In the last chapter of Walden, Henry David Thoreau proclaims a simple yet profound conviction: "Any truth is better than make- believe." Edward Galligan shares this conviction. In The Truth of Uncertainty: Beyond Ideology in Science and Literature, he argues that contemporary American critics should embrace literary truths with all of their ardent uncertainties rather than cling to the make-believe certainties of ideologies.
Postmodern critics fail to ask the truth-seeker's essential question, What does the evidence prove? and instead trust the generalizations and slogans of ideologies to guide their interpretations. Attempting to be up-to-date and profound, these critics lose sight of the literature they are supposed to explore.
The Truth of Uncertainty celebrates values commonly associated with modern, not postmodern criticism, applying them to contemporary works in a series of fresh and unusual inquiries. Galligan finds important implications for criticism in work from the physical sciences that are rarely touched on by American intellectuals, such as Gerald M. Edelman's Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind and Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Likewise, he finds illumination in the works of novelists that American critics have largely ignored—Josef Skvorecky, George V. Higgins, Mary Lee Settle, Robertson Davies.
As a consequence of dealing with these "unusual" texts, Galligan presents a refreshing interpretation of a number of important concepts: language is grounded in talk; all literary criticism is subjective and tentative because reading is a highly subjective enterprise; and, most important, the world is real and any truth is indeed better than make-believe. He moves from a rejection of criticism in the service of ideology to an affirmation of criticism in the service of truthfulness.
The ideas celebrated in The Truth of Uncertainty are timeless and valuable. Galligan returns to the text and provides a penetrating critique of the state of contemporary criticism, which has abandoned truth for ideology. The result is an eloquent salute to literature itself.