Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226922683 Will Publish May 2018
E-book $30.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226922706 Will Publish May 2018

The Ashtray

(Or the Man Who Denied Reality)

Errol Morris

The Ashtray

Errol Morris

192 pages | 49 color plates, 39 halftones | 8 x 10 | © 2018 -- Errol Morris
Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226922683 Will Publish May 2018
E-book $30.00 ISBN: 9780226922706 Will Publish May 2018
In 1972, philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn threw an ashtray at Errol Morris. This book is the result.
 
At the time, Morris was a graduate student. Now we know him as one of the most celebrated and restlessly probing filmmakers of our time, the creator of such classics of documentary investigation as The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War. Kuhn, meanwhile, was—and, posthumously, remains—a star in his field, the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a landmark book that has sold well over a million copies and introduced the concept of “paradigm shifts” to the larger culture. And Morris thought the idea was bunk.
 
The Ashtray tells why—and in doing so, it makes a powerful case for Morris’s way of viewing the world, and the centrality to that view of a fundamental conception of the necessity of truth. “For me,” Morris writes, “truth is about the relationship between language and the world: a correspondence idea of truth.” He has no patience for philosophical systems that aim for internal coherence and disdain the world itself. Morris is after bigger game: he wants to establish as clearly as possible what we know and can say about the world, reality, history, our actions and interactions. It’s the fundamental desire that animates his filmmaking, whether he’s probing Robert McNamara about Vietnam or the oddball owner of a pet cemetery. Truth may be slippery, but that doesn’t mean we have to grease its path of escape through philosophical evasions. Rather, Morris argues powerfully, it is our duty to do everything we can to establish and support it.
 
In a time when truth feels ever more embattled, under siege from political lies and virtual lives alike, The Ashtray is a bracing reminder of its value, delivered by a figure who has, over decades, uniquely earned our trust through his commitment to truth. No Morris fan should miss it.
 
Review Quotes
Charles E. Rosenberg, Harvard University
"A wonderful read, combining memoir, epistemological reflection, the ethnography of academic philosophy -and confession of faith. The Ashtray will provoke and stimulate any serious reader, but it will provide particular insights for anyone familiar with Morris's important films."
 
Saul Kripke
"A compelling send-up of contemporary relativism about truth and epistemology by the
distinguished film-maker and writer Errol Morris. He bases it on his own personal interactions with
Thomas Kuhn, one of its most influential practitioners. But there is a little bit of everything in the
book. Interviews with philosophers and scientists are intertwined with stories from many of my
own favorite authors (Lewis Carroll, Russell, Borges), and discussions of notions such as reference,
natural kind, paradigm, and incommensurability. Throughout we find, as we have come to expect
from him, Morris's commitment to find out the truth. This time about truth itself."
Joshua Cohen, Apple University
"Errol Morris is a remarkable documentary film maker. He pursues his craft in the conviction that there is truth to be found and that creative and determined efforts will uncover it. In this extraordinary book, Morris explores his animating philosophical commitments about truth, reality, and knowledge. He presents his outlook in sharp opposition to ideas about relativism and incommensurability that he associates with Thomas Kuhn’s profoundly influential The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Morris's book is entertaining and engaging, but above all else it offers us a compelling exploration of the value of truth."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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