Wed, 15 Dec 1993 10:25:34 CST

Here is what interests me most in D. St. Christian's recent posts: ". .
. before anthropology can assert to tell any sort of truth, it must
first consider how it, as an intellectual project, constitutes truth
itself." This sounds reasonable, but is rotten to its core
epistemologically. First, there are not many "sorts of truth," but only
one. Truth is not a profound mystery (unless one wants, for purposes of
poetry or obfuscation, to make it one); it is simply a quality we
attribute to certain propositions. Understanding the concept of truth
requires simply determining the conditions under which we want to
attribute it. Consider four propositions: (1) "God is love." (2)
"Postmodernism is anti-scientific." (3) "The earth is round." (4) "The
period of a simple pendulum is proportional to the square root of its
length." (5) "The Yanomamo are aggressive." Are different "sorts of
truth" at stake? No. We want to attribute truth to (1) if, and only
if, God is love. And so for each of the others. The hard part is not
understanding what truth is, but finding out what is true. Even St.
Christian's charitable reading of pomo is, just below its surface,
antiscientific: the "project" is vague and interminable, and
regressively diverts attention from efforts to learn what is true.
(I say regressive because the problem of the nature of truth was solved,
for anyone who wanted a solution, by Alfred Tarski in 1944 in a paper
entitled "The Semantic Conception of Truth.") "The only really
interesting questions are those that have no answers," I once heard
a sociologist say. Does anyone have trouble identifying this as a
postmodern *as opposed to a scientific* sentiment?--Bob Graber