I remember distinctly one of my English lectures: The subject was on Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela and the lecturer was expounding Derrida’s deconstruction to the lecture hall, teaching us how Pamela’s choice to stuff a letter she is writing to her mother in her bosom when her seducer who is holding her captive walks in is a way in which she is trying to "share her sexuality" with her mother (rather than hiding it because her seducer will very likely confiscate it off her).

The absurdity of the theory, just like much of what Derrida says, has become dominant within the Humanities. Thinkers like Derrida, Foucault, Lacan have become en vogue. Freud’s theories on how the conscience does not base itself in right reason and Aristotelian prudence but on a life of frustrated sexual encounters which plague the mind from its infancy. Reality is nothing more than a social construct and any semblances of meaning is wish-fulfilment we are told in this postmodern enlightenment where man can finally accept the futile nature of existence

So what is Truth then? It seems that in an era of pluralism we should finally accept that your truth is yours and my truth is mine. There have even been calls, by some, for the unmasking of science which is currently undergoing in the eyes of some students and academics a necessary depoliticisation. The ‘politics of science’ is an increasing conversation point. It is not enough to say that Science has been exploited in the past for political purposes (e.g. Eugenics), instead it is fundamentally political.

Naturally, it is easy to see that this is not the case in science and science is done best when we eschew ideological commitments though, fallen creatures that we are, there is always a chance that certain interests or beliefs impede the search for Truth. On the other hand, to assume that science is biased leads precisely to the devaluation of true knowledge; this is fundamentally what Stalin claimed in condemning Einstein’s relativity "Jewish Physics" and promoting "Soviet Science" under notorious pseudo-scientists such as Lysenko.

Benedict XVI described this in what he aptly calls "Dictatorship of Relativism". Not only does it deny any truth, it also dictatorially assumes that those who do not follow it are themselves intolerant neglecting the bitter irony that this regime is itself deeply intolerant of what most thinkershave assumed for millenia back to Socrates. Of course this relativism does not really hold water: we can’t deconstruct logic itself, as Derrida argues, without using logic to do so. A=A is watertight whether you like it or not.

No Truth, No Goodness

It is obvious that when Truth itself falls apart then morality itself decays as, after all, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ become purely emotional preferences (‘emotivism’) which we have to specific actions - the view advocated by A.J. Ayer in his Language, Truth, and Logic. This is a view which has become self-evident for many with examples of differing views on, say, infanticide or greed. These are unpleasant behaviours, not fitting what we find comfortable and nothing more.

But these deceptively persuasive arguments are only in effect claiming that disagreement prevents their being an underlying objective fact, a standard which doesn’t necessarily hold. 2+2=4 is the right answer in Mathematics whether or not every human being alive claims that the answer is actually five. A plethora of views, as Alvin Plantinga among others points out, does not mean there isn’t a right answer or that certain people aren’t wrong.

Peter Geach, one of the 20th Century’s greatest Analytic philosophers (a Catholic), formulated the Frege-Geach problem which showed that you can embed phrases like good/bad within sentences in a meaningful way which simply does not correspond with "good" or "bad" being merely verbal emotional spasms. His compelling case has led to virtually all moral philosophers abandoning emotivism but public opinion still lags considerably behind. The role of faith in this, cannot be understated; Geach’s ‘Truth’ was indistinguishable from God.

The Church Fathers teach us how God is simple, that is he is indivisible and can’t be referenced to have certain qualities, instead he is those qualities. God is truth itself, God is goodness. In pursuing the true, we are pursuing the good and the beautiful. As a literary scholar it becomes impossible for me to divide the Truth from the beauty which draps literary texts, and the ethical implications they pursue and resolve.

It is in this light that we can finally aim to restore the Humanities. Theirs is the spirit which continues to move within the Church, what we Catholics label ‘tradition’, whether that be in philosophical logic, science, literature or whatever other meaningful field we pursue. As J.S. Bach said, ultimately, we do it for sola dei gratia and that means for truth itself. Far from biasing us it is, in this way, that “the truth will set you free”.