New Book Review of Handling Truth

The South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) Vol 102, No 3 (2012) contains a review of Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research. See at the following link to SAMJ:

In the same issue of SAMJ there is an editorial analysis of health care in South Africa. The four domains of truth—Rhetoria, Mystica, Logica, and Empirica—defined in Handling Truth are used in analyzing the differences between scientific medicine and traditional healers. See at the following link to SAMJ:


Q/A: Political Truth

Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research (2012) by William Melvin Gardner.

Question:  Is “political truth” a contradiction in terms?

Answer: Some people refuse to apply the word truth to politics, but no less a document than the Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths [italics added] to be self evident….” The political positions that followed were affirmed by 56 of our Founding Fathers and defended in the Revolutionary War—but were these political assertions really true? In a secular democracy, political truths must pass no test of scriptural doctrine, logical analysis, or scientific research. They need pass only the tests of judgment that result from rhetorical debate and persuasion.  Senators and Representatives decide, after formal debate and discussion, which assertions should be accepted as true. There is no practical alternative. We cannot cede the final decisions of government to theologians, philosophers, or scientists. We must rely on politicians to discover the truth.


Juanie Noland’s Review of Handling Truth

Getting at the truth has for millennia challenged philosophers, theologians, scientists, and jurors, along with private detectives and the rest of us. It turns out, as in the song “Lookin’ for Love,” we may have been looking for truth in all the wrong places. William Gardner’s interesting, readable book Handling Truth helps us look in the right places. According to Gardner, there are four domains of truth: Mystica (which includes religion), Rhetorica (common sense), Logica (reason), and Empirica (research). Each domain has its own rules for deciding what is true; this means the domains often conflict with one another. For instance, in the Empirica domain, truth is revealed only through supportive research data. Reason alone is insufficient. In the Mystica domain, “God created man,” is a truth unacceptable by the rules of Empirica. In Empirica, “Human beings evolved from an earlier species.” Is any domain superior to another? No, but each has its own assumptions; and the listener or reader should learn to recognize each domain and the boundaries of its truth claims.

In Chapter 9, “Truth, Language and Information,” Gardner connects human language development with emergence of the four truth domains. From primitive referential gesturing, humans evolved to speak, then write and read. The printing press invention made information available to all, and computers further accelerated its supply. As language and its dissemination methods evolved, so did our conceptions of truth. Thanks to abundant print materials and the Internet, we are more informed now than ever before, but also less discerning. Gardner reminds us that information is true only within its domain of origin.

Handling Truth is an excellent book, one you will find yourself referring to long past the first read. I particularly recommend it for college undergraduate courses. As a retired teacher education professor, I regret that Handling Truth was unavailable when I was teaching.

February Reviews

February 2012 brought two reviews of Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research.  One appears in the March/April issue of SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, available on newsstands, and the other, in  LEADERSHIP, is available online (see 

E-books editions, professionally formatted by eBook Architects (, are available from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble. Please comment on your experience with these digital versions.

Many early copies of the paperback version of Handling Truth were mailed out to reviewers late in 2011, and some of these copies, that contained a few uncorrected text errors, are now being sold online as used books. While all these errors were minor, you should have the corrected version if your copy was purchased on or after January 1, 2012.

Publication Day

January 1 has finally arrived and, as of today, Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research is officially on the market. Early reviews have been positive, and we expect the copies sent to newspapers and journals to bring more reviews and stimulate the discussion of truth. You can find Handling Truth online or at your local bookstore (it is distributed by Ingram). It is also available for Kindle or Nook. Your comments and questions are welcomed.

The University of Notre Dame Institute for Advance Study sponsors an annual conference on “ultimate questions and questions of value.” In previous years, the topics were “Dimensions of Goodness” and “Facets of Beauty;” this year’s topic is “Conceptions of Truth.” The conference is scheduled for April 12-14, in South Bend, Indiana, and will feature a lineup of highly qualified participants, with interesting topics. For details, visit their website:

Midwest Book Review

Midwest Book Review: The Philosophy Shelf

The truth sometimes isn’t so easy to cope with. “Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research” is a philosophical guide to dealing with hunting for truth and best dealing with and using it to the fullest when pursuing it. From breaking down truth into its categories, digesting each, “Handling Truth” is a scholarly and much recommended philosophical work for those who seek truth professionally, or of their own volition. –Bethany Cox

Launch Month for Handling Truth

November was a busy month. Logica Books decided to make Handling Truth available in time for holiday reading. With the help of editor Jonathan Leff, I made final corrections to the prepublication copy.  Within a few days, the paperback edition will be available to booksellers around the world.  The e-book was completed by E-book Architects in Austin, polished, and uploaded to internet book sellers (in mobi and epub versions). Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research is now available for Kindle and Nook. I hope all thinking people will read it, discuss the ideas presented, and handle truth with greater reverence and skill.


Truth vs. Truths

Readers of Skeptic magazine may remember my article “Truth vs. Truths” that appeared in Vol. 15, No. 4, 2010.  The article was taken, in large part, from Chapter 1 of Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research (Logica Books, January 1, 2012).  In the article, I describe the four domains of truth, which I called Rhetorica, Mystica, Logica, and Empirica.  The four domains were subsequently summarized and discussed on a number of Internet sites, and the entire Skeptic article was presented on a couple of sites.  If you read and liked “Truth vs. Truths,” or found it intellectually provocative, perhaps you will want to read Handling Truth.  It will be available at online or bricks-and-mortar bookstores soon.  — William Melvin Gardner

Reviewer Comments

The first reviews of Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research by William Melvin Gardner are in, and here are some comments:

“The scope of this book is remarkable.  Gardner demonstrates a proficiency in his academic field of psychology, in philosophy, and in history—intellectual breadth without a hint of any superficiality.”
–Richard Bond, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Retired, Ramapo College, New Jersey.

“…opens our eyes to the struggles between truth domains…and how they shape discourse in the modern world. Those who read this book will be better able to understand why two intelligent, sensitive minds can come to opposite conclusions on important issues of our world today….”
–Ralph S. Buckley, M.D., FACC, Cardiology Associates, Mobile, Alabama.

“Our world would be better served if all college freshmen had to read Handling Truth. In a postmodern world strength arises from knowledge and understanding, and Gardner offers a concise understanding of these complex relationships.”
–Donald G. Gregory, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. of Sociology, Reinhardt College, Georgia.

“The idea that one’s approach to the problem of truth is a function of personality (or is it vice versa?) is intriguing. If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of how people come to believe the things that they believe, and the consequences of this fundamental decision, you will want to read Handling Truth.”
–Michael R. James, M.A., L.M.H.C., Department Chair, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana.

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In my country (South Africa) the health services were held to ransom by the AIDS denialist stance…. How did apparently intelligent leaders come to these conclusions? Gardner provides insights….”
–JP van Niekerk, M.D., Managing Editor, South African Medical Journal.

Handling Truth

Why does someone write about truth? There are many reasons, but in my case the primary motivator was shouting heads on cable television. Their influence was growing as their assertions became more absurd. It was clear that we needed to save truth from the information circus made possible by television and the Internet.

Traditional philosophers explain truth in such transcendent terms that it is not accessible to most of us, while postmodernists seem to reject the term altogether. What was needed was a practical guide to truth, a guide to the truths for which we, as cultures and as individuals, search—and to the sources where we find them.  After years of thinking and writing, and debate among friends, the book is ready. Handling Truth will be available in print and e-book form on January 1, 2012.   –William Melvin Gardner