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Friday, July 10, 2015


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Thanks for your post, Bill. No need to apologize for stating the obvious. Sometimes it needs to be stated. I'm reminded of a comment from Orwell in the first paragraph of his short review of B. Russell’s Power: A New Social Analysis:

"...we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

The beginning and end of the third paragraph are also worth quoting:

"Underlying this is the idea that common sense always wins in the end. And yet the peculiar horror of the present moment is that we cannot be sure that this is so. It is quite possible that we are descending into an age in which two and two will make five when the Leader says so... One has only to think of the sinister possibilities of the radio, state-controlled education and so forth, to realize that “the truth is great and will prevail” is a prayer rather than an axiom."


Completely agree that this is embarrassing stuff from Caputo. I learned quite a bit from his early work, Heidegger and Aquinas, but as a younger person in philosophy I cannot remember a time at which the living, breathing Caputo was not just recycling cheap cliches in pseudo-poetic language.

Doesn't your point re: truth beg the question, though? >>Is Caputo trying to convince us of certain truths? Then he presupposes truth, in which case truth cannot be a social construct.<< To say that Caputo "presupposes truth" is not to say that he presupposes some sort of absolutist notion of truth. Why is the latter a necessary condition for the activity of "trying to convince"?

Perhaps we should be more wary of those who presume to know what the "absolute truth" is?
Especially as the (usually very angry self-righteous) "true believers" whether secular or religious are the cause/source of most of the troubles in the world - and always have been.

Would Nagarjuna, Shankara, Gautama Buddha or the ancient Sages who wrote/composed the Astavakra Gita, the Avadhuta Gita, the Diamond Sutra, the Lankavatara Sutra, the Ribhu Gita and the Tripura Rahasya agree with you re the nature of Truth?
I think not!

Thanks, Josh.

>>To say that Caputo "presupposes truth" is not to say that he presupposes some sort of absolutist notion of truth. Why is the latter a necessary condition for the activity of "trying to convince"?<<

We have to make a distinction here between objective truth and absolute truth. This requires a separate post. I would argue that objective truth is absolute truth. But one might resist that identification. My claim could be weakened for present purposes as follows: Caputo must presuppose objective truth, truth as intersubjectively binding, as the same for all. He cannot be a relativist about truth and expect us to take him seriously. Truth in this sense might just be a transcendental presupposition of rational inquiry and debate. More on this later.


One can oppose relativism without falling into dogmatism.

See here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/08/to-oppose-relativism-is-not-to-embrace-dogmatism.html


There is a difference between countenancing objective truth and disagreeing about which statements, propositions, etc., are objectively true. Thus, one could accept that we are all fallible, and yet accept that objective truths exist. Hence, Bill's statement that one can oppose relativism while rejecting dogmatism.


If Caputo presupposes only a relative notion of truth; say relative to a time, place, society or context, then his claims cannot be stated generally. But he is stating them as general claims. This is the problem of the incoherence of General Relativism: i.e., the claim that "there are no objective/universal truths." Such a claim can be shown to be self-defeating.

The general problem here is that the relativist wants to deny something (i.e., truth), but he inevitably needs to make use of it in order to do so. There is no escape from the incoherence of this form of relativism.

For one example of such incoherence in the case of moral-relativism, see my FB post "Paradigmatic Paradoxes of Relativism":



What do you mean by "general claim"? I doubt Caputo or anyone else would cop to that. The proposition "It is true[1] that there is no truth[2]" does not contain a contradiction if truth is not meant in the same way and in the same respect.

Look, again, I have no truck with Caputo and have even been in a face-to-face exchange with the man that was very ugly. But I think that this truth business is a lot more difficult (not unlike the "existence" business) than Dr. Vallicella seems to be suggesting here.

But this is unsurprising, since truth and being are convertible transcedentals and so literally "undefinable" in the normal sense.

Thanks for the engagement. When I get the time I'll look at the other posts on the subject.

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