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Bell, D. (2009). Is Truth an Illusion? Psychoanalysis and Postmodernism. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(2):331-345.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(2):331-345

Is Truth an Illusion? Psychoanalysis and Postmodernism Related Papers

David Bell

The sort of reflection that I have been engaging in is just the sort of reflection that both Comte and Rorty see as pointless. For Comte, such reflection is a throwback to a pre-scientific age; for Rorty, a reluctance to enter fully into the postmodern one. Some of you will probaly agree with one or other of these thinkers. But in my view reflection on just what it is that makes thinkers like Rorty doubt the very idea of representing the world, and I think there is a Rorty as well as a Comte in each of us, however suppressed, is part of understanding ourselves, and not just part of understanding certain sophisticated and influential thinkers. For what is common to Rorty and Comte is the idea that much of what we think we know cannot have the status it seems to have. For Richard Rorty the recommended response is to take a more ‘playful’ attitude to what we think we know; and for August Comte it is to sternly restrict ourselves to ‘positive knowledge’. But understanding the temptations and seductions of the idea that Comte and Rorty share, so that we can live with those temptations and seductions without succumbing to them, is far more important, and more valid as a response, than pretending that the world is either just a playpen or just a scientific laboratory.

(Hilary Putnam, 1995, pp. 309-10)

The philosopher Susan Haack tells the following story:

Not long ago I heard my Dean, a physicist by training, express his unease at the suggestion that the Mission Statement for the College of Arts and Science included the phrase ‘concern for truth’.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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