Partial Truths and Our Common Future

A Perspectival Theory of Truth and Value

By Donald A. Crosby

Subjects: Philosophy, Epistemology, Ethics, American Philosophy, Political Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in American Philosophy and Cultural Thought
Hardcover : 9781438471334, 212 pages, September 2018
Paperback : 9781438471341, 212 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents


1. Religion

The Dao and Other Religious Ultimates that Cannot Be Spoken

A God of All Creation and of All Peoples

Transcendence and Immanence in Religion of Nature

The Paradox of Existential Certitude

2. Science

The Claim to Scientific Objectivity

Assumptions Lying Behind Scientific Reasoning

The Need for Dialogue between Science and Other Fields of Thought

Science and the Future

3. Morality

Truth and Goodness

Aristotle and Mill

Hobbes and Hume

Kant and Rawls

Obligations to Nature and All the Creatures of Nature

4. Economics and Ecology

Earth as Warehouse of Resources for Human Use

Free Markets Automatically and Maximally Benefit Everyone

Healthy Economic Systems Always Exhibit Steady Growth

Globalization is Beneficial to Everyone

Government Deficits are Bad and Should Always be Avoided to the Greatest Possible Extent

Capitalism is Always Good and Any Tendency to Socialism is Bad

Wheeling and Dealing

Partiality of Truths as Excuses for Inaction

5. Philosophy

Facts and Values

Continuity and Novelty

Rationalism and Empiricism

Mind-Body Dualism and Reductionism

Good and Evil

6. Humanity

Stunted and Soaring Trees

Signs of Approaching Disaster

Signs of Hope

7. Perspectives

Perspectival Realism

The Necessary Perspectivity of a God’s-Eye View of the World

Epistemic Norms

Concluding Comments

Works Cited

Argues that a pluralistic understanding of truth can foster productive conversations about common concerns involving religion, science, ethics, politics, economics, and ecology without falling into relativism.


In this book, Donald A. Crosby defends the idea that all claims to truth are at best partial. Recognizing this, he argues, is a necessary safeguard against arrogance, close-mindedness, and potentially violent reactions to differences of outlook and practice. Crosby demonstrates how "partial truths" are inevitably at work in conversations and debates about religion, science, morality, economics, ecology, and social and political progress. He then focuses on the concept in the discipline of philosophy, looking at a number of distinctions that are taken to be strictly binary—those between fact and value, continuity and novelty, rationalism and empiricism, mind and body, and good and evil—and demonstrates how in all of these cases, each on its own can offer only an incomplete picture. Partial Truths and Our Common Future invites ongoing dialogue with others for the sake of mutual enlargements of understanding rather than mere civility, and provides incentive for continuing open-minded and shared inquiries into the important issues of life.

Donald A. Crosby is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Colorado State University and the author of many books, including More Than Discourse: Symbolic Expressions of Naturalistic Faith; Nature as Sacred Ground: A Metaphysics for Religious Naturalism; and The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Seven Types of Everyday Miracle, all published by SUNY Press.


"This is a transdisciplinary philosophical work that moves with grace across traditions, time periods, and thinkers. It is a master class in the existential and public relevance of philosophy and a rare example of a book that is both timely and timeless. " — Michael S. Hogue, author of The Promise of Religious Naturalism