Book Review: What is Truth? by Peter Vardy

This review was written as part of my assign work for the MA in Philosophy and religion. Peter Vardy, The best lecturer I had in that particular course asked us to review his own book “What is Truth”

Book Review:

Reading Peter Vardy’s “ What’s Truth” is a breath of fresh air, with such clarity on very complex ideas that many philosophers mentioned in the book would love to have in their own books. But the manner in which that Peter Vardy sets up the pieces of his puzzle makes me unsure of the whole approach.

The first two thirds of the book contains the realism/anti-realism dichotomy, which as the book progresses, seems to lean towards realism as closer and less deceiving to truth than antirealism.

It makes sense if we are to understand realism as the “theory of truth which claims that a statement is true if it corresponds to the state of affairs that it attempts to describe” and anti-realism by contrast “rejects correspondence and instead maintain that statements are true because they cohere with other true statements made within a particular form of life” but this approach appears rather more simplistic than the Truth that it’s claims to be searching.

Saying that the antirealist approach we can see in the Post modernism or the ideas developed after Kant lead just to radical relativism which sees the search of truth as folly, is a big leap and a mere way to see today’s dominants ideas. I don’t believe that if tomorrow, all human kind is given with the full and absolute knowledge of the Truth, the fact that being a realist or an antirealist will be relevant towards it. I am inclined to think that maybe both would have aspects of Truth. Nor do I think that this categorization of Vardy ‘s view aims to add something new to the discussion. It seems to be more of a dialectic argument to expose today’s the speculative thinking who leads to avoid responsibility of our own actions, than a argument about Truth.

However, it is interesting to see how the problem expressed in these terms can offer a dramatic and persuasive tension that can help many people to see in the way they refer themselves to the Truth. I do agree that the view today gives more importance to love, pity and compassion than Truth. However is not a very strong argument if we trying an either/or proposition between high Good values.

The third part of the book sees the heart of the argument became more interesting. Today’s Philosophy is facing a major crisis in the way we know it. I agree that today’s necessity is to find ways out of the extremes of radical relativity or fundamentalism. I also agree that the best way to resolve this crisis is probably by exploring the ways from the past (Plato, Socrates, the Kotzker, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein or the Sufis) as well as jumping straight into the dark valley of fears of our own ignorance. If we are to see truth, whichever elusive or confused shape it takes we will inevitably have to take some risks.

If the search for Truth has to go back to the centre, setting arguments into realist or antirealist terms is more a step backwards to that same point where we were yesterday; if that is Truth, life would be like an eternal deja-vu.

It seems curious to me that someone who can explain other great philosophers as clearly as Peter Vardy, who see the main points and problems that traditional philosophy has in expressing these problems, is still faithful to an expired style, very well proved by himself to be inadequate to today’s problems. If it is entirely useless or it can be updated to a new level … only time will tell.

I would leave it up to the reader to see if the arguments are as straight and ingenuous as they seem or something more elaborate and provocative to make us doubt, once again, about the Truth. Either way I believe that his intention is as he say at the beginning “A few, however, seek the Truth and knowing they will never find it in its entirety, stake their lives on trying to live it.”


Mariano Gutiérrez Alarcón

This is Mariano's Blog, here is a compilation of all my interests, as eclectic as they are, my main intention here is articulate them all in one place, and a better platform to show my work and my thoughts freely.

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