Thursday, May 24, 2007

The problem with linking truth with power

I am completing a review of Martha Nussbaum's The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (which I recommend strongly) for the Times Higher Education Supplement. I will post an excerpt and link to my review shortly. However, it is worth noting a passage from the book found on page 262:

"As the philosopher Bernard Williams memorably observed to a gay scholar-activist, who was discussing Foucault's ideas, "If truth is nothing but power, you will always lose.""

Nussbaum notes (on page 375 note 94) that the conference was held at the University of California, Berkeley in memory of Gregory Vlastos and that she believes "Williams oversimplified both Foucault's ideas and those of the speaker."

Nevertheless, I think this is a revealing passage. If truth is power, those without power will not win any battles in presenting truth: no power = no truth. It is another gambit one might throw at the postmodernist, with his/her ready at hand oversimplified, crystal-clear picture of precisely how one should view the world with his/her toolbox at hand of deconstruction and discourse analysis. If Foucault's views are correct, then the postmodernist represents neither truth nor power.

Analytic philosophy, 1 ; postmodernism, 0

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