Monday, July 03, 2006

Objectivity and Truth: the new war (part 2)

(continued from yesterday)

new war

This new, and I am persuaded more important, battle lines are being drawn within the ranks of those who have already dismissed the modern project. These postmodern pragmatists, instead of rejecting truth and objectivity (which is the inversion of the modern project), argue that Truth is in the Objectivity. Or rather, Objectivity is Truth. These pragmatists do not want to jettison Truth or Objectivity, but to retain both via modification. Pragmatists, like modernists, desire to retain the link between objectivity and truth, keeping a robust account of the objectivity as social norms and practices, and expounding a minimalist form of the truth. So, unlike the modernists who understand objectivity as something like universal access to all rational observers, pragmatists argue that objectivity is situated not in individual, rational subjects, but is found in the rationality of social practices and those properly trained into them. And, unlike a modern theory of Truth which claims the complete correspondence of statements and objects, usually assuming a type of metaphysical supplement, pragmatists argue for Truth as a partial, provisional, and falliblist part of our everyday practices which is non-relative (not subjectively constituted) and non-metaphysical.

Now of course, this account of Truth is not very different than other postmodern versions of contextuality and interpretation. But the firm linkage of this Truth with a social understanding of Objectivity becomes the new war over words. This old linkage with revised concepts, while at the same time attempting to under gird rational discourse within democratic society, becomes the new area of exclusion for authentic theological discourse.

For it seems to me that this new war is that between Truth as Objective and Truth as Subjective. In a good old reform adage, we cannot come to know the Truth unless we have been converted/changed/redeemed, and this entails a Subjective transformation; a transformation by the Truth. The Truth makes us, not the other way around. We practice the Truth (subjectively), we do not observe it (objectively).


If we accept, or fail to understand, this new movement of philosophical/political theory, within the various postfoundational discourses, we will again fail to articulate a truly Christian vision of the present/future, and mistakenly underwrite the “violence inherent within the system.” To link Truth with the Objectivity of social practices, again block the New Revelation of God in all historical situations, it again binds us to the imminence of this world.

So instead we should assert that Truth is out there, but it is not Objective. Truth is embattled, fragile, and hard to find, it is not Objective as a rule to be followed, but rather written on our hearts as a gentle wisdom.

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