The Riddle of Humanity. Lecture 10 of 15.
What I would like to give you today is a thoroughly undemanding analysis of some recent directions in philosophical thinking. I want to take some well-known currents of thought from the surface of recent intellectual life as my point of departure. Later — very soon, if not in the next lecture — we will have time to consider some of the details and the special ramifications of contemporary thought. I would like to describe a certain tendency that is fundamental to some of the most recent of contemporary schools of thought. The whole direction taken by certain schools of thought is marked by the loss of a sense for how to orient oneself in reality, and by the loss of a sense for truth in so far as ‘the truth’ refers to an agreement between our knowledge and something that is objective. Just observe what difficulties the adherents of some recent schools of thought find themselves in when they need to decide whether a judgment about reality — about some aspect of reality or other — is right or wrong. They have difficulty in finding valid epistemological grounds, valid scientific or philosophical grounds, for their decision. There is no trace of a principle or — to use a more scientific expression — of a criterion for deciding whether particular judgments are true judgements; that is, there is no way of deciding whether they have been made with regard for reality. Certain of the old criteria have been lost and it is quite evident that nothing has come along to take their place in recent times.