending Truth — A Reply

  • Timothy Tessin
Part of the Claremont Studies in the Philosophy of Religion book series (CSPR)


Barry Allen argues for a divorce between the interest in knowledge and an interest in truth. According to Allen, ‘What makes knowledge good, what makes it desirable and worth cultivating, has nothing to do with the ontological truth of knowledge (its correspondence with a being-in-itself), depending instead on the difference knowledge makes to our performative reliability. The same practical quality, and not ontological, transcendent truth, makes the difference between genuine knowledge and belief, opinion, doctrine, myth, ideology, orthodoxy, and so on’ (p. 12).1 He thus thinks that Richard Rorty ‘may be right to suggest that when we say a statement is true we are not ascribing a property to it but only paying an automatic, empty compliment to reliable conceptions and useful knowledge’ (p. 23). But whether or not Rorty’s suggestion is correct, Allen is confident that truth is of little, if any, value for our dealings with the world about us. And since the pursuit of truth is fundamental to what Thomas Nagel calls ‘the ambition of transcendence’, Allen believes that we should give up as a confusion the desire for transcendence. At least, transcendence conceived as ‘a noble step toward something Absolute, toward a perspective-less god’s-eye view of beings-in-themselves’ (p. 13). For Allen, ‘Knowledge is transcendent inasmuch as its superior practice and therefore its cross-generational reproduction requires action which literally goes beyond everything that has been or could be written down or reduced to rule.


Correspondence Theory Genuine Interest Genuine Knowledge Exclusive Disjunction Reliable Conception 
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© The Claremont Graduate School 1997

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  • Timothy Tessin

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