Suppose we want to know what the rules of football are – what the nature of football is. Who do we ask? Where should we search for an answer? Which person or source we choose to treat as authoritative is pretty important in cases like this since the Green Bay Packers fan will tell us something very different the Manchester United fan will. And if we, in our attempt to be very thorough and even handed, go to both sources and (obviously) get two different and incompatible answers, how will we decide what the “true” rules or nature of football really are?
Let us now suppose that we want to know what the rules of truth are – what the nature of truth is. Who do we ask? Where should we search for an answer? More importantly, I suppose, is what do we actually do? Who do we actually ask? The philosopher. The intellectual historian. The philologist. The linguist. The dictionary. In short, we consult the academic and the books he has written. But why in the world would we ever assume that the scientists and philosophers see truth in the same way that the non-academic rest of the world sees it? What makes us think that the academic’s search for truth is a game that is played by the same rules as we play by in our everyday lives? Why should we allow academics to be the final authority on ought and ought not to believe?
The academic (if we’re still actually listening to him) would probably claim that there aren’t any alternatives – that he has the only real game in town. This, however, is simply not true. The academic sees truth as a set of facts – a collection of independent, but logically consistent pictures of the world which are binding regardless of context, values, traditions and/or authorities. But this is not how the non-academic views or has viewed truth. For them, context, values, traditions and/or authorities are and have always been part and parcel with truth.
So, since we have legitimate alternatives, why should we insist on consulting the academic or his books regarding the nature of truth? Why would we ever assume that his account is not self-serving, biased or otherwise skewed in some way, even if he himself does not recognize it? What reason do we have to think that his account – his list of rules – must somehow be binding on us non-academics any more than the rules of American football are binding on Manchester United? To be sure, we can let him have a word in our lives, but I see no reason why we must let him have the final word regardless of context, values, tradition and/or authorities.