Saturday, January 20, 2007

Review of Truth Decay

A web site called Faith Maps has posted a review of my 2000 book, Truth Decay. The site is an "emerging church" venue. The review summarizes the contents fairly clearly and thoroughly, but then goes on to attribute views to me that I do not hold and do not defend in the book. I know nothing about the author, nor can I find anything about him on Google (so he must not really exist). I have asked the editor for permission to write a response. Let me know what you think of the review, but only if you have read Truth Decay. If you haven't, then turn off the TV, the iPod, the IMs, etc., and do so as soon as possible.


Kevin Winters said...

I've read your "Postmodernism and Truth" in Philosophia Christi 2/2/2 (2000), 271-281 as well as selections from the wider book, so I hope that is sufficient for me to reaspond here. I think the review is somewhat well done, but I don't think even it fully grasps the essence of figures like Heidegger, Derrida, and Levinas in what it says. The discussion of other forms of knowing, for example, focuses on "spiritual" knowledge, when one fo the fundamental views of those I give above is the focus on a background understanding that itself escapes and makes possible propositional knowledge. Thus, by focusing on "spiritual" knowledge rather than the "essence" of knowledge (for Heidegger, that which makes knowledge possible), the reviewer gives a response that is not as strong as it could be. Even Searle's notion of the Background (found in the work that Groothuis endorses so readily in Truth Decay) is not reducible to propositional knowledge, despite his neurological reductionism.

I fully endorse the viewer's opinion that Groothuis focuses on the most extreme forms of postmodernism in his engagement with primary thinkers (or, as far as I can tell, secondary works on the primary thinkers). I, for one, would like to see him do more with Heidegger, for a few reasons: first, my obvious bias towards Heidegger. Second, because Heidegger's work greatly influenced many of the thinkers that Groothuis addresses--Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty. On the latter, though see Charles Guignon's "On Saving Heidegger from Rorty," in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46/3 (1986), 401-417. This, unfortunately, is something that I would suggest for so-called "Emerging Church" characters so that they will similarly not butcher that which they are trying to be proponents for.

Lastly, I am still waiting for someone to tell me exactly how the "correspondence" relation is constituted. Groothuis does make a good case that correspondence of some kind is necessary (something neither I nor many primary so-called "postmodern" thinkers disagrees with), but exactly how it occurs is still ambiguous. I would most certainly enjoy discussing this particular fact as I think it is important for understanding how so-called "postmodernists" disagree with that conception.

Kevin Winters said...

Though admittedly off-topic, a friend of mine alerted to this article, written by Nietzschean and existentialist scholar (and recently deceased) Robert C. Solomon. Solomon, co-author of What Nietzsche Really Said (with his wife, Kathleen M. Higgins), has written some excellent works both on Nietzsche (to disabuse the simplistic interpretations of some of his critics) and existentialism as a whole. I would suggest him to anyone who wants an "insider's" view of existentialism.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I looked through that book and was unimpressed. It certainly dodged the severe problem of Nietzsche's perspectivism.

Kevin Winters said...

Really? How? I thought his quasi-Peircean approach (fallibilism) was quite good. How, exactly, is a direct corresondence to the "real" apart from any perspectival aspect possible? How is the "correspondence" relation itself instantiated such that it evades the perspectival approach?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I just wanted to echo something Kevin said in his first post (the long one!). That is, that it is one thing to completely throw out the correspondence theory of truth, but seems to me to be quite another thing, entirely, to say that the correspondence theory is necessary, but not sufficient to capture the entire spectrum of "truth."

It seems like often times some of my fellow conservatives - Groothuis, Moreland, etc. - polarize the truth debate by saying that one must sell their soul entirely to the correspondence theory or else completely abandon it. To completely abandon the corr. theory, of course, is absurdity, not to mention pragmatically impossible! But are there really only two options? Is this all-or-nothing approach to the corr theory really the way we should proceed with this debate????