As I said last Friday, the last time I read anything by John D. Caputo was at the end of the '70s. His articles and books struck me as worth reading at the time. His recent work, however, appears to be incompetent rubbish. One could say of the latter-day Caputo what Searle of Derrida: he gives bullshit a bad name. The following from a review by Alan Worsnip:
This confusion recurs again and again. For example, Caputo treats the question of whether there is one god or many (or none) as a version of the question of whether there is “one truth or many.” But it is not. If there were to be two mayors of London instead of one, that would require a political rethinking but not a rethinking of the theory of truth. Likewise, if there were to be two gods instead of one, that would require a religious rethinking but not a rethinking of the theory of truth. Sometimes it feels like Truth is just Caputo’s vehicle to discuss the subject that really animates him—religion, and his own expansive, almost nontheistic account of it.
Caputo also persistently runs together the questions of truth with questions of knowledge of truth. For example, he complains that absolutism—the view that there are absolute truths—“confuses us [i.e. human beings] with God,” a being that can know every truth. Yet the claim that there is an (absolute) truth about some matter is entirely compatible with the claim that we may often be deeply ignorant about it. Presumably there is a true fact of the matter as to whether the number of blades of grass in the UK was either odd or even at the moment of New Year in 1972. But we will never know which it is. Indeed, it is precisely the areas in which it is appropriate to speak of ignorance that it is least plausible to claim that truth is relative to us or our perspective: being ignorant of a truth involves the capacity to be wrong about it, which means that there is some fact about it independently of what one thinks.
If the Left would cease to exist without its double standards, contemporary Continental philosophy would cease to exist without its trademark confusion of the ontological with the epistemological. I am exaggerating, of course, but in the direction of a truth which I will leave my astute readers to reformulate in more temperate terms if they care to.
I have gone over this ground many times, but apparently one cannot say it too often. The claim that truth is absolute, and cannot be relative to individuals or groups or historical epochs or races, or anything else, is a claim about the nature of truth. It is a claim about what truth is. One who insists on this obvious point is not laying claim to any absolute or god-like knowledge. I can know that truth is absolute without knowing which propositions are true. It is not polite to say it, but say it we must: the failure to grasp such a simple point is a mark of stupidity in someone like Caputo who has had plenty of time and opportunity to learn something about philosophy. He's committing a rookie blunder, a sophomoric mistake.
What is the difference between analytic and Continental philosophy?
In the standard story about academic philosophy—a story which nearly everyone acknowledges to be overly reductive, yet nearly everyone continues to repeat—there are two kinds of philosophy. On one hand there is “analytic philosophy”—according to its opponents, a kind of pedantic bean-counting that alienates philosophy from its project of understanding the deep questions of life, existence and the human condition, replacing them with self-satisfied distinctions such as that between three different uses of the word “so.” On the other hand, there is “continental philosophy”—according to its opponents, a vague and pretentious approach, expressed in unclear prose which conceals a mixture of banalities and blatant falsehoods. Think of it this way: whilst continental philosophy gets better as you get drunker, analytic philosophy gets worse.
I say avoid both. Go maverick!