Re: Postmodernism and Truth (was Re: virus: Simulacrum)

Bill Godby (
Sat, 18 May 1996 01:25:57 -0400

At 05:02 PM 5/17/96 -0600, David McFadzean wrote:
>At 02:19 AM 17/05/96 -0400, Bill Godby wrote:
>> Again a fundamental aspect of
>>postmodernism is that is denies that there is *truth* rather there are many
>>truths, thus the relativism. It's the response to logical positivism. It
>Deron Stewart mentioned in a recent message that there is an implicit
>Virian belief in one objective truth that is true for all people. I think
>that is true (for all people :-).

What is it? There at least two very distinct types of truth, those of
deduction which logically do not allow negation, 2-2 always equals 4, and
inductive truths which can logically entail negation, exp. all geese are
white, black geese could and do exist. How do you reconcile this with an
objective truth?

The claim that truth is subjective is
>self-inconsistent. Either that proposition is an objective truth (which
>obviously makes it false) or it is a subjective truth. If it is subjective
>then it implies that someone else can truthfully claim that truth is
>objective, which again makes the original claim false. This seems to imply
>that there is indeed a way that things are: an objective truth.

I think your making things difficult by examining statements and applying
logical deductive reasoning. I appeal to pragmatics, live as it is lived.
>From an anthropological perspective (this is my field) I am forced to look
at radically different belief systems that certainly embody truth for a
particular culture. I have come to see very clearly that all knowledge
systems through time are constructed and ever changing. Isn't it clear that
what was seen as truth 500 years ago is not truth today and 500 years the
same will apply?

>>certainly seems historically that anytime that there has been a period where
>>things seemingly could be explained by a particular paradigm along comes a
>>response that says no you can't. This centuries flavor of that is
>>postmodernism, it denies ultimate truths and explanations, as I've said. And
>Sounds like logical positivism is the thesis and postermodernism is
>the antithesis. What if there is an objective truth but no theory can
>even theoretically become identical to it?

This makes no sense to me. I steadfastly believe that theory (I speak in
greater terms here, i.e. cosmology, mythology, as well as ontology) reflects
conceptions of truth as seen by a society. Recognizing that the world is
made up of so many diverse ways of life I think it is unreasonable to assume
that there could ever be one theory that would embody truth for all cultures.

Because theories are necessarily
>constructed of ideas, concepts, words, and memes. No matter how sophisticated
>or accurate they are, theories cannot become what they describe. This allows
>for pluralism: there can be many maps of the territory, all accurate but all
>focussing on diffent aspects of Truth(tm). Is that a reasonable Hegelian-like

I'm not sure I would call that a synthesis at all. Hegel argued that our
concepts (memes?) are embedded in our ways of life and in our societies, as
society changes so do the concepts, and of course truths. The issue in a
Hegalian context is that every theory contains within it the anti-theory, or
seeds of conflict, i.e. thesis>anti-thesis>synthesis and so on. Hegel
accepts the idea that ultimate reality, and by inference truth, is in the
Mind (minds of many not just one, he speaks of "geist" or spirit) and that
we never get to know the "thing in itself" (physical reality) because it is
always mediated by the mind. I find Hegel very much on my side of this
discussion regarding truth and would be interested in how you see Hegel
supporting your views, since you make reference to a Hegalian synthesis of
religion and evolution, which apparently also entails an objective truth.
Bill Godby