The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. In press. March 2016. (New York: Liverite/W. W. Norton). Audio book, Random House. Kirkus starred review 2015.
With far-reaching implications, this urgent treatise promises to revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human in the digital age.
The paradox confronting us today is that even as we know more and process information at a faster rate, we reason, think, and understand less. While a wealth of literature has been devoted to similar topics, the deep philosophical implications of this seismic shift have not been properly explored until now. Demonstrating that knowledge based on reason plays an essential role in society and that there is more to knowing than just acquiring information, leading philosopher Michael P. Lynch shows how the modern Internet has distorted not only the way we learn and communicate but also the very essence of what it means to be human. Charting a path from Plato’s cave to Shannon’s mathematical theory of information to Google Glass, Lynch builds on previous works by Nicholas Carr, James Gleick, and Jaron Lanier to give us a necessary guide for how to navigate the philosophical quagmire that is the Information Age.
MIT Press, 2012
Why reason--and reason-giving--matters.
"Objective reason stands to reason, and is to be followed for that reason. How can this be so and what are the implications? The extensive answer in this book combines philosophical depth with historical and thematic breadth. It attains rigor without jargon, clarity with concision. It makes its case against currents of relativism in philosophical thought, and against currents of dogmatic conservatism in political thought. This needs to be done again and again, and Michael Lynch does it very well."--Ernest Sosa, Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University.
Oxford University Press, 2009
In paperback Spring 2011
My view that truth is a functional property outlined and defended. Here’s the blurb from the back:
Traditional theories of truth hold that truth has only a single uniform nature. All truths are true in the same way. More recent deflationary theories claim that truth has no nature at all; the concept of truth is of no real philosophical importance. In this concise and clearly written book, Lynch argues that we should reject both these extremes and hold that truth is a functional property. To understand truth we must understand what it does, its function in our cognitive economy. Once we understand that, we'll see that this function can be performed in more than one way. And that in turn opens the door to an appealing pluralism: beliefs about the concrete physical world needn't be true in the same way as our thoughts about matters -- like morality -- where the human stain is deepest.
What the critics are saying:
'Lynch's new book is a highly accessible and stimulating piece of analytic philosophy--a great read for anyone studying or working in metaphysics and the philosophy of language. In an era of increasing specialization within the profession, Lynch manages to cover a surprising amount of philosophical ground with the precision and grace of a truly systematic thinker. With this, his third original book on issues in the theory of truth, he has cemented his standing as a major figure in the field.'
Alexi Burgess, Review of Metaphysics
'this is truly a thought-provoking and admirable book.'
Christine Tappolet, Mind
'a valiant attempt to synthesize the most compelling features of the range of views on truth. It brings exciting new life to the enterprise, and should be required for anyone with even a passing interest in the metaphysical issues.'
Stewart Shapiro, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
In Truth as One and Many, Michael Lynch offers a new theory of truth ... Anyone with an interest in theories of truth of the metaphysical sort will benefit from reading the book and studying the details.'
Nicholas J. J. Smith, Analysis
MIT Press, 2004
Winner, Foreword Magazine Gold Medal in Philosophy 2005
New York Times Editors’ Pick, 2005
Translated into Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
"True to Life is a passionate demonstration that truth matters; it is strikingly clear and painstakingly reasoned, and ranges from technical work in the philosophy of logic to a discussion of the role of truth-telling in government."
-- Anthony Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review
"This is an important and timely volume, and philosophy owes Lynch a considerable debt."
-- Duncan Pritchard, The Philosophers' Magazine
“An engagingly written, carefully reasoned defence of 'objective truth' as a respectable, even desirable goal and standard."
-- Barry Allen, The Globe and Mail
"True to Life performs a major public service. Michael Lynch explains with engaging energy and clarity why the concept of truth matters to a decent public culture. Fully accessible to people without prior philosophical training, the book nonetheless explains serious philosophical debates with considerable sophistication. It will be wonderful for use (and debate) in undergraduate courses in many disciplines, but it is also just good reading for anyone who is interested in unmasking deception and confusion, and who thinks that this activity matters for the health of democracy."
--Martha Nussbaum, The University of Chicago
MIT Press, 1998, 2001
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 1999
"This clear and well-written book is a fascinating attempt to find a via media between the thesis that there is ‘one true story of the world’ and the thesis that there is no objective truth or falsity. Lynch calls his middle way pluralism: he argues that, although there is more than one truth, there is nevertheless such a thing as objective falsity. Despite the fact that I am constitutionally unable to accept Lynch's conclusions, I regard this as an important book. This is the book that those of us who believe in ‘the one true story of the world’ will have to refute."
-- Peter van Inwagen, John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy, The University of Notre Dame
The Nature of Truth
Classic and Contemporary Perspectives
MIT Press, 2001
"What is truth?" has long been the philosophical question par excellence. The Nature of Truth collects in one volume the twentieth century's most influential philosophical work on the subject. The coverage strikes a balance between classic works and the leading edge of current philosophical research.
The essays center around two questions: Does truth have an underlying nature? And if so, what sort of nature does it have? Thus the book discusses both traditional and deflationary theories of truth, as well as phenomenological, postmodern, and pluralist approaches to the problem. The essays are organized by theory. Each of the seven sections opens with a detailed introduction that not only discusses the essays in that section but relates them to other relevant essays in the book. Eleven of the essays are previously unpublished or substantially revised. The book also includes suggestions for further reading.
Linda Martín Alcoff, William P. Alston, J. L. Austin, Brand Blanshard, Marian David, Donald Davidson, Michael Devitt, Michael Dummett, Hartry Field, Michel Foucault, Dorothy Grover, Anil Gupta, Martin Heidegger, Terence Horgan, Jennifer Hornsby, Paul Horwich, William James, Michael P. Lynch, Charles Sanders Pierce, Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, F. P. Ramsey, Richard Rorty, Bertrand Russell, Scott Soames, Ernest Sosa, P. F. Strawson, Alfred Tarski, Ralph C. Walker, Crispin Wright.
co-edited with Patrick Greenough
Oxford University Press, 2006
Is truth objective or relative? What exists independently of our minds? The essays in this book debate these two questions, which are among the oldest of philosophical issues and have vexed almost every major philosopher, from Plato, to Kant, to Wittgenstein. Fifteen eminent contributors bring fresh perspectives, renewed energy, and original answers to debates of great interest both within philosophy and in the culture at large.
co-edited with Heather Battaly
Rowman and Littlefield 2005
One of the most influential analytic philosophers of the late twentieth century, William P. Alston is a leading light in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of language. In this volume, twelve leading philosophers critically discuss the central topics of his work in these areas, including perception, epistemic circularity, justification, the problem of religious diversity, and truth.