Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has been a member of the Modern History Faculty of Oxford University since 1983. His many previous works include Columbus and Millennium.
An idiosyncratic exploration of "the quest for language that can match reality," Oxford historian Fern ndez-Armesto's essay is a highly personal stroll through human history and various cultures' notions of truth. Fern ndez-Armesto (Millennium, etc.) examines four distinct approaches to truthÄ"the truth you feel," "the truth you are told," "the truth of reason" and sense perceptionÄin separate chapters. His goal, he reveals in a preface, is to rescue discussions about truth from the polarizing dead-ends of absolutism and relativism, "to reassure readers that the search for truth is still on and leave relativists and fundamentalists where they belongÄon the margins of history." His book is far too anecdotal and unsystematic to achieve that stated goal, but it nevertheless makes for provocative, often illuminating reading, particularly since he includes Chinese, Indian, Polynesian and other traditions in his excavation of how different cultures in different times apprehended the idea of truth. Writing with an interdisciplinarian's lack of, well, discipline, he stumbles badly on such topics as pragmatism, quantum mechanics, chaos theory and G”del's Incompleteness Theorem, repeating or even adding to common misperceptions, rather than dispelling them. Yet he also writes with the confidence and clarityÄneither of which is to be confused with accuracy or depthÄof a top-notch lecturer. In the end, what he has to say about how language cannot be conceived as separate from the world it tries to describe is not just an interesting philosophical comment but also a moving perspective on what happens whenever one person speaks to another. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"[Fernandez-Armesto's] interesting and challenging book takes us on a whirlwind guided tour of human thought." --The New York Times Book Review"In this energetic study...the author reaches beyond academe with crisp prose complemented by numerous whisical touches . . . Truth is a beacon of lucidity." --Boston Globe"Although serious in his intentions, Fernandez-Armesto writes with a light touch, ranging widely over the fields of anthropology, history and philosophy...very timely and eminently readable." --Los Angeles Times"Sharp and interesting . . . [The author is] bound to engage speicalists in the fields he sprints through." --New Statesman