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

J. McVean (
Sun, 19 May 96 11:58:44 MDT

Bill Godby wrote:
> 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?

But doesn't this kind of statement assume right from the start
that there is no objective truth. Here's another example:

> 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.

Obviously, if truth is something defined by a culture, then there
can be no objective truth. The question is whether thruth is in
fact so defined or if there is some underlying set of truths/rules
that all of these culture operate within and (presumably) try to
understand and express (perhaps in a very round-about way) with
societal knowledge.

Did we get closer to the objective truth when we shifted from
Newtonian gravitation to Einsteinian gravitation or have we
simply adjusted our societal knowledge set to a different but
equally valid set of rules? I'd say that since the new theory of
gravitation has yet to be proven wrong while the former theory is
inaccurate in many circumstances, we have improved our
approximation of the truth... or at least the rules that seem to
govern it.

To say that those who believe the earth is flat or that it rides
on the back of a giant turtle are correct in the context of their
own society seems silly to me. I think we are entirely justified
in saying that they are wrong (and here are ten reasons why...).
Our theories may not represent the ultimate truth but they are
certainly more accurate that the flat-earth/turtle theories. And
if they are more accurate, doesn't that imply there is some
ultimate truth by which various theories are judged?