Caputo on Truth

I am making my way through one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while entitled “Truth: Philosophy in Transit” by John D. Caputo who I’ve mentioned before.  If anyone out there wants to know how I think about “truth”, whether capital “T” truth or lower case- should read this book.  The Kindle edition is only $9.80 and well worth it.  In fact, if anyone out there wants to read the book and engage in a conversation discussing it, I am most amenable.
As I was reading a bit this morning, I came across a section that most definitely speaks to my recent conversations with Bernard and JP.  I will quote it at length:
“We call this move made in hermeneutics postmodern because it sets out in exactly the opposite direction taken by Descartes in his search for absolute certitude and the universal rule of the mathematical method.  Descartes tried to doubt everything, to clear his head of every possible presupposition which might prejudice his view of the things themselves.  In hermeneutics, that is considered a little mad: the truth is gained not by approaching things without presuppositions—can you even imagine such a thing?—but by getting rid of inappropriate presuppositions (frame) and finding the appropriate ones, the very ones that give us access to the things in question.  Nothing ever happens outside a context and nothing can be understood without a set of presuppositions within which things are properly or improperly framed.  The ideal of presupposing nothing adopted by modern philosophers like Descartes is making an ideal of an empty head.

 ‘Absolute’ knowledge absolves itself of the very conditions under which knowledge is possible in the first place.  Presupposing nothing results in knowing nothing.  The contest is not between absolute and relative, which is the bill of goods modernity tries to sell us, but between more plausible and less plausible ‘readings’ or contextualizations.  That is why an innocent person can always be made to look guilty, or the opposite, why juries sometimes get it wrong, and why covering theories sometimes cover up.  We should not be trying to presuppose as little as possible but to presuppose enough; understanding requires a robust and sensitive set of presuppositions tailored to the demands of the subject under investigation.  Having a robust set of presuppositions that casts things in the right light is what hermeneutics calls an ‘interpretation’, which is a far cry from ‘merely a matter of opinion’—or of simply doing the maths.  Interpretation is a matter of insight and of sensitivity to the singularity of the situation with which we are confronted, rather than of submitting the situation to a set of inflexible rules laid down in advance by a Method or a pure fiction called Reason.”  
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1 Response to Caputo on Truth

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    I thought your previous truth post quite exemplary- of the sheer torture of trying to defend a position which is incoherent. Likewise here.

    “… by getting rid of inappropriate presuppositions (frame) and finding the appropriate ones …”

    Right back into the muddle, again, isn't it? How do you know what is an “appropriate” frame or supposition? What is “the right light”? Your choice method seems to be that it “feels right”, or that it comports with traditions you feel have historically done more good than harm.

    These are circular and absurd bases for truth. Descartes had it just right, and if you can't deal with evidence and logic and reality being separate from imagination, then there really is not much to say. The fruits of postmodernism are evidence enough of the poverty of this general approach, at least as far as any kind of rigor in philosophy or thought in general is concerned.


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