(Contemporary American neuroscientist)
“Possibilianism”: the intellectual humility in the face of truths: "the known unknowns."[
“Possibilianism” is a philosophy which rejects both the diverse claims of traditional theism and the positions of certainty in strong atheism in favor of a middle, exploratory ground. The term has been coined by neuroscientist David Eagleman,] Asked whether he was an atheist or a religious, he replied "I call myself a Possibilian: I'm open to...ideas that we don't have any way of testing right now”.
According to him. our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story is true or not true. But with Possibilianism he is hoping to define a new position — one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities.” Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story."
Science had taught us to be skeptical of cosmic certainties. We know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism and we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story. Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time. . As Voltaire said, “uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one."
But the possibilian perspective is distinguished from agnosticism in its active exploration of novel possibilities and its emphasis on the necessity of holding multiple positions at once if there is no available data to privilege one over the others.
Eagleman has emphasized that possibilianism reflects the scientific temperament of creativity and intellectual humility in the face of "the known unknowns."
* Eagleman David, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, Pantheon Books, 2011
(Contemporary American episcopelian theologian)
Love and compassion cannot be the enemies of truth
Compassion is sometimes being turned into an enemy of truth. It is being used to undermine the most fundamental of all obligations: to tell the truth. Whether or not the undermining is deliberate, the effect is the same, the erosion of all objective meaning and order in life. But, "when truth wins, everybody wins". We must therefore come to an understanding of the nature of truth, and of how we relate to truth before we can understand true compassion.
Clearly we are aiming at consensus and unity. But consensus and unity has two facets: truth and compassion. And that is precisely where the matter has fractured for us. Conservatives tend to focus on truth, liberals on compassion. Yet in Scripture there is not a hint of such a fracture. Truth and love seem to walk down the path of life arm in arm, not as adversaries glowering at each other from the "left" and "right" sides of the path.
We would like to believe that everyone will win and everyone will get a prize. But both common sense and Scripture tell us that there are real choices we must make, that there is a real truth, and that violation of that truth will often lead to disastrous consequences. Both truth and compassion are necessary. As St. Paul points out, without love all truth is as a clanking symbol. On the other hand, if truth gets bent out of shape, love will not be sustained. Love cannot happen in confusion and chaos. Love is not amorphous, love has the structure of truth.
Most people would agree in theory that both love and truth are required. Putting it into practice is where we get divided. So we ask: How can we attain that unity of truth and love which is necessary to any fruitful dialogue -- and at the same time avoid the adversarial mode into which we have fallen? How can we engage in an honest search for real truth and all come out winners?
Truth is simply "What is" as against "What isn't”. We appear to come into the world with an intuitive sense of that. Some things are just "there". We have to deal with them whether or not we like it. There is no way we can not deal with them. Those are objective truths. That means that any person who believes contrary to an objective truth is believing a falsehood. And if he keeps on believing it contrary to all the evidence, he may come into painful contradiction with reality. Reality does not step out of the road for anyone. Reality IS the road.
If our search for consensus and unity is at all realistic and helpful, it must therefore include a search for whatever objective truths are relevant to the issue at hand. If there are such objective truths, then approaching issues as though truth were all relative will simply not work. It will lead to deeper frustration and division. It will also remove any reasonableness from the discussion because there can be no common ground of objective reality about which the discussion is held. The discussion will dissolve necessarily into pitting one's own desires against someone else's -- because our opinions and desires are the only reality. And then all discussion and dialogue becomes a power struggle and mutual manipulation.
In other words, it is precisely the objectivity of truth which saves discussion from falling into power struggle. There is a real truth "out there" to which both sides must submit. And if both sides can admit that they are fallible and could just possibly be wrong, and that the other side just might possibly have something to offer in the discussion, then an honest discussion can be held.
* Earle, Fox, Is Love an Adequate Guide?, LEARNING FOR LIVING, March 1964.
(Cotemporary Ismaili Muslim scholar)
Religious truths must be verfiable and logical, and not a matter of beliefs
Religion necessarily must be logical and not rest on just “beliefs” because “beliefs” are not knowledge, nor are they facts. If religion is not logical, it would not be verifiable. If it is not verifiable we cannot confirm that we are following what Allah revealed and intended. If we cannot confirm Allah’s revelation we cannot be certain of what is the truth or reality. And if we cannot be certain of what is the truth, we are left to follow and worship only what we hoped, thought or “believed” is the truth. In other words, truth and god become whatever we decide to make them and that is what we would be worshipping, faced with the dilemma: “Is it reality or is it superstition?”
The question is not really about Islam per se, but about worshipping God and about faith itself. It matters little what “religion” we follow or “believe” to be the truth, reality will not change just because we have “deep conviction” in what we follow. Adherents of all major religions have deep conviction. “Most of them follow not but conjecture. Assuredly conjecture can by no means take the place of Truth”, (Qur’an 10:36).
If the path we follow is not verifiable and not logical (usually by its own admission), then we know for an absolute certainty it is not from God, for such paths direct our worship to our own beliefs instead of Him. Thus, verifiability and logic are the standards God has laid down. Surely it is thus self-evident that Allah must have provided proof of His message if only to prevent us “worshipping our opinions” as our only alternative. To worship what we imagine or hope is correct, rather than what we know is the truth, is tantamount to creating an equal to Him — a self-evident absurdity.
Logic, reason and verification are necessary and imperative parts of religion. Like the steering wheel of a car, reason and knowledge help point us in the right direction. Love, faith, conviction and passion are like the accelerator; they determine the speed with which we move. Thus, the Prophet explains “Allah has given His creatures nothing to place higher than reason.”
We need to admit that if we do not know what we follow is really the truth, then we are only following what we believe, hope or think is true. For knowledge, intellect, truth, reality and worship of God all converge at verification and if we love and trust God, we have no option but to put aside our opinions and speculations and instead actively seek out and verify the truth, sincerely using the intellects He has given us, trusting Him to guide us.
*See Interet Mohib Ebrahim, the Editor and Publisher of the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat speeches, interviews and writings.
(German theologian, philosopher and mystic, 1260 – 1327)
The inner mystical sense of all truths, whether rational or revealed
For Aquinas, as for Eckhart, truth is one and there can be no fundamental conflict between the truths of reason and those of revelation. For both, revelation gives us truths about God that are both more complete and more certain than the truths of reason. They differ, however, on the adequacy with which reason, unaided by revelation, can give us knowledge of God. For Aquinas, reason unaided by revelation can give us, albeit with much toil and uncertainty, truths about God. In other words, for Aquinas there are truths of faith that are inaccessible to human understanding and there are truths of reason knowable to us apart from any revelation.
For Eckhart, however, there is nothing in Scripture that cannot be given a rational interpretation: even teachings such as those of the Trinity and the Incarnation can, according to him, be understood in terms of philosophical categories such as the transcendentals. By the same token, there is no truth of reason, be it "physical, metaphysical, or moral" that is not intimated in Holy Writ nor is there any rational truth that does not have its divine idea hidden in Scripture. Thus, it is in Scripture that the full truth of rational concepts is revealed. Eckhart does not mean to say that we can know things apart from revelation--the contrary is clearly the case--nor that divine mysteries can be understood by the finite intellect--on the contrary, he argues that ultimately all finite intellectual categories must be abandoned. But he will insist that both the truths of reason and the truths of revelation have an inner meaning or sense that can only be revealed in the inner ground of the soul. In other words, while Aquinas keeps reason and revelation in separate if overlapping spheres, in Eckhart they overlap entirely: the truths of reason find their inner sense in revelation and the truths of revelation find their inner sense in the inner ground of the intellect.
This complete overlapping of reason and revelation means that all truths have an inner "mystical sense." That is, Eckhart's project appears to be a systematic attempt to translate the "outward," objective form of both revelation and reason into terms that describe the soul's inner union with God and the birth of the Son within itself. For Eckhart the true, primal sense of the term revelatio is this inner union with God in which God infuses his own Word into the innermost ground of the soul. Thus, by recasting the parables of Scripture into the conceptual language of philosophy, Eckhart hopes to uncover their universal, which is also to say, their inner, lived sense--"lived" in that they form the basis of a new way of existing. This sense, of course, always refers to the soul's inner unity with God which is eternal and beyond all experience but which makes a new way of experiencing possible; that is, an existence of complete detached freedom. Or to put it another way, Aquinas's understanding of the relation of reason to revelation has much to do with his rejection of Augustinian illuminationism and his view that the human being attains knowledge by means of a natural light created with the soul. Eckhart's thought, on the other hand, not only retains, but develops this illuminationism and makes it, in his teaching of the birth of the Son in the soul, the center of his thought.
In Eckhart's assertion that "revelation finds its fulfillment properly speaking in the intellect," we find a statement of his theologico-philosophical project in its purity: revelation, properly understood, is a purely inner event immanent in and perfective of the intellect. Revelation is not something that comes from "without" but is an emanation from within, described by Eckhart as a "birth" that comes to the soul not by virtue of its finite existence but by virtue of its potentially infinite intellectual nature.
See Bernard McGinn, The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart, New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2001,
(Italian philosopher and novelist, b.1932)
Eco's view of philosophy for the possibility that one can speak of 'truth' is quite restricted. Truth is a concept scorned by postmodernist thinkers, who hold that there are many truths, each dependent on an individual's viewpoint and all constructed by consensus within a community. Eco agrees that there can be no truth which is not the result of people interpreting reality, and hence resulting from a social contract. However he writes that "when we come across those lines of resistance which prevent us from making certain statements, that is the closest we can get to truth". He admits that there is something in reality that decrees: 'No, you cannot say this'. This means that for him negation is the closest thing to truth. What is true is that you cannot say something because it crosses the limits.
Eco attacks the postmodernist deconstruction strategy. He rejects the view that it is impossible to say anything about a text. It is true that a text is open to infinity, but there are some things which are not in the text and which cannot be said - just as there are in reality. Eco defines his philosophy as one of "contractual realism": faced with a reality of sorts, a community engages in discussion until it finds a negotiated ('contractual') solution. He champions a conjectural criticism in which interpretations may not be final or decisive, but they can be rejected as "bad or far-fetched." It is enough for him to recognize that it is not true that 'everything goes.' This amounts for Eco to an essential fallibilism that involves the practice of checking interpretations against the consensus of an interpretive community. The path to the truth is littered with useful failures.
In his book The Limits Of Interpretation, Eco admits that every text is open to an infinite number of possible interpretations, yet he acknowledges that there are certain limits. Some postmodernists seem to claim that simply any interpretation would do. Eco claims that although it is often difficult to recognise a good interpretation, one simply knows when one encounters bad or over-interpretation. The limits of interpretation are imposed by empirical facts; an interpretation that does not fit the facts of a piece of writing cannot be accepted. Eco accepts that the need to draw boundaries is a constant in literary and philosophical thinking. He discovers more and more that the basic tool in philosophical thinking is common sense. Against the French philosophy of the latest thirty years, he thinks that it is high time that common sense, so fundamental to the history of philosophy, be reintroduced to the scene. No doubt, philosophy goes beyond common sense in that philosophers question facts that others take for granted. But to go beyond does not necessarily mean to reject or go against. What it does mean is that the philosopher continues to use common sense in order to tackle problems that ordinary everyday life does not raise.
* Eco Umberto, The Limits of Interpretation, Indiana university Press, 1994
(British astrophysicist, 1882-1944)
Observational procedures decide whether what is discovered is true or not.
Eddington titles his philosophical position "Selective Subjectivism". What he means by this expression is in part that the role of the observer is definitional in what is discovered, and indeed that the meaning of science is defined by the proposed means for observing it.
Observation is the supreme Court of Appeal. Physical knowledge must be such that we can specify an observational procedure which would decide whether it is true or not. Therefore it must be an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure.
This means that the critical point for Eddington is what we can learn from epistemology. He develops an extended analogy between science and an Icthyologist's net which has a hole size of two inches. The first thing a naive Icthyologist concludes is that all fishes are two inches or greater in size. This is Subjectively selected knowledge. But sooner or later the intelligent Icthyologist gets to thinking not so much about the fish as about the net. Epistemology is analogous to examining the net. Here Eddington undoubtedly has in mind the crucial role of observation in quantum physics. But he insists that there must be a priori knowledge, without it we could know nothing. But such knowledge would be impossible if the universe were wholly objective. Hence his term Selective Subjectivism.
Eddington believes that an adequate epistemology can deduce not only the methods and limitations of science but also its content.
* Eddington Arthur, Philosophy of Physical Science, Cambridge University Press, 1939
(Contemporary American author)
The Truth Telling Capacities of Poetry
Poetry has amazing capacities for truth telling not seen in other forms of writing. What makes poetry unique, is its ability to encompass the entire human truth of a subject. News articles, research papers, analysis; these writing forms can all tell the facts. But poetry goes beyond the tangible facts to relay deeper truths. It is meant to elicit response, stir emotions, make one think to find the meaning, make one think to uncover the truth. Poetry is not bound by any societal rules, no subject is taboo and it does not have to be politically correct. In poetry, any topic is a go.
It can be said that truth takes many different forms and is made up of many different parts. One way to tell the truth is to tell the exact happenings and facts of a subject. Simple, straightforward, factual, and impersonal. News report tells the truth, but not the whole truth. Answers to these questions cannot be told with listed facts because they center on emotional responses, the domain of poetry.
True human responses to a subject such as death can be discussed in poetry. This is , for example, the theme of Robert Frost’s poem, “Out, Out”, an excellent example of poetry’s truth telling capacities. This poem manages to deliver the factual truth, enhance our understanding of the truth, and deliver a deeper truth of human nature. This is the expertise that is unique to poetry. Because it is a poem, it encourages us to look for meaning and so is ideal for delivering truth. Only in poetry, can the very form and structure of sentences be manipulated to convey meaning. Only in poetry are single words able to create an image that changes the meaning of an innocuous thought to something deeper..
*See Internet Edgecomb Rachel
(Contemporary American Presbyterian Christian)
Truth is above every sacred dogma and scriptures
Dogma is not the same as truth. Dogma only says that it is truth, but truth is already there. Truth is above all else, even above every sacred dogma.
If you say you love your theology, do you really love the truth or your dogma?
It is difficult to love both. God is truth. This obviously doesn’t mean that He is dogma.
You must go with truth no matter where it leads you. You must pursue truth, because ultimately, where there is truth, so is God. Never trade truth for dogma.
The practice of Christianity is knowing God, knowing truth. When I say truth, I mean far more than facts. Knowing transcends facts. Knowing is the pinnacle of transformative truth. This knowing applies to all issues in life. The pursuit of knowing truth, in this transcendent way, is always a path to God.
When you come to know this truth, you may fail to recognize it as God, due to your preconceived notions about how He might appear once you see Him. However, though you may not recognize Him as God, you will recognize this truth as your god.
The Bible is not exhaustive regarding everything. It is fairly narrow in its scope. Therefore, man cannot be made fully perfect by reading a book which does not cover everything in full. That said, a man cannot know the truth about everything by following the Bible.The Bible may not be exhaustive, but God is.
*See Internet Brad Edwards
(American Christian theologian, 1703=1758)
Mere historical demonstration of the gospel’s truth does not necessarily produce saving faith
“Historical criticism produces only probable results. It relativises everything. But faith needs certainty.”. For many scholars the certainty of faith is not grounded on the results of historical investigation.
Wolfhart Pannenberg thinks otherwise: he deplores what he calls the flight “into a harbor supposedly safe from the historical-critical flood tide.” The disjunction of the certainty of faith from its ground in history rationally known is, for Pannenberg, “injurious to the essence of faith” and leads “into blind credulity. On the contrary faith rests on rationally verifiable knowledge of historical events like the resurrection of Jesus”.
For Jonathan Edwards the question is: What should the role of reason and historical knowledge be for the layman—the non-historian—as he seeks to believe in the gospel of Christ? If historical reasoning is the only way by which men can attain faith, then faith becomes the possibility for only the few who can think historically, and faith for the common man is possible only if he is willing to commit himself to the authority of a priesthood of historians.
It is this very issue of the non-historian, the common man, which determines the way Jonathan Edwards handled the question of faith and history. He remarks, “It is impossible that men, who have not something of a general view of the historical world, or the series of history from age to age, should come at the force of arguments for the truth of Christianity, drawn from history to that degree, as effectually to induce them to venture their all upon it”
In spite of his rejection of historical argumentation as the ground of faith for the non-historian (not for the historian) Edwards does not diminish the role of reason or of valid evidence even in the case of uneducated people. As we shall see, Edwards believes that “truly gracious affections are attended with a conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things and that this “certainty” is founded on “real evidence” and “good reason” .
Not only are most people incapable of thinking historically, but even if they could, mere historical demonstration of the gospel’s truth does not necessarily produce saving faith or spiritual conviction. The reason for this is that the true object of saving faith is not the mere factuality of the gospel but its beauty and divine glory. “There is a great variety in degrees of strength of faith, as there is a vast variety of the degrees of clearness of views of this glory: but there is no true and saving faith, or spiritual conviction of the judgment, of the truth of the gospel, that has nothing in it of this manifestation of its internal evidence, in some degree”. In other words, no matter how strong the external historical arguments are, there still can be “no spiritual conviction of the judgment, but what arises from an apprehension of the spiritual beauty and glory of divine things”.
See Lee, Sang Hyun. The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
(Contemporary American-Israel political scientist)
Democracies are not truth-oriented : they reduce truth to a private possession
Although democracies are hospitable to philosophy, it does not follow that democracies are truth-oriented. To the contrary, the freedom of speech and press enjoyed in democracies is actually rooted in the denial of truth. If democracies were truth-oriented they would not be tolerant of error. But as everyone knows, tolerance is a fundamental prerequisite of all democratic or pluralistic societies.
The pluralism of which democracies boast is another indication of their lack of truth-orientation. For this pluralism extends to the question of how should man live, and who does not know that democracies tolerate virtually every kind of "life-style"?
Democracies reduce truth to a private possession. Each individual becomes his own source of truth regarding good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust. This is why public opinion polls have become the standard for public policy. In other words, opinion polls are required in democratic societies because in such societies each man's opinion is deemed as valid as the next. This equality of opinion, manifested in the principle of "one adult, one vote," is logically related to the denial of objective truth, the denial of objective standards as to how man should live or how society should be governed.
What takes the place of truth in democratic societies is "opinion." Going deeper, diverse opinions are little or nothing more than expressions of the material interests of different groups and individuals. Therein is the motivation of political parties.
Democracies by definition cannot be truth-oriented if only because the very term "democracy" means the rule of the people, which means the rule of shifting majorities very much influenced by the media—whose mandarins are not famous for their commitment to truth. What rules in democracies is [not] reason but the will—the will of mutable majorities.
If the truth or falsity of some theory concerning subatomic processes were to be decided by the vote of a scientific convention, the outcome would obviously depend not on the will but on the reasoning of the majority. In a democracy, however, what is decisive is not reason or truth but the will or "rights" (read: interests) of the majority, which is why decisions are made on the basis of "one adult, one vote" regardless of the intellectual caliber of those voting.
* See Internet Paul Eidelberg
(German born American theoretical physicist, 1879-1955)
Einstein demonstrated that space and time are relative to the framework of the observer - i.e., utterly dependent upon the motion of the observer. Different observers, moving at different speeds, will experience the same event in starkly different ways. Thus Einstein provided a physical analogue to Kant's epistemological understanding of the role of the human knower in constructing the framework of time/space which organizes our experience. In the rejection of the notions of absolute space and time, Einstein showed that an honest empiricism must involve the observer, that to some extent what is real does depend on us and that an essential element injected into physics by the theory of relativity is subjectivity.
But it is important to note that this "relativity" does not mean that Einstein gave up on the possibility of science achieving a realist understanding of how nature behaves. Rather to the contrary: Einstein's realism is the fundamental ground for his resistance to the views of influential physicists of his time (mostly Niels Bohr) about the interpretation of that area of physics known as quantum physics that deals with the behaviour of objects in the microphysical, subatomic, world. Many of these physicists were committed to an 'anti-realist' interpretation from which it follows that nothing exists unless it is being observed, and that there is no such thing as an objective reality. But Einstein strongly disagreed: he was a realist who believed that there is a real world that exists independently of the human mind.In his views none of the antirealist claims can validly be inferred from the data yielded by experiments in the domain of quantum physics. On the contrary, he claimed, they can be inferred only if one adopts certain indefensible philosophical principles for the interpretation of the data. His antirealist opponents, he would claim, may have done good physics, but have been lured into doing bad philosophy. An objective reality exists whether or not human beings exist or know its features.
Philosophers refer to this claim as "metaphysical realism". According to it, something can exist even if we human beings do not know that it exists. The question whether something actually exists in objective reality is said to be an "ontological" question. The question whether something is known or perceived to exist is said to be an "epistemological" question. Einstein held that it was a grave mistake to confuse ontological questions with epistemological ones.
He believed, to the end, that the goal of science was to discover the way the world really is, as opposed to our perceptions and conceptions of it, and that orthodox quantum theory had not only failed to achieve such a goal but had prematurely abandoned any such quest.
In a famous debate with Einstein, Tagore had expressed the view that "if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing". Einstein disagreed and reiterated his firm belief that scientific truth must be conceived as a truth that is valid independent of humanity. And if there is a reality independent of man, there is also a truth relative to this reality. One must attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity, because no one can deny that there is a reality which is independent of our existence, our experience and our mind.
* See Fine, A. The shaky Game: Einstein, Realism and the Quantum theory, University of Chicago Press, 1986; also Tagore-Einstein Conversation,1930, see Internet
(Contemporary Nigerian b. medical practitioner)
The problem with religions: their claim to have the truth
Some very sincere Christians and Muslims may be honestly surprised that somebody in his rightful mind can consider religion a problem. This may be because they deal with the face of religion that preaches virtues and advocates love for all. Unfortunately, religion has a sinister face. Religion has been used to cause division between people as the people segregate on the basis of religious convictions and dogmas.
Truth almost always pitches a man against the existing order. Every man who finds the truth will learn that it is burden which he must bear, lay down or betray. From Socrates, through Jesus, to Galileo, history tells us that the ignorant often persecute the bearers of truth in the name of God, while hiding behind religion. These great men found the truth, only to be cut down by the religiously mad and ignorant, who claimed that they knew the will of God.
Since then, unfortunately, the world has not changed. Men, whose only claim to the truth is their understanding and interpretation of ancient texts, are still warring against men of truth. To the Muslim the truth is what is written in the Quran. To the Christian it is what is written in the Bible. To the Jew, it is what is written in the Talmud. To the other religious groups it is what is written in their holy books. Surprisingly, they all claim that their scripture is the word of God. In the mind of a faithful Muslim, Christian or Jew, they are convinced that their holy books are the word of God, the truth, and are beyond reproach. These holy books are the foundation of religious faith which every believer subscribes to. To the religious, the truth is simple and clear. It is what their holy book says. This is what they call faith in the word of God, The acceptance of the content of an ancient text without questioning. This is what makes them believers. Religious people are people who believe that the content of a particular book are the words of God and therefore true.
Anything that contradicts the holy book must be wrong irrespective of the evidence. It must be the work of the enemy and must be rejected and destroyed. This is why false religious beliefs are dangerous and prejudicial dogmas are difficult to eradicate. They are held with delusional intensity because the believer regards it as the word of God. The religious reason that what a man says is unjust cannot be unjust because he believes it is what God says, and since God is right just and all-knowing, man must be wrong irrespective of his evidence. This is what often makes religion an instrument of repression, oppression, segregation and injustice.
*See Internet EKE E.O.
(Contemporary American philosopher)
Faith is epistemologically invalid because it is not falsifiable; it retains no commitment to truth
For Catherine Elgin, faith is epistemologically invalid, because it is indifferent to evidence, “claptrap is indefeasible”. Hence it is untenable. Even in theories that include felicitous falsehoods truth plays a role. A factually defeasible theory has epistemically accessible implications which, if found to be false, discredit the theory. So a defeasible theory, by preserving a commitment to testable consequences retains a commitment to truth.
Elgin explains through various examples that the means, models, and methods by which we describe what is true, may not necessarily be partially or completely true. But rather, our descriptions of what is true need only be “true enough” to facilitate an understanding of what is true given the context of exemplification. And this is perfectly valid, from language to science. Descriptions need only be ‘true enough’ to facilitate the intended understanding.
Elgin is using the term “defeasible” no differently than a logician or scientist would use the term “falsifiable.” If a claim to what is or what might be true is not falsifiable, it’s not science. It’s claptrap. It is for this reason Elgin has exonerated science as a valid epistemic approach in spite of its use of “felicitous falsehoods.” Elgin does this while simultaneously demonstrating the uselessness of faith as an epistemic approach, for exactly the same reason. Faith is epistemologically invalid precisely because it is not falsifiable; it is indifferent to evidence, and it retains no commitment to truth by way of “testable consequences.” It is, as Elgin explains, indefeasible.
* Elgin Catherine, ‘True Enough,’ Philosophical Issues 14, 113-131. (2004)
(Romanian-born historian of religions, 1907-1986)
Myth has been under attack at least since Xenophanes (see Xenophanes) who criticized the activities of the gods related in the Homeric tradition and Hesiod. Plato reviled the poesis of myth as the enemy of philosophy. Since then the reliance on “rational” rather than “mythic” forms of persuasion developed from an increased valorisation of the empirical/historical as the “real” and the “truth”. That which has historically occurred is seen as more real and true than that which is the human fabrications of myth-makers. Rational discourse based on human experience is esteemed far above mythic persuasion which is unable to provide proofs and justifications. Reason has always condemned mythos and favoured logos in its stead.
Eliade strongly rejects this rationalistic exorcism of mythos by logos. He argues that the word “myth” does not convey the idea of falsehood or fable. He considers this use as “a semantic inheritance from the Christian polemic against the pagan world”. For him the word “myth” does not mean untrue; it does not denote fiction. On the contrary he sees myth as a narrative “considered to reveal the truth par excellence”. But evidently the type of truth intended by Eliade’s description of myth is quite distinct from historical actuality. The sense of true as being in accordance with actual, historical state of affairs and empirical experience, is a specialized usage. The parable of the Good Samaritan, all would admit, is a story revelatory of a certain truth, albeit not a truth identified with historical actuality. For Eliade mythic truth is seen as independent and distinct but certainly not in opposition to historical actuality and scientific knowledge.
It is generally assumed that myths are a special kind of tales and the qualities that make them special are for Eliade that they are reality and truth in this sense that they exceed history in truth value. Cosmogonic myths narrate and reveal the real as sacred. A myth, unlike a fable, is always a true story because it is a sacred story.
Eliade understands myth as the history of what happened “in illo tempore”, the tale of what divine beings have done before time or at the beginning of time. Telling a myth, is proclaiming what happened ab origine. Once told, what is revealed, the myth, becomes the absolute truth for the believers. The myth proclaims the apparition of a new cosmic situation or a primeval event. It is always the tale of a “creation”, the story of how things have come to be. Hence myth is linked to ontology: it speaks only of realities, of what has really come about and has been fully manifested.
Evidently Eliade’s concern is exclusively for sacred realities, because it is the sacred for him which is the real par excellence. Nothing that belongs to the sphere of the profane participate in Being; the purely profane, emptied of its religious symbolism, is meaningless. It belongs to the sacred myth – not to history or science - to unveil the truth of reality.
* Eliade, Mircea, Myth and Reality, Archiv Books Inc.,1968
(French philosopher, 1912-1994)
In his sociological writings, Ellul deals with the new, artificial environment of technology which is becoming the environment of everyday life. His central thesis is that the technological environment has produced a surfeit of images, and led to the devaluation of the word. For Ellul "the word" is the spoken word. Ellul does not accept the common idea that words primarily convey information. For him, words play their most important role in creating an order of knowledge that Ellul labels "truth" (which can also contain falsity). The spoken universe deals with issues of truth, falsity, justice, causation, abstraction. The word can discuss things which are hidden, or which have never been seen. The word is always potentially ready to question, to apply moral or ethical perspectives.
By contrast, the image uses sight as its primary sensory mode. The image creates an order of knowledge Ellul labels "reality"--concrete reality as it is experienced. "Our civilization's major temptation (a problem that comes from technique's preponderant influence) is to confuse reality with truth. We are made to believe that reality is truth, the only truth....We think that truth is contained within reality and expressed by it". Yet, Ellul points out, the domain of reality cannot deal with questions of truth, meaning and value. Since the image belongs to the order of reality, Ellul contends that it will not be subversive of that order. Images just wind up reflecting the received opinion of what the world is like. The new artificial environment of technology is sustained partly by the flood of technologically generated images from cinema and television, but also photography, advertising, etc. Ellul makes the point that this technologically mediated reality is a fiction.
The only serious questioning of reality can come from the domain of truth, through the word. This is why the devaluation of the word and language is so serious, in Ellul's view. In an artificial environment created by technology, and reinforced by a stream of images, the word offers the only possibility for critical thought. Unfortunately the word is increasingly subordinated to the image, for example, used to describe reality "objectively." The goal of "objective" language is to make it seem that it is spoken by no one, thereby robbing it of its power. The devalued word provides no means of approaching, discerning, and grasping truth.
Hence Ellul calls for a new iconoclasm, an evicting of images from (to recover) the realm of truth. He points up the urgency of criticizing images, statistics, and techniques which claim to convey "the (fictitious) truth." He calls for a reduction of jargon, clarity in language, so the word may again convey issues of truth in an understandable manner.
Ellul deplores the triumph of thought by images rather than by words, a state of affair that increases the divorce between reality and truth.
*Ellul, Jacques, The Humiliation of the Word, Williams B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985.
(American essayist, poet and philosopher, 1803-1882)
The ancient Latin quotation: Ne te quaesiveris extra (Do not look outside of yourself for the truth) sums up the central idea of Emerson's book "Self-Reliance" and the transcendental philosophy behind it: that one should rely on one's own inner voice - intuition and instinct - to make important decisions and put one's life on a righteous path. In other words, rely on yourself.
Emerson taught that individuals should rely on their own sense of truth and right -- but also that such individual truths and rights were dependable precisely because they would resonate, not with social convention, but with the universal law, with the spiritual law that is at the core of the universe itself. Self-reliance is the best way to discover truth. Emerson comprehensively refuted the value of the past: he did not spare men, books (Bible included), events, or documents, but declared that even the most time-honored institutions retained little importance when compared to man's divine Soul.
According to "Self-Reliance," an important sign of a person's integrity, is the person's courage to trust his or her own insights and intuitions, rather than those of established authors and acknowledged authorities. Emerson wrote that "to believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,--that is genius". Emerson excoriates the widespread timidity that makes people anxiously look out for what others may think, and for the canonized opinions of the past that may condemn one's own thoughts as offenses or deviations. Basically the self-reliant individual has to stand up against two forces that tend to diminish its full development and strength: society and tradition.
Emerson laments: "Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticisms. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past?" …"Man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. The truth is that he cannot be happy and strong until he, too, lives with nature in the present, above time".
Emerson was a "transcendentalist": he based his view of the world on an individualism emphasizing self-realization and self-reliance in perceiving the truth. Transcendentalists have in common with the mystics that they believe in the primacy of direct individual experience in discerning the religious truth. Emerson declared that a person's experience of nature contained all the proof required for the existence of God. He rejected external religious authorities, including the institutional church, and dared to love God without any mediator or veil.
If one should worry that individual human beings are fallible, and that it is not safe for them to trust their deepest convictions, Emerson has an answer to this worry about the fallibility of individual judgment. He says that the self we should rely on, in self-reliance, is not the superficial self with its everyday desires, fears, and prejudices. The self he has in mind lies deeper in our character, and it is ultimately the mental side of the universe itself, something like the 'atman' of Indian philosophy. Our most deeply held views are trustworthy, according to Emerson, because they stem from the universal nature which underlies all things, in which we are at one with all things and other people and which he calls "the oversoul" or the universal mind.
Emerson endorsed some sort of pantheistic mysticism. Mystical vision claims to grasp the whole truth, but it seems that for Emerson, it was more important to live in harmony with the truth than to see it. And we can live in harmony with the truth, even if we don't see it completely, by simply being ourselves, and trusting our deepest impulses. We may not experience the whole truth of mystical vision, but we will see those aspects of the truth that are appropriate for us as individuals.
* Emerson Ralph Waldo, Self-Reliance and Other Essays, Dover Thrift Editions
(British philosopher, 1904-2000)
TRUTH, though unreatizable, is necessary as a regulative ideal
According to Dorothy Emmet there are notions (such as truth and goodness) which, though essentially unrealizable, still function to set standards for practical reason and thinking: these concepts are selected "regulative ideals" (RIs). "Realisation" for Emmet is the teleological relation of an approximation to its ideal. RIs are unrealizable, on her account, due to intractable constraints imposed upon people by human nature and the conditions of the actual word. The question for Emmet is to show how it is that such RIs can be unrealizable, and yet at the same time serve to guide and orient practice..
Dealing with truth, Emmet distinguishes the "true" from "TRUTH". Parochial truths are propositions that correspond with facts. TRUTH, on the other hand, is an RI informed by the recognition that there is always more to be said. TRUTH, Emmet tells us, is full adequacy to reality, an unrealizable goal which nevertheless provides a "focus for the mind in improving and developing understanding". It does this by providing us an ideal of "more adequate theories, wider systematic connections, more exacting tests".
But Emmet’s view on truth has been challenged. Her view on truth is not the notion of TRUTH so much as it is the notion of the whole truth, a derivative concept whose intelligibility would seem to presuppose a prior understanding of what TRUTH consists in. To say that our tests have become more exacting or our theories more adequate we must have previously decided upon the nature and content of TRUTH in order to pass these positive pronouncements on how our changing views over time come to better approximate the TRUTH. Even though Emmet is clearly sympathetic to the suggestion that the pursuit of rational acceptability provides us with a mechanism for theoretical improvement, she also requires that we regard TRUTH as the "master to be served". But this motivates the following question: how can we assume that rational acceptability improves theories without in effect construing TRUTH as simply identical to ideal rational acceptability? In requiring TRUTH to be primary and distinct, Emmet clearly disallows herself any such identification. Without it, however, her desire to make rational acceptability an effective servant of truth requires much more groundwork than she provides for it.
* Emmet Dorothy,The Role of the Unrealizable, Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, 1994
(Contemporary French philosopher)
What is at stake in the claim that truth is a norm of belief seems to be whether truth is a value which should be pursued for its own sake, whether truth is the goal or ideal of our inquiries, whether there is any sort of ethical command that we should search after the truth. Some pragmatist philosophers do not see why we should be aiming at truth, more than utility or pragmatic value. They deny that truth is the goal of knowledge. We do not aim at truth, they say, but at ‘honest justification’ (Davidson).
Engel upholds the view that truth is a norm of belief (or assertion). The point is to have a proper understanding of what is meant here by ‘normative’. To say that truth is a norm of belief can have two senses. In the first sense truth is a norm of belief in that it is constitutive of belief and that belief aims at truth. Asserting something is asserting something that one takes for true. The concept of belief (or assertion) has to be defined or understood through the concept of truth. In the second sense truth is a norm of belief in the sense that it is the goal of inquiry and of our epistemic enterprises. Here truth is the goal of all believers and asserters, and this implies that it is something desirable, valuable and that it is a duty to attain the truth. One can distinguish here two kind of normative concepts: either the deontic kind of normative concepts (such as ought, obligation, requirement) or the evaluative kind of normative concepts (such as good, valuable, desirable, worthy). The first kind of concepts are action-guiding, implying an appropriate response. The second kind of concepts provoke feelings and psychological attitudes. Engel claims that truth as a norm of belief is neither a norm of the first kind nor a norm of the second kind.
Indeed, suppose that it involves a norm in the first deontic sense. In ascribing truth to certain statements, we are in some sense speaking “ought”: “For any P, if P is true, then we ought to believe that P.”. We ought to believe in any particular truth. It would be our duty to believe that there are 30.000 blades of grass on the lawn. But this is absurd. The claim that truth could be a norm in the deontic sense is absurd.
Suppose it is a norm of the second kind. Then the truth of a particular belief would imply that it is valuable and provokes a positive feeling. “For any P, if P is true, then it is valuable (one feels well) to believe that P.” But this is also absurd, it makes no sense to say that we value all true beliefs, including the most trivial.
It follows that in both these senses of ‘norm’, the claim that truth is a norm is obviously false. Truth in general is not a goal of belief. General truth does not interest us. What interests us is relevant , interesting truth. We are not interested in truth as such but in knowledge in so far that knowledge is relative to our interests. We are not interested in knowing anything whatsoever. In the same way we are not interested in believing any truth. Therefore it is false to say that ‘belief aims at truth’ if truth is conceived as the goal of belief or as a form of obligation to believe everything that is true.
Nonetheless it is a mistake to think that this is what one ordinarily means when one says that ‘truth is a norm of belief’. What one means rather is that the concept of truth is constitutive of the concept of belief in the sense that if one has good reasons (is justified) to believe that P, then one has good reasons (is justified) to believe that P is true. The concept of truth goes with the concept of good reason or of justification for belief. Reason or justification for belief is reason or justification for truth. Certainly, saying that a belief is justified does not entail that it is true – justification is not truth – but saying that a belief is justified is a reason for thinking that it is true.
To conclude: one should not say that ‘if something is true one ought to believe it’. We should rather say that ‘one ought to believe only what is true.’ This imperative is obvious for it amounts to saying that claims to belief are claims to true beliefs. It is in that sense only that truth is the fundamental norm of belief and that beliefs aim at truth. Truth is a norm of belief not in the deontic and the evaluative sense, but in the sense that it is definitional of the state of belief.
The important point is that this norm is in place even when one does not take truth to be a goal of our inquiries. The idea that truth is a norm of belief may be a platitude – that may be consistent with a minimalist conception of truth – but it is an important one.
* Engel, Pascal, Is truth a Norm? Paper read at the Karlowy Vary Conference, 1996
(Roman stoic philosopher, 50-120)
Like many other Stoic philosophers Epictetus separated philosophy as a way of life from philosophical discourse. Philosophical theories are discourses about physics, ethics and logic. In contrast, philosophy as a way of life is not theory but a practice which consists of 'living the theory'. Epictetus felt that it was far more important to exercise ourselves with realities than with dialectical speculations. He wrote : "A carpenter does not come up to you and say, 'Let me discourse about the art of carpentry’, but he makes a contract for a house and builds it. Do the same thing….” In his approach to philosophy he gave primacy of practice over theory.
For him the first and most necessary topic in philosophy was that of the use of moral theorems, such as, "We ought not to lie”; the second was that of demonstrations, such as, "What is the origin of our obligation not to lie”; the third gives strength and articulation to the other two, such as, "What is a demonstration, what is truth, what is falsehood". Undoubtedly the third topic about truth and falsehood is necessary on the account of the second, and the second on the account of the first. But the most necessary, and that whereon we ought to rest, is the first. But people act just on the contrary. For they spend all their time on the third topic of theoretical truth, and employ all their diligence about that, and entirely neglect the first. Therefore, at the same time that they lie, they are immediately prepared to show how it is demonstrated that lying is not right.
* Epictetus, A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life, A.A.Long, Dpt of Classics, University of California, Berkeley
(Greek philosopher, 341-270)
Epicurus works out a theory of knowledge on the foundation of the senses, the sole guarantee that we have to be truly acquainted with reality. According to him sensation is infallible for it gives us immediate assurance of the reality of outside things: it is thus our sole ultimate guarantee of truth.
More precisely Epicurus affirms that there are three ways by which one determines what is true: sensations, preconceptions and feelings. Appeal to one or more of these is the sole determinant of what is true.
- Sensations are given to us through the agency of the five sense organs. They are pure perceptual data. As ‘givens’ (i.e., data), particular sensations are irrefutable, there is nothing that can convict them of error. The givenness of sensations implies that one cannot reject them as spurious or illusory. It is undeniable that one has received a sensation when one is aware of it. All knowledge begins with sensations, so that, if one calls into question the reliability of sense data, one cannot think or judge.
Sensations are irrefutable because they are necessary effects of known causes, the efflux of atoms from external objects. Epicurus adopts a naive correspondence theory of knowledge: what one knows quite literally corresponds to what there is to know, since knowledge is contact with a flimsy replica of the original. Truth is attained in sense perception which gives clear vision, whereas error arises owing to the intrusion of opinions when the mind makes additions to the data of the senses and pronounces hasty judgements without awaiting confirmation.
- The second criterion of truth is preconceptions or abstractions from sensations, or universal ideas stored in the mind, that is, a recollection of an external object often presented. Because preconceptions derive from sensations, Epicurus insists that they are always clear and serve as a criterion or determinant of truth. These preconceptions are not Ideas in the Platonic sense, but simply abstractions originating in many perceptions. Like sensations , preconceptions cannot be "wrong" in themselves. Here again Epicurus explains the origin of error as wrong judgment.
- Besides sensation and preconception, pleasure and pain which accompany every sensation provide a third criterion of truth. The evidence of these two opposite affections or passions discloses the cause of pleasure and pain. Thus pleasure and pain are criteria of truth not only in a passive way but in their cause. They are the irrefutable means by which an animate being determines what to choose or avoid. This means that pleasure and pain are criteria of truth, because it is impossible to deny that what is felt as pleasurable is not or, conversely, that what is felt as painful is not.
* Epicurus , The Epicurus reader, tr. Brad Inwood & L.P. Gerson, Hackett Publishing, 1994
(Greek philosopher-poet, VI c. B.C.)
Truth and the paradox of self-reference
Epimenides was Cretan and he said that “Cretans always lie”. Now, was that statement true or false? If he was a Cretan and he says that they always lie, is he then lying? If he is not lying then he is telling the truth and therefore Cretans do not always lie. We can see that since the assertion cannot be true and it cannot be false, the statement turns back on itself. It is like stating “What I am telling you right now is a lie”, would you believe that or otherwise? This statement thus has no true content. It cannot be true at the same time it is false. If it is true then it is always false. If it is false, it is also true.
The logical inconsistency of a Cretan asserting all Cretans are always liars may not have occurred to Epimenides. In the original context, Epimenides necessarily meant "Cretans other than myself", so there is no self-reference and thus no logical problem to speak of, accusing Cretans (other than himself) denying the immortality of Zeus while he did not deny it himself.
It is not clear when Epimenides became associated with the Epimenides paradox. Epimenides himself does not appear to have intended any irony or paradox in his statement that Cretans are always liars. In fact the logical contradiction exists in one of Saint Paul's epistle rather than in the poem of Epimenides. In his epistle to Titus, the apostle Paul (Titus 1:12) makes reference to Epimenides who is supposed to have said of Cretans that "they are all liars, as one of their own has said." Paul wants to warn Titus that Cretans don't believe in the one truth of Christianity, because "Cretans are always liars". But this forms a contradiction because Paul uses the words of a Cretan (always a liar) in order to prove that Cretans are always liars, also concluding that Epimenides (a Cretan) had surely told the truth (that Cretans are always liars).
A paradox of self-reference is commonly supposed to arise when one considers whether Epimenides spoke the truth. Now, if Epimenides knew of at least one Cretan (other than himself) who was not a liar, then his statement is a non-paradoxical lie in that it does not lead to a logical contradiction. (The negation of the statement, "All Cretans are liars" is the statement, "Some Cretans are not liars," which might be true at the same time as the statement, "Some Cretans are liars.").
A paradoxical statement has no discernable truth value, but the statement by Epimenides can be seen as having a truth value (i.e. it is false), and if that is the case we can reinterpret the statement as not being paradoxical. However, establishing a truth value for the statement does not escape the problem with Paul’s claim since the saying of Epimenides is false. We cannot consider the statement true (as Paul did). If sophisticated analysis determines after all that this statement by Epimenides is not paradoxical, and thus has a truth value, the only consistent supposition we can make is that it is false.
* See Epimenides from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Dutch-born theologian, 1466-1536 )
“We define so many things which we may be left in ignorance or in doubt without loss of salvation. The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave each one free to follow his own judgement, because there is great obscurity in many matters. Formerly faith was in life, rather than in profession of creed. When faith came to be in writings rather than in hearts, then there were almost as many faiths as men! Articles increased and sincerity decreased. Contention grew hot and love grew cold. When faith is in the mouth rather than in the heart, by terrorisation we drive men to believe what they do not believe, to love what they do not love, to know what they do not know. That which is forced cannot be sincere, and that which is not voluntary cannot please Christ.” (from the preface of “On the immense mercy of God”, quoted in Bainton’s Erasmus, p.224)
Erasmus's prudential approach to religious truth-claims allowed him to have an open mind. Some questions in the Church he considered inessential to salvation, so he chose not to argue about them. Neither did he argue about things beyond human intellectual capacity. Because he thought some questions could not be answered with certainty, he was willing to tolerate debate, and if proven wrong, he would have conceded, being ready to learn from any one who advanced something more accurate or more reliable. Erasmus's willingness to debate, his deliberate avoidance of definite assertions, appalled his opponents. He did not want to follow the leaders of the Reformation who were ready to sacrifice peace for their ideals. Luther took Erasmus for a champion of scepticism. “The Holy Spirit, he wrote, is no skeptic, and the things he has written in our hearts are no doubts and opinions but assertions”. But for Erasmus one should suspend judgement about all “matters that cannot be resolved till the day of judgment”. Unlike Luther Erasmus was endowed with a gentle nature. With him, peace and harmony ranked above all other considerations, and he confesses them to be the guiding principles of his actions. He was convinced that the investigation of truth which has always been the most reputable activity of scholars has nothing to gain from excessive quarreling. Truth is discovered with greater certainty in an atmosphere of peaceful mutual tolerance. Like Gandhi in modern times, Erasmus was the champion of a truth gained by peaceful, non-violent means. Truth and peace or non-violence were for him as for Gandhi the two sides of the same coin.
* Erasmus, On the Immensity of God’s Mercy, quoted by Halkin l. In Erasme, Paris, Fayard, 1987, p.264
(Contemporary America biblical exegete)
Biblical Truth is correspondence with reality, but it is also a life of truth.
According to Doug Groothuis, "The correspondence view of truth is not simply one of many options for Christians. It is the only biblically and logically grounded view of truth available and allowable."
Could there be more than one form of truth? In digging around in the Gospel of John one finds that truth has many diverse and rich nuances. While it is certainly the case that at some times the correspondence view of truth is clearly in view (e.g. the Samaritan woman of chapter four) there are other times where aletheia definitely takes on a form that hardly resembles the correspondence theory of truth. For example, in chapter three we read about those who "do truth." Can truth be an action?
In the Gospel of John I find something truly compelling: A holistic call of commitment. There is a call to surrender the whole person. John's development of aletheia leaves no part of the person untouched: Truth is correspondence with reality, but it is also a life of truth. Truth is a proposition but it is also a situation: Truth is how we stand in relationship to Christ. (14:6) John's Gospel is Christological, and how we react to the Son determines where we stand in relationship to truth.
While some may be uneasy in speaking of "many forms" of truth it is important to qualify that for John these forms all collide upon the person of Christ. Hence to speak of many forms of truth does not imply a free-for-all or any kind of a relativism. The Christ demands something from us - complete surrender. This does not allow us the option to determine truth for ourselves. Only when we come to Christ in desperation and obedience can we begin to open up all that truth and life has to offer.
See iternet Jonathan Erdman , 2007
(Irish theologian and philosopher, 815-877)
True religion and true philosophy coincide
For Eriugena there are three stages in man’s search for truth. In the first stage before Christ’s coming, human reason, obscured by original sin, was limited to physics in the investigation of the world and in the proof of the existence of God as its cause. After Christ’s appearance, reason entered a second stage in which it receives truth revealed in Scripture by God and accepted on faith. Enlightened by faith, reason now has the task of exploring and contemplating the content of revelation to make it effective in man’s moral life. In the final stage, man will have no need of faith to enjoy the heavenly vision of Christ, the Truth.
Eriugena asserts the identity of Philosophy and Religion. Presently (the second stage), reason finds itself united with faith. That is why Eriugena simply repeated Augustine’s words that "true philosophy is true religion, and conversely, true religion is true philosophy." In virtue of this identity, philosophy is nothing other than the understanding of Sacred Scripture: "What else is philosophy except the explaining of the true rules of true religion, by which God, the highest and principal cause of all things, is both worshipped humbly and investigated rationally." In view of his identification of philosophy and religion, it is not too surprising that he wrote "no one can enter heaven except by philosophy."
Reason, illumined by faith, is the source of authority in interpreting Scripture, for "true authority is nothing else but the truth which was uncovered by the power of reason". Emanating from the same source, divine wisdom, right reason and true authority cannot contradict each other.
Thus Eriugena is not exalting reason at the expense of authority. He maintains a kind of concordism between the two. Justin Martyr held that philosophy was a kind of revelation to the Greeks, just as the prophets were a revelation to the Jews, and that both prepared the way for Christianity. Eriugena is operating in this kind of context. Reason and revelation parallel one another closely, so that there is no question of playing the one off against the other.
Incidentally, the present Pope Benedicts XVI (in his general audience, 10 June 2009) appealed to the work of Eriugena, who taught that true authority and reason can never contradict each other. Eriugena, the Pope explained, is convinced that authority and reason can never be in contrast with one another,” for “true religion and true philosophy coincide.” The Pope endorses Eriugena’s teaching that authentic authority never contradicts true reason, neither can the latter ever contradict true authority. Both originate from the same source that is divine wisdom.
*See Carabine, Deirdre, John Scottus Eriugena, Great Medieval Thinkers, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2000
(Early Jewish sect)
The Three Paths of Truth: consciousness, nature, culture
There are three paths leading to Truth. The first is the path of the consciousness, the second that of nature, and the third is the accumulated experience of past generations, which we receive in the shape of the great masterpieces of all ages. From time immemorial, man and humanity have followed all three paths.
1. The first path to Truth, the path of the consciousness, is that followed by the great mystics. They consider that the consciousness is the most immediate reality for us and is the key to the universe. It is something which is in us, which is us. And throughout the ages the mystics have made the discovery that the laws of human consciousness contain an aspect not found in the laws governing the material universe.
The path to Truth leading to and through the consciousness produced the great teachings of humanity, the great intuitions and the great masterpieces throughout the ages. Such then is the first path to or source of Truth, as the Essene traditions understand and interpret it.
Unfortunately, the magnificent original intuitions of the great masters often lose their vitality as they pass down the generations. They are very often modified, distorted and turned into dogmas, and all too frequently their values become petrified in institutions and organized hierarchies.
Another danger is that persons following this path to Truth, the path of the consciousness-may fall into exaggerations. The mystic often creates for himself an artificial universe, farther and farther removed from reality, till he ends by living in an ivory tower, having lost all contact with reality and life.
2.The second of the three paths is the path of nature. While the first path of the consciousness starts from within and penetrates thence into the totality of things, the second path takes the opposite way. Its starting point is the external world. It is the path of the scientist, and has been followed in all ages through experience and through experiment, through the use of inductive and deductive methods.
But the scientist, like the mystic, sometimes falls into exaggerations. While science has transformed the life of mankind and has created great values, for man in all ages, it has failed to give entire satisfaction in the solution of the final problems of existence, life and the universe. The greatest scientists recognize that in the metaphysical field beyond the scientific chain there is something else - continuing from the end of that chain. However, there are also the dogmatic scientists who deny any other approach to Truth than their own, who refuse to attribute reality to the facts and phenomena which they cannot fit neatly into their own categories and classifications.
The path to Truth through nature is not that of the dogmatic scientist, just as the first path is not that of the one-sided mystic. Nature is a great open book in which everything can be found, if we learn to draw from it the inspiration which it has given to the great thinkers of all ages. if we learn her language, nature will reveal to us all the laws of life and the universe.
3. The third path to Truth, is the wisdom, knowledge and experience acquired by the great thinkers of all ages and transmitted to us in the form of great teachings, the great sacred books or scriptures, and the great masterpieces of universal literature which together form what today we would call universal culture.
In brief, therefore, our approach to Truth is a threefold one: through consciousness, nature and culture.
* See Internet The Essene Gospel of Peace Book Two
(German philosopher, 1846-1926)
The union of the Divine and human nature is the fundamental truth of religion
Rudolph Eucken writes - "Religion is not merely a belief in some supreme Power, nor do I consider it to be the establishment of relations of any kind between this supreme Power and ourselves. It is an inner identification with it and the creation of a new life through it. The union of the Divine and human nature is the fundamental truth of religion, and its deepest mystery consists in the fact that the Divine enters the compass of the Human without impairing its Divinity. With this new phase life is completely renewed and elevated. Man becomes immediately conscious of the infinite and eternal, of that within him which transcends the world. For the first time the love of God becomes the ruling motive of his life, and brings him into an inner relation with the whole scope of reality. It is here that we find a new self, our true spiritual self."
The essence of religion is conceived by Eucken as the possession by man of an eternal existence in the midst of time; of the presence of an over-world in the midst of this world, guiding man to the revelation of a Divine Will. This is Eucken's main thesis, and connected with this thesis is the fact that religion can come to birth in the soul of man only through a conquest of the ordinary, natural world which surrounds him. The world which surrounds him hinders more than it helps the birth of religion in the soul. The aim of religion is therefore not the perfecting of man in a natural sense, but the bringing about of a union of human nature and the Divine. Religion must therefore include a "world-denial and a world-renewal." There is not enough for man's deeper nature either in the physical world or in the ordinary life of the hour. The natural world knows of no complete self-subsistence, for everything is connected with its environment, and it is in this connection with its environment that life below man largely obtains its existence. But in man we discover a transition stage from the sensuous to the non-sensuous, and it is in the latter that the meaning of the former can be obtained. The history of civilisation and culture is a history of this all-important fact. The meaning of man is, therefore, not to be found in his relationship to the physical world, but in his own consciousness. The necessity and proof of religion are not then discovered in anything in the external world, but in the realisation of the fact that we are meant to be citizens of a world higher in its nature, the birthright of which is to be found within our own nature.
* Eucken Rudolph, Der Wahrheitsgehalt der Religion (1901) (The Truth of Religion)
(Egyptian mathematician, 325-265 b.c.)
Euclid's geometry had established a style of reasoning, wherein truths were deduced by the application of definite rules of reasoning from a collection of self-evident axioms. Philosophy copied this 'axiomatic method', and most forms of philosophical argument followed its general pattern. Euclidean geometry was believed to be a description of how the world was, it was not an approximation, it was not a human construct; it was the absolute truth. Thus beginning with Euclid and for almost two thousand years it was believed that geometric theorems were such pure and perfect Truth that they did not need to be scrutinized by observations of the real world. People in the past took it as a necessary truth that exactly one line can be drawn through a point, such that this new line is parallel to some other given line.
In actual fact, Euclid's geometric theorems merely apply to flat planar surfaces, and if we instead consider curved surfaces, then what is called "non-Euclidean geometry" results. Non-Euclidean geometry began a century-long inspection of the foundations of mathematics, which resulted in a complete reinterpretation of its nature and its applicability to the real world. The system's fundamental terms - in geometry, terms like point, line, and plane - are left undefined. The axioms of the system are not asserted to be true, they are simply assumptions. The theorems are not asserted to be true either; they are simply what follows when you make these assumptions about these undefined terms. And no one guarantees that the application of any particular mathematical system to the real world will yield any true or useful results.
In fact non-Euclidean geometries marked the end of an entire line of human thought, one that had dominated intellectual efforts for centuries. No longer did thinkers search their intuitions to find self-evident truths, then use those truths as the bricks of an unquestionable edifice. The assumptions of all subsequent systems of thought would have to be provisional and based on experience. And when the assumptions are only approximately right, the conclusions drawn from them may be even less correct.
The outcome of it all is that mathematics has broken away from reality; it has clearly and irretrievably lost its claim to the truth about nature, and reason has ceased to be coercive in any practical sense. However, even today, the Euclidian geometry remains familiar. The reason is that most people are restricted to small portions of the Earth's surface and usually the curvature of the Earth is negligibly small in these regions. A bricklayer or a carpenter must use Euclidean geometry, but an ocean going yachtsman cannot.
* Faber, Richard L., Foundations of Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1983
(Cambridge Professor of Modern History, 1947 )
Evans wants to reassert the mode of historical enquiry initiated by the XIX c. founder of the “positive school” of writing history, Leopold von Ranke. Ranke was the promoter of the ‘scientific’ way of recovering the past. Like Ranke, Evans is committed to the view that facts and documents speak for themselves and are able to reveal the historical truth, the past “ as it was”.
Evans is a realist in believing that if the history we write cannot be fiercely objective it is “nevertheless true”. The historian is able to really find out how the past happened although the conclusions arrived at by a painstaking process of scientific method will always be “less than final”.
Evans defends the practice of historical realism from the worst corrosions of post-modern theory. Post-modernism insists on the historian’s subjective present and his imprisonment in his own time. For post-modernism there are no hard facts, no final answers, only a ‘plurality of decisions’, from which it follows that there is no authoritative standards from which different perspectives can be adjusted. Evans concedes that postmodernism has brought many benefits to historical study: a sound historical work has to be scrupulous, self-critical and even sceptical. Historians face difficult problems but, if well equipped in the technique of historical analysis, they are capable of giving a proper perspective to the understanding of the past. There are numerous rules for assessing the factual reality of the traces left by the past. It is possible to reconstruct the meanings which past language had, so that historians can distinguish a ‘true’ from a ‘false’ reading. Historians are bound to the facts, they need to be objective through a detached mode of cognition and the avoidance of any manipulation of the ‘reality of the past’.
* Evans, In Defence of History, London, Granta, 1997