Review of Gianni Vattimo, A Farewell to Truth, trans. William McCuaig. New York: Colombia University Press. 192 pages.
Could a book such as A Farewell to Truth by Gianni Vattimo have been better received? It doesn’t seem so. Those who think that saying goodbye to the truth might be a much too risky business are still the majority. However, simply going through the first pages of this book is enough to realize that the philosopher from Turin wants to get rid of only one of the senses given to the concept of truth. This sense is the realistic meaning of adaequatio intellectus et rei. For Vattimo, adaequatio is nothing other than an interpretation which is oblivious of being such a thing, as Nietzsche had already claimed in his time. It is an interpretation which is considered foreign to a community’s agreement and which relies on its ability to rescue “facts” just as they are, regardless of our language and of the conditions that give meaning to them. Thus, these very “naked” facts are attempted to be pressed upon others, as if this was the only worth-abiding rule. Against this interpretation, the writer privileges a less emphatic sense of the truth. This is a concept that we always use provisionally. In fact, an explanation may be deemed true as long as a better or more efficient one, which could refute it, does not exist. This is decided by the consensus reached by a society. Such consensus may even be the strictest agreement reached by experts about a technical issue. We can see, then, that truth can be verified even when considered from such a weak viewpoint. But we can only do so if we rely on previously accepted conditions. Obviously, these conditions cannot be accepted without an assumption.
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