Transcending Truth — A Reply

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Posit Defend Lost Timothy 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    Richard Rorty, ‘Solidarity or Objectivity?’ in J. Rajchman and C. West (eds), Post-Analytic Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Nietzsche, quoted in Barry Allen, Truth in Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 43.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Richard Rorty, The Consequences of Pragmatism (London: Harvester Press, 1982), p. 11.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (London: Macmillan, 1987, abridged edition), p. 62.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    W. V. O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980, 2nd ed.), p. 44.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Thomas Nagel, The View From Nowhere (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1986), p. 10.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Alfred Tarski, ‘Truth and Proof’, in R. I. G. Hughes (ed.), A Philosophical Companion to First-Order Logic (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993), p. 102.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See Rush Rhees, Discussions of Wittgenstein (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970), p. 101; also p. 50.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Jane Heal, ‘The Disinterested Search for Truth’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 88 (1987–8), p. 105.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    See G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen iiber die Philosophic der Weltgeschichte, Band I: Die Vernunft in der Geschichte (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1994), pp. 81–2. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations §136 is also worthy of our attention in connection with Hegel’s point; especially: ‘… it is as if we had a concept of true and false, which we could use to determine what is and what is not a proposition.’Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Grete Henry-Hermann, ‘Die Überwindung des Zufalls’ in Minna Specht and Willi Eichler (eds), Leonard Nelson zum Gedächtnis (Frankfurt a.M.-Göttingen: Verlag Öffentliches Leben, 1953), p. 43.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 67; emphasis added.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    See Václav Havel, Open Letters (London: Faber and Faber, 1991), especially ‘Dear Dr. Husák’ and ‘The Power of the Powerless’.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Claremont Graduate School 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy Tessin

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations