Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth

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9781591021018: Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth

According to proponents of postmodernism, one of the principal achievements of recent Continental philosophy is the rejection of the idea of "objective truth" in favor of the notion that truth is a social construct, which varies from one culture to another. This claim has given rise to heated reactions among philosophers of the Anglo-American analytic school. Their criticisms usually take the form of wholesale dismissals, which do not address the texts and arguments of postmodernists, and they almost always stem from a politically conservative vantage point, which is hostile to the generally leftist orientation of postmodernists. As a result, philosophical differences are frequently obscured by the conflict arising from differing political agendas.

In this accessible, nontechnical discussion of the controversies surrounding the ideas of truth, philosopher David Detmer faults both the critics of postmodernism for entangling the philosophical discussion of truth with their disapproval of postmodernist political views, and the postmodernist critics of objective truth for the defective logic and incoherence of their critique. Unlike most analytic philosophers, Detmer engages extensively and directly with the texts of postmodernists. He provides substantial discussions of Husserl, Sartre, Rorty, and Chomsky, and also addresses the topics of journalistic objectivity, scientific truth, political correctness, and other timely issues. While sympathetic to Continental philosophy, Detmer nonetheless defends the idea of objective truth and attempts to show that doing so is a matter of considerable political importance.

Detmer's thorough and lucid discussion will appeal to anyone who finds the postmodern rejection of objectivity and truth dubious and who is yet uncomfortable with the highly conservative political rhetoric of the loudest voices in the anti-postmodernist crowd.

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From the Inside Flap:

"Most likely this book will come as something of a shock to the legions of students who have been brought up on the latest postmodernist wisdom... Detmer's writing is philosophically acute, unerring in its eye for logical confusions, and--above all--marked by a strong sense of ethical and political commitment."

----CHRISTOPHER NORRIS

Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy

University of Cardiff, Wales "Detmer offers a marvelously thorough, analytically detailed, yet remarkably accessible critique of the 'anti-truth squad.'" As much of the discussion in the literature on this issue is highly technical, Detmer's book will be of great value to students in philosophy, literature, political science, history and any of the other disciplines affected by postmodernist criticisms of the idea of truth. I would love to send my students who sometimes find postmodernist critiques of the idea of truth very seductive to Detmer's book for a healthy and accessible counterweight."

----STEVE HENDLEY Professor of Philosophy, Birmingham Southern College "Because of its incisiveness, attentiveness to scholarly detail, and philosophic originality, this book will, I am confident, make a major mark in the fields of political philosophy, ethics, epistemology, and education. Throughout the book Detmer manages the difficult task of interspersing technical philosophical points with broader political and social concerns, and he accomplishes this with a keen eye to the demands of logic, setting down all of it in uncommonly competent English prose. The sections on Chomsky are especially perceptive."

----Henry Rosemont, Jr.

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

St. Mary's College of Maryland

About the Author:

David Detmer (Munster, IN) is professor of philosophy at Purdue University Calumet and the author of Freedom as a Value: A Critique of the Ethical Theory of Jean-Paul Sartre, and many scholarly articles.

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