For once, there appears to be a 'post-modern' trope I can agree with (sort of).

A new clever wheeze from academia is to say that truth is 'context-dependent'. Linda Alcoff, in her 2013 Presidential address to the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, even claimed this would help in combatting oppression, because no universal certainties are being asserted. In a past age - say up to the 18th century - when religion with its claims to absolute truth was dominant, that would make sense. In more modern times, when oppressors and exploiters are in the habit of claiming special truths and destinies for themselves (apartheid - literally 'separate development' - in pre-1990s South Africa being a good example), universal truths are likely to come in for fighting oppression. 

Yet in a sense truth, including universal truths, is context dependent. For, if it were not for simple practicalities like needing accurate reportage of events, honest trading, reliable rather than abusive relationships, etc., we could afford to leave truth in the as we see it compartment. It is no accident that truth is called for in court proceedings - just because those involved cannot be relied upon to be truthful if that doesn't suit them! So, truth has its context, and always has had. Where the post-modernists (or 'post-ancients' in this context) are likely to err is in imagining the context might change anytime soon. Only if we found everyone being honest and reliable, which is not very likely to happen.

Emma Duncan of the Institute of Economic Affairs is the latest in a long line to plead for attention to good news. What would be really good news would be finding that truth is no longer required by the context. 

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