• NAGEL, Thomas
  • NARLIKAR Jayant
  • NASR Hossein
  • NEHRU Jawaharlal
  • NELSON Leonard
  • NETLAND Paul
  • NEURATH Otto
  • NEUSCH, Marcel
  • NEWBERG A. .....
  • NEWBIGIN lesslie
  • NEWMAN, John Henry
  • NEWTON Isaac
  • NICHIREN Daishonin
  • NICHOLS Aidan
  • NIEBUHR Reinhold
  • NIETZSCHE , Friedrich
  • NISHIDA Kitaro
  • NOVICK Peter
  • NOZICK Robert
  • NYAYA darshana
  • NYGREN Anders


    (Mahayana Buddhist philosopher, 2d century A.D.)

    Ultimate truth is “emptiness”

    According to Nagarjuna the Buddha's teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: the truth of worldly convention and the ultimate truth. Those who do not make that distinction do not understand the teaching of Buddha.                     

            The first truth, that of worldly convention, is the ordinary truth, the one we understand through everyday observation. It relies upon general agreement between people about how things appear to be: it is the ‘conventional’ truth.                

           Ultimate truth, on the other hand, is the truth that is left when our conventions are stripped away. Whereas conventional truths are based upon our perceptions, ultimate truths are truths whether we consider them or not. They are truths from their own standpoint, completely independent of our characterisation of them from our standpoint. The absolute truth is supramundane and unconditional, beyond concepts, ineffable. It can only be grasped by Prajna, the direct intuitive supra-rational insight.

           The ultimate truth is that reality is S'unya, empty and void, that is, it cannot be brought under any conceptual framework. It does not mean that Reality is non-existent or illusory. It means that it is ineffable and unconceptualisable. He who speaks about it is no longer in the truth. Truth is silence.

           One should not say that ultimate truth is more real than conventional truth, but is just a different way of looking at the same thing. They are each the truth, even though their verdicts conflict, still neither level of truth can exist alone. Without relying upon conventional truth, ultimate truth is not taken into account, Nagarjuna said, and without the existence of a higher truth, there can be no such thing as Perfect Wisdom. Conventional truth is that things arise, endure, and cease, and are thus real. Ultimate truth is that, as transitory phenomena, things are empty of self-nature (sva-bhava), and are thus unreal. Each one of these statements is true, and neither should be asserted to the exclusion of the other, else either empiricism or nihilism would result.

            The use of "Ultimate truth" may mislead people into thinking that "emptiness" is describing the nature of reality. But Nagarjuna says that "emptiness" depends on convention and that means that it is a heuristic device used to cure a specific disease. To read it metaphysically misses the point of Nagarjuna’s doctrine of "emptiness".  

          There is a reason for saying that things are "empty” but it has nothing to do with a metaphysical description of existence. As Nagarjuna says, the reason for saying such things is "only for the purpose of communication". Apart from this, "emptiness" is a meaningless term. The Ultimate truth is the teaching that things are without own-being (svabhava). This is the unsurpassed medicine for those consumed by the fever of svabhava.

    * See K. Srinivas, Truth as Conceived in Yogacara and Madhyamika, in IPQ, oct.2000, Vol. XXVII,4, p.398-401


    NAGEL, Thomas *

    (American philosopher, b.1937)

    Reason is the way out of subjectivism:

    it is an aspiration for universal truths

    Perennial philosophical problems, the problem of truth and knowledge included, emerge from a clash between two perspectives from which human beings can view themselves and the world. From an impersonal perspective, which results from detaching ourselves from our particular viewpoints, we strive to achieve an objective view of the world. From a personal perspective, we see the world from our particular point of view. How should one combine our insatiable appetite of objectivity with the irreducible character of our subjectivity? The dominance of the impersonal perspective in trying to understand reality can lead to implausible philosophical views because it fails to accommodate facts about the self, minds, agency and values. The exclusively subjective standpoint prevents us to produce knowledge that would open us to the real and deprive us of finding reasons to action different from our individual motivations. An important task of philosophy is to explore ways in which the two standpoints of the personal and the impersonal can be integrated.                    

             In his latest book “The Last Word”, Nagel attempts to solve this dilemma. He indicts all forms of modern subjectivism for which our beliefs are nothing more that our point of view, grounded in habits, shared linguistic practices and personal choices. He refuses to offer a subjectivist or psychologist account of everything we believe. “The Last Word” offers a sturdy defence of the universality and objectivity of reason against all subjectivist and relativist opponents. His main argument is that the project of criticising reason is self-defeating. Every criticism of reason must be based on certain principles that cannot themselves be understood subjectively or relativistically. These principles are  “the last word” in any debate about the value and applicability of reason.          

            Nagel’s central thesis is that there is something that hides “at the bottom” of our thinking and speaking: that something is Reason. Our reasoning is “an attempt to turn ourselves into local representatives of the truth”. When we reason, we look – sometimes at least – for arguments that are not limited to our particular location. In reasoning we are led inexorably to certain thoughts in which the  “I” plays no part. In the very act of my own reasoning, I somehow get out of my skin. I am not simply trying to work out what I myself think; on the contrary I am seeking what is true for all of us. In reason we find a way out of the self into something that transcends us. In our capacity to reason we discover the mystery of human self-transcendence, we discover what it means to be human. Reason is the local activity of finite creatures that somehow enables them to make contact with universal truths.  Reason is the way out of the purely subjectivist understanding of truth.  “Our objectivity is simply a development of our humanity. It is natural to look for a universal understanding of reality, ourselves included, which does not depend on the fact that we are ourselves” .   This does not mean that our reason carries with it absolute certainty – as Descartes would have it. Nagel is not a foundationalist; he only stresses reason’s ‘aspiration for universality’. In reason we find a mysterious way out of ourselves. It opens the question of how it is possible for finite beings to think infinite thoughts. This is the “last word” about the truth of things:  a ‘logos’ that binds the cosmos together in a system that is both knowable and mysterious.

    * Nagel, Thomas, The View from Nowhere,  New York, Oxford University Press, 1986;  The Last  Word,  Oxford University Press, 1998


    NARLIKAR Jayant *

    (Indian astrophysicist, b.1938)

    Both science and religion are guided by man’s search for truth

    Both science and religion are guided by man’s search for the truth. But their approaches are different, even their concepts of what they mean by “truth” are different. There are questions about truth which seem beyond the scope of science. This is where religion steps in. The main contrast between science and religion is in their perception of truth: the objectivity insisted on by science versus the highly subjective personal experience of the religious. Conflicts arise when the scientists are asked to believe these unique personal experiences of the select few. They obviously cannot believe what they cannot themselves experience. On the other hand, a deeply religious follower of one who has had that experience, sincerely believes that the experience is real. Indeed, he may consider the scientist obdurate in his disbelief.                                                                                                    Another source of conflict resides in the fact that the scientist, aware of the partial truths he has established, knows the difficulty of reaching the goal of complete knowledge. Most religions tell him, on the other hand, that they have the complete knowledge – again based on the experiences of the select few. This tone of certainty makes the scientist uncomfortable.                                  Besides the conflict between science and religion arises when the sincere and practical instructions of religions get mixed up with rituals so much so that the latter eventually supercede the former. These pseudo-religious practices bring a bad name to religion, and even more does fanaticism which today goes under the name of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism precludes any questioning of the tenets, and hence it is totally contrary to the scientific outlook. Religious fundamentalism finds scientific facts unpalatable and therefore resists them and resists science itself.  It is important to overcome the gap between science and religion in recognizing that religion and science fulfill complementary urges of the human mind. The problems come when there is a trespass of the area of either one by the other. On the one hand religions should be pragmatic enough to adapt their philosophies to the new facts of the universe, large and small, revealed by science. The religious concepts and beliefs must be such as to be consistent with the scientific facts. The scientists, on the other hand, must be always aware of the incompleteness of their knowledge and hence receptive to new ideas and concepts.                                                                                            Narlikar endorses the view that Swami Vivekananda expressed in New York in 1896 at the Congress of religions: “…This is the message of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world: Do not care for doctrines, do not care for dogmas, or sects, or churches, or temples; they count for little compared with the essence of existence in each man, which is spirituality; and the more this is developed in a man, the more powerful is he for good. Earn that first, acquire that, and criticize no one, for all doctrines and creeds have some good in them…”.

     * Narlikar Jayant, The Scientific Edge: The Indian Scientist from Vedic To Modern Times, Penguin books, 2003


    NASR Hossein *

    ( Iranian Muslim Philosopher, b. 1933)  


    Truth remains always intolerant of falsehood and good of evil.


    To live in this world is to live in a world of duality and also opposition, although there are also elements of harmony and complementarity that must be considered. Therefore, the question of tolerance or intolerance must be understood not simply as only a moral choice or choice of values but also as an ontological reality. According to all traditional metaphysics, duality, opposition, and intolerance of opposites for each other are present in all realms of existence below the Divine Order. Moreover, this duality within manifestation, although possessing many facets such as harmony and complementarity as seen in the yin and yang in the Chinese tradition, is also seen in its aspect of irreducible opposition in many traditions, as can be seen in such realities as truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, or goodness and evil. It is this second type of duality from which derive intolerance and tolerance. Yin and Yang or other similar dualities in other traditions result in complementarity and harmony whereas truth and error, or goodness and evil can never live in harmony with each other without violating the very principles of microcosmic as well as macrocosmic existence. Such dualities can be transcended in a unity which stands above them in the ontological hierarchy but cannot be harmonised on their own level of existence. Truth remains always intolerant of falsehood and good of evil.

    It is in the nature of reality to be intolerant of the unreal. If this thesis be denied, one would have to surrender the very notion of the truth, which in fact much of the modern world has done in the name of relativity and sacrifice at the altar of tolerance without this step diminishing intolerance in any appreciable manner. Those who deny the truth are even more intolerant concerning those who believe that there is such a thing as the truth than most followers of one form of the Truth are of the followers of other manifestations of It. However , as long as one accepts truth and goodness, one must also accept the intolerance of truth vis-a-vis error and goodness in the face of evil. Moreover, those intolerant towards evil have in fact been praised in all societies as champions of the good.

    In fact, the basic problem of intolerance, not seen metaphysically, but observed and experienced in the present-day world, is related precisely to this fact in addition to what concerns the very fibre of separative existence in which irreducible dualities appear. Lest we forget, most human beings do not live at that exalted centre of existence which, according to the great metaphysician Nicholas Cusa, is the coincidence of opposites and which the founder of the Naqshbandiyyah Sufi order called “universal peace” (sulh-i Kull) transcending all opposition and strife. Most of us live simply in the world of opposition and of strife unable to transcend dualities and oppositions.

    The Islamic world must learn to he tolerant of a world that threatens its very existence without losing its identity, and the secularized West must learn the very difficult lesson that its modernized understanding of man and the world is not necessarily universal and that it is not sufficient to boast of the virtue of tolerance while being totally intolerant toward all those who challenge the very premise of the secularist and humanist world-view. Paradoxically enough, each side, the non-Western-especially the Islamic- and the Western, have much to learn from each other, whether in a positive or negative manner, at this dangerous juncture of human history.


    * See Iternet Nasr Hossain



    NEHRU Jawaharlal *

    ( Prime Minister of India, 1889-1964)



    Truth has ever to be renewed and reshaped, so that, as understood by man, it might keep in line with  the development of human life.


    Truth as ultimate reality, if there is, must be eternal, imperishable, unchanging. But that infinite, eternal and unchanging truth cannot be apprehended in its fullness by the finite mind of man which can only grasp, at most, some small aspect of it limited by time and space, and by the state of development of that mind and prevailing ideology of the period. As the mind develops and enlarges its scope, as ideologies change and new symbols are used to express that truth, new aspects of it come to light, though the core of it may yet be the same. And so, truth has ever to be sought and renewed, reshaped, and developed, so that, as understood by man, it might keep in line with the growth of his thought and the development of human life. Only then does it become a living truth for humanity, supplying the essential need for which it craves, and offering guidance in the present and for the future.

    1. Religions have helped greatly in the development of humanity. They have laid down values and standards and have pointed out principles for the guidance of human life. But with all the good they have done, they have also tried to imprison truth in set forms and dogmas, and encouraged ceremonials and practices which soon lose all their original meaning and become mere routine. Instead of encouraging curiosity and thought, religions have preached a philosophy of submission to nature, to established churches, to the prevailing social order.

    2. Philosophy has avoided many of these pitfalls and encouraged thought and inquiry. But it has usually lived in its ivory tower, cut off from life and its day-today problems, concentrating on ultimate purposes and failing to link them with the life of man..

    3. Science ignored the ultimate purposes and looked at fact alone. It made the world jump forward with a leap, built up a glittering civilization, opened up innumerable avenues for growth of knowledge.. Yet there was some essential lack and some vital element was missing. There was no knowledge of ultimate purpose and not even an understanding of the immediate purpose, for science had told us nothing about any purpose in life.

    Therefore with the temper and approach of science, allied to philosophy, and with reverence for all that lies beyond, that we must face life. Thus we may develop and integral vision of life which embraces in its wide scope the past and the present, with all their heights and depths and look with serenity towards the future.

    The past has given us some part of the truth, the future also hides many aspects of the truth and invites us to search for them. But often the past is jealous of the future and holds us in a terrible grip and we have to struggle with it to get free to face and advance towards the future.


    * Nehru Jawaharlal , The discovery of India, Oxford University Press, 1946




    NELSON Leonard *

    (German mathematician and philosopher, 1882-1927)

     No theory of knowledge can justify its own truth, hence the truth of knowledge is not provable.

    Every theory of knowledge deals with the question of a proof for the truth of knowledge. Leonard Nelson gives reasons that the truth of knowledge is not provable.

        To distinguish between true and false knowledge we need a criterion: the so called epistemological criterion (or criterion of truth). Nelson shows the inconsistency of such a criterion. The epistemological criterion itself can be knowledge or not. If it is, it has to judge about its own truth. We face a contradiction. If it is not knowledge, we have to explain why it is a criterion of truth. The criterion must therefore be an object of knowledge. This also leads to a circular argument. 

        Regardless of the type of the criterion of truth (evidence, consensus, coherence etc.) every theory of knowledge results in a circular argument. Nelson states: To apply consensus as epistemological criterion, there must be a consensus, that consensus justifies the truth of knowledge. If somebody asserts that evidence is the requested criterion it must be evident that all evident knowledge is true. The problem of a pragmatic criterion is: How we can know the usefulness of this criterion of truth?  Every theory of knowledge seems to fail at its own "test bed." No theory of knowledge can justify its own truth. The situation reminds one of Baron Münchhausen, who wanted to pull himself out of a swamp by his own bootstraps. Nelson concludes: no epistemological criterion, no theory of knowledge.                                                                                                                             Nelson is looking for his own solution. In his opinion the circular argument results from the -- unjustified -- supposition that knowledge is always a judgment. Every judgement can be reduced to other judgements. This leads to an infinite regress. We face an infinite regress especially if we try to prove the epistemological criterion.     According to Nelson the only way out is to assert the existence of non-linguistic knowledge (immediate cognition). Immediate cognition is the reason for the truth of knowledge. The solution of Nelson is the following: Knowledge is true if it can be reduced to the corresponding immediate cognition. In that way Nelson believes that the infinite regress can be avoided.

    * See Columbia encyclopedia                                                                    



    (Contemporary American orthopedic sutgeon and mormon)


    Truth without mercy and compassion  can cripple, damage and even destroy


      Truth is a powerful sword—an instrument that can be wielded just like a surgeon's knife. It can be guided well to bless. But it can also be crudely applied to wound, to cripple, to damage, and even to destroy. The sword of truth might not be governed by righteousness or by mercy, but might be misused carelessly to embarrass, debase, or deceive others.

     Truth and more bring more than truth alone. Just as oxen may be equally yoked together to accomplish what one could not do alone, so the power of truth is augmented if equally yoked together with righteousness or with mercy or with the spirit of love.

    Truth, like justice, can be harsh and unforgiving when not tempered with mercy. But when truth is magnified by mercy or rectified by righteousness, it can be converted from a force to destroy to a force to bless—whether at home, at church, or in our work.

    If, by truth, we have in mind merely "accurate information," truth is as much the servant of sin as it is the friend of righteousness. As there are no wars in which brothers have not been called upon to fight each other, so the great conflict between the sons of darkness and the sons of light finds such truth (information) a weapon common to both armies. Soldiers in both camps quote scriptures, profess a love of God, and claim a heritage of dreams and revelations, of prophets and angels. So it is with truth. Truth alone has no salvation in it.  We note from the scriptural pattern that truth must have its proper companions.

    Accurate information is one thing; the truths of salvation are entirely another. Those who interpret the marvelous statement "the glory of God is intelligence" to mean that salvation is found in living in harmony with correct principles have missed the point of the revelation. Let us read it again: “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one”. The truths of salvation do not stand alone It may also be said that one cannot have truth without its  train of attendants—meaning goodness, mercy, peace, uprightness, faithfulness, grace, holiness, light, and so on.


    *See internet, Nelson Russel




    NETLAND Paul *

    (Contemporary American philosopher of religion)

    Christianity is the one true religion.

        Citing the often conflicting and contradictory views of the various religions, Netland rejected pluralism as a viable option. He instead argued in favor of the evangelical position that Christianity is the one true religion.

        Netland knows that his belief that Christianity is the one true religion puts him at odds with many in today's culture. "The assertion that Christianity is the one true religion for all people, strikes many as hopelessly out of touch with current realities," he said. "The claim seems to display generous amounts of both intellectual naivety and arrogance." "Nevertheless, with proper qualification, I do believe that the Christian faith as defined by the Christian scriptures is true and that this sets the Christian faith apart from other religious traditions".

        Affirming the truth of Christianity does not deem all aspects of other religions false. Instead, Netland argues that other religious traditions do contain beauty and goodness - often in the area of moral and ethical teachings. However, beliefs that are incompatible with essential Christian teachings must be rejected, Netland said.

        He rejects pluralism in part because the major world religions intend to make real, often exclusive, truth claims. Religious adherents from most traditions are expected to regard the claims of their religion as true, he said. These truth assertions are not meant to be taken as personal or mythological. "Each religion regards its own assertions as correct or superior to those of its rivals," Netland said. "When we consider carefully what the religions have to say about the religious ultimate and the nature of, and conditions for salvation, there is significant disagreement."

        Netland suggests focusing on the essential or defining beliefs of a religion in determining the truth of that religion. A religion is true only if its essential beliefs are true. "For Christianity to be true, the defining beliefs of Christianity, namely certain affirmations about God, Jesus of Nazareth and salvation must be true," Netland said. "If they are true, Christianity is true."

        Netland said that some argue for "epistemic parity" among religions. Epistemic parity holds that no religion can claim rational superiority over another religion because the data is insufficient to prove one claim over another. Netland, however, sees epistemic parity as an argument for agnosticism rather than pluralism. "For if there are no good reasons for accepting any single religious tradition as true, why should we suppose that all of them collectively are equally true?"

    * Netland Harold, Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith & Mission, Inter-varsity Press / 2001


    NEURATH Otto *

    (Austrian philosopher of science, 1882-1945)

    Truth is a question of internal coherence of linguistic assertions

    Neurath proposed a linguistic theory of science, according to which scientific statements are not judged by means of the empirical evidence, but they are verified with respect to all other statements - truth is thus replaced with coherence. "If a statement is made, it is to be confronted with the totality of existing, statements. If it agrees with them, it is joined to them; if it does not agree, it is called 'untrue' and rejected; or the existing complex of statements of science is modified so that the new statement can be incorporated; the latter decision is mostly taken with hesitation. There can be no other concept of 'truth' for science”.    There is no point outside the 'world' from where we may judge on true and false.

        Otto Neurath argued that sentences cannot be compared either with experiences of an observer nor with public material things, but only with each other. Some sentences, he held, are reports of direct observation acts (called ‘protocol sentences’). He also held that it must be possible to compare such protocol sentences with each other, and that this requires the existence of an inter-subjective language.

        In Neurath's view the protocols of different observers, or of the same observer at different times, may conflict, and when that happens one or more of the protocols should be rejected; it is a matter of convenience and decision which to reject. The aim of science is to uphold a coherent system of statements (or sentences), but no one such statement is to be regarded as sacrosanct. Acceptance or rejection is, in the end, done on the basis of coherence and utility.

        Neurath’s view was strenuously rejected by Schlick, Russell, and Ayer because, they held, it distinguishes protocol sentences from others by purely syntactical methods; but, they held, a purely syntactical criterion of truth is wrong and is an abandonment of empiricism.

        Neurath rejects correspondence between language and reality as useless metaphysical speculation, which would call for explaining how words and sentences could represent things in the external world. Instead, Neurath proposed that language and reality coincide—that reality consists in simply the totality of previously verified sentences in the language, and "truth" of a sentence is about its relationship to the totality of already verified sentences. Either a sentence failing to "concord" (or cohere) with the totality of the sentences already verified, should be considered false, or that some of that totality's propositions must in some way be modified. He thus views truth as a question of internal coherence of linguistic assertions, rather than anything to do with facts or other entities in the world. Moreover, the criterion of verification is to applied to the system as a whole (see semantic holism) and not to single sentences.

        According to Schlick’s ‘foundationalist’ stand, a protocol statement aims to capture the content of what Schlick called a ‘confirmation’ or a decisive moment of experience, whose certainty is beyond doubt; other parts of the system of science are ultimately justified by their relations to these confirmations, but the confirmations themselves are justified by the character of experience itself, and not by anything further within  the system of science.  In opposition to Schlick, Otto Neurath proposed a fallibilist approach to protocol statements: a protocol statement is, like any other statement in the system of science, subject to rejection in light of considerations of overall coherence. In fact Neurath has difficulty explaining how his solution maintains a special role for experience, or how he is maintaining empiricism and not leaving himself open to the charge that science and fantasy could be equally well-grounded just given sufficient internal consistency.

    * Neurath Otto, 1946. Philosophical Papers, 1913–1946. Marie Neurath and Robert Cohen, with Carolyn R. Fawcett, eds.


    NEUSCH, Marcel *

    (French theologian, b.1935)

    Access to the truth is never achieved without the mediation

    of the other: man in philosophy or God in theology

      1. What is our starting point in knowledge? Augustine wondered whether it was authority or reason, whether it is the other or oneself? His answer was that the order of nature shows that when we learn, authority precedes reason. There is anteriority of the other’s word on the individual word. However the given word coming from another (man or God) would be alienating if one were to accept it in blind submission to authority without right of critical discernment. In letting himself be instructed by the other, the individual receives the truth from him because that truth finds an echo in his heart in which it was hidden. In every person there is a ‘precomprehension’ of the truth without which the perception of the truth from another would not occur. No alienation is involved in the process even if the access to the truth has been made possible through the mediation of the other.

            Therefore it is wrong to think that reason can function in close circle, apart from all alterity. Thinking in isolation in the search of truth is a myth in that it ignores the unavoidable alterity that inhabits every self. Individual reason is never free of external influences. Every thought is sustained by an anonymous thought. No one has a direct access to the truth, even to his own ‘existential’ truth. “My” truth is always in some respect the truth of others.  

        2. There are two distinct models of truth because there are two sources of truth: the philosophical truth characterised by autonomy and the theological or religious truth characterised by “heteronomy”. Philosophical knowledge is anthropocentric, ankered on its own certitudes. By contrast religious knowledge is open to a Word that precedes human thought – which does not prevent it from being critically examined. The Word of God reveals  new ways  that human thought left alone is unable to detect.  

            However, whether in philosophy or in religion, the structure of human knowledge is such that the access to truth is never achieved without the mediation  of the “other”, either the word of other human beings or the Word of God. It would be wrong therefore to claim that the recourse to mediation, which is primary source of religious knowledge, has no role to play in philosophy.

    * Neusch M., Les Chrétiens et leur Vision de l’Homme, Paris, Desclée, 1960, p.168 f.


    NEW AGE *

    (Contemporary Western spiritual movement)

    New Age truth is a feeling:  each one of us may experience a different truth because truth resides in the individual and manifests itself in the God-force within.

    New Age philosophy adopts a form of ‘Cosmic Humanism”. Because the Cosmic Humanist believes God is in everything, and that everything is a part of God, he must conclude that everything—in essence—is spiritual. The things that we can see and feel are only a manifestation of spirit, and all matter will melt away when universal consciousness is achieved. This view leads the New Ager to believe all matter can be controlled by an enlightened mind, a mind that is in touch with the God within. Health, wealth, and even a good sex life can all be achieved by "mind over matter."

        The spiritual aspects of life lead to higher consciousness and inner truth, hence we should view all reality from a supernatural perspective. This perspective leads Cosmic Humanists to a philosophy of non-naturalism—nothing is natural, everything is supernatural. The philosophical stance of Cosmic Humanism is that ultimate reality is in the spiritual dimension. It assumes that all reality is God—from a grain of sand to the Milky Way.

        New Age philosophy rejects naturalistic and materialistic philosophies because such explanations deny the all-pervasive supernatural core of reality. Every aspect of existence is sacred, everything must have a spiritual nature. In New Age philosophy, all is one, so only one type of ultimate reality can exist. This ultimate reality must be spiritual because God, which is everything, is ultimately spiritual. Spirit is the only substance that exists, and matter is only a manifestation of spirit.

        New Agers claim no external source of authority -- only an internal one ("the God within"). They believe the individual is the standard of truth, saying that "truth as an objective reality simply does not exist". Thus in terms of epistemology , proponents of the New Age movement emphasize the importance of getting in touch with our higher self. When we get in touch with the God-force within, we can intuitively know truth without limits. When we look within, we will find truth, but this is not truth as it is commonly understood. New Age truth is emotive rather than descriptive. To Cosmic Humanists, truth—what we can know—is a feeling or an experience.  Each of us creates our own truth according to the principle ‘if it feels like truth to you, it is’. All knowledge exists in the God-force within us.

        The purpose of knowing is not to explain or describe reality; rather, knowledge is useful only as experience, and experience is getting in touch with our godhood. Each of us may experience different truth because truth resides in the individual and manifests itself in our godhood.

        The purpose of human beings is to become enlightened, that is to achieve awareness of, and unity with, the spiritual world. The universal truth can be found pertaining to spiritual reality, although it may be perceived differently by different people. There is no ultimate universal authority, divine or otherwise.

    * See Lewis, James R.  Perspectives on the New Age. Albany, New York, US: State University of New York Press, 1992


    NEWBERG A. ..... *

    Contemporary American neuroscientists)

                                                                                                                                                                                         In the mystical state of absolute unity, there are no competing versions of the truth


    Mystical transcendent states exist along a continuum of progressively higher levels of unitary being that ultimately leads to the point at which unity becomes absolute. In the state of absolute unity, there are no competing versions of the truth; there is only truth itself, so conflicting beliefs, or conflicts of any kind for that matter, are not even possible.

    If however, a mystic falls short of absolute unity, then subjective awareness would survive, and the mystic would interpret the experience as an ineffable union between the self and some mystical other.

    Like all advanced unitary states, this mysterious union would have a profound sense of realness; the mystics would viscerally feel that he or she had stood in the presence of absolute reality. A Christian might call this truth Jesus, a Muslim might invoke the name Allah, in primal cultures it might be interpreted as some powerful spirit of nature, but in every case it is experienced as a spiritual truth that stands apart from and above all others.

    The "discovery" of such truth through mystical experience, provides believers with a powerful sense of control over the otherwise uncontrollable whims of fate. The presence of a powerful spiritual ally convinces believers that their lives are a part of some comprehensible plan, that goodness rules the world, and even that death can ultimately be conquered.

    What makes these beliefs more than hollow dreams is the fact that the God that stands behind them has been verified, through a direct mystical encounter, as literal, absolute truth. Any challenge to the authenticity of that truth, therefore, is an attack not only upon ideas about God, but also upon the deeper, neurobiologically endorsed assurances that make God real. If God is not real, neither is our most powerful source of hope and redemption. There can be only one absolute truth; it is a matter of existential survival. All others are threats of the most fundamental kind, and they must be exposed as impostors.

    In other words, the presumption of 'exclusive' truth, upon which religious intolerance is based, may rise out of incomplete states of neurobiological transcendence. Ironically, when the process of transcendence is taken to the logical, and neurobiological, extreme, the mind is confronted with a state of absolute, uncompromising unity, in which all conflict, all contradictions, all competing variations of the Truth, disappear into harmonic, monolithic oneness. If we are right, if religions and the literal Gods they define are in fact interpretations of transcendent experience, then all interpretations of God are rooted, ultimately, in the same experience of transcendent unity. This holds true whether this ultimate reality actually exists, or is only a neurological perception generated by an unusual brain state. All religions, therefore are kin. None of them can exclusively own the realist reality, but all of them, at their best, steer the heart and the mind in the right direction.


    * Newberg A.,D’Aqill E., Rause V. Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief, Ballantine Books, 2002.


    NEWBIGIN lesslie *

    (Scottish Christian theologian, 1909-1998)


    Faith rather than argumentative reason is the prior basis for understanding the truth of Christianity

        According to Newbigin the confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge. It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes form the God through whom and for whom all things were made : “Follow me.”

        Newbigin is contending for a truly Christian account of knowledge in which faith is the prior basis for understanding. He argues that the kind of knowledge that really matters comes only through training and participation in a tradition — and specifically the Christian tradition that presupposes the truth of the incarnation and the priority of trusting obedience to truly helpful knowledge.

        It is essential to the integrity of the Christian witness to recognize that to be its witness does not mean to be the possessor of all truth. It means to be placed on the path by which one is  led toward the truth.

        This means that for Newbigin we cannot justify our perspective with argument and reason. Rather, a believer can only say to his unbelieving neighbor: stand here with me and see if you don’t see the same pattern that I do. Within this epistemology, we do not convince someone of the merit of our belief by argument from authority. Rather, we invite them to come into our community and see our truth lived out and expressed in our actions, in our relationship and in our ministry to the world as the Body of Christ.

        For Leslie Newbigin  it is not so that belief is an inferior sort of knowledge but rather belief is the necessary prerequisite of knowing anything at all. Scientists are able to discover and know because of preceding beliefs. Their famous methodological doubt is based on deeper commitments and beliefs. Science does not provide certainty but proper confidence, and in a similar way faith produces its own proper confidence. Christian apologetics that endeavours to demonstrate the “reasonableness of Christianity” is for Newbigin  a mistaken policy.

        Newbigin endorses much of Polanyi’s thinking. Polanyi (see Polanyi) has argued that all knowing of reality involves the personal commitment of the knower as a whole person. He says there is no dichotomy between knowing and believing – scientists too work this way, committing themselves to hypotheses in order to test their validity in the next stage of a journey. This doesn’t make our understanding subjective: it is personal knowledge. Polanyi strived to show that the idea of a certainty which relieves us of the need for personal commitment is an illusion. But this illusion is an accepted part of the worldview of modern societies.  It damages our capacity to articulate the Christian faith.

        There is a fundamental difference between a worldview which sees reality as in some sense personal, therefore to be known only in the way that we can have knowledge of another person, and the worldview which sees ultimate reality as impersonal.

    * Newbigin, Lesslie. Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.


    NEWMAN, John Henry *

    (English philosopher and theologian, 1801-1890)

    The conquest of truth and certainty is a personal matter

          One would expect the truth to be objectively the same for every one. Human beings are endowed with the faculty of reason, which is instrumental in the acquiring of truth. Still they arrive at different conclusions regarding the same issues. The acceptance of truth seems to be dependent and relative to the individual mind on account of other factors than reason: each person’s moral and intellectual dispositions. Newman tackles this problem in adopting a type of personalism, the philosophy that considers truth to be a matter of personal reception and discovery. For him the problem of truth is linked up with that of personal existence. He has little to say about the nature of truth, being concerned rather with the manner in which  a person acquires certitude  about the vital  truths of life.

           In his Grammar of Assent, Newman introduces the important distinction between notional assent  and real assent. Assent given to propositions concerned with abstract ideas or universal terms is notional assent. Assent given to propositions concerned directly with things and persons is real assent. Newman is not interested in the course taken by the human mind to reach the truth in the abstract as is the case in scientific and logical knowledge in which assertions are notional, rational and inferential. He wants to know how human beings come to the truths of life in the concrete. For him the important assents in life are the real assents that demand personal commitment from the doer. What counts for Newman is the personal appropriation of the truth, not the mere intellectual assent to abstract propositions. But how can this be achieved?

         In Newman’s view human beings are endowed with a certain power of judging which is different from that of impersonal reason. He calls it “the illative sense”, the power of judging about truth and error in concrete matters, the faculty of the mind that leads to moral certitude and depends on the subject’s moral and intellectual maturity – and hence it differs in various individuals. The illative sense is the faculty that one uses in complete trust each time there is need to take stand, to choose, commit oneself and discern the course of action to take, a kind of personal intuition of the truth.  

            The trustworthiness of the illative sense is that which confers certitude.  An argument of formal logic should not be called “certain” but demonstrative. It is a sort of proof that a man does not make for himself, but which is made for him.  Certitude, on the contrary,  is the acquisition of a living mind. It implies a personal act, the act of a living person responsible for his acts. Real assent is a free act for which the doer is responsible. The certitude thus obtained is not a passive impression made upon the mind from without by argumentative compulsion. Rather  it is the active recognition, by the illative sense, of the truth of propositions that deal with the concrete problems of existence.  

         The subjective, almost ‘Kierkegaardian’, approach of Newman to the problem of truth underlines the fact that besides the area of the customary truths of empirical reality and logical arguments lies the wide field of truths that man must freely conquer. Traditional theories of truth do not do justice to the active role played by the human person in the search for truth. For Newman truth is not just the recognition of what is, but the awakening of a mature conscience to the truth within and which every man must appropriate in a personal way.  

    *  Newman, J.H., An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, 1870; See  Boekraad A., The Persoanl Conquest of truth according to Newman, Louvain, Nauwelearts, 1955, 198 ff. ; Copleston F., History of Philosophy,  Vol.VIII, London, Burns 1 Oates, 1966, p 510 ff.


    NEWTON Isaac *

    English physicist and mathematician, 1642-1717)


    Truths are found in both of the "books" authored by God, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature.



    For Newton, it was axiomatic that religious inquiry and scientific investigation complemented each other. There were truths to be found in both of the "books" authored by God, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature -- or as Francis Bacon called them, the "book of God's word" and the "book of God's works." To study the world empirically did not mean abandoning religious faith. On the contrary: The more deeply the workings of Creation were understood, the closer one might come to the Creator

    The clockwork precision with which the universe functions was for Newton, anything but the result of blind circumstance. For behind it all he sensed the presence of intelligible planning and purposeful direction. He concluded that the underlying unity in nature, revealed to man by rational inquiry and observation, was the product of the Divine Mind. He worked with the belief that there is a double revelation of God; the one contained in His words found in Scripture and the one to be found in nature and it's general laws.

    He strongly believed that natural and divine knowledge could be harmonized and shown to be one. Only when the two were joined did their objects and events acquire full significance and existential import. In his way of thinking there was no place for warfare between science and religion. Newton felt that religion and science are inseparable; two parts of the same life-long quest to understand the universe.

    At the same time, because the Bible was Newton's touchstone for testing teachings and doctrine, he relied more on Scripture and less on established orthodoxy, which put him at odds with the Church. He took Scriptural understanding in it's purest form, straight from the source. Newton believed that by carefully removing the patina of mysticism Church doctrine had accumulated over the centuries, he could lay bare the truth. And in his extensive studies, the truth that he found differed considerably from what was being taught as established doctrine.

    He learned for example, that the doctrine of the Trinity was not taught by Christ and was unknown to early Christianity. In refuting the Trinity, Newton firmly held that reasoning should be used. He argued that nothing created by God was without purpose and reason, and Bible teachings would be sustained by similar application of logic and reason. He declared the Trinity doctrine as unintelligible, saying, “What cannot be understood is no object of belief.”


    *Westfall, Richard S. (2007). Isaac Newton. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780199213559.


    NICHIREN Daishonin *

    (Japanese Buddhist monk, 1222-1282)

    The true path – Buddhism only - lies in the affairs of this world

    Nichiren was persuaded he was the sole repository of Buddhist truth, and that only his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra was correct. He even threatened destruction of the Japanese state unless it united under his version of Buddhism, the only true one.

        The earlier monastic, or Hinayana, Buddhism, - rejected by Nichiren - sought enlightenment in the transcendental realm of nirvana, which is set apart from the realm of ordinary human beings.

        The ‘provisional’ Mahayana teachings, as Nichiren called them,  did not teach the non-duality of Buddhism and secular matters. In opposition to these provisional Mahayana teachings, the correct Mahayana teaching for him was that, from the ultimate viewpoint of the Lotus Sutra, society and people's daily lives are entirely at one with Buddhism.

        From the ultimate viewpoint of those awakened to the Lotus sutra, Buddhism is at one with secular matters. Buddhist practice and daily life are never separate. The seemingly separate aspects of the religious and the secular, of the spiritual and the material, become one and the same from the standpoint of the Lotus Sutra. This is why Nichiren writes, "The Lotus Sutra explains that in the end secular matters are the entirety of Buddhism”. No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality.

        Buddhism does not exist apart from the reality of our daily lives. Our everyday reality is in itself Buddhism. Some of us, however, tend to separate our Buddhist practice from our everyday life.    Nichiren writes, "The true path lies in the affairs of this world." Here, the "true path" refers to the correct teaching of Buddhism. In other words, he teaches that the correct teaching of Buddhism does not exist apart from secular matters, that the practice of the correct teaching does not exist anywhere apart from society and one’s daily life.  

    * See Soka Gakkai, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin.  Tokyo, 1999.



    (German philosopher, 1401-1464)  

    Truth, not truths, is the key to religious tolerance

    Truth is often considered to be the cause of conflict and the origin of fanatical attitudes, specially in the field of religions. But not for Nicholas of Cusa who, on the contrary, regarded Truth as the key to religious tolerance.

            Happiness, for Cusa, consists in the perception of Truth itself. The desire for happiness is innate in human nature, it is found in the heart of all human beings, whatever be their religion or philosophy. Tolerance towards non-Christian religions and philosophical systems is grounded ultimately in the human relationship to Truth, with a capital T.

            But Truth itself must be distinguished from ‘truths’. The idea of Truth does not admit the plural form of truths. In the eyes of Cusa the distinction between Truth and truths is crucial. All thinking persons have in common that they are seekers of Truth, even though individuals may be in possession of certain truths. One may succeed in finding certain concrete truths and errors, but the relationship to Truth itself has the form of a universal striving, not of a particular possession. All peoples are most certain that God exists – such is Cusa’s conviction - and that He is the eternal Truth. This consensus is held by all people of good will, it is equally affirmed by Christians, Jews, Moslems and philosophers. Even though Cusa identifies the divine necessity with Truth, the idea of Truth is more fundamental than even God himself, if one were  hypothetically drawn to distinguish between the two.

            Truth is the life of the intellect. Life, in sum, is a striving for truth and the attainment of this goal is happiness. The final fulfilment of the intellect is the perception of Truth and happiness consists in this vision.  All religions exist for the pursuit of happiness. All religions have their origin in the  innate desire for happiness.  

            On the other hand Nicholas of Cusa abides by his Christian convictions, but he interprets them in a way that embraces the conviction of all honest thinkers. For him Christ himself is Truth. Christians perceive the Truth in him. All mankind is united, not in an explicit belief in Jesus Christ but in a longing for him, regardless of one’s particular religion. Jesus is secretly longed by all nations.  

            On the basis of this longing for Truth, made explicit in the person of Jesus Christ in Christianity or remaining implicit in other religions, the unity of religions is established. Nicholas of Cusa reaches this conclusion by climbing to a high degree of abstraction, to a viewpoint where he can speak of Truth itself as distinct from truths, where truths are seen in the light of Truth. Truth, not truths, frees us from intolerance.  

    * See The Idea of Truth as the basis for Religious Tolerance According to Nicholas  Cusa,  Hoye, William, Universitry of Munster, Germany, Internet article


    NICHOLS Aidan *

    ( British R.C. theologian, b. 1948)


    Christian theology presupposes the truth  of the Christian faith.


    Theology presupposes the truth of the Christian faith. It assumes from the outset that what the theologian is involved with in the life of the Church is a divine reality, and not just a figment of the corporate imagination of a group of people. Whereas those who pursue  Religious Studies are not committed to the view that a given religion is true, or even partly true, theologians  are committed from the start to the position that, at the origins of the Church, an authentic revelation of the one true God took place, and that they are put into contact with this same God revealing himself through their  share in the Church's common life. Theology is, therefore, essentially concerned with revelation.

    Starting first with “revelation,” it is surely plain that theologians would not be interested in theology without an acceptance of revelation. If they regarded Catholic Christianity as one religion among many, a belief system that happens to exist in some parts of the world just as do, say, Buddhism or Hinduism, they might be interested in studying theology from outside, as spectators, but they would not wish to study it from inside, as participators.

    But it must be added that theology is something wider than assistance to the Magisterium of the Church.  Some claim that the task of theology is the transcribing in a more intelligible or rationally acceptable form whatever the divinely guided voice of Church authority may determine. Certainly, theologians have a duty to defend the defined teaching of Holy Church and to cooperate with the pope and bishops in clarifying or refining such teaching as may have an inadequately articulated form.  Such duties, on this rather narrow view, circumscribe the task of theology itself. It is  the idea that the starting point of all theology is the pronouncements of pope and bishops in both their extraordinary and ordinary magisterium, theology’s job being to prove authorized ecclesiastical pronouncements by a regressive method which seeks arguments in the sources, Scripture and Tradition, as well as in reason, for their truth. The support given by Pope Pius XII to this picture of theology in his encyclical Humani generis of 1956 was rightly criticized by Fr. - now Cardinal and Pope - Joseph Ratzinger in his essay on the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on revelation, Dei verbum.  Theology, for him,  is something wider than the direct assistance the theologians can afford the magisterium.

    According to Nichols theology is not just any expression of revealed truth. It is different from the expression of revelation that is found in preaching or in catechizing or in devotion. It differs from these by being an exploration of what is not at first obvious, even to someone who knows and accepts the faith of the Church.

    What theology is not? asks Nichols. It cannot be dissolved without remainder into spirituality, though it cannot do without spirituality either. Nor can it simply be a commentary on papal or episcopal utterances, though papal and episcopal utterances are vital to it, as it to them. Nor, again, can it just consist of positive theology, facts and figures, though these give it much of its concrete substance.

    What, then, is the task of theology? The working definition that Aidan Nichols proposes is brief and unadventurous: the task of theology is the disciplined exploration of what is contained in revelation.


    * Nichols Aidan, ‘What Theology Is’, New Blackfriars  69. 819 (1988), pp. 383-392


    NIEBUHR Reinhold *

    (American protestant theologian, 1892-1971)

    The sinful egoistic claim of possessing the absolute truth

    Tolerance , for Niebuhr, is not simply a courtesy or a liberal social ethic. Rather, it is a theological necessity arising from human finitude. Grace helps us to perceive the truth; but our human nature prevents our total apprehension of it.

            No one has the right to present his truth as the truth, as there are limits to human understanding. On the one hand the human capacity for rational transcendence opens up constantly new and higher points of vantage for judging finite perspectives in the light of a more inclusive truth. On the other hand man’s  involvement in nature and history sets final limits upon his quest for truth and renders it partial and particular. Thus arises the constant tension between the finite culturally and historically situated mind and its unlimited quest for truth.

            Moreover our rational apprehensions are not only subject to the limits of our finite mind, they are also the play of passion and interest. Knowledge of the truth is thus contaminated with an “ideological” taint of interest, which makes our apprehension of the truth something less than knowledge of the truth and reduces it to our truth. What makes matters worse is the premature claims of finality and absoluteness which people invariably make for their finite perspectives. Not only they deny the finiteness of their perspectives,  they hide and obscure the taint of interest and passion in their claim of true knowledge. This pride is the real force of “ideology”. Without it the partial character of all human knowledge would be harmless and would encourage people to invite the completion of their incomplete knowledge from other partial perspectives .

            The denial of the finiteness of our knowledge and the false claim of finality and absoluteness are always partly the ignorance of our ignorance, a failure in our capacity for self-transcendence. The sinful claim of possessing the absolute truth is an effort to obscure the partial and interested character of our knowledge of the truth. We are not merely ignorant of our ignorance but “we hold the truth in unrighteousness”. Nieburh calls it the “egoistic corruption of the truth”.

    * Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol.II, Human Destiny, chap.VIII “Having or not having the truth”


    NIETZSCHE , Friedrich *

    (German philosopher, 1844-1900)

    The truths of knowledge are fictions of the mind.     

    The dictatorship of the  truth must come to an end.

          1.Knowledge is the vehicle of lies and an instrument of power. Through knowledge we impose order and form on reality. In conceptualising and systematising, we impose stable patterns on a reality that  is all becoming and flux. Rather than revealing reality, knowledge interprets, transforms and distorts nature. Such knowledge is mere fiction, an invention of philosophers dissatisfied with the world of becoming, but happy with an abiding world of stable beings. Their knowledge plays the function of dissimulating and pretending; it is not the vehicle of truths but of lies.  

            The moral imperative of the truth is contrary to life. The ethics of truth is a morbid “anti-life” ethics like all ethics that uphold absolute values. They pass judgement  on life, rather than affirm it. Life comes to a standstill in the “truth” of knowledge. Truth in destroying freedom is the enemy of life.

            As a matter of fact the aim of knowledge is not to know but to master. Truth is the name of the will to power  and the will to power interprets. Interpretation is the means to dominate something. Knowledge is an instrument of power, it exists for self-preservation and domination. Nietzsche defines science as “the transformation of Nature into concepts for the purpose of governing Nature”. Through knowledge, through the imposition of patterns on reality, intellectuals rule the world. They theorise because it serves their purpose. Some of their theories or fictions are more useful than others: we call them “true” and the less useful, we call them “false”. Thus some knowledge at least, if not true, is useful for the welfare of the human race.

            2. Genealogy of truth.

            To understand the value of something, Nietzsche undertakes a “genealogical” enquiry through which the enquirer goes back to the root of the phenomena in the history of life. Then only he is able to grasp why human beings have always chosen truth rather then untruth. The will of the truth has always been a moral need which refuses to recognise itself for what it is: a deceitful value. Nietzsche attributes the irresistible leaning of human minds towards truth to the systematic exploitation of a psychological weakness. Man needs to be reassured on reality and to that effect he is predisposed to create illusory representations that conceal the chaotic and unpredicable character of life. He imposes order and simplicity on nature and calls it the truth. But nature has other values : chaos, violence, injustice and absence of meaning. These are the real truths of reality but no one is ready to acknowledge them. To conceal the unpleasant, immoral, cruel sides of life, philosophies and religions have invented another world, a “better” world in conformity with men’s fundamental need of “truth” and “morality”.    

            3. Language and truth

            All our so-called truths are expressed and embedded in language. We are thus misled by language taken for the mirror of the world.  “A philosophical mythology lies hidden in language”. Nietzsche stresses the interpretative  and perspectival character of all human thought and language. Logic and language are deceptive when we use them to satisfy our morbid need for “profound truths” and explanations. The morbid desire to explain everything is based on the prejudicial view that some truly “real” is hidden behind the surface. This means that an explanation denies reality on behalf of a fiction, “more real than the real”, more intellectually satisfying. However for Nietzsche all explanations are interpretations. Everything is interpretation and there is no “deep” explanation, no final truth about reality. There is no depth, all that is important is on the surface. To reach the truth, is not  knowing things  in depth. There is no truth to know, for everything is interpretation. In trying to go “in depth”, we lose everything. There is nothing behind the phenomena, all phenomena are interpretations and all interpretations proceed from the will to power.  

            4. A new concept of truth

            In contrast to the philosopher, who claims to be the knower of the truth, the artist is the one who throws out the boundary stones in which the knower is entrenched. He destroys the scaffolding, the systems, the patterns, and let the area of pure creativity express itself. The artist is concerned with life, with the flux of reality and  not with knowledge, with creation and not recognition. The dictatorship of reason and knowledge of the philosopher must be replaced by the creativity of the artist. Art has been given to us to save us from the truth.  

            Why should one be interested in truth, rather than in untruth? The old static concept must give way to a value that must be created. Then one can define “truth” in another way. The new concept of truth does not point at something that might be found or discovered,  but at something that must be invented and that gives a name to a process ad infinitum and a will to overcome the given with no end in view. Then truth becomes another name of the will to create and of the artists’ genial transfiguration of reality.

    * Nietzsche, F., The Will to Power, quoted in Copleston, History of Philosophy,  Vol.VI, Burns  &  Oates, London, 1966, p.408-411; see Sallis J., Nietzsche’s Underworld of Truth,  in Philosophy Today, 16 (1972), 12-20; also Puech, M., La Philosophie en Clair, Paris, Ellipses, 1999, p.83-95




    ( Indian philosopher, 14th c.)


    Both identity and difference (between Brahman and the world) are equally true: bheda-abheda


     Nimbarka’s philosophical position is known as Dvaitadvaita (duality and nonduality at the same time). The categories of existence, according to him, are three, i.e., cit, acit, and Isvara. Cit and acit are different from Isvara, in the sense that they have attributes and capacities, which are different from those of Isvara. Isvara is independent and exists by Himself, while cit and acit have existence dependent upon Him. At the same time cit and acit are not different from Isvara, because they cannot exist independently of Him. Difference means a kind of existence which is separate but dependent, (para-tantra-satta-bhava) while non-difference means impossibility of independent existence (svatantra-satta-bhava).

    Now Nimbarka equally emphasises both difference and non-difference, as against Ramanuja, who makes difference subordinate to non-difference, in as much as, for him cit and acit do not exist separately from Brahman, but are its body or attributes. Thus, according to Nimbarka, the relation between Brahman, on the one hand, and the souls (cit) and universe (acit) on the other, is a relation of natural difference-non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda), just like between snake and coil, or between sun and its rays. Just as the coil is nothing but the snake, yet different from it, so the souls and the universe, though nothing but Brahman (brahmatmaka), are different from Him because of their own peculiar natures and attributes.

    Nimbarka philosophy is important for its new conception of the relation between the Brahman, on the one side, and the atman and the material world, on the other. Sankara and Madhva held opposite positions: Sankara emphasized non-difference (abheda, identity, monisn), and Madhva absolute difference (bheda, dualism). Nimbarka said that both identity and difference were true. Ramanuja also attempted to reconcile identity and difference, not by unifying identity and difference into a single relationship, but after rejecting both, and accepting a new concrete form, that of body-atman. Nimbarka does not accept the body-atman relationship, because the afflictions of the body affect the atman; and thus the evils of the world and the atmans will affect the Brahman. So Nimbarka says that the relation is the complex relation of identity-difference (or identity in difference, bhedabheda).

    * See Jadunath Sinha, The Philosophy of Nimbarka, (Sinha Publishing House, Calcutta : 1973)




    NISHIDA Kitaro *

    Japanese philosopher (1870-1945)

    Truth is the present consciousness of facts as they are.

    True reality is pure experience.

      According to Nishida, true reality is found through 'pure experience'. What he calls a pure experience is simply the present consciousness of facts just as they are. 'Pure experience' gives rise to the experiencer and the experience. In Western thinking, the experiencer and the experience are thought of as two separate entities. But Nishida argues that if pure experience gives rise to both the experiencer and the experience then they are unified in it.

            Nishida explains pure experience as participation in the entire universe. It is the underlying activity that gives rise to the experiencer and the experience, and, in general, to the subject and the object. At the time of pure experience, there is no opposition between subject and object and no separation of knowledge, feeling, and volition; there is only an independent, self sufficient, pure activity. Whereas Western thinking suggests that experience is passive, Nishida argues that pure experience is active. The truth about reality is found in pure experience and this experience is an active experience.

            It follows that the ultimate reality is not something far away, over there. It is right here, right now. Everything starts from the here and now.

            Nishida's approach, which involves the unity of subject and object or the state of undifferentiation of subject and object, is based on an epistemology of direct, unmediated experience- which he calls "pure". Nishida identifies it to the Buddhist experience of enlightenment and defines it as the knowledge of reality exactly as it is. It is to know by entirely abandoning the artifices of the self and by following reality. 'Pure' means precisely the condition of experience in itself, without the admixture of any thinking or discrimination.

            We reach the quintessence of truth and good conduct only when subject and object merge, self and things forget each other, and all that exists is the activity of the sole reality of the universe. To know the true reality comes about through an existential realization whereby the inner and the outer, the subject and the object, theory and practice, all become unified in the activity of pure experience.

    * "Nishida Kitaro", Britannica Student Encyclopedia, 2006


    NOVICK Peter *

    (Contemporary American Historian)

    Objectivity in history is neither true nor false: it is a useful myth.

    Peter Novick is a historian of the term "objectivity." He writes in his book That Noble Dream about the debate over objectivity within the discipline of History. Novick's understanding of the term  rejects the philosophical dismissal of objectivity as inadequate. Rather than a  philosophical idol, he understands objectivity to be a ‘myth’. This understanding removes the judgment of ‘mistaken’ or ‘nonsensical’. Novick's defense of his usage is that it does not require a position on the truth or falsity of objectivity. "Rather," he writes,  “it is a device to illuminate the important functions which ‘historical objectivity’ has served in sustaining the professional historical venture”.

        According to Novick the traditional principle assumptions of objectivity for the profession of history include a commitment to the reality of the past, and to truth as correspondence to that reality; a sharp separation between knower and known, between fact and value, and above all, between history and fiction. Historical facts are seen as prior to and independent of interpretation: the value of an interpretation is judged by how well it accounts for the facts; if contradicted by the facts, it must be abandoned. Truth is one, not perspectival.

        Novick rejects these assumptions and describes the concept of objectivity as a myth.  But that does not imply that the myth in question is ‘false,’ or that the venture it sustains is dubious.  Traditional objectivist historians were striving for an “ultimate and unitary  objective historical truth” but that does not exist: another perception of “objectivity” may be required.

        It is crucial to ackonowledge the discrepancy between  two understandings: the  philosophical and the historical.  This discrepancy is indicative of the problem of objectivity. Philosophy shares the aims of objectivity, of absolute and universal truth, whereas history, in its very nature, is the description of parochialism of time and of space. The distinction between a philosophical and a historical approach is the distinction of the objective and relative nature of objectivity itself. From this distinction, a clearer, fuller understanding of objectivity seems possible. Confusion arises when objectivity is removed from its appropriate historical context. Because myths are only understandable within a cultural frame of reference, to make a statement on the truth or falsity independent of that framework is to express an observation empty of content: "to say something neither interesting nor useful". Thus, with respect to objectivity, a historical understanding is necessary for any substantial, philosophical understanding.

        When one talks about objectivity philosophically, one is referring to a term with various different meanings in various different worlds; a historical understanding is necessary to give the term sensible meaning. We must arrive at a notion of objectivity that accounts for the entire range of human experience. Strict philosophical consideration results in the discarding of the term or essential elements of the term. On the other hand sole historical concentration lacks a rationale for a current notion. Philosophy is necessary to criticize abstractions and goals; history is necessary to ground this criticism in reality.

    *Novick, Peter. That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.


    NOZICK Robert *

    (American philosopher, 1938-2002)

     The task of philosophy: not the search for truth but explanation

     Philosophers since Heraclitus, as Nozick portrays them, have sought truth.  They have supposed by and large that to possess truth was to possess absolutely certain knowledge.  They have for the most part inherited an ideal of proof as the only way of arriving at conclusions with the requisite degree and kind of certainty. Sometimes the barrenness of the search for demonstrative proof has turned them into skeptics who thought that because they could not discover the relevant proofs, they could have no well-grounded beliefs whatsoever. And occasionally the ideal of proof has itself been rejected more or less forcefully.                                                                                                                                                                                             Nozick seeks to expel the ideal of proof  from philosophy, replacing it by the notion of explanation. A philosophical explanation is an account that enables us to understand how certain things are possible, given other beliefs or suppositions.  Whereas the adherents of proof aspire to find the one exclusively true and adequate answer to  questions, the adherents of explanation will reject this attempt at victory for any one particular philosophy over all the others.                                                                            Thus, central to Nozick’s philosophical theory, is the  distinction between proof and explanation. Proof is inference from premises believed as true to conclusions that are compulsory. Proof is coercive. Philosophical explanation, by contrast, is non-coercive. The premises in philosophy are accepted tentatively, so that the conclusions may be entertained not as coercive but as possibilities that illuminate experience, discussion and reality.                                                                                                         The implication of Nozick’s doctrine is that there are various philosophical views, mutually incompatible, which cannot be dismissed or simply rejected. Philosophy’s output is the basketful of these admissible views, all together. Nozick  supports philosophical pluralism. Let, if not a hundred, at least three or four flowers bloom together. No one philosophical view ever has succeeded either in defeating or in absorbing all of its rivals. That is the reason why philosophy "has not t been able to settle upon just one theory"  and why "there is no compelling need to settle upon only one philosophical view.".                                      In espousing this doctrine Nozick feels that he does not succumb to relativism, for he holds that the multitude of views can be ranked. The strategy, he suggests, would be to modify and shave these views, capturing what is true in each, to make them compatible parts of one new view. But he admits that no one has yet done it satisfactorily.

     * Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1981).



    NYAYA darshana *

       (Ancient Indian philosophical system, 4thc. BC)

             The truth of knowledge is never self-evident:                                                                                                                                   the extrinsic validity and invalidity of knowledge

    1.  The Nyâya dars’ana, one of the six systems of Indian philosophy,  advocates a form of correspondence theory of truth: a knowledge is true when it corresponds to the real nature of its object, otherwise it is false. Correspondence with the object is the nature of truth.  However the question of the validity or invalidity of knowledge, the criteria of truth and falsehood is a subsequent question.  The Naiyâyikas uphold the theory of the extrinsic validity and invalidity of knowledge. That means that no knowledge is true or false on its own account. Truth and falsehood are characters that are added to knowledge which is indifferent to both. The conditions of the  validity or invalidity of knowledge are different from the conditions of knowledge itself. The validity of a perception, for instance, depends on special conditions such as the health of sense organs, nearness of the object, sufficient light, etc. Such extrinsic conditions can vitiate the perception and make it invalid. They, and not knowledge itself, are the causes of false knowledge. Truth and falsehood are explained by these external conditions, not by knowledge itself.

        Neither truth nor falsehood can be known to belong to knowledge at the time we have that knowledge, but some time after the knowledge has appeared. It can be known by inference according to its capacity or incapacity to produce successful activity in relation to its object. What distinguishes valid and true knowledge from the invalid and false knowledge is the test of successful activity. A valid and true knowledge is one that gives a cognition of an object but also leads to successful actions on the part of the knowing subject.

        Correspondence  is the nature of truth and successful activity is the test of truth. Thus the Nyâya  theory of knowledge is  realistic  as well as pragmatic; realistic as regards to the  nature of truth and pragmatic as regards the test of truth. Nevertheless the Naiyâyikas make an exception for the knowledge of familiar objects which, on  account of their self-evidence, is not in  need of being tested by subsequent successful activity.

        2. To bring out the originality of the Nyâya dars’ana position on the validity of knowledge, one may contrast it with the three other views supported by the other classical systems (dars’ana) of Indian philosophy.                                                            -According to the Mîmânsa-Vedânta dars’ana (see Mîmânsa), all knowledge have self-evident validity. False knowledge is caused by  conditions external to knowledge. This is the theory of intrinsic validity and extrinsic invalidity of knowledge.

    - According to the Nyâya dars’ana, the truth and falsehood of knowledge are not self-evident, they must be determined by conditions external to knowledge. This is the theory of the extrinsic validity and invalidity of knowledge.

    - According to the Sâmkhya dars’ana (see Sâmkhya) both the truth and the falsehood of knowledge are self-evident. This is the theory of the intrinsic validity and invalidity of knowledge.

    - According to several Buddhist schools, the falsity of knowledge is self-evident and the truth of knowledge requires external conditions. Knowledge is always invalid and if it is valid it must be determined by external conditions. This is the theory of intrinsic invalidity and extrinsic validity of knowledge.   

    These four positions can be summed up as follows:

    - Knowledge is always true unless proved to be false (Mîmânsa-Vedânta).

    - Knowledge is neutral : it is the test that can show it to be true or false (Nyâya).

    - Knowledge is obviously either true or false (Sâmkhya).

    - Knowledge is always false unless proved to be true (Buddhism   

            3. If we compare the Nyâya theory of extrinsic validity and invalidity of knowledge with Western philosophical views on the subject, we find that the  classical theories of correspondence, coherence and pragmatism come all three under the doctrine of extrinsic validity. The truth is constituted and made known either by correspondence to facts (realism) or coherence (idealism) or practical utility (pragmatism). Whereas several Buddhist schools adopt only the pragmatist theory of truth, the Nyâya theory of truth combines all the three of them. The truth of knowledge consists in the correspondence with objective facts, while coherence and practical utility are the tests of truth in all cases which require such a test.  Correspondence to the facts is the nature of truth, although in most instances (not the familiar ones) we cannot directly know such correspondence,  in which cases the test  of truth is either coherence or practical efficiency.

    * Chatterjee, S.C., The Nyâya Theory of Knowledge, University of Calcutta, 1939, p.82-120;  Sharma, C., A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy,  Rider, London, 1960, p. 192-196




    NYGREN Anders *

    (Swedish Lutheran Theologian, 1890- 1978)


    The truth about Christian love:  not Eros but Agape


    Nygren argues that the true Christian idea of love is Agape, which is theocentric in contrast to Eros which is egocentric. This may be seen clearly when the two fundamental questions is asked of Christianity: the religious question, "What is God?" and the ethical question, "What is the Good, the Good-in-itself?" To the religious question Christianity replies with the Johannine statement: "God is agape" (I John 4:8, 16); and to the ethical question the answer is similar: "The Good is agape", and this ethical answer is summarized in the Commandment of Love, the commandments to love God and to love one's own neighbor.

    According to Nygren, Christian Agape has no relation to Hellenistic Eros, even when Agape is compared to the "heavenly Eros" and not with the Vulgar Eros. The heavenly character of Agape is clear; there is no need to spiritualize or sublimate it to recognize its heavenly character. With Eros it is otherwise; but the highest form of Eros, Eros in the most spiritual form, the "heavenly Eros", cannot begin to compete with Agape. The mistake, Nygren says, that is commonly made is to represent "Agape as a higher and more spiritualized form of Eros, and supposing that the sublimation of Eros is the way to reach Agape... The heavenly Eros is the highest possible thing of its kind; it has been spiritualized to an extent beyond which it is impossible to go. Agape stands alongside, not above, the heavenly Eros; the difference between them is not of degree but of kind. There is no way, not even that of sublimation, which leads from Eros to Agape.".

    Nygren summarises his account of these two fundamental motifs and their contrary tendencies in the following way:

    Eros is acquisitive and longing. Agape is sacrificial giving. Eros is an upward movement. Agape comes down. Eros is man's way to God. Agape is God's way to man. Eros is man's effort: it assumes that man's salvation is his work. Agape is God's grace; salvation is the work of Divine love. Eros is egocentric love, a form of self-assertion of the highest, noblest, sublimest kind. Agape is unselfish love, it "seeketh not its own",  it gives itself away. Eros seeks to gain its life, a life divine, immortalized. Agape lives the life of God, therefore dares to "lose it." Eros is the will to get and possess which depends on want and need. Agape is freedom in giving, which depends on wealth and plenty. Eros is primarily man's love; God is the object of Eros. Even when it is attributed to God, Eros is patterned on human love. Agape is primarily God's love; "God is Agape".


    *Nygren Anders, Agape and Eros - A Study of the Christian Idea of Love. Liberty Books UK (Blandford Forum, Dorset, N/A, United Kingdom. 1936)





    Jean Mercier