Saturday, September 11, 2004
Truth à la mode
According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, truth is coming back into style. Only recently academics were flogging the concept as outmoded. Since 9/11, like so much else, all that has changed, and because the present government played fast and loose with the facts in order to persuade the populace that it was necessary to go to war, it has become apparent that the ironic postures of relativism do not well serve when it is incumbent upon intellectuals to engage in social criticism. To speak truth to power, one has to have a truth to speak, and not posit, as Stanley Fish did last year, that objective truth is an illusion and philosophy doesn't matter. To indulge in such theorizing is to throw down one's only weapons in the face of an utterly indifferent juggernaut of power-mongering. Indeed, in the political developments of recent days, it appears that truth does have some teeth in it as a weapon that could topple governments. The idea that there may be some hypocrisy in the attacks by the (so-called) President's proxies on his opponent, due to prevarications about the First Texan's own military background, seems to matter to some people. The idea that the incessant distortions of propaganda have been polluting the airwaves for years now and devaluing the democratic process seems to matter as our freedoms erode away at an alarming rate. Thus the truth à la mode is that truth matters. After all, it is self-contradictory to state the opposite; that is what Ken Wilber has long held the Achilles heel of post-structuralism to be: the short-circuiting of relativism by its own internal contradictions. People cry truth, truth, but there is no truth: that is, until they actually decide that it is real. When it's hot, it's hot. When it's not, it's not.