(Contemporary English philosopher of religion)
There is a parasitic view of theology which considers it to be essentially confessional in character. Theologians are held to be expositors of the faith of a particular historic community and their work is validated by its accuracy to express that faith in the most coherent language available. Theologians are to see themselves as ‘spokesmen of their community’ charged with a special responsibility within it and they are not, as theologians, supposed to express ‘private’ opinions. This quite common view of understanding theology accounts for the indignation sometimes expressed by members of the community of faith towards theologians who present – so they claim - distorted expositions of the faith in order to render it more intelligible.
This view of theology as purely confessional is to be fundamentally questioned. One of the main reason is that theologians should be concerned about truth as much as about the contents of the faith of a given community. To the extent that they are committed to a particular faith, it is presumably because they regard it as containing the truth about God, the world and human being. If their investigations into the contents of faith show that it is making false claims, it would be odd to hold that they must see their role as one of trying to hide the truth and bolster error. Such a view of their role would not only undermine the general credibility of their work but also be a denial of the primary object of faith, God who is Reality and Truth. If the recognition of truth requires a revision of faith’s position, then the theologian must accept the responsibility to urge such a change. Theological work must abandon its confessional character and chose to be revisionary as well as descriptive in relation to a community of faith.
One must recognize that a theology that is essentially related to a given faith must present the two criteria of ‘appropriateness’ and ‘credibility’. Its interpretation of a given faith must be appropriate to the content of that faith. But it must also be an interpretation that is credible to human existence as judged by common experience and reason. That means that the theologians’ responsibility is to provide an understanding which may justifiably be regarded as true.
* Pailin David, Groundwork of Philosophy of Religion, Epworth Press, London,1986, p. 38-42
(Indian Spanish philosopher of religions, b. 1917)
1. Pluralism versus relativism and exclusivism.
How should one avoid the Scylla of mere relativism (giving up our deepest convictions) and the Charybdis of exclusivism (harbouring dangerous fanaticism)? In today’s world we are forced to understand each other. But how? The attitude to adopt stands between the extremes of relativism and exclusivism. Panikkar suggests that it should be pluralism provided the term is properly understood.
A number of pluralisms are accredited today: philosophical, theological, cultural. Religious pluralism is the most difficult to understand. But what is meant by religious pluralism? Pluralism is not plurality. Plurality is the recognition of a multiplicity of different ways and moods. It is a quantitative notion. Pluralism is not pluriformity, a qualitative notion pointing at the variety of ways and moods. Pluralism goes further than the recognition of differences (plurality) and varieties (pluriformity): it has to do with radical diversity. Pluralism is linked first to perspectivism, the common sense acknowledgment that every one sees things from different perspectives and, second, to relativity – not to be confused with sceptical and agnostic relativism – through which absolutistic claims are excluded.
The essential characteristics of pluralism are as follows:
- It is neither the acknowledgment of the fact of plurality of religions, nor the mere wishful thinking of unity.
- It recognizes the irreconcilable aspects of religions without being blind to their common aspects. It does not consider unity as an indispensable ideal, It does not foster the eschatological expectation that at the end, all religions shall become one.
- It does not allow for a universal system. A universal system is an impossibility. This impossibility (or incommensurability) must not be seen as an evil, but rather as the revelation of the nature of reality.
- Pluralism makes us aware of our contingency and the non-transparency of reality. If it tries to reach the highest intelligibility, it does not need the ideal of a total comprehensibility of the real.
2. The pluralism of truth
Truth is beyond Unity and Plurality. Pluralism affirms neither that truth is one, nor that it is many. For if truth were one, the pluralist atttitude would be a connivance with error. And if truth were manifold, pluralism would stand for the plurality of truth which is contradictory. Pluralism adopts a non-dualistic, “a-dvaitic” attitude which defends the pluralism of truth because reality itself is pluralistic, that is incommensurable with either unity or plurality.
Truth has no centre. It is often assumed that to reach intelligibility one has to reach a centre. Truth must have one centre, it is the convergence of all views, so we think. But pluralism thinks in a different way in recognizing the mutual incommensarability of human atttitudes and the incompatibility of ultimate beliefs. Solomon’s wisdom is most appropriate to understand the case. Our many solutions want to cut the child in two. Truth, like the child, is ours. But to keep the child alive, to keep the polarity of human realities alive, we cannot judge by Reason alone. Salomon shows that, because love intervenes, when the child is ours, we prefer to lose so that the child may live. The problem of truth requires love, dialogue and the human touch. We belong together, even if our views are incompatible. Pluralism belongs to the human condition.
To conclude: the pluralism of truth is necessary on account of our contingency and the perspectivism of our knowledge; nobody has a 360 degrees vision. Secondly truth itself is pluralistic because reality itself is pluralistic, not being an objectifiable entity. As subjects we are parts of it, not just spectators but co-actors. This is our human dignity. The unity of truth must not be an obsession. We have to accept our human condition as well as the nature of reality.
* Panikkar, Raimon, The Pluralism of Truth, World faiths insight, New Series 26, October 1990, p7-16
(German theologian, b.1928)
The Western view of truth is rooted on two different concepts of truth: the Greek and the Israelitic. The Greek word for truth, aletheia, consists in letting something be seen as it is, not to conceal anything. This truth is not subject to becoming and change, it is not historical but timeless. The Hebrew word for truth is emeth, that is, reliability and faithfulness. A person’s words are emeth to the extent that they prove to be reliable, time and again. Emeth is not timeless truth but historical truth that will show itself in the future. True being proves its stability through a history whose future is always open. The constancy of the biblical God is not available in advance, but from time to time is disclosed in retrospect in a new way at every historical stage. One can be certain of the future only in the trustful self-surrender of faith, grounded in the experience of the past faithfulness of God.
In the modern history of Western thought, two fundamental changes took place in the conception of truth. Firstly, the knowledge of truth came to be regarded no longer as a matter of consent and passive reception, but as the creative act of man. The subject is the source of truth. The new conviction about the creative character of thought inaugurates the ‘subjectivization’ of truth. Secondly, the conception of truth in the West came to be affected by the rise of historical thought. It became clear since the age of the great journeys in the seventeenth century that truth has another form for different peoples and ages. If reference to the unity of everything real is essential to truth, then it cannot simply deal with the present world but embrace other cultures of distant times and places. The unity of thought now can only be thought of as the history of truth, and that means that truth itself has a history and that its essence is the process of that history. Historical change itself must be thought of as the essence of truth.
It is Hegel that gave the most significant attempt at a solution of this problem. According to him truth is not to be found already existing as a finished product, but instead thought of as history, as process. The truth of the whole will only emerge at the end of history. According to Pannenberg, Hegel’s thesis comes close to the biblical understanding of truth in two respects. First, by the fact that truth is not timeless and unchangeable but a process, second, by the fact that the unity of the process will become manifest only at the end. The trouble with Hegel is that he undertstood his own position as the end of history. He had no longer an eschatology before him. In “contemporizing” eschatology he destroyed it.
It is Pannenberg’s conviction that the Hegelian turning point in the historical and eschatological conception of truth is of great importance for the understanding of truth in Christian theology. Not only does it re-actualize the biblical concept of historical truth, it shows that it is inadequate for Christian theology to regard itself as the unfolding of a truth entrusted to it in advance as complete. The truth of the faith is not given to theology in advance for the simple reason that it is still in dispute in the history of Christianity and so it is the object of Christian theology. The historicity of Christianity affects its content. Its theology is not the unfolding of a truth already there. The truth of faith is still in the making, still in dispute, because truth is eschatological. Until the eschaton, truth will by its own nature always remain provisional and truth claims contestable.
Therefore, theology. like all human knowledge, is provisional. It simply cannot pack into formulas the truth of God. The future alone is the focal point of ultimate truth. As a result. all dogmatic statements are hypotheses to be tested for coherence with other knowledge. This, Pannenberg claims, is in accordance with the Scriptures, which declare that only at the end of history is the deity of God unquestionably open .
* Pannenberg, Wolfart, Basic Questions of Theology, SCM Press, London, 1967, p.1-25, 1992, p.40-74
(Contemporary American historian of Christianity)
Truth doesn’t evolve, it has a Source: it is preserved through the transmission of faith
There are two ways to think about truth. One way to think about truth, is that truth evolves. People learn more, become more enlightened, and over time get closer to ultimate truth. It’s a dynamic and unpredictable process.
The other way to think about truth is that truth decays. In this model, truth has a source, and the closer one is to the source, the closer one is to ultimate truth. Conversely, the farther one gets from the source (for example, with the passage of time), the farther one moves from ultimate truth. Left on its own, human understanding of truth would atrophy. Therefore, truth must be intentionally preserved.
The early Christians believed that truth does not evolve. They believed that ultimate truth had a source – God, of course – but perfectly embodied in Jesus Christ. Taking Christ as the Source of truth (or even Truth incarnate), the logical conclusion would be that the closer one is to Christ, the closer one is to ultimate truth. And as one moves through time, farther and farther away from the Source, truth must be preserved, or it would be lost. In the early Church, the preservation of truth over time was defined as Apostolic Succession. The apostles who knew Christ personally preserved the authentic teachings of Jesus, and taught their own disciples, who became the next generation of Church leaders.
Interestingly, however, this did not lead the early Christians to a doctrine of sola Scriptura. In fact, apostolic succession existed even before there was a New Testament. For the early Church, the apostolic documents that made up the New Testament were a part of apostolic succession, and ultimately part of the Tradition of the Church. But the Church’s Tradition is bigger than Scripture. A case in point is the doctrine of the Trinity. The Church struggled to explain the Trinity, and it was only clarified (to a certain extent) when the leaders of the Council of Nicea realized that they had to go beyond the Bible to find a word to describe the relationship of the Father and the Son (the word is ‘consubstantial’). Since all of the mutually exclusive interpretations were based on the same Scriptures, a creed was written to express the authoritative interpretation, and this preserved truth for future generations.
I have to admit, I’m in the same camp with the early Christians. Truth doesn’t evolve, truth has a Source, and truth is preserved through the transmission of faith from one generation to the next. That’s what religion is. That doesn’t mean that we can’t find better ways to talk about, but it does mean that there are certain conclusions of previous generations that cannot be changed.
See Internet Jim Papandrea
Parain’s work is a denunciation of the deep perversity of language which distracts man from reality. He treats language as a metaphysical problem: is our language the instrument of lie or of truth? He notices that whenever one speaks one gives privilege to one particular possibility of asserting something against the multiplicity of other possibilities. Everything we say and think is limited, finite and set apart from all other possibilities. Only one possibility is kept and the others are removed or postponed. The chasm between language and reality is so deep that any affirmation scarcely amounts to one.
Parain denounces the unfortunate duplicity of language. No doubt language allows us to communicate but in uniting us it also betrays us. It gives us the illusion that we deliver some truth, whereas we deliver to others the part of us that is most impersonal, which is the only part that can be said. Language does not express the self but submits it to its order. Language belongs to another order than reality. The rift between language and reality renders the correctness of speech most improbable. Language is made more for fictions and lies and for competing with reality through simulations, rather then reflecting truth.
Still Parain thinks that this state of affairs is inadmissible because language exists for the institution of truth and justice. His basic position is : it is impossible to say everything. Each of us, taken apart, is unable to say all what he should say. Nonetheless it is necessary that all be said. After all one can\'t live without words, explains Parain, because talking equals thinking, and thinking talking, and there is no life without thought. It is not a question of speaking or not speaking, but of speaking well. Speaking demands an ascetic discipline, detachment. One has to understand, for one thing, that there is no going straight at the truth. One needs to pass by error to establish a rapport with the world in order to rehabilitate the notions of purpose and truth.
* Parain Brice, Recherches sur la nature et les fonctions du langage, Gallimard, 1942
(Italian philosopher, 1918- 1991)
The hermeneutical character of truth
Pareyson’s concern is with the hermeneutical character of truth : the relation of the person and truth, of the finite with the infinite. Rejecting a theory of knowledge who would think in terms of subject and object, Pareyson has attempted to show that "except in science, the objectivity of truth is not impersonal, because the enunciation of a truth always contains the personal way". For him what is personal is neither subjective nor arbitrary. This means that it is involved in the process of endless interpretation of a truth that cannot be taken beyond any singular point of view or any historical context. The truth cannot be understood once and for all in a system dominated by the reason that considers the possession of truth as the fulfillment of freedom. Truth, indeed, cannot be disassociated from its interpretation which is not part of the truth or a partial truth but the truth itself personally owned .
The question for Pareyson is to be wary of the objectivizing character of philosophy, of its mode of conceptualization which privileges reason in regard to truth. He makes the distinction between ‘expressive thought’ and ‘revelatory thought’. The former, refusing the personal commitment in the search of truth with all the risks and possibilities of errors that this implies, prefers to be the expression of a fact, a situation, a historical moment. Revelatory truth, on the contrary, is an inexhaustible truth, a truth as much in what it says than in what it does not say. Such truth is not objectivizable insofar as it is inseparable from its interpretation which is never unique, but personal, historical and therefore always multiple.
*Pareyson Luigi, Verità e interpretazione, 1971
(American educator, b 19390
The “community of truth” : an eternal conversation about things that matter
The mode of knowledge, which Parker calls 'objectivism', 'portrays truth as something we can only achieve by disconnecting ourselves physically and emotionally from the thing we want to know'. It fails to give a proper account of what actually happens. For Parker, 'knowing of any sort is relational, animated by a desire to come into deeper community with what we know’. He asks us to look beyond knowledge inspired either purely by curiosity or by a desire to control. The first, he suggests, 'corresponds to pure speculative knowledge, to knowledge as an end in itself'. The second 'corresponds to applied science, to knowledge as a means to practical ends'. He argues that another kind of knowledge is open to us, 'one that begins in a different passion and is drawn to other ends'. This knowledge originates in compassion or love.
The goal of a knowledge arising from love is the reunification and reconstruction of broken selves and worlds. A knowledge born of compassion aims not at exploiting and manipulating creation but at reconciling the world to itself. The mind motivated by compassion reaches out to know as the heart reaches out to love. Here, the act of knowing is an act of love, the act of entertaining an embracing the reality of the other, of allowing the other to enter and embrace our own. In such knowing we know and are known as members of one community, and our knowing becomes a way of reweaving that community's bonds.
Parker invites us to participate in ‘ the community of truth’. The hallmark of the community of truth is not psychological intimacy or political civility or pragmatic accountability, though it does not exclude these virtues. This model of community reaches deeper, into ontology and epistemology - into assumptions about the nature of reality and how we know it - on which all education is built. The hallmark of a community of truth is in its claim that reality is a web of communal relationships, and we can know reality only by being in community with it.
At the centre of this communal circle is a subject . 'This distinction is crucial to knowing, teaching and learning: a subject is available for relationship; an object is not. When we know the other as a subject, we do not merely hold it at arm's length'. When this is added to the notion of truth that Parker Palmer employs - 'truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline'. we have a very powerful form. The commitment to conversation, and our willingness to engage with others in community 'keeps us in the truth'. Parker J. Palmer argues, further, that such a community is not just held together by our personal powers but also by the power of 'the grace of great things'. By 'great things' he means, 'the subjects around which the circle of seekers has always gathered - not the disciplines that study these subjects, not the texts that talk about them, not the theories that explain them, but the subjects themselves.
* Palmer, Parker J. To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey.1980, San Francisco: HarperOne
(Greek philosopher, early 5th century B.C.)
It is in the famous poem of Parmenides that for the first time in Greek thought truth emerges as a central philosophical topic. He presents his teaching as a divine message that carries one beyond the views of ordinary mortals. Truth is contrasted with the opinions of human beings who rely on sense experience.
Parmenides’ aletheia (truth) is the manifestation of the presence of Being, the mirror of Being in knowledge. Being is a radiating light and this radiation, in so far as thought and expressed, is the truth. Truth is shrouded by mythological chimera, as well as by the phenomenal appearances of sense experience. The truth of being is hidden; it needs to be unconcealed. The truth-searcher must reject the sensible world of experience and common opinion, in which everything is submitted to change and becoming and to the contradictory mixture of being and non being. The way of truth, opposed to the way of opinion, leads to “what is”, to Being, the foundation of the phenomenal world. Only the logos or rational thought has access to Being in its unconcealedness. For most interpreters of Parmenides, truth and what-is are equivalent: both names of Reality and therefore truth shares with Being the fundamental characteristics of unity, wholeness, eternity, unchangeability, perfection.
Parmenides does not explain further: is the deceptive world of appearances distinct from the intelligible Being? Are they two different worlds as Plato’s dualism admitted in ‘reifying’ the intelligible world? Parmenides seems to have placed truth in the human mind, the immanent logos and not in another world.
* See Quilliot , Roland, La Vérité, Paris, Ellipses, 1997, p. 30-33; Stevens, Bernard, Une Introduction Historique a la Philosophie, Paris, Artel, 1999, p.75-77
(French mathematician and apologist, 1623-1662)
1. Pascal is often taken for a sceptic who takes refuge in faith. Man, according to him, is naturally subject to errors. It seems that there is nothing to show him the truth. Pascal was sceptical about both empiricism and rationalism. He considered them flawed epistemological understandings of reality because they are both lacking in foundations. He claimed that the two classical sources of truth, reason and the senses, besides being both wanting in sincerity, deceive each other in turn. The senses mislead reason with false appearances, and receive from reason in their turn the same trickery which they apply to her.
However such a confession of scepticism is only a moment in Pascal’s dialectic. He wants to stress that reason does not have the monopoly of truth. The alternative epistemological approach he proposes to rationalism and empiricism is one that recognizes a form of knowledge in addition to sense perception and reason, namely the knowledge of the heart, which he takes to be the epistemological source of foundational truth. It is by this means that people are able to understand their relationship with God and their relationship with the other.
Pascal’s “way of the heart” is a complex notion, biblical in origin. It comprises instinct, feeling, will, love but it is also a function of knowledge opposed to discursive reason in that it is intuitive. Through it one obtains an immediate, direct perception of the truth. The heart deals with the primary knowledge of first principles. This knowledge which is the foundation of rational truths is immediately intuited, and evident without the need of proofs and demonstrations. When the heart is illumined by grace, it is faith. Pascal writes:“ This is what faith is: God sensitive to the heart, not to reason”.
2. In a famous fragment Pascal distinguishes three orders: the order of bodies, the order of minds and the order of charity. “The infinite distance of bodies to minds reflects the even more infinite distance of minds to charity, because it is supernatural”. The bodily greatness is the proper of kings, people endowed with power and riches; the greatness of the mind belongs to scientists and philosophers; the greatness of charity is the proper of Christ". Pascal forcefully stresses the absolute separation, the radical discontinuity that divides the three orders. From the sum of all bodies, not a single thought can emerge; from bodies and minds together no movement of charity is possible. The access to the truth is possible only through the order of charity. Charity is the key that unlocks the door of Truth. “Truth outside charity is not God”. Pascal agrees with St Augustine’s idea: “Non intratur in veritatem nisi per caritatem”
3. Pascal’s wager and truth.
Pascal’s wager deals with the Catholic Church’s doctrine of eternal salvation for the believers and eternal perdition for the unbelievers. Pascal’s argument may be sums up as follows. ‘You have everything to gain in accepting the Church’s doctrine, for if it true, you gain eternal life and if it is false, you lose nothing. On the contrary if you are an unbeliever and if the Church is right, infinite misery will follow. So better not to take the risk and choose to be a believer.’
Behind Pascal’s wager (concerned only with the salvation doctrine of the Catholic Church) there is a broader notion of the wager that can apply to belief in God in general or even to belief in any live option. Certain decisions of momentous importance must be made in life but the fact is that there are insufficient grounds for discerning rationally where the truth lies. The attitude of the agnostic is untenable for one cannot simply avoid to make vital decisions which carry with them momentous consequences. Therefore it seems that the only possible solution is in Pascal’s “way of the heart” according to which where “the head cannot decide, the heart must take over”. Where the course one should follow in critical and indispensable options is unsupported by the truth of facts or the truths reason, an emotional decision about it is most appropriate. There is much to gain and little to lose.
* Pascal, Blaise, Pensées, Paris, Garnier, 1964, p.147-148; see Gardner, Martin, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, Oxford University Press, 1985, p.217-219; Verneaux, Roger, Histoire de la philosophie Moderne, Paris, Beauchesne, 1958, p.37-50
(Indian founder of yoga philosophy, c. 200 BC)
The only dependence should be to the Truth, which is within every individual
Yoga Philosophy maintains that the human mind can be both a valuable tool and a source of suffering. Patanjali defines the Yoga state as having a mind that is satvic, stable, and able to focus. He chooses the phrase ‘Citta Vritti Nirodha’ (the cessation of mental turbulence) to describe the mind that can experience the truth, consciousness, and joy - Sat-chit-ananda - which is, according to Yoga, our true nature. But because the mind is Prakriti, it can also be rajasic or tamasic. Such an imbalanced mind is prone to misperception, resulting in sorrow, discomfort and disease. And this pain is real. Unlike non-dualism, where separateness and sorrow are seen as illusory, Yoga sees everything as real. Suffering, sickness and sadness are true realities, which can only be replaced by other realities, preferably, comfort, wellness, and joy.
The aim of the Yoga-Sutras is to achieve wholeness by refining the individual parts and clarifying their relationships. These parts are all inter-connected, so that refinement in one area will create improvement in the others. Therefore, mastering the body by using slow, deep breathing and comfortable postures (Asana), is essential to focus the mind and brighten the emotions.
The practice of Yoga has been linked to the Indian philosophical system called Samkya Yoga. Thus while Yoga is the practice, Samkya is the theory. Though Yoga is linked to this philosophy, it is important to note that Yoga recognizes that there is Truth in each religious tradition and that each soul is where it needs to be to evolve. Yoga does not require submission to a set of doctrines or to a particular individual or temple. Instead, it strives to develop independence in the individual, rather than dependence upon something that is external. The only dependence should be to the Truth, which is within each and every individual. It is just eclipsed by our thoughts and emotions. One need to get the self out of the way in order to see our true Self.
* The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with Commentary by Swami Venkatesananda", Swami Venkatesananda, Divine Life Society, India, 1998
(Contemporary American writer)
The three stages of truth. No truth in belief systems.
It would appear to be an indelible human trait that the 'truth' about all issues goes through three distinct phases known colloquially as "the three stages of truth". During the first stage, the issue goes unnoticed and is ignored. The second stage is characterised by a period of vehement denial. The third stage witnesses the truth about the issue being recognised as self evident.
The reason why 'truth' goes through these three stages is that humans in general are very reluctant to give up their beliefs as to the nature of reality because they have invested a lifetime of expense and effort in arriving at those beliefs. Acknowledging that their perception of reality may no longer be applicable in the light of new evidence usually presents humans with the uncomfortable choice of dispensing with a paradigm that they have become used to - and which has probably worked for them quite satisfactorily to date - in favour of a something new and yet to be properly defined. Few humans have the strength of character to pursue such a course of action as it usually results in considerable personal discomfit associated with a lack of supporting structures around new ideas and a fear of the unknown, not to mention the vociferous ridicule they can expect from their contemporaries towards anything new. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that those who question society's prevailing orthodoxy are by definition dissenters who, by "rocking the boat", tend to threaten the very lifestyle, comfort and income of those around them who hold to the prevailing orthodox position. It is for this reason why dissenters have been relentlessly pursued and persecuted throughout history by their contemporaries.
Most humans currently live their lives in the realm around the belief systems of others, be that of their parents', peers', mentors' or society's, and because of this they unwittingly give up their ability (and responsibility) to control their experience of reality from within this realm. For this reason it is very important that each individual comes to his/her own conclusions about all matters in general and spirituality in particular, rather than blindly embracing the views of others. The more conscious a person becomes of this process, the richer their experience. It is for this reason most mystics throughout the ages have said the same thing regarding the primary task facing all Human Beings - namely that they learn to know themselves. (i.e. "Know Thyself") and through the auspices of that process eventually re-discover who they really are, namely that they are an inseparable extensions of the Whole.
* See Internet Paterson Alex
American website on dialogue about religions
What one would expect from a TRUE religion (and cannot find it)
The one true religion would be:
*Universal. This is one of the most important ones. Any true religion, any faith that was inspired by an all-powerful, benevolent cosmic deity, would transcend barriers of culture, language, national origin, race, ethnicity, and so on. Given what we have learned from modern science – that all humans are fundamentally the same at the genetic and cognitive levels – it only makes sense that, if God wanted to send a message to us, he would send it to all of us. Many currently existing religions disqualify themselves by this standard: they are clearly the product of a particular culture, people, or period in human history *Morally and ethically blameless. This is another standard that immediately disqualifies a large majority of all the religions humans have ever invented. Many of the bloodiest massacres and most terrible atrocities in history were carried out by people who claimed to believe in a loving and merciful god. Throughout human history, the pattern repeats: most religions start out as advocates of peace and tolerance when they are initially small and weak. Once they gain numbers and secular power, they become repressive, absolutist movements, dominated by fundamentalists who impose their wills on the minds of their followers. If God founded a religion, he would not allow its name and his to be dragged through the mud by letting radicals commit atrocities in his name.
*Relevant to today. A true religion would also possess holy books or teachings which apply to modern situations. The Bible and other holy books contain very detailed rules about issues that are no longer relevant today *Not opposed to science. Over the past several hundred years, science has vastly changed our understanding of the cosmos. Most religions initially denounced these discoveries as direct attacks on God’s sovereignty, only coming to accept them reluctantly long after the evidence was too overwhelming to deny. A case in point is the Roman Catholic church’s official apology to Galileo three hundred years after his death. Indeed, many fundamentalist groups are still fighting a rear-guard action against science today, especially when it comes to the evolution of life on Earth. A true religion would not strike such an uneasy truce with science, but would gladly join in to further the pace of scientific discovery and would accept new knowledge wholeheartedly, strong in its faith that learning how God creates can only ennoble him/her/it.
*Continually updated. The pattern is always the same: the great prophets and deities are always in the past, always retreating further away into history. All the miraculous events like the parting of the Sea of Reeds, the resurrection of Jesus or the ascension of Mohammed occurred in the past, beyond the reach of scientific scrutiny. It only makes sense that a true religion, if such a thing existed, would not be a static thing established and set in stone for all time; it would be a dynamic, constantly evolving way of life, continually being revised and modified to stay alive and relevant *Logical. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, nothing can happen without his full knowledge and consent. If he is omnibenevolent, he will never allow pointless suffering. If he is an all-wise entity, he has real purposes for everything he does. A true religion would not ignore these simple facts.
In short, no religion stands out from the pack; none is obviously different from any of the others. They are all the same: they are laced with outdated or outright barbaric rules of morality, their histories are steeped in blood and violence, their leaders use the same fallacious appeals to faith and popularity to control their flocks, and they all put forward dubious miracles or unverifiable historical accounts as corroboration of their claims.
* See Internet Patheos, a website on the topic of religions
(Czech philosophical phenomenologist, 1907-1977)
Truth is the correlate of freedom and freedom is the responsibility for truth
Patocka is a philosopher of freedom. Freedom, for him, is neither arbitrary action nor disinterest. Freedom is rather a function of truth. Yet truth is not a question of the merely theoretical order. Rather, truth is in turn the correlate of freedom: “Truth is the internal struggle of a human being for her/his essential freedom, for the internal freedom which the human as human possesses in her/his depth, independently of what she/he is at the level of facts. Truth is the question of the authenticity of human.” Understood in this way, human existence, in conformity to its essence, prescribes to itself the responsibility to search for truth; thus freedom is the responsibility for truth. That is why truth understood in its primordial sense is not theoretical contemplation, but an ethical relation to human freedom of the practical order: “Truth can only be grasped in action, and only a being who acts effectively (which does not simply ‘reflect’ an objective process) can enter into relation with truth.”
Truth is not passive contemplation but active search for sense and its first step consists of critical reflection on the situation where a human engages herself/himself. “We cannot attain truth on our situation except by following the course of critique, by way of critical reflection.” Thus a human’s responsibility for truth requires her/him to reflect on her/his situation in a critical manner such that she/he will be able “to modify, to transform her/his situation into a conscious and elucidated situation, which as such will be leading a way towards the truth of the situation.”
*See Erazim Kohak: Jan Patocka: Philosophy and Selected Writings (Paperback), The University of Chicago Press, 1999
( American contemporary legal theory philosopher)
Law and truth: law makes things true in its own eyes
1. Patterson argues that legal conventions create, inform, and support judgments of legal truth. Legal claims can be true in the eyes of the law even if they are not true in the eyes of the morally sensitive layperson or lawyer. The point of Patterson’s approach is not to deny the truths that law produces but to face them squarely, acknowledge them as real things with real consequences for human life. He takes a strongly conventionalist line because he deems important to understand the proliferation of the power of legal truths not as mere defect or imperfection extraneous to law but as a central feature of what law is and what law does. Law, he argues, is an interpenetrating set of social conventions, and therefore statements of law can be true by virtue of those conventions.
2. One might think that the problem with law's power is that it compromises one's ability to understand what is true, because what is true from the standpoint of law is not really true. Therefore, when one sees things as law sees them, one is deluded or one’s perception is distorted in some way. But, argues Patterson, it is important not to reduce all of law's ideological effects to distortion or misrepresentation.
Law exercises its power over people by creating reality and proliferating truth, not simply by misrepresenting reality and distorting truth. Of course it is obvious that the kind of truth and reality that law creates is not the only sort of truth, or knowledge, or reality that people care about or think important. There are many other forms of knowledge acquisition in the world, and many other conventions through which and purposes for which people try to determine what is true or false, try to gather and assess knowledge. These other forms of life also produce knowledge, and things that are true and false from their standpoint. Legal knowledge can come into conflict with these other forms of knowledge. One might ask: how is it possible that things can both be true and yet come into conflict? The answer is that things that are true from the standpoint of one set of social practices or social conventions are not necessarily true from the standpoint of another. The practices may be looking at very different things and they may be asking very different sorts of questions. The reason why law can come into conflict with other forms of truth and other forms of knowledge is that truth and knowledge are shaped by institutional purposes. Legal knowledge exists to regulate and declare what is legal or not legal. Medical or scientific or philosophical knowledge exists for other purposes. Therefore, it is possible for something to be judged true from the standpoint of law and not be judged true from the standpoint of other kinds of knowledge. All these practices may produce true statements, but these true statements may have no obvious connection to each other and they may even be in conflict. It is important to understand that the conflict between the truths of law and other truths, when it occurs, does not violate the laws of logic. It is not a logical contradiction but a clash of institutions and purposes.
* Patterson Dennis, Law and Truth, (Oxford University Press 1996).
(Contemporary American spiritual teacher)
Revealed and Rational Truth will always butt heads
We see that many people mistake their truth for the Truth. The religious, atheistic and agnostic are all dedicated to living out their version and in the wake of their conviction judging others. Wittingly or not they are engaged in trying to convince others of the rightness of what they believe.
The atheistic and agnostic are each made whole in their denial, their "no," or "maybe yes, maybe no," whereas for the religious it is the "Yes" of that ecstatic moment which brings together all the parts of themselves—intellectual, emotional, instinctive. In time, this moment having passed, they find themselves in a world fraught with temptation, to which, again and again, they must say "No." Isn't the feeling and fear of hypocrisy, of not living what they believe, at the root of their anger toward others and the world at large for not having accepted their truth?
If one has not accepted the truth of a religion, Revealed Truth based upon mystical revelation, then one lives out a Rational Truth based on science and philosophy. Where Revealed Truth is fixed and immutable, Rational Truth is a moving target. Scientists and philosophers, those great cerebral thinking machines, have wrestled with the subject ever since the first question—"Why?"—arose. No matter how subtle the scientific discovery, no matter how ingenious the philosophical move, it is only a matter of time until it is countered by still another discovery or move.
Revealed and Rational Truth will always butt heads, the immutable against the mutable. Those in one camp of thought and belief will always see the other as limited—the scientific by its endless questioning, and the religious by its roots in the suprarational. For those living the Revealed life, there are no more questions. For those living the Rational, it can be on a very high intellectual level, but for most people it devolves to the purely personal. They live a secular and personal version, a "Truth" based on what belief is present at any given moment. And rooted as it is in the defense and enhancement of the person, it is always biased and subjective.
* Patterson William Patrick, "The Question of Truth," Revue 3 Millénaire, Paris, France, #81 2006
(St Paul the apostle, 5-62)
Jesus Christ, not philosophy, is the ground of truth
According to Paul, the philosophers were men who were always on the “trail of truth,” ever in pursuit of it, but not really eager to arrive at the truth. It was the search for truth which was more enjoyable than the acceptance of it. Somewhere in Athens was an altar, dedicated to “an unknown god.” To this altar Paul made reference. The altar was just that—an altar, not an idol. This altar had no idol because neither the name nor the attributes of the god was known. It was like the tomb of the unknown soldier. Paul was starting with his audience from their own point of reference—that altar dedicated to the “unknown god.” Paul tells this group that the God of whom he is speaking is the “god” who was unknown to them.
Paul’s point, in referring to the “unknown god” of the Athenians is that the religion of these people is obviously not adequate, for they are looking for yet another “god”. Paul promises to tell them what they do no know—who that God is. The God who was, to them “unknown” is a God who has made Himself known. If God is unknown to these Athenians, it is not because God has not revealed Himself to men, but because men have closed their eyes to His existence and character. The “unknown god” should not have been unknown, and His identity is now made known—Jesus, the Son of God, raised from the dead.
For Paul those who have come to know Christ do not need to venture off track into the land of speculation and philosophical seeking for truth, as though it were hidden and had to be found out by human reasoning. Truth is centered and concentrated in Christ, and when men are found by Him, they have the truth and need not seek for it as from some other source. The more they know of Christ, the more they possess of the truth. And so it is that the futility and foolishness of the philosophical approach to truth is evident to the Christian. Paul refused to cater to the philosophers, and he proclaimed only the gospel, for that was the way to finding the truth and thereby being free.
To the Colossians (2:6-10) Paul wrote: “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”.
For Paul Jesus Christ is the ground of truth, and "philosophy is empty deceit.". Paul suggests to the Colossian Christians that they are exposed to great peril for there is nothing more dangerous to Christian faith and truth than philosophy.
See St Luke Acts of the Apostles, 15.36-17.34, St Paul’s letter to the Colossians
(American self-help author, b.1971)
Truth is whatever you’re experiencing right now: it is the only place you can have certainty
All the dates and locations you have stored in your memory came from your perceptions. Maybe you experienced those events directly, or maybe you learned about them from another source. Either way that knowledge came via your perceptions. So it stands to reason that your entire knowledge of space-time comes through your perceptions. Hence, anytime you consider an event in space-time, you’re considering that event as filtered through your perceptions. You’re considering that event relative to yourself.
We like to think of objective frames of reference as things that exist outside of ourselves. When you say, “Let’s be objective about this,” it’s a suggestion for everyone to step outside their personal perspectives and to consider reality from a perspective that exists outside of them. In truth this is merely an illusion, however, since objectivity is something you had to learn about through your subjective senses.
Even if you try to define an event that exists outside yourself, you’re still being self-referential (i.e. “outside of me”), and therefore you’re still being subjective.
The point here is that all events are both self-referential and subjective. You cannot have an event which is completely outside of you. You are in fact a necessary component of every event that occurs. You are the observer.
In objective reality we must deal with the duality of truth and falsehood. There can be true events and false events, and you can’t always tell the difference. If I tell you a story, you can’t be immediately sure if the story is true or false. Did it really happen or not? You can never know for certain because truth is something that exists outside your perceptions. Therefore it is unknowable. Consequently, you can never be aligned with truth as long as you believe in objectivity. The more objective you are, the more doubt you have.
Now how do we define truth from a subjective perspective? First of all, truth can only exist in the present moment. Truth is whatever you’re experiencing right now. That is the only place you can have certainty. Your experience of your thoughts and feelings right now is true. You can trust your subjective experience. It is real because you perceive it as real. The now is your truth. This is the best place to ground yourself. You can trust this moment. It is real.
When you ground yourself in the present moment, you can live in a state of certainty. You can know that your present moment experience is real. Consequently, you can become strongly aligned with truth when you hold to a subjective frame of reference. You can gradually let go of doubt and feel very centered in your experience of reality.
* Sreve Pavlina Personal Development For Smart People.. 2008, Hay House
(Contemporary American Unitarian Universalist pastor)
Living humbly and gracefully in the midst of many truths
When we speak of the One Truth, are we actually speaking the truth? We can fall back on the notion that each of us have a small piece of the One Truth, but I’m not convinced atheists and theists are looking at light from the same star, or climbing the same mountain. I’m not convinced Buddhists and Christians are touching the same elephant. I do not think all religions, at their core, are ultimately the same. They aren’t. And I think that’s OK. But that is evidence for me that there are many truths, not one.
Is it one truth, or many truths? I find compelling evidence for both. The many truths collide. And when they do, we are all too familiar with examples of people killing each other, of communities being torn apart, of nations going to war. One of the most critical challenges facing human beings today is learning to live humbly and gracefully in the midst of our many truths; learning—though it can be immensely difficult and painful—to encounter the truths of others not as threats, but as opportunities for growing in our understanding of truth, as well as opportunities for the strengthening and healing of our communities, of the nations, of the world.
But this doesn’t just happen. Many of us don’t have the skills to live humbly and gracefully in the midst of many truths, and I include myself in this. When I refer to living humbly and gracefully in the midst of many truths, I’m talking about a capacity to encounter a truth that is different from one’s own, to stay open to that truth long enough to discern its value to the person who holds it and its potential value to you; and then, if there is value to you, to integrate that truth into your own world-view. Living humbly and gracefully in the midst of many truths means living in such a way that you may be transformed by your encounter with another human being or culture—that your truth might change today.
One truth; many truths…. or are there any truths? Could it be that what passes for truth is simply our deep-seeded emotional loyalties rooted in family, religion, culture and politics and sustained by reasoning designed only to win arguments? I don’t believe so, but even that is an emotional response. Maybe we never know for sure. Given the role of emotions, given the flaws in our reasoning, maybe we can never say for sure what is absolutely true. But it seems to me that to live in this world we must at some point anchor ourselves somewhere. We must at some point know who we are, where we stand and where our loyalties lie. We must at some point be able to say the words, “this I believe.” We must at some point make difficult decisions. And therefore we must be able to express what we think and feel is true. But perhaps knowing that we cannot be sure is the beginning of humble and graceful living in the midst of many truths. Perhaps knowing that we cannot be sure is what enables us to fully encounter the truths of others, to really hear them, to discern their value in our lives, and, in some cases, to be transformed. Perhaps knowing that we cannot be sure is the beginning of peace, is the beginning of justice, is the beginning of love.
*See Internet Joahua Mason Pawelek
(R.C. English author, b.1961)
Revelation helps our reason to open our minds to the fullness of truth
Pontius Pilate’s question is one of the most famous ever asked. It is also one that has proved very difficult for many people to answer. It has baffled and confused some of the world’s most celebrated philosophers. It remains the most important of all questions, the one we must ask in order to make sense of anything else. It is, however, not a question that should only be asked. It must also be answered. It is not merely a rhetorical question to which there is no answer and it must not be asked in the tired and dismissive way in which relativists ask it, as something intrinsically unanswerable and therefore meaningless. Nor is truth synonymous with opinion. They are not the same thing. An opinion may or may not be true. Truth, on the other hand, is always true and can be nothing else. Truth is synonymous with reality; it is the touchstone by which opinion is tested. If opinion fails the test of truth, the opinion should be abandoned.
If truth cannot be dismissed as unknowable, nor can it be affirmed on the basis of blind faith. Something is not true simply because we believe it; nor is it untrue because we don’t believe it. Truth simply is, whether we like it or not, believe it or not, or know it or not. This being so, and since we live within the realm of reality and are subject to its laws, it would be well to understand the laws by which we live.
If the knowledge of truth is the beginning of wisdom and the necessary prerequisite for the living of a life that conforms to reality, the importance of the original question is reaffirmed. The first step in answering the question, “what is truth?”, is to ask the preparatory question: How do we know what is truth? What are the means necessary to achieve the end?
We discover truth through the use of reason and only through the use of reason. There is no irrational path to truth. The so-called mystical paths to truth, such as the experience of the kiss of beauty or the goodness of love, are merely rational paths by another name, and by any other name reason smells as sweet. The good, the true and the beautiful are nothing other than the triune splendour of truth itself, each of which conforms to, and is an expression of, the rational foundations of reality.
The great pagan philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, arrived at the conviction of the existence of the Divine through the use of reason. These great pagans came to an understanding of the natural law through the rational observation of humanity’s place within nature and saw it as a logical and ultimately theological expression of the Divine law.
Although reason leads us to an acceptance of the existence of the Divine, and also to a rudimentary understanding of the Divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, justice, goodness, beauty, truth and love, it cannot tell us much more. In order for our reason to grasp the reality of the Divine on any deeper level, it needs the Divine to reveal itself.
God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture is the means by which our reason comes to understand Him more fully. Ultimately, it is God’s revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ which opens our minds to the fullness of truth and ensures that our faith is rooted in reason.Pilate’s question is answered by Christ in the latter’s assertion that He is the way, the truth and the life. In this revelation of Himself, God shows us that He is not only the Truth but the Reason. He is, furthermore, not only reason as a noun but reason as a verb. He is the reason who is the end of our quest for truth and also the rational means, the Way, by which the reason is discovered.
*See Internet Joseph Pierce
(American evangelical author, b.1952)
Christianity is not just religious truth but truth about total reality: total truth
Is religion a private matter only—personally comforting but publicly irrelevant? In today’s cultural etiquette, it is not considered polite to mix public and private, or sacred and secular. This division is the single most potent force keeping Christianity contained in the private sphere—stripping it of its power to challenge and redeem the whole of culture.
In “Total Truth”, Nancy Pearcey offers a razor-sharp analysis of the public/private split, explaining how it hamstrings our efforts at both personal and cultural renewal. Ultimately it reflects a division in the concept of truth itself, which functions as a gatekeeper, ruling Christian principles out of bounds in the public arena. Pearcey’s message is to teach readers how to liberate Christianity from its cultural captivity. She makes a passionate case that Christianity is not just religious truth but truth about total reality. It is total truth.
She believes that the gospel is true, and that its truth demands obedience. "Once we discover that the Christian worldview is really true, then living it out means offering up to God all our powers--practical, intellectual, emotional, artistic--to live for Him in every area of life. The only expression such faith can take is one that captures our entire being and redirects our every thought. The notion of a secular/sacred split becomes unthinkable. Biblical truth takes hold of our inner being, and we recognize that it is not only a message of salvation but also the truth about all reality”.
She denounces the split in the modern mind that separates "religious" truth from all other truth. This "two-story" division of truth into secular and sacred spheres ultimately undermines the Christian truth claim and leaves believers with nothing more than a claim to "spirituality" and "meaningful experiences" rather than objective truth and biblical authority. All too many Christians fall prey to this kind of thinking.
Too many believers "have absorbed the fact/value, public/private dichotomy, restricting their faith to the religious sphere while adopting whatever views are current in their professional or social circles”.
Christian truth is a comprehensive and unitive whole that produces transformed lives precisely because the Gospel is true. If believers allow Christian truth claims to be pushed into an "upper story" of mere opinion, while suggesting that science and other forms of knowledge deal with "facts," we surrender the integrity of faith itself and are reduced to offering Christianity as a form of spiritual therapy rather than as a message of transforming truth.
* Pearcey Nancy, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton: Crossway Books. 2008.
(British mathemathician and philosopher of science, 1857-1936)
No short cut to truth except through the gateway of scientific method
Karl Pearson presumably speaks for all science when he says, "The goal of science is clear—it is nothing short of the complete interpretation of the universe". It claims that the whole range of phenomena, mental as well as physical—the entire universe—is its field. It asserts that the scientific method is the sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge.
For Karl Pearson “there is no short cut to truth, no way to gain a knowledge of the universe except through the gateway of scientific method”. Science’s certainty is guaranteed by its unique method. The problem with assuming that science’s method (which is uniquely objective) guarantees its certainty, is in defining just what that method is.
Pearson describes scientific method as objective because its practitioners are unbiased by any social prejudices. They simply collect facts, without preconceived notions of what those facts may tell us. From these objectively collected facts one can infer irrefutable theories. Pearson wants science to become the basis of shared values and a unified culture, as the Church had been for medieval Europe.
Pearson's The Grammar of Science expresses the bold claim for the unlimited scope of science. To this he adds a moral vision of scientific method as the very basis for modern citizenship, because it provides standards of knowing that are independent of all individual interests and biases. The vision of impersonal science is among other things a solution to his intensely personal anxieties about egoism.
Science is also, for him, the legitimate object of passion, a release from sectarianism. He praised the virtues of impartiality. Science means the control of individualistic egoism. He held up scientific method as the only proper basis for true, socialist citizenship, since it provided standards of knowledge and belief that were binding on everyone.
* Pearson Karl, The Grammar of Science (1892), Dover Publications, 2004 edition
(French poet and essayist, 1873-1914)
Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui installe une vérité définitive.
Une grande philosophie n’est point celle qui règle les questions une fois pour toutes mais celle qui les pose ; une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui prononce, mais celle qui requiert. Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui rend des arrêts. C’est peut-être celle qui rend des services. C’est en tout cas celle qui introduit des instances. C’est celle qui introduit une inquiétude, qui ouvre un ébranlement..Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle où il n’y a rien à reprendre. C’est celle qui a pris quelque chose. Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui est invincible en raisonnements. Ce n’est pas celle qui une fois, une certaine fois, a vaincu. C’est celle qui, une fois, s’est battue.
Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui est la première en composition. Ce n’est pas celle qui est le premier en dissertation. C’est dans les classes de philosophie que l’on vainc par des raisonnements. Mais la philosophie ne va pas en classes de philosophie.
Une philosophie aussi n’est point une chambre de justice. Il ne s’agit pas d’avoir raison ou d’avoir tort. C’est une marque de grande grossièreté, (en philosophie), que de vouloir avoir raison ; et encore plus de vouloir avoir raison contre quelqu’un. Et c’est une marque de la même grossièreté que d’assister à un débat de philosophie avec la pensée de voir un des deux adversaires avoir tort ou avoir raison..
* Péguy Charles, Extrait de « Notes sur M. Bergson et la philosophie bergsonienne », La Pléiade, pp. 1315-1340.
(Canadian - American philosopher, b. 1933)
No truth can be synthetic
Objectivism – the philosophy that Peikoff shares with Ayn Rand - does not accept the analytic/synthetic dichotomy as valid. Peikoff argues that a concept means all the existents which it integrates. … It subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not yet known. He considers concepts to be open-ended, the meaning of a concept is all of the concretes it subsumes, past, present, and future, including ones that we will never know about.
Peikoff argues that, because "the concept(s) designating the subject in fact includes the predicate from the outset", all sentences are analytic and hence that there is no analytic-synthetic distinction.
The idea behind Peikoff’s claim is that to be is to be necessary; a fact which is true is true unconditionally, and there is no way it can be otherwise. Even though it is possible to imagine the facts as other than they are, the fact that one can imagine the facts as otherwise does not change that they are facts.
Philosophers that try to talk about "contingent truths" are speaking implicitly from the standpoint of someone who thinks they can make reality other than what it is by wishing it so - they feel free to dream up "possible worlds" and thereby argue that ours wasn't necessary since they can imagine the facts to be otherwise.
Peikoff ‘s attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction turns around his conception of "a concept". His position is that a concept of a thing (for example "ice") contains all the characteristics of that thing, in the case of ice all the physical and chemical properties of ice, even those that are still unknown. For Peikoff, a concept subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not-yet-known." He emphasizes the latter: "It is crucially important to grasp the fact that a concept is an 'open-end' classification which includes the yet-to-be-discovered characteristics of a given group of existents." Peikoff’s conclusion is then that it isn't possible to distinguish between analytical and synthetic statements, as any characteristic that is deemed a synthetic truth , is already part of the concept itself, so it follows logically from its definition.
For many critics however Peikoff’s conclusion is fallacious. One may define ‘concept’ to imply all the characteristics, known and yet-to-be-discovered, but a definition necessarily gives only a few essential characteristics. Peikoff silently assumes that a limited definition of a concept automatically implies all the characteristics of that concept, even those that are still unknown. But a definition is not the same as the concept, it is only a label on a box, it doesn't tell us what is in that box. In order to equate the definition with the concept, one would have to state all the properties of that concept explicitly in the definition. In that case one could say that any characteristic follows logically from the definition. But it is of course impossible to give such a complete definition.
* See Rand, A., Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. New York, Meridian, 1990.
(American philosopher, 1839-1914)
1. Peirce is a fallibilist: and that means that, for him,there are no self-authenticating items of knowledge. Knowledge is not based on direct and indubitable intuitions. We must begin with the beliefs we have and be prepared to criticize them, clarify and testing them. No single belief at any time can be regarded as wholly true. Conversely an ingredient of error and obscurity infects each and every one of our beliefs and judgments.
However Peirce’s principle of fallibilism does not entail a denial of objective truth. Truth, for him, consists in the conformity of something independent of one’s thinking to be so. Truth is neither subjective nor identical to the verifiable. But how does one reach the truth? This is Pierce’s problem.
2. Individual thinkers cannot hope to attain the truth; one can only seek it in the community of scientists and philosophers. Only such a process will generate a convergence of beliefs. The theorizing together will tend towards the ‘agreement’ with reality and this agreement is what Peirce calls the truth. The truth is therefore that which emerges from an intersubjective agreement arrived at by an indefinite pursuit of scientific method.
3. However this criteria of truth seems to make truth inaccessible. One can never be sure to be in possession of the truth at any time. But then one should remember that Peirce has adopted a fallibilist standpoint. Nonetheless it does not prevent him to believe that if we remain faithful to sound, rational methods we are able to discover the truth about the universe. Pierce’s optimism inclines him to believe that there is a general drift in the history of human thought which will lead to one general agreement, one catholic consent, one final conclusion.
4. For Pierce the Real is our own reliable interpretation of reality. We have no access to reality except by means of conceptual interpretation. Pragmatically the Real is what thought represents it to be. Reality in its uninterpreted nakedness, is for him a pragmatically meaningless notion, an unknowable. Hence the fundamental idea in Pierce’s theory of truth is that truth cannot be correspondence to a reality that is in any case unknowable. If one can speak of truth, it is about the Real, that is, our own conceptualisation of reality. The criterion of truth is not correspondence but consensus. Pierce’s well known definition of truth is: “The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed upon by all who investigate is what we mean by truth, and the object represented by this opion is real.”(Pierce, Collected papers, 5, ß 407).
5. Pierce thinks that truth can be defined by using the mathematical notion of a limit and the philosophic notion of a community of interpreters, inquirers and confirmers. His use of the mathematical notion of limit has been criticized as naive and unconvincing. Indeed it is difficult to hold that all investigations would necessarily lead to one unique conclusion, to one universal consent at the exclusions of all other views. Still Pierce has made himself clear: he only proposes a clarification of the concept of truth. He does not express the conviction that a final truth is attainable. He wants only to provide a description of the kind of conditions to which the concept applies. In other words truth , for Pierce, is a “regulative idea”. His idea of truth represents the ideal of scientific progress, the ideal of finished scientific knowledge. The existing opinions and statements must be regarded as more or less approximations of these ideal conditions.
6. To understand Pierce’s approach to truth, it is useful to contrast it with Descartes’s approach to the same. Whereas Descartes holds an intuitive, individual and isolationist approach of truth, Pierce’s view of truth has the opposite characteristics of being experimental, social and contextual. According to him:
- a.We have no intellectual intuition of self-evident truths. Any truth must be verified by facts open to inspection.
- b. Moreover truth must be established by public agreement rather than private insight. Truth must be subjected to social verification. “Truth is public”. It is the ideal limit obtained by the agreement and convergence of opinions of the community of qualified investigators.
- c. Because thinking is fundamentally contextualistic, relative to specific socio-historical situations and conceptual interpretations, the provisional truth of statements is affected by this contextuality.
* See H.S. Thayer, Meaning and Action, The Bobbs-Merril C_, New York, 1968, p.120-130; Copleston F. History of Philosophy, Vol.VIII, Burns & Oates, London, 1966, p.304-310
( British (?) monk, 354-420)
Against the doctrine of “orignal sin”: the truth that humanity is born innocent of evil
Pelagius taught that human beings were born without sin and with the freedom to choose to either obey God or disobey God. In his doctrine, Adam sinned, but there was no hereditary transmission of sin or a sinful nature. Each man is on trial himself. In response to the universal nature of sin, Pelagius replies that it is due to wrong education, bad examples, and mankind’s "longstanding habit" of sinning. It seemed to him essential to the very notion of morality that in all sin there is a personal assent, and that without this assent there could be no guilt.
The central tenet of the Pelagian scheme is the affirmation of the self-sufficiency of man’s free will. The fact that men are prone to sin is not inherited from Adam and Eve, the so-called first parents: they acquire it by their own misdeeds. There is no room for original sin. Everything good, and everything evil is not born with human beings but done by them. They are procreated “neutral”, as without virtue, so also without vice, but with a certain capacity for either conduct.
Pelagius did not claim that man cannot do evil, he declared that man is capable of good and evil; he merely tried to protect man from an unjust charge: man is not forced to do evil through a fault of his nature, he does neither good nor evil without the exercise of his will, having always the freedom to do good or evil. Thus man is good and has control over his own destiny. For Pelagius it is impious to say that sin is inherent in nature, because in this way God, the author of nature, is being judged at fault. All sin is to be attributed to the free choice of the will and not to the defects of nature. Consequently he said that heaven is attainable by use of man’s natural faculties alone, since nothing but the free will is needed to practice virtue and keep out of sin. No special help is required to repair what Adam is - wrongly - supposed to have lost. Hence the role of Jesus Christ, as Pelagius saw it, is not in some salvific aspect of his sacrifice but in the example he set by it and in the principles of living which were part and parcel of his teaching.
* Pelagius, Pelagius' Commentary on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans,. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988
(Australian R.C. Cardinal, b. 1941)
Conscience is not the arbiter of truth and has no primacy over truth
According to Cardinal Pell the value of conscience lies not in conscience itself but in the objective truth to which conscience looks for answers. It is the truth that is primary, and it is from the truth that conscience takes its value. He has expressed concern at the misrepresentation of “the doctrine of the primacy of conscience.” He even went on to say that the concept “should be quietly ditched.”
Conscience has no primacy, he writes, truth has primacy. The Word of God has primacy. He believes that the mischievous doctrine of the primacy of conscience has been used to white-ant the Church, used to justify many un-catholic teachings. Some have contrasted Pell’ thesis with the Second Vatican Council’s document on Freedom of Religion which states the following: “Truth is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and our social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue. In the course of these, people explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that we are to adhere to it. On our part, we perceive and acknowledge the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all our activities we are bound to follow our conscience faithfully, in order that we may come to God, for whom we were created. It follows that we are not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to our conscience. Nor, on the other hand are we to be restrained from acting in accordance with our conscience, especially in matters religious.”
Yes, writes Pell, we're always obligated to follow our consciences. But, if we're serious in our Catholic faith, we also need to acknowledge that conscience does not "invent" truth. Rather, conscience must seek truth out, and conform itself to the truth once discovered — no matter how inconvenient. Conscience is never just a matter of personal opinion or private preference. It never exists in a vacuum of individual sovereignty. It is not a pious alibi for doing what we want, or what might get us elected. Pell affirms that our conscience must be bound to the truth. If we find that our opinions, our desires or our conduct are out of line with truth, then we have to take whatever steps are necessary to conform ourselves to that truth. We can view our own conscience as a source of truth about the world, but we can’t view it as the definer or arbiter of truth. Pell deplores that “For many people today, conscience suggests freedom to judge God’s law by our own personal resources and the right to reject the notion or reformulate this law as we think best.”
Conscience looks for real answers to our questions; and where can it look except to the truth? But then the value of conscience surely lies not in conscience itself but in the objective truth to which conscience looks for answers. It is the truth that is primary, and it is from the truth that conscience takes its value. Why would we take conscientious belief seriously at all unless we believed it represented access to objective truth?
* Pell George (Cardinal), Newman and the Drama of True and False Conscience , Zenith daily dispatch, Chicago, 2005
(English mathematical physicist, b.1931)
How "real" are the objects of a mathematician's world? From one point of view it seems there can be nothing real about them at all. Mathematical objects are just concepts and mental idealizations that mathematicians make. Can they be other than mere arbitrary constructions of the human mind? At the same time there often does appear to be some profound reality about these mathematical concepts, going quite beyond the mental deliberations of any particular mathematician. In other words: is mathematics invention or discovery? When mathematicians come upon their results, are they just producing elaborate mental constructions that have no actual reality? Or are mathematicians really uncovering truths which are, in fact, already "there" - truths whose existence is quite independent of the mathematicians' activities?
Penrose views the mathematical world as having an existence of its own, independent of us and timeless. Mathematics to him is completely clear-cut; the statements are either true or false. Whether one can see that they are true or false is a subtle difference, but the truth or falsity is absolute and independent of any formal standpoint we take.
He is convinced that a coherent explanation of reality requires the existence of a timeless realm of eternal thoughts. The view that mathematical concepts could exist in such a timeless, ethereal sense was put forward in ancient times by the great Greek philosopher Plato. Consequently, this view is frequently referred to as mathematical Platonism. This is the reason why Penrose is sometimes called "a twenty-first-century follower of Plato". Now Plato spoke of truth, beauty and morality, but in Penrose's view, truth in its purest form tends to be mathematical truth. However, he is open to a broader form of Platonism in which morality and beauty have fundamental elements which are also absolute and independent of individuals or cultures.
According to Penrose mathematical concepts seem to posses a deep reality, which reaches beyond the discussions of mathematicians. It is as if human thought is guided towards an external truth, a truth that has its own proper reality which is partially revealed to each one of us. People who feel that science is a matter of opinion and social construct don't understand enough of science to appreciate the question. Although there is an important influence from society, and although a lot of physical theories are tremendously fashion-driven, there is still a truth 'out there' and one needs sophisticated mathematics to get at that truth.
* Penrose, Roger, The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind, Oxford University Press, 1990.
(American philosopher, 1891-1972)
“World hypotheses” provide a framework for approaching the truth.
According to Pepper, metaphysical theories are specific kinds of belief that attempt to embrace all facts and to organize them within a coherent system. He calls them ‘World Hypotheses’ or unrestricted hypotheses, as distinct from the restricted hypotheses characteristic of the special sciences.
Pepper pins down four principal metaphysical systems or "world hypotheses,” designating them "formism," "mechanism," "contextualism," and "organicism." Organicism is idealism, mechanism is naturalism, contextualism is pragmatism, and formism is realism. Pepper tried to show that each world hypothesis derives its organization and unity from a central guiding model or analogy that he called a "root metaphor," such as, for instance, the idea of a machine for mechanism.
A world hypothesis "is one that all the facts will corroborate, a hypothesis of unlimited scope". By "unlimited scope" is meant the capacity of the hypothesis to explain every fact, permitting no isolated fact to fall outside it. Each "world hypothesis" is autonomous, and, Pepper says, the interpretations of each make such a convincing picture that, if one hasn't compared them with parallel interpretations of rival hypotheses, one will inevitably accept them as indubitable and self-evident.
He raises the question of whether a more adequate world theory can be developed by selecting "the best" in each theory and organizing these bits with a synthetic set of categories, and he answers that the eclectic method is mistaken in principle in that it adds no factual content; such mixing is almost inevitably sterile and confusing.
In Pepper's view all knowledge begins with data -- observations that something is the case -- but must proceed to what he calls 'danda' or refined hypothesis which reveals why something is the case. It is in the field of ‘danda’ that world hypotheses apply. They do not apply to the mere data of common sense observation. We do not need a world hypothesis to know that the cat is on the mat but we do need one to understand why the lightning struck our neighbor's house, for example. The correspondence theory of truth applies to the domain of common sense observation -- to the basic data with which we must begin -- while the coherence theory of truth applies to our explanations and understandings (danda) as to why or how the data are what they are.
Rather than drawing his epistemological line between an external, alien reality and human consciousness, Pepper draws it between the recognition that something is the case (data) and the explanation of why it is the case (danda). He includes the outer, the external world, as a part of the given data. So the explanation of the how or why of the data, though relative to a particular world hypothesis, is part of our cognition of the original object.
Pepper is foundationalistic to the extent that he insists that we must begin with experience, the given, the data which is secure, what is real. But we may question any of its qualities and we must go on to ask how and why. In doing this we move into the rationalistic mode in so far as we adopt a world hypothesis.
Complete certainty is not possible for statements in the "danda" category, statements that presuppose a world hypothesis. Each of the world hypotheses provides a framework for approaching the truth. Starting with our experience of something, a transaction with something external, the truth about that thing is achieved by successively applying the various world hypotheses to answer the how and why questions. When we have done this, looked at the object from all sides, we have come as close as we can to fully understanding it.
*Pepper Stephen, World Hypotheses: a study in evidence, U. of California Press, 1942
(Belgian philosopher, 1912-1984)
Perelman is the founder of the ‘new rhetoric’. His main idea is to deny to mathematics and formal logic their role of universal model for solving problems and reaching the truth. The most frequent use of reasoning has little to do with formalised logic but much more with the imprecision and vagueness of common sense notions and the presuppositions of language-users. Argumentative rhetoric, rather than logic, is the way used by speakers who endeavour to obtain the agreement of an audience. Their aim is to convince others about human options with human premisses and consequences and thus reach a certain amount of universality that Perelman calls the ‘reasonable’ in contrast with the ‘rational’.
Perelman’s distinction between the terms ‘rational’ and ‘reasonable’ is central to his thinking. The rational and the reasonable are different on account of their relation to truth. What is rational seeks necessary truths and so favours demonstration, whereas what is reasonable aims for the probable, the acceptable and as such, requires argumentation. From a traditional point of view philosophical discourse is discourse addressed to reason, considered as an invariable, non-temporal faculty, common to all human beings. Understood in this way philosophical discourse aims at abstract, universal truths, apprehensible by all who possess the faculty. The rational corresponds to mathematical and logical reason which knows a priori certain evident and immutable truths. The necessary truths grasped by reason owe nothing to dialogue or to experience. They do not depend on either education, culture or epoch.
Perelman assails this narrow idea of reason. He contrasts the rational which has self-evidence as truth criterion to the reasonable which has acceptability as truth criterion. He proposes an understanding of truth in terms of the probable in addition to the certain. Unlike reason that aims at absolute truth, the reasonable aims at a truth relative and acceptable to the community. Unlike abstract reasoning the reasonable depends on the time, place and context. It is an effort towards more coherence, more clarity and agreement. What is reasonable is not certain for it cannot be determined independently of context, of other minds and their belief systems. The reasonable is the field of argumentation and deliberation and by their very nature deliberation and argumentation are opposed to necessity and self-evidence, since no one deliberates or argues against what is self-evident. The reasonable corresponds to the truths obtained by the use of ‘rhetorical’ reason. ‘Rational’ reason is univocal, clear, compelling, as it has its root in the soil of eternal, transcendent and evident truths. In contrast ‘rhetorical’ reason provides a progressive access to truths acquired by human beings through dialogue, argumentation and deliberation. Much more than the abstract truths of rational reason, they are the human truths vital for the life of individuals and communities.
* Perelman Chaim, Traité de l’Argumentation, P.U.F., Paris , 1958; Le Champ de l’Argumentation, P.U.B., Bruxelles, 1969
(Contemporary American professor of philosophy)
The question of religious truth: “Positive Nihilism”
We can identify at least four general positions one can take on the question of religious truth. 1) Exclusivism. This is the position that truth, the truth, belongs to one religion alone, and that all other religions that differ from it are simply false.
2) Inclusivism. This is the position that the truth belongs to one religion alone, but it allows that differing religions may express that same truth -- though less explicitly, clearly, or adequately. 3) Pluralism. This is the view that all religions are more or less equally true, or equally valid ways of expressing the truth. 4) Finally, Nihilism. This is the view that none of the religions is "true" in any genuine, literal sense, and so the problem of their differences just goes away.
So which position should one adopt? Exclusivism seems outrageous. Inclusivism is perhaps slightly less offensive but no less outrageous, philosophically speaking. Pluralism completely dispenses with any reasonable conception of truth.
That would leave Nihilism -- which in fact comes in two varieties. Negative Nihilism denies the literal truth of all religions and adds a negative appraisal of the role and value of religious belief.
But then there is Positive Nihilism. This position denies the literal truth of all the religions but does not, thereby, dismiss religious belief altogether: such belief can display all sorts of values, it may be beautiful, profound, transformative, and so on. What it isn't is "literally true" -- but it can be immensely valuable anyway.
Positive Nihilism avoids the arrogance of Exclusivism and Inclusivism, and avoids Pluralism's playing fast and loose, literally, with the "truth." But perhaps more importantly, it allows one to fully support and promote religious belief and religious communities, to actually be a religious person of whichever denomination most moves one, without having quite the same need and urgency to do what fundamentalist Exclusivists seem enjoined, by rational norms, to do: to refute, reject, and maybe even destroy other forms of religion.
So all religions may well be ultimately the same, after all, systems of practices and beliefs that share many of the same attributes and values, including, perhaps ironically, that of not being literally true: “positive nihilism”.
*Pessin Andrew, The God Question: What Famous Thinkers from Plato to Dawkins (Jul 1, 2009)
(Contemporary Jamaican b. Qatari apologist of Islam)
Islam alone has been and will be the TRUE religion of God.
The first thing that one should know and clearly understand about Islam is what the word "Islam" itself means. The Arabic word "Islam" means the submission or surrender of one's will to the only true God, known in Arabic as "Allah". One who submits his will to God is termed in Arabic a "Muslim". The religion of Islam is not named after a person or people, as in the case of Christianity which was named after Jesus Christ, Buddhism after Gautama Buddha, etc Hence, Islam does not claim to be a new religion brought by Prophet Muhammad into Arabia in the seventh century, but rather to be a re-expression in its final form of the true religion of Almighty God, Allah, as it was originally revealed to Adam and subsequent prophets.
Since the total submission of one's will to God represents the essence of worship, the basic message of God's divine religion, Islam, is the worship of God alone. It also requires the avoidance of worship directed to any person, place or thing other than God. Since everything other than God, the Creator of all things, is God's creation, it may be said that Islam, in essence, calls man away from worship of creation and invites him to worship only his Creator. He is the only one deserving of man's worship, because it is only by His will that prayers are answered. The message of Islam, as brought by the prophets of God, is to worship only God and to avoid the worship of His creation either directly or indirectly. Those who have claimed divinity for themselves down through the ages have often based their claims on the mistaken belief that God is present in man. Taking one step further, they claim that God is more present in them than the rest of us, and that other humans should therefore submit to them and worship them as God in person or as God concentrated within their persons. That is why the motto of Islam declares: Laa ilaaha illaa Allah" (there is no god but Allah)
False religions all have in common one basic concept with regard to God: they either claim that all men are gods, or that specific men were God, or that nature is God, or that God is a figment of man's imagination. Thus, it may be stated that the basic message of false religion is that God may be worshiped in the form of His creation. False religions invite man to the worship of creation by calling the creation or some aspect of it God. For example, the prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship God, but those who claim to be Jesus' followers today call people to worship Jesus , claiming that he was God.
Buddha was a reformer who introduced a number of humanistic principles in the religion of India. He did not claim to be God, nor did he suggest to his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet today most Buddhists who are to be found outside of India have taken him to be God and they prostrate themselves to idols made in their perception of his likeness.
All false religions teach the greatest evil: the worship of creation. Creation-worship is the greatest sin that man can commit because it contradicts the very purpose of His creation. Man was created to worship God alone as Allah. Consequently, anyone at any time in the most remote regions of the world can become Muslim, a follower of God's religion, Islam, be merely rejecting the worship of creation and turning to God alone.
In short, the significance of the name Islam (submission to God), is Islam's fundamental acknowledgement of the uniqueness of God and Islam's accessibility to all mankind at all times convincingly support Islam's claim that from the beginning of time in whatever language it was expressed, Islam alone has been and will be the true religion of God.
*Philips Bilal, Fundamentals of TAWHEED (Islamic Monotheism), International Islamic Publishing House
Truth: belief, faith and evidence
Belief. Belief is accepting that a proposition is True or that it at least represents our best understanding or approximation of the Truth. Belief may or may not be based on evidence. As our understanding of the world continues to advance, our beliefs will also evolve/. I think it is OK to say that I believe something based on the evidence, but understand that that belief is subject to change as new evidence is presented. So right now I state that I do not believe in God because in my opinion there is no evidence in support of God’s existence. But if I were presented with evidence that I thought compelled belief in God’s existence, then I would change my belief--and not be embarrassed by the change. In the scientific community change in belief occurs continuously as new scientific studies provide new evidence, as in the field of cosmology.
Faith. Faith is perhaps a trickier term. What I mean by faith is belief in something for which there is no (or insufficient) objective evidence. It’s not proper to state that biologists have faith in the reality of evolution. The vast majority of biological scientists believe in evolution, not on the basis of insufficient evidence but on the basis of overwhelming objective evidence.
Many Christians argue that their faith in Christ is based on evidence, but this is not, in my view, a proper use of the term “faith,” since faith is belief despite the lack of evidence. It would be more proper for them to say that their “belief” in Christ is based on evidence. Having said that, it may be that Christians who refer to faith based on evidence may be tacitly admitting that their belief in Christ is based not on the evidence but despite the lack of evidence. There’s nothing wrong with having faith as I am using the term, but it should be recognized for what it is.
Evidence. There is a difference between objective evidence and subjective evidence. Objective evidence is Information based on facts that can be established through analysis, measurement, observation, and other such means of research. It is independently verifiable by others. Subjective evidence, on the other hand, is evidence based on the testimony of the internal experience of an individual. By its nature, subjective evidence cannot be tested or verified by a third party. It is not subject to empirical confirmation or disconfirmation. It has to be either accepted or denied. .
This doesn’t mean that subjective evidence is not real to the one who experiences it, but all sorts of internal experiences may be “real” from a subjective point of view, including false memories, misunderstandings, and delusional beliefs. Because such experiences are private, they are not subject to empirical, objective investigation or confirmation. As a result, their value as evidence for a proposition is, in my view, severely compromised
*See Inrernet John M. Phillips
(Hellenized Jewish philosopher, 20 BCE - 40 CE)
Only the allegorical sense of Scriptures leads to the truth
Philo included in his philosophy both the wisdom of Ancient Greece and Judaism, which he sought to fuse and harmonize by means of the art of allegory that he had learned as much from Jewish exegesis as from the Stoics. Philo made his philosophy the means of defending and justifying Jewish religious truths. These truths he regarded as fixed and determinate; and philosophy was used as an aid to truth, and as a means of arriving at it. With this end in view Philo chose from the philosophical tenets of the Greeks, refusing those that did not harmonize with the Jewish religion, as, e.g., the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity and indestructibility of the world. Philo’s masterwork, On Allegory, explores the deeper messages buried in the Biblical text and transforms Moses from a political and religious leader into a philosopher. He rejects simple and literalistic interpretations of the Bible, including the creation story as told in Genesis 1. “It is quite foolish,” he wrote, “to think that the world was created in the space of six days or in a space of time at all…If Scripture is always to be understood literally, we will have to admit that sometimes it is greatly at variance with truth… Nevertheless, if we examine the account of creation from the point of view of its spirit--its symbolic meaning--we will discover an abundance of philosophical truths”. In his opinion the literal sense, the written word, is concerned with appearance, while the allegorical sense expresses only what can be seized by intelligence and leads directly to the truth.
* See Peder Borgen, Philo of Alexandria: An Exegete for His Time. Novum Testamentum, Supplements. Leiden: Brill, 1997
(Italian renaissance philosopher, 1463-1494)
Man’s unlimited freedom to express the truth
Man is at the centre of Pic’s philosophy, in that God has endowed him with the will power, by which he is able to know and create himself. The diginity of man manifests itself through his freedom which is limitless. All Greek and Oriental wisdoms have been an expression of this unlimited power of the will to know oneself. They all contain parcels and sparks of the truth. Pic shows interest in all doctrines and systems of thought without belonging to any of them. Man’s greatness consists in the unlimited freedom he enjoys to express and formulate the truth and the power he has to take decision in his personal life.
Pico located human dignity in our capability and freedom to be whatever we want to be. If you view the whole of human history, according to Pico, you'll find that nothing remains stable. No faith, no philosophy, no world view ever remains static; the only eternal thing is the human ability and freedom to change and express ourselves in different ways. The greatest dignity of humanity is the boundless power of self-transformation. The "truth" about humanity, then, can only be found in the sum total of the works, thoughts, and faiths of humanity. Above everything else, the greatest human capacity is to be able to express or understand the whole of the human experience; in this light, the principle freedom granted to humanity by God is freedom of inquiry.
Pico believed it was possible to reconcile the seeming contradictions among the various systems of thought he had studied. Drawing out what he considered the best in each thinker and system he encountered, he developed a philosophy known as "syncretism." Syncretism holds that all schools of philosophy have some truth and so should be examined and defended; but no system of thought has all the truth, and so one must also expose the errors in each scheme. His larger project was the synthesis of all human knowledge into a single whole.
One of Pico’s well known saying is that “Philosophy searches for truth, theology finds it and religion possesses it”.
* Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, translated by A. Robert Caponigri, Chicago: Regnery Publishing, 1956
(French R.C. Cardinal of Poitier and theologian,1815-1880)
Religious Truth is one and therefore intolerant and exclusive
True religion is intolerant regarding doctrines. It is of the essence of Truth not to tolerate its contradiction, the affirmation of a proposition excludes the negation of the same proposition. But when truth is certainly known, it becomes necessary and intolerant.
Truth is intolerant, tolerance is equivalent to suicide. Religious truth, being the most absolute and important of all truths, is in consequence the most intolerant and exclusive.
The intolerance of Christ implies a positive exclusion: “if someone is not baptized in water and Spirit, if someone refuses to eat my body and drink my blood, that one will not have part in my kingdom”.
The Apostles were sent to teach all nations, to bring down all existing religions, to establish everywhere the unique Christian religion, to replace the inherited beliefs of the nations for the unity of Catholic dogma..
Foreseeing the opposition and divisions that this doctrine will excite, Christ declared that He has brought not peace, but the sword war, not only among the nations, but also in the bosom of the same family, to separate believing wife from unbelieving husband, Christian son from pagan father.
The establishment of the Christian faith has been a model work of religious intolerance . The history of the Church is no more than the history of this intolerance:
We, catholics, are intolerant, exclusive, in matters of doctrine - we make profession of intolerance and we are proud of it. If we are not, it means that we do not possess the Truth - because Truth is one and therefore intolerant.
*See Internet Cardinal Pie of Poitier
(German theologian, 1866-1942)
Apart from Jesus Christ there is no truth
Pieper illustrates the folly of trusting in the human mind to provide us with absolute truth. He is by no means rejecting the study of science; in fact he makes sure to note that we can discover the riches of God’s creation through such observation. However, he emphasizes that at all times science and human knowledge must bow at the feet of the Scriptures which testify to the truth revealed in Christ
Although it boasts of absolute knowledge, science is more illusion than truth. Science does not deserve the honor which it demands and which ignorance pays to it. Still we need not become agnostics and pessimists for long and with the despairing Pontius Pilate say, “What is truth!” Across from him stood a greatness who declared with divine authority and convincing power, “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.”
There is a true, perfectly sure, saving and blessed knowledge. This knowledge is adequate for all things, the mind, principle, coherence, and design. It is suitable and proper for the human soul. This knowledge truly enlightens the ignorant and makes fools wise. This is the knowledge in possession of which Paul triumphs: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is the knowledge “of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) which continues, “That they know you and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17). Jesus Christ is the truth. He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” That is this truth, that blessed secret: God revealed in the flesh Apart from him there is no truth. Apart from him the entire creation is an unintelligible book and all of history is a meaningless chaos. He who does not know Christ is condemned to eternal blindness, endless sin, enmity with God, and everlasting destruction.
See Internet Pieper August
(Italian philsopher of law, b.1955)
For the analytical philosopher, law is excluded from the domain of truth
For a conspicuous number of legal philosophers, the problem of whether the predicates of 'true' and 'false' are applicable at all to law is simply non-existent. If law is a body of norms and if those norms are entities belonging to the universe of directives, then truth is not a predicate that applies to the law: just as illness is not applicable to numbers.
The basic assumption on which this simple reasoning rests can be formulated more precisely in the following way: 1. No directive discourse can be true or false. Another possible formulation might be: 2. only indicative discourses can be true or false.
That truth-values cannot be referred to directives is a recurrent theme in the analytical philosophical literature. The fundamental, undeniable principle of analytical philosophy is the Great Division between indicative and directive discourses. The division is great and impassable, precisely because only indicative discourses can be true or false and qualified as such with the aid of intersubjective procedures; conversely, directive discourses can be neither true nor false, but can at most be qualified on the basis of such different values, other than truth, as individuals ascribe to them freely and that are ultimately the result of subjective choices.
So it comes as no surprise that the analytical response to the question about the truth of that part of the directive that is legal is uncompromisingly negative: since law consists of directives and since directives can be neither true nor false, it follows that legal norms can themselves be neither true nor false.
There can be no question of a 'truth' of law. For law, even just law, is norm, and - as norm - can be neither true nor false. But if he is to be coherent with his starting premises, the analytical philosopher must treat his own conviction, that legal norms can be neither true nor false, as the result of a choice: what we could call an ultimate choice of a philosophical nature, which means that it is open neither to logical demonstration nor definitive empirical proof.
Pintore believes that this is how things stand, even if the question "can law be true or false?" is irremediably ambiguous, for the obvious reason that there are various meanings that can be attributed both to truth and to law.
*Pintore Anna, Law without Truth, Deborah Charles Publications ,1 Sep 2000
(American Baptist minister, b.1946)
Jesus Came into the World to Bear Witness to the Truth. "You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice”.
THE TRUTH! There is truth—truth that comes from outside the world and gives meaning to the world. The world doesn't make this truth. It doesn't shape or change this truth. It is THE TRUTH, not a truth for me and a different truth for you. But THE TRUTH for all of us. Unchanging, absolute.
There may have been a generation or a century when this simple implication of the text would not need to be stressed: that there is truth—truth outside of my own mind, truth that I don't create but discover, that I don't control but submit to. There may have been a time when we didn't have to proclaim this as part of the Christian message. But not today. If you try to claim today that there is absolute truth—truth that everyone should believe and follow—you will very likely be considered misguided and immoral.. Why? Because to claim that there is absolute truth leads to intolerance and prejudice against what others think.
By and large people don't think about absolute truth anymore. They are not looking for THE truth that can give meaning and purpose to all of life and history. Instead people are trying to experience life to the full and call this experience TRUTH for them, not absolute truth, just truth for them.
Pilate's response to Jesus was cynical, or perhaps hopeless, "What is truth?" If Pilate had been listening to our critivism of relativism of being self-contradictory, he would perhaps have said, "I'm not included in your criticism because I don't say truth is relative and I don't say truth is absolute. All I say is, I don't know what truth is. It may be relative. There may be an absolute truth. I just don't know. And so I can't be accused of contradicting myself because I just don't know. I suspend judgment." Like Pilate you may be non-committal about Jesus not because you think he is untrue but just because you don't know. You live with a suspended judgment on the matter.
The point is this, Pilate may say—you may say—"I don't know what absolute truth is, and I don't think I can find out." But the truth is, when your own personal interest is at stake, you won't act as though you don't know what truth is. We have very strong convictions when our life and property are at stake, don't we? Strange how agnosticism and relativism are blown away when our rights and our life are on the line!
Jesus was not born to keep secret the truth of God. He was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth, the unchanging absolute truth of God.
*John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org
(Contemporary American author and philosopher)
The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good. The test of the true is the good.
Pirsig’s philosophy, which he calls the Metaphysics of Quality, is a significant development of American pragmatism. The fundamental development consists in the metaphysical concept of reality. This is not found in previous pragmatic thought, but it does not contradict it either. In fact it seems to allow for considerable strengthening of the pragmatic position in terms of its epistemology, of its idea of truth as the “highest quality intellectual explanation” and of its ethics in which morality is shown to be real in the human realm because humans are part of a, quite literally, moral universe.
The Metaphysics of Quality is a form of pragmatism, of instrumentalism, which says the test of the true is the good. However it adds that this good is not a social code or some intellectualized Hegelian Absolute. It is a direct everyday experience. Through this identification of pure value with pure experience, the Metaphysics of Quality paves the way for an enlarged way of looking at experience which can resolve all sorts of anomalies that traditional empiricism has not been able to cope with.
The most important thing, the ultimate demonstration of Pirsig's pragmatism is that his philosophy grounds out in everyday action, in everyday life. Like the founders of pragmatism Pirsig shows above all that there is a demonstrable reason why that which we feel is good, is good. Experience is not subjective, it is of the good, therefore the moral good issues directly from reality. Pirsig's contribution has been to show that that experience is of an absolutely real good.
Truth is one species of good and not a category distinct from good and coordinate with it. The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good. Truth is a species of good. Truth is a static intellectual pattern within a larger entity called quality.
But the good to which truth is subordinate is dynamic quality not practicality. For Pirsig, William James is wrong in not distinguishing social quality from dynamic quality. Truth may not to be subordinated to social value. James’ idea that satisfaction alone is the test of anything is very dangerous according Pirsig’s metaphysics of quality . There are different kinds of satisfaction and some of them are moral nightmares. The holocaust produced satisfaction among the Nazis, that was quality for them! What the metaphysics of quality adds to James' pragmatism and radical empiricism is the idea that the primal reality from which objects and subjects spring is value. Value, the pragmatic test of truth, is also the primary empirical experience. The metaphysics of quality says pure experience is value. Value is at the very front of the empirical procession.
To sum up: the metaphysics of quality is a form of pragmatism, of instrumentalism that says that the test of the true is the good. It adds that this good is not a social code: it is direct everyday experience.
* Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (1974) ISBN 0-06-095832-4
(Contemporary American ID apologist)
The theory of evolution and the problem of its truth
The Theory of Evolution is believed by many to be "true" - especially by most of today’s scientists. Many others, even among evolutionists, believe in the "truth" of God or in an original designer. Still others believe in the “truth” of original creation where the basic ideas of evolution are completely excluded.
If one honestly desires to know truth, a conscientious effort must be made to limit one's emotions during the search. All possibilities must be considered with none being ruled out simply on the basis of personal likes or dislikes. This is important when one starts to consider the heated topic of our own origins and the origin of all other living things.
Currently there are two main opposing camps of thought concerning the origin and diversity of life. On the one hand there is the purely naturalistic Theory of Evolution. On the other hand there is the Intelligent Design Theory. There are many variations within both camps as well as many theories that contain elements from both, but very few theories concerning the origin and diversity of living things exist outside of these two main camps.
It is commonly stated that religion should be left to theologians while science should be left to scientists. This argument assumes that some important truths are beyond scientific investigation and are thus matters of "faith." What many do not seem to realize is that all human knowledge is a matter of faith. All human theories are statements of faith - even when it comes to the "purer" sciences of physics and mathematics. Human theories may be backed up by a greater or lesser degree of evidence, but, like all human attempts to search out truth, no one and no theory has ever achieved absolute perfection in any aspect of human knowledge concerning the external world. Obviously then, without access to absolute knowledge, a degree of faith remains when one holds a particular position to be true - be it a "religious" or a "scientific" position.
The theory of evolution concerns the topic of origins. All origins happened in the past. So, the theory of evolution is in a large degree a science that proposes to explain a part of history. But, is this explanation of history "true"? It certainly could be. If the truth of the matter is that evolution did happen and is real, then there should be evidence of its activity. This evidence could be discovered and interpreted in much the same way that one might come to believe any other historical event to be "true".
Many claim that the correlatory evidence is everywhere and that it overwhelming supports the predictions of evolutionary theory. Evolution is not only true, it is "obviously true" - as obvious as the nose on your face. In fact, it is not only historically obvious, but its activity can be detected today . . . in real time! And, it will continue to be a real force in nature into the future. Because of this, the theory of evolution is presented as not just a historical science, but a present and future science as well.
Certainly, the theory of evolution did seem to explain a great deal of what we see happening in the natural world. In fact, observations like these are what made various people start to ponder various evolutionary ideas well before Darwin came on the scene. But is it all really as clear as many have come to believe? Surprisingly, even among well-educated scientists, experts in their own fields, questions concerning the fundamental truths of the theory of evolution are bubbling to the surface. Obviously, the theory of evolution remains a very popular explanation of origins, especially among most scientists. However, I am not alone in thinking that the theory of evolution is severely limited in what it can explain.
*See Internet Pitman Sean D.
The exclusive teacher of the truth: the Roman Catholic Church
In his encyclical letter Singulari Quidem, Pope Pius IX wrote: “There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord, outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation....The Church clearly declares that the only hope of salvation for mankind is placed in the Christian faith, which teaches the truth, scatters the darkness of ignorance by the splendor of its light, and works through love. This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation...” Elsewhere Pius IX wrote: “Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the Catholic Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior”. For “it is a sin to believe there is salvation outside the Catholic Church!”…. “ It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood.” ….“No one is found in the one Church of Christ, and no one perseveres in it, unless he acknowledges and accepts obediently the supreme authority of St. Peter and his legitimate successors.”
* See Internet, Speeches and encyclical letters of Pope Pius IX
(German physicist, 1858-1949)
The pursuit of science is intertwined with the search for truth
Planck saw the physical world as an objective reality and its exploration as a search for truth. Philosophers have often questioned physical reality, but Planck, a well as Einstein, viewed the physical world as real and the pursuit of science as forever intertwined with the search for truth. He saw the search for truth as elevating humanity.
Planck viewed science as the primary means of extracting the absolute truth. He believed that it was possible to move from the relative to the absolute. He thought that the Theory of Relativity itself promoted the absolute by quantifying in absolute terms the speed of light in a vacuum and the amount of energy within an object at rest. (E=mc2).
In Planck’s words: "Science enhances the moral values of life, because it furthers a love of truth and reverence – love of truth displaying itself in the constant endeavor to arrive at more exact knowledge of the world of mind and matter around us, and reverence, because every advance in knowledge brings us face to face with the mystery of our own being".
Planck had a deep love and respect for truthfulness. He regarded it as a central human virtue and as the most important quality of the scientist: truthfulness, this noblest of all human virtues, is authoritative even here over a well-defined domain, within which its moral commandment acquires an absolute meaning, independent of all specific viewpoints. He saw his quest for truth and the absolute as a never ending struggle from which he could take no rest. At the same time, Planck recognized that one could never arrive at the absolute truth. Yet this did not deter him. Planck was a man of deeply religious outlook. His scientist’s faith in the lawfulness of nature was inseparable from his faith in God. He believed that "man needs science for knowledge and religion for his actions in daily life" For Planck: "religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against skepticism and against dogmatism, against disbelief and against superstition..." .
See Rosenthal-Schneider, Reality and Scientific Truth: Discussions with Einstein, von Laue, and Planck (Wayne State University, 1980)
(Greek Philosopher, 427-347)
1. True knowledge, for Plato, is the knowlegde of true Reality. Only the ‘really real’ is true. Plato thinks of truth as fundamentally ontological – the truth of Being is true knowledge.
He distinguishes four levels of knowledge – from the least true to the truest - (Book VI of the Republic) The lowest level includes images, shadows, copies, artistic creations of real objects. The next level is that of belief, which is the perception of real objects but does not grasp the abstract concept of these objects. It is not true knowledge but ‘opinion’ because its object is the world of multiple, particular things in constant change. The third level of the ladder of knowledge is the level of rational understanding, the intelligible world of abstract concepts which Plato calls ‘forms’ or ‘ideas’. These “forms” are not merely subjective mental realities, they are intelligible, eternal, immutable objects in the intelligible world. Concrete , particular changing objects are the shadows of the forms. True knowledge is knowledge of the forms because true knowledge must be immutable, unchangeable and be about what is real. This kind of knowledge characterizes mathematics and the natural sciences. However these sciences have their limitations: they rest upon unexamined first principles and they are tied to instances from the visible world. Finally, the fourth and highest level of knowledge uses the method of dialectic , the study of the forms themselves, their relationship and organisation into a single structural order. At the top of it all, is the Idea of the Good, the fulfilment for which everything exists. Plato compares it to the sun that illuminates and gives life to the world. So the Idea of the Good is the source of truth, intelligibility and values.
To sum up: for Plato, there are four mental states: image-making, belief, reasoning and insight. The knowledge obtained at each level is commensurate to their objects. The more true the objects (eternal, immutable, intelligible) , the higher the quality of knowledge.
2. Thus, for Plato, to know the truth is to know the ‘really real’, because only the ‘really real’ is true. Unfortunately the ‘really real’ has been obscured and lost from view. There is no truth because the really real is hidden to the mind of the unwise who take the changing multiple to be the only reality.
Plato characterizes the philosophers as the “lovers of truth and Reality”. It is clear that he identifies truth and the really real. To know the really real is to know the truth. There is no truth when Reality is concealed but once Reality is manifest and revealed, there arises the knowledge of the absolute truth.
Truth conceived as the unconcealment of the Real has the same characteristics than Reality itself. The really real is eternal and unchanging and therefore truth is eternal and unchanging. Like Reality, truth is timeless. Truth is also free from all relativity, it is perspectivally neutral. There may be relativity in human beings who seek the truth, but not in the Real which is its proper focus. Plato’s truth is the absolute, atemporal, universal truth, not the truth relative to individuals at a certain time. The human souls knew the truth in their state of pre-existence in the world of ideas, but in this world of shadowy realities the souls have forgotten the truth. However as knowledge is reminiscence, every soul carries within itself the capacity to re-cognize the truth that it contemplated in the world of ideas.
Another characteristic of the Platonist truth is that it admits of degrees, in as much as there are degrees of realities. Reality is more or less obscured from sight, more or less manifest and revealed. Plato often uses the term “true” in a comparative and superlative form. The “truest” is the disclosure of Reality as it is. Things that are more real than others are said to be “truer” - like perceived physical objects, truer than poetic images of these objects. For Plato things that are incompletely real are ‘less true’. Only the knowledge that deals with the things that are eternally the same without change and mixture – the Ideas or Forms – reaches to the pure, unalloyed truth.
* Plato, The Republic, Book 6; See T.Z. Lavine, From Socrates to Wittgenstein, Bantam Books, New York, 1985, p.31-42; also Campbell, Richard, Truth and Historicity, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992, p.40-74
( Roman Egyptian philosopher, 204-270)
Truth is the identity of the intellect and the intellectual realm
The truth Plotinus discusses is the eternal truth. He places the Platonic world of ideas within the divine Intellectual Principle (the second hypostasis). He locates truth within this intellectual principle, the intelligible world of Plato’s ideas, and Being is identical with it. Truth is internalized within the divine intellect, which proceeds from the One. In this sense Plotinus relocates the conception of truth found in Plato: he ‘intellectualizes’ the Platonic concept of truth.
Moreover he identifies the objects of the intellect with its act. Unless there were this identity, he argues, there would be no truth. The ‘realities’ which for Plato constitute what is for Plotinus the ‘intellectual realm’, are the locus of Truth. If intellect were not identical with the intellectual realm, Being would be conflicting with itself, since Plotinus contends that the act of knowing is the same as the act of Being; the act of being would not be the same as the realities comprising the intellectual realm. But something conflicting with itself cannot be truth. So unless Intellect is identical with the intellectual realm, there can be no Truth. Intellectual Beings are not outside the intellect but identical with it. If the objects of the intellect were something alien or external, there would be neither knowledge nor truth. Ideas cannot be independent of the intellect. Plotinus sees the consequences of this argument for the concept of truth: the veritable truth is not accordance with something external; it is self accordance; it affirms nothing than itself and is nothing other, it is at once existence and self affirmation.
In arguing that truth required an identity between thought and thing, Plotinus moved beyond correspondence to an identity theory of truth.
*Plotinus. Enneads, 7 vols., translated by A.H. Armstrong, Loeb Classical Library. See Campbell Richard, Truth and historicity, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1992, p.8o-85
(French scientist and philosopher of science, 1854-1912)
Poincaré is best known for having stressed the role of “conventionalism” in the understanding of science and mathematics. Axioms of geometry, he claims, are neither synthetic a priori intuitions nor experimental facts. They are conventions and this means that they are definitions in disguise. Still these conventions are not arbitrary. They are established on account of being more convenient (not “truer”) than other conventions.
However Poincaré rejects the view of those who wish to reduce all the sciences to nothing more than conventions. To adopt such universal conventionalism would amount saying that science cannot teach the truth but serves only as a rule for action. Poincaré is not ready to admit that scientific laws are simply like the rules of a game which can be altered by common agreement. Empirical hypotheses and scientific theories are open to falsifications and thus they are not simply conventions or disguised definitions: they have a cognitive value and in some cases can attain a high degree of probability. Poincaré’s conventionalism is only one element in his philosophy of science. If he looked on mathematics as dependent entirely on conventions, he did not regard all laws of physical science as conventional.
Though science, for Poincaré, rests on presuppositions and assumptions, it nonetheless aims at knowledge of the truth. The main presupposition is the unity and simplicity of Nature.
The truth that science enables to know is certainly not about the essence of things. The knowledge obtained through science is the knowledge concerning the relation between things. The scientific theory of light does not tell what light is in itself but only the relations between the sensible phenomena of light. The harmony of the universe derives from these relations and that is the kind of true knowledge that science aims at.
* Poincaré, Henri , Science and Hypothesis, New York, Dover Publications, 1952; see Copleston F. History of Philosophy, Vol.IX, Search press, London, 1975, p.271- 276
(American philosopher, 1938-2005)
Beliefs which are the most rational beliefs are more likely to be true than those that go against rationality and justification.
Pojman rejects the foundationalist view of religious beliefs and in its place he prefers a coherentist view. In this view religious belief systems are subject to reason. A belief system is a web or network of mutually supportive beliefs. Some beliefs in the set are more privileged than others because they are more self evident to the believer. All believers access the beliefs within the system (world view) from personal interpretive perspectives. The goal of the use of rational processes upon such systems of beliefs is a set of optimally rational positions. Pojman holds that that it is difficult but not impossible to be critically rational about religious belief and experiences. He holds that - all religious experiences must be scrutinized rationally, honestly - all religious belief must be justified - all religious belief systems should be coherent.
Religious beliefs sometimes consist of conflicting accounts that impedes coherency that reason demands. Physical or phenomenal evidence to substantiate religious beliefs is impossible to produce. Religious experiences usually occur privately, and are subjective, making it impossible to be justified, and scrutinized rationally and honestly. It is more logical to trust and believe that which is reasonably evidenced, than that which is absent of reason and evidence. Reason can discredit many religious experiences. In the absence of evidence, veracity is questionable. That which is contradictory or incoherent can be reasonably rejected.
Pojman argues that there is an ethical duty to believe what is supported by the best evidence available. He likens the believer to a doctor who must keep up with the newest trends in medicine to avoid being negligent. He points out that beliefs which are the most rational, justifiable beliefs are more likely to be true than beliefs that go against rationality and justification.
Pojman also explains that rationality does not imply neutrality. Neutrality implies inaction or passivism. However, one need not remain on the sidelines in order to rationally believe. Instead, one must remain impartial, which implies action. When one is impartial, s/he is actively involved in the conflict because s/he objective and eventually choose a side. Rather than a bystander (neutral), one must be a judge who is willing to hear both sides of the case and make a well informed, objective decision when it comes to religious beliefs.
Additionally, Pojman argues that one cannot immediately abandon his/her beliefs when faced with an obstacle. Although many philosophers argue that one should hold off on believing until there is irrefutable evidence proclaiming that belief to be true, Pojman argues that one must simply make an educated and objective decision, much like a judge or a jury.
*Pojman, Louis P., ed. “Can Religious Belief Be Rational?,” Philosophy of Religion, An Anthology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1998. Religious Belief and the Will, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986
(Hungarian born English philosopher, 1891-1976)
1. Truth is always personal truth.
Polanyi rejects the objectivist definition of truth and falsity in impersonal terms. This is not meant to be a retreat into a subjectivist concept of truth. For in speaking the truth we are not only concerned with what is actually the case. The establishment of the truth takes place in a context of commitment to reality which governs the link between the person speaking and the objective pole to which his/her statement refers. Both poles of that link must be maintained in the assertion of a true statement.
To say that “this is true” means “I believe that this is true”. In the assertion of truth a personal commitment is always involved. Such an assertion is an act of the person who says it. Truth is not a quality possessed by a sentence P. Truth must be redefined as the asseveration ( the declaration, the profession) of the sentence to which it refers. ‘P is true’ disguises an act of commitment in the form of a sentence stating a fact.
There is no difference between saying” ‘Snow is white’ is true” and saying “I believe that snow is white”. Or “P is true” and “I believe P”. The difference is only of emphasis. When I say “I believe P”, the personal character of the assertion is stressed and when I say “P is true”, the universal intent of the assertion is stressed.
Therefore there can be no impersonal allegations, no ‘blank cheques’. Allegations are always personal. We cannot justify impersonal allegations, but we can justify why we believe that P and justify our personal allegations. It is pointless to try to prove P, but perfectly legitimate for the asserter to explain why he believes that P. Consequently there are no objective criteria of truth because the personal coefficient is always a part of the knowing process.
2. The personal and universal Truth
For traditional objectivist epistemology, truth is taken for something universal, one and the same for all. Such epistemologies are keen to define truth in impersonal terms because they take for granted that only what is defined in impersonal terms can be universal. But then, if one follows Polanyi and maintains with him the view of personal truth, it seems that the universal character of truth is lost. For personal truth is particular truth. Hence the problem that Polanyi faces is : how should one solve the conflict between a demand for universality and the personal character of truth?
It is undeniable that the outcome of a competent, responsible fiduciary act (“I believe P”) may vary from one person to another. However the difference may not be due to the arbitrariness of the asserter-believer. Polanyi’s main contention is that every responsible individual keeps always a universal intent., each one hopes that his/her finding will coincide with the findings of others. One may believe something different to be true, still there is only one truth. Each one affirms that P is true with universal intent.
In fact the personal and the universal mutually require each other. The search for truth is a personal desire, but a desire for something impersonal. The personal motive has an impersonal intention. The impersonal is accepted as the universal term of the personal commitment. “Here I stand and cannot do otherwise” Luther’s saying expresses well how the freedom of the subjective person to do as he pleases is overruled by the freedom of the responsible person to act as he must.
3. The subjective and the personal
If to say that “P is true” is the same as “I believe P” , it seems that knowledge is only the expresson of one’s own belief and that the knower talks only to himself. But Polanyi is eager to show that the epistemology he defends is not ‘subjectivist’. To do so he further explains the concept of ‘belief’ and the correlative notion of commitment. The analysis of commitment discloses how one avoids two false claims : the claim of strict impersonal objectivity and the claim that our utterances are purely subjective.
In his elucidation of the attitude of responsible commitment Polanyi stresses the important distinction between the personal and the subjective. In subjective states one merely endures feelings. But the concept of the personal is neither subjective nor objective; it transcends the objective as well as the subjective.
On the one hand, it is clear that reality exists independently of our knowing it. An empirical statement is true to the extent it reveals an aspect of reality. So in trying to say something true about a reality that is believed to be independent of our knowing it, we assert something with a universal intent. Our commitment in making a factual statement has an external anchoring.
On the other hand our statements are personal, though not subjective. What we say about an aspect of the hidden reality is personal. It is not a subjective state of mind because it is a conviction held with universal intent. We decide to believe this and that, but there is no arbitrariness in our decision. We arrive at conclusions with the utmost exercise of responsibility. We reached responsible beliefs , not changeable at will.
This position is neither solipsistic, nor relativistic. We believe in external reality and acknowledge the existence of other persons who can approach the same reality. Truth is not relative to each person, there are not many truths according to each person. “P is true” means that I believe P and no one else in place of me but it means also that it is what the consensus ought to be. I hope that what is true for me is also true for others, because truth is one even if there is a plurality of convictions about it.
4. No objective criteria of truth, but responsible commitment to the truth
There can be no strict objective criteria of truth. How could it be otherwise since truth is a matter of responsible personal commitment? Every knowledge implies the passionate contribution of the person. This is not an imperfection but the very condition and a necessary component of any knowledge. To know is not a passive experience but a mental act that presupposes a knower, a person taking risk in asserting something about reality. Hence error is always possible. Every person may believe something different to be true, even though there is only one truth. Still the plurality of convictions about truth is not due to arbitrariness because every responsible person has a universal intent.
Polanyi rejects the Cartesian approach of the ‘methodical’ doubt to arrive at objective evidence. The method of doubt in order to arrive at what is certain is the logical corollary of the objectivist standpoint. It trusts that the removal of all voluntary and subjective components of belief will lead to a residue of knowledge that is completely determined by objective evidence. It is Polanyi’s contention that this objectivism has falsified our conception of truth in that it exalts what can be proved. It restricts our mind to the few things that are demonstrable and indubitable. It has rendered us incapable of acknowledging vital choices.
Moreover, according to Polanyi, the concept of personal truth is incompatible with the theory of truth as correspondence between our beliefs and the facts. The so-called ‘facts’, the bare facts independent and disengaged from beliefs, the facts as ‘not believed’ or the facts as unknown cannot be said to correspond with the facts as believed, the facts as known. There can be no correspondence between the known and the unknown. We cannot secede from our commitment-situation. We cannot compare our knowledge of the truth with truth itself. Truth can be thought of only by believing in it. Polanyi does not accept the notion of a truth as something that exists by itself, independently of the person, the asserter. The objectivist theory of truth as correspondence is precisely based on that wrong assumption.
* Polanyi, Michael, Personal Knowledge, Routledge & keegan, London, 1958, p.255-317
(English theologian, b.1930)
The truth of theological statements
Polinghorne adopts a position intermediate between the propositional-cognitive and the cultural linguistic views of theology. He does not sympathize with the exclusively cultural linguistic approach because he detects there a dangerous hint of the Wittgenstein language game that those can play who choose to do. Those who adopt this view are coy about the truth content to be assigned to religion. The question of truth is bypassed in order to accomodate oneself to an ecumenical view which avoids pressing points of conflict between different traditions. For Polinghorne theological statements are both cultural and cognitive. He calls his position: the “critically realist” view. He admits that theological statements are always more culturally conditioned in their expression than is the case with scientific statements. Through a cultural envelope, religious theological propositions aim at expressing a universal truth-reality. Still, on account of the nature of that Reality with which it has to deal, theological statements have to be content with the status of ‘cognitive but not descriptive’. But to maintain cognitive claims, theology must be an empirical discipline to the extent that its assertions are related to an understanding of experience. Theological statements unrelated to experience amounts to arid dogmatism. However the experience considered by theology has its own particular character, and discourse about it will need to employ its own particular modes of expression. Observer and object are linked in a mutual relationship. The nature of the object controls what can be known about it and the way in which that knowledge must be expressed.. Theology’s necessary conformation to its Object implies that it must operate with an open epistemology. Failure to acknowledge this is the opposite of rationality. God is an altogether different kind of being from any finite existent. He stands in a different relationship to his creation than does any creature to each other. The One who is the ground of all beings is bound to be more elusive in his omnipresence than contingent beings of whom one can say ‘Lo, there’. In consequence of divine uniqueness, theological language is an object language that exhibits peculiarity and logical impropriety. Even with such licence for linguistic manoeuvre, the success of theological language will always be strictly limited. There is no formula guaranteed to produce God for inspection. Theological discourse neither despairs of any true utterance about the Infinite nor does it claim privileged access to otherwise ineffable knowledge. The theological grasp of truth stands between the “gnostic” and the “agnostic” approach.
Polinghorne, John, Reason and Reality, London, SPCK, 1991, p.10-17
(Rennaissance Italian philosopher,1462-1525)
Pomponazzi asserted the absolute truth of philosophy while paying perfunctory obeisance to the "truth" of revelation. He concerned himself for instance with the question of the human soul to prove through philosophical arguments and natural reason that it is mortal, not immortal. Nonetheless in some of his works he said that the findings of natural reason must be suspended by faith. The Christian religion teaches immortality: we must accept this as true, rejecting the conclusions of reason. Although not demonstrable by reason, the truth of faith is superior to the findings of reason.
However a closer examination of his writings reveals that Pomponazzi proclaimed that "truth is the end of philosophy while the end of the religious lawgiver is neither truth nor falsehood but to make men good and well-behaved." He takes the precaution of associating these views with Averroës, and to protect himself he pretends to reject them. The fact is that there are striking instances of Pomponazzi's acceptance of philosophy as absolute truth and rejection of the supernatural origin of religious doctrines. Immortality, he comes to state, is an invention of religious lawmakers who proclaim this doctrine "not caring for truth." Clearly the truth they do not "care for" is the doctrine of mortality as proved by philosophy.
*Pomponazzi, On the Immortality of the Soul, English trans. W.H. Hay II, in E. Cassirer, P.O. Kristeller and J.H. Randall, Jr. (eds.)
(Austrian born English philosopher of science, 19O2-1994)
1. The search for “verisimilitude”
Popper’s starting point is the common sense theory that truth is correspondence with the facts. A theory is true if and only if it corresponds with the facts. Popper has no objection to call it an objectivist or absolutist notion of truth, but he does not take absolutist in the sense of allowing us to speak with absolute certainty and assurance for the very reason that it does not provide us with a criterion of truth. All along we must remember that we are seekers of truth and not its possessors. Popper is a realist and for him what is attempted in science and philosophy is the description and the explanation – as fas as possible – of reality.
His main concern is not the definition of truth but the search for truth. This is achieved with the help of conjectural theories, that is, theories we hope are true or near the truth or nearer to the truth than those of our predecessors. Popper prefers to call this endeavour the search for verisimilitude, a clearer and more realistic aim than the search for truth. Still he specifies that truth is not the only important property of our conjectural theories; for we are not particularly interested in proposing trivialities and tautologies. We are not simply looking after truth, we are looking after interesting and enlightening truths, after theories which offer solutions to interesting problems.
According to Popper the quest for certainty, for a secure basis of knowledge, is delusive. We must abandon the quality of certainty which common sense assumed as essential to knowledge. It is enough to adhere to the possibility of the growth of knowledge, and therefore of knowledge itself. In a certain way Popper agrees with the sceptics: there is no sure source of knowledge, no absolute criteria of truth. The quest for certitude is vain. Knowledge progresses only by the elimination of the false. Still behind Popper’s apparent epistemological pessimism, one discovers also a solid faith in the power of the human mind. If Popper abandons the dream of certitude he does not abandon the norm of truth. Popper is a realist. He is convinced that the viewpoint of common sense is right, that there exists a reality independent of the mind. For him to believe in the growth of knowledge is enough for not being counted a sceptic. The sceptic is obsessed by certitude, but this is a wrong obsession. The tabula rasa theory of knowledge to solve doubts and reach certainty of knowledge is absurd, because all human knowledge is theory-laden. All acquired knowledge and learnings consists of the modification of some forms of knowledge or disposition, which were there previously. All growth of knowledge consists in the improvement of existing knowledge which is changed in the hope of approaching nearer to the truth.
2. The locus of truth: the “third” world
Popper distinguishes between three worlds: physical reality (the first world), subjective knowledge of reality (the second world), objective knowledge of reality (the third world). Most philosophers take for granted that there is only one kind of knowledge: knowledge possessed by some knowing subject or ‘subjective’ knowledge (second world). But there is also knowledge in the objective sense, which consists of the content of hypotheses, theories, conjectures, published in essays, articles, books, stocked in libraries (third world). Contemporary epistemology deals with the second world of subjective knowledge., that is, with justifiable belief. This approach is irrelevant and useless for the theory of scientific knowledge in which Popper is interested. All scientific works are directed towards the growth of objective knowledge. The subjective approach of interpreting knowledge as a relation subject-object (the second world of traditional epistemology) should be subordinated to the consideration of the world of objective knowledge (the third world) which, though obviously created by man, exists autonomously.
The study of objective knowledge consists in the analysis of the products of human activity (books, essays, articles, etc.), that is, with effects rather than causes. This objective knowledge constantly grows through the endless accumulation of informations. It exists always to solve problems. For life is problem-solving and the discovery of new solutions and possibilities. This trying out is done almost entirely in the third world, by trying to get nearer to the truth relevant to our problems. What Popper calls the second world is only the link between the first and the third world: all human actions in the first world are influenced by the second world grasp of the third world. This is why it is impossible to understand the human mind without understanding the third world.
Through his distinction of the three worlds Popper expresses his favourite claim that in the progress of knowledge subjective thought processes are of little importance, compared with objective thought-contents. Subjective thought processes do not grow but are stagnant, while objective thought contents constantly evolve for a better understanding and progress towards the solution of problems. Popper is not interested in the psychology of knowing, subjective knowing and experience but in the logic of knowledge, how it is generated by critical reason. He is interested in knowledge without a knower, without subjective knowing. He is convinced that the progress of knowledge towards more and more truth occurs in the third world while it is stagnant in the second world.
3. The meaning and function of truth
We should not ask “what is truth?” for this is an uninteresting verbal question. What we are interested in are factual problems and their theories and how they stand to critical discussions and our critical discussions are controlled by our interest in truth. The real question is whether one can speak meaningfully of correspondence between a statement and a fact. Tarski (see Tarski) has shown that to establish the correspondence between a statement and a fact one must do that in a ‘meta-language’ in which both reference to the statement and the description of the fact are present. In that meta-language we can speak of correspondence between statement and fact. Without the help of such a ‘transcendent’ language one could not speak of correspondence. Wittgenstein was right in saying that a language cannot speak about itself (“What I say is true”) but another language ( a meta-language) may be able to speak of the first language and justify the correspondence theory.
This being admitted, says Popper, we can replace the words “correspondent to the facts” by the words “is true”. Nothing more important can be added about the word “truth”. This is the ordinary sense of the word “truth” which points at a realistic theory. A theory is true if it corresponds to the facts, false otherwise.
However the notion of correspondence is not intended to yield a criterion of truth. Coherentists and pragmatists wrongly assume that a serious theory of truth must present us with a method of deciding whether or not a statement is true. These philosophers believe that any notion, here the notion of truth, is logically legitimate only if a criterion exists which enables us to decide whether or not an object falls under that notion. According to Popper the notion of truth is meaningful even in the absence of criterion of truth. And there is no criterion of truth because there is no criterion of correspondence. It follows that for him the concept of truth plays only the role of a regulative idea. It helps us in our search for truth. It indicates that there is something like truth and correspondence, but it does not give us a means to find the truth or to be sure that we have found it. Let no one ask for a criterion of truth and let every one be satisfied that truth means correspondence.
4. Coming to the truth by trial and error
Knowledge is a growth in getting nearer to the truth. The history of human ideas is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy and error. In science more than any other branch of knowledge, errors are systematically criticized and fairly often corrected. Scientists learn from their mistakes and that is why there is more progress in their field of knowledge than in any other. In science we have a criterion of potential progressiveness: a theory is preferable if it tells us more, if it passes certain specified tests that show that it has more truth-content and less false content than another.
The formation of theories is not worked out inductively from experience. Experience comes after the test. Knowledge does not begin with observation but by the encounter of problems that one tries to solve in proposing various hypotheses by an effort of imagination. Popper agrees with Kant that knowlegde is constituted mostly in an a priori way but Popper disagrees on this that it is not a priori valid.
One must renounce to the dream of a final empirical verification of theories. One must choose the best of available theories. Some philosophers of knowledge are verificationists in that they demand that we should accept a theory only if it can be justified by positive evidence, only if it is shown to be true. Such people are obsessed by the quest for certainty.
Popper rejects verificationism in favour of falsificationism , the critical approach for which the aim is not to establish secure and certain scientific theories but to criticize and test the existing theories hoping to find out where they are mistaken, to learn from these mistakes and from there proceed in the search of better theories.
Fallibilism or Falsificationism is thus the first principle of the Popperian philosophy. It is the conviction that error is normal. There are no sure methods to be sheltered from the possibility of error. Error is not the sign of lack of rigour or attention - the classical view of error. One must accept the fact of human fallibitiy and learn to use it positively in detecting them and eliminating them. All knowledge is conjectural, it is constituted by the methodical elimination of error. The only thing we can do is to ask: “How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?”. How can we make our theories the least resistant to falsification? Instead of seeking to justify them, we must accept the conjectural character of all statements, theories and hypotheses.
5. The myth of the doctrine of the “manifest” truth
For many philosophers, truth is manifest. Nature is an open book. Truth is only to be unveiled by our eyes, our senses and the light of reason. This optimistic epistemology has its foundation on the truthfuness of God (Descartes) and the truthfulness of Nature ( Bacon). Knowledge is the natural provider of the truth. If we fall into error, it is due to our sinful refusal to see the evident truth, because our minds are full of prejudices. Popper calls it the “conspiracy” theory of ignorance and falsity. He finds instances of this view first, in Socrates’ maieutica, the method of removing all prejudices to see the manifest truth within every human soul, second, in Descartes’ Cogito and his method of systematic doubt to obtain truth and certainty, third, in the Marxist theory of capitalist perversion of the truth, fourth, in Foucault’s political use of the truth, and fifth, even more in the religious concept of heresy. All such views have the same foundation, namely, if the manifest truth does not prevail, it must have been maliciously suppressed.
For Popper this optimistic epistemology of the “manifest” truth is a myth. It ignores that truth is hard to come by. Erroneous beliefs can survive for hundreds of years, even in defiance of experience. This epistemology is the basis of all kinds of fanaticism: those who do not see the truth must be possessed by a devil! The allegedly manifest truth is in constant need of re-affirmation and therefore an authority is necessary to pronounce what is that manifest truth. In the past these authorities were God, religions, cultures and traditions. But in modern times, new authorities have ermerged to supplant the old ones: the authority of the senses (empiricism) and the authority of the intellect ( rationalism). Still the fact is that with senses and intellect we still are capable of erring. Our fallibility is evident. We have to recognize that knowledge is always exposed to the possibility of error and in doing so we do not take side with the advocates of a pessimistic epistemology. On the contrary, our view implies that there is an idea of objective truth, otherwise we would not know that we err. It implies also the fallibilism of knowledge according to which we seek for the truth but more often than not we miss it by a large margin. We search for the truth by persistently searching for our errors through criticism and self-criticism.
This being the case, our question should not be: “what are the sources of true knowledge? Senses, intellect, or both? rather than traditions and beliefs?”. One can begin knowledge anywhere, from any point. What is important is to see the problems. With a problem to face, we become conscious that we need to formulate conjectural theories. The clear starting point is the problem and not experiences and observations etc., which in any case are all theory-laden. The only relevant question is : “ How can we hope to detect and eliminate error?” And the answer is: “By criticizing the theories and guesses of others and criticizing our own theories”. The question of the origin or source of knowledge or its purity is not important in the problem of truth. Never mind the source of an assertion, whether it is observation or inference or anything else. That has nothing to do with the question of truth. But if you are interested in a certain assertion, you may help the asserter in criticizing his view as severely as you can. If it is proved false, you will have to look for another conjectural hypothesis.
6. To sum up Popper’s views
- There are no ultimate sources of knowledge. Every source is welcome, but all are open to critical investigation. Neither observation, nor experience, nor reason are authorities. They are the indispensable means to form our theories and conjectures. Most of our theories may be false. Observation and intellect help us to criticize our theories.
- The proper epistemological question is to know if an assertion is true, that is, corresponding to the facts. But this does not mean that there are criteria of correspondence.
- The advance of knowledge consists mainly in the modification of earlier knowledge.
- Pessimistic as well as optimistic epistemologies are to be discarded in favour of fallibilist epistemologies. There is no criterion of truth (no optimism) but we possess criteria to detect and recognize error and falsity (no pessimism). Our own errors are dim but essential lights that help us out of the darkness.
- Truth is above human authority. We have to accept our state of learned ignorance. All sources of human knowledge are mixed up in errors, prejudices, dreams and hopes. All we can do is to grope for truth even if it be beyond our reach. But we can find out that a theory is false. A false conjecture may be nearer or less near to the truth. We arrive at the idea of nearness to the truth, better or lesser good approximation to the truth, Popper’s central idea of “verisimilitude”.
* Popper, Karl, Objective Knowledge, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971, p.45-81; 309-318; Unended Quest, Fontana, Collins, 1978, p.140-150 ; Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge & Keegan, London, 1963, p.3-30, 216-228
Cultural truth vs universal truth
The two following statements are in direct conflict with each other : the first is that each individual culture has its own set of truths which don’t have to be in correlation with other cultures truths, while the second directly contradicts the first by stating that nature of truth allows it to flow through all barriers (including the barrier of culture), making it universally acceptable. The implication for knowledge, if we are to agree with these opposing statements, is the realization that cultural beliefs/truths do not necessarily tantamount to universal truths.
The first statement insinuates that truth is subjective rather than objective. Objective truth is data based as opposed to subjective truth that is based on perception, beliefs, theory and philosophy. Strong belief in subjective truth, regardless of rhyme or reason, usually renders knowledge tricky. A strong belief in subjective truths, almost always, leads to one society attempting to impose its “truths” upon another (in some cases multiple) society.
The second statement “A truth is that which can be universally accepted”, on the other hand, states that truth is a statement or fact that will be accepted by humanity as a whole, making it absolute in nature. A truth is defined as absolute, only if it is the case in all realistic times and places. Based on the definition of truth, provided by the statement, a key characteristic of truth is universal acceptance. The key word within the statement is the word “can.”: a truth is something that can be accepted universally.” This leads one to conclude that Truth is independent of what certain groups choose to believe or not believe. Truth is everlasting; it is out there as a certainty, even if it is not universally accepted because of cultures that are inhibited by their perception of truth. This doesn’t make it untrue, it just means that the culture or peoples are ignorant and scared and refuse to change.
Accordingly, a truth that is universally accepted, is one that is absolute and isn’t caged in by the same boundaries as relativistic truths. Plus the fact that they are accepted universally constitutes to our staying sane, by anchoring us to reality, our awareness of our current existence. This is the case with the universally accepted ethical precept “Do unto others as you want done to you.” Every “thinking” human being is automatically supposed to accommodate his/her basic human instinct, which dictates a uniform code of morality, the world over. The implications for knowledge of agreeing with this statement are clearer; rarely does one have to use objective value judgments in the justification of absolute truths. The absence of personal bias and beliefs results in nearly every one gaining access to a uniform and standard form of knowledge.
Both statements provide different implications for knowledge, the first allowing for a more biased and personalized version of knowledge while the second relies more on universal conformity. If we are to agree with the two opposing statements: “Different cultures have different truths” and “Truth is that which can be universally accepted”, we have to realize that cultural beliefs/truths are not identical to universal truths as they give rise to a further understanding of the ethical and moral decisions which we undertake, despite our differential cultural upbringing.
*See internet Aakaanksh Pothukuchi
Contemtorary French philosopher
Theories of truth that are “deflationist” are those which minimize or even cancel the metaphysical bearing of the notion of truth. They reject the substantial concept of truth understood as the property of relationship between the real world and thought (or language). Deflationism reduces truth to a simple linguistic function. It abandons the idea to determine what truth is in order to insist only on the semantic (or linguistic) functioning of the predicate true. The question is not “What is truth”, but “When can we use the predicate true ? ”.
The semantic deflationist solution to the problem of truth is that no natural language can be its own “referee”. To say the truth of a proposition of a language L can be determined only by the use of a “meta-language” ML. But this implies that the predicate “is true” must be excluded from our ordinary language. The possibility to define what is a true proposition in natural language vanishes. The problem of truth is no longer a metaphysical or epistemological issue but a linguistic and semantic one. In reducing the question of truth to a semantic solution, the philosophical problem of truth is eliminated. The semanticist is not concerned with what is truth but with what we say when we say that p is true. There is nothing more to say about truth than what Aristotle said: “To say of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not, that is the truth”. This platitude is repeated in Tarski’s well-known semantic thesis: “ ‘Snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white”. We can say “Snow is white” only if snow is white. Once we know through the lexicon the definition of “snow” and “white”, we are entitled to affirm that “snow is white”. We arrive at this conclusion not by reference to reality but in the understanding of the language we use. Truth is reduced to a question of meaning of terms used in a proposition.
If one accepts the deflationist theory, the question of truth is no longer a philosophical but a linguistic question. However it is Pouivet’s contention that to adopt this narrow viewpoint is to dismiss the understanding of knowledge. The cognitive activity aims at forming justified true beliefs. Therefore an epistemological conception of truth is necessary. One needs to work out a theory of truth inside (and not outside) the language to which the theory is destined, even if it leads in rare cases to insurmountable paradoxes.
Truth is a primitive notion, unique, undefinable. But the difficult question of the nature of truth - the obsession of deflationists - must not prevent us to search for ways and means to acquire true beliefs. Our cognitive faculties are intentionally directed towards what is true. We are made to know and love the truth. Our natural desire to know the truth cannot be in vain. The logico-semantic approach of the truth brushes aside the vital question of the epistemological and metaphysical problem of truth.
* Pouivet Roger, in La Vérité, Ed. by Quilliot R., Paris, Ellipses, 1997, p.166-178
(Indian spiritual master, 1891-1974)
The two great truths: difference and change
The supreme truth, for Prajnânpad, is not the acknowledgment of the permanence and unity in being but on the contrary the awareness that everything changes and is different. Difference is the first great truth. Amidst the millions of beings and things, none is similar to another. Thus one should avoid making associations by analogy, but rather acknowledge the differences. We see resemblances that do not exist. To have a fixed and rigid vision of the external world is the expression of ignorance and the cause of all our miseries. Because everything is different, no one can expect the other to act in a particular way. Because he is different, he can only behave in a manner different than our own. Therefore one must try to understand others rather than qualify their behaviour as good or bad, true or false. In this way we can acknowledge the unique character of things and persons and overcome all differences. Change is the second great truth. Everything changes everywhere. Change is the difference in time. We must try to perceive change in everything. Then nothing will affect us or disturb us because we know that everything is simple phenomenon and appearance. Every thing that is, is the truth. You are, therefore you are true. Accept what is and try to understand rather than wishing that it be different. Truth is here and now. Perceive this difference, this change and adapt yourself to the situation. To achieve this goal, we need des-education. We need the leave behind ideas, opinions, prejudices, yes-sayings, superstitions, traditions and beliefs. Then re-education can begin in calmly examining what is, leaving aside what we have not examined. We must see things as they are: to see and not believe. If we believe rather than see, we are agitated and restless but if you see you are calm, free from all emotions. ‘ See, do not think’ says the Swami who uses the word ‘think’ in its first meaning of believing, having prejudices, all constructed ideas unfounded a priori opinions, traditions in which one has been educated. People are the products of their environment and that is why they do not see anything beyond habits and conventions. Seeing is based on facts while thinking keeps you away from truth and reality. We must cease to interpret and begin to see and understand.
* See André Comte-Sponville, De l'autre côté du désespoir, introduction à la pensée de Swâmi Prajnânpad, éd. L'Originel, 1998.
Contemporary American scientific analyst)
Truth has no place at all in science
If science can never prove a theory "true," then truth really has no place at all in science. By "truth" we mean what is "really" going on. Truth has to do with ultimate causes, which are nearly always extremely elusive and beyond the realm of science. Science deals with theories, usually mathematical, which predict outcomes of experiments. For example, if we drop a rock off a cliff, the law of gravity combined with theories of air resistance and other forces can be used to calculate just how long it will take to hit the ground, and how fast it will go, etc. But science does not answer the question of just exactly what gravity is, or why things fall. It just states that given certain conditions, they will fall. In general, science answers questions like "how," "when," "where", but never "why" in the ultimate sense.
As an example of the interplay of the three concepts of observations, theories and truth,let us consider the courtroom. The observations may be that a man was seen shooting a gun and that the person hit by the bullet died. The theory may be that it was cold-blooded murder, but the truth may be that it was self-defense. Truth tends to be invisible and hidden, such as someone's motives, whereas observations are usually visible. Courts are very interested in truth, where the motive (the ultimate cause) for actions is given considerable weight. The distinction between first-degree and second degree murder is based on intent. Motives – and therefore truth - are not observable in science, and hence are beyond science.
* See Internet Pratt John P.
(Contemporary Australian humanist) Personal experience is not a place from which we can derive objective truth
Our personal experience cannot be used as a yardstick for empirical claims of “truth”. The problem about “truth” is that it’s subjective, not in the traditional sense, but in a cycle of circular reasoning and personal biases. It’s “subjectively subjective”, meaning that “truth” is often described as “true” according to what a person believes to be “true”. Not only are the truth claims themselves subjective, but the very criteria against which the truths are measured are also subjective. Not only is the human brain an excellent pattern seeking device, it is also intuitively looking for answers to the questions it creates. This is one of the bases of human nature, human cognition, human adaptability, and human ingenuity. When used correctly, without the many biases that we all hold in our minds, the brain is an excellent problem-solving machine. Used incorrectly, it is the creator of many an illusion, and the upholder of “personal truths”. A predisposition to many so-called religious “truths” are very different from the kinds of truths you see in the wider world. For an individual to claim “truth”, all it takes is for a sufficient amount of belief combined with a “want for it to be true”, and voila, we have a personal “truth”. In the wider world, the one outside of the human brain, we can measure and expect things to occur too, only we can repeat them, create situations where we can measure them, and we can report back on our findings. Gravity, evolution, thermodynamics and chemistry are examples where we can know truths with a degree of certainty not afforded to those truth claims found within mysticism and superstition. Personal truths which arise from personal experience are weaker than empirical truths, for no matter how many people claim to have the same personal truths, if it’s not verifiable, it lacks the ability to be tested or repeated. And since the brain interprets all we see, feel and react to, if the brain is thinking in a certain way during an experience, the way we perceive the experience may be altered. However, the happenings which led to the experience remain unaltered. There is a real truth. It inhabits the space outside the brain, and regardless of how we perceive it, it will remain what it is. It is in this sense that personal faith should never have influence over decisions, because the reliance on faith alone is a weak standpoint from which to make any decisions. Truth is objective, and will always be truth. Personal truth is not a place from which we can derive objectivity.
*See Internet Pribble Martin
(Contemporary Australian philosopher)
The behavioural role of truth : a norm of assertoric discourse Huw Price (himself a pragmatist) disagrees with pragmatist Richard Rorty about the value of truth. Where Rorty sees talk of the value of truth as a shadow of metaphysics, Price takes the value of truth to fall out of its function as a norm governing linguistic exchanges between speakers: truth supplies the motivation to resolve our disagreements and so agitates for the improvement of our set of beliefs about the world.
That truth is a norm (in addition to justification), and that its value lies in its normative character, is gleaned from the function of truth-talk in our actual practices. Price takes it to be a pragmatist lesson to the pragmatists that we desist from answering ontological questions about the nature of truth, which set us looking to identify truth with something (with justification for example), and concentrate on the role the concept plays in our lives instead. Once we see that truth plays there the kind of role Price describes, we have exhausted the scope of philosophical interest in the concept: there is nothing more to say about truth.
Truth, for Price, is the grit that makes our individual opinions engage with one another. Truth puts the cogs in cognition, at least in its public manifestations. Truth supplies factual dialogue with its essential esprit de corps. As the metaphor is meant to suggest, what matters is that speakers think that there is such a norm - that they take themselves to be governed by it - not that their view be somehow confirmed by science or metaphysics.
Price stresses the behavioural role of truth; the consequences of giving up truth would be very serious indeed, reducing the dialogue of mankind to a chatter of disengaged monologues. Second, it is doubtful whether giving up truth is really an option open to us. People who think it is an option haven't realized how deeply embedded the idea of truth is in linguistic practice. They fail to see how radically different from current practice a linguistic practice without truth would have to be.
Price argues that truth plays a crucial role as a norm of assertoric discourse. According to him a pragmatist must resist the pressure to identify truth with anything, he must reject the assumption that an adequate philosophical account of truth needs to answer the question 'What is truth?' Better questions for a pragmatist to ask are the explanatory ones: Why do we have such a notion? What job does it do in language? According to the view Price suggests, the answer will be something like this: the difference that truth and falsity make is that they make our linguistic practice genuinely assertoric. He appeals to nothing more than the role of truth in linguistic practice. He rejects the pragmatist's urge to try to identify truth with justification and defends a kind of truth commonly seen as realist, but he does so from a pragmatist starting point, without the metaphysics that typically accompanies such a realist view of truth.
* Huw Price, Truth as Convenient Fiction’(2003), Facts and the Function of Truth Blackwell, 1988; 2nd. edn.
(English moral philosopher, 1871-1947)
Justification of moral truths is neither necessary nor possible: they are self-evident
Prichard argues that moral philosophy is based on a mistake. It has assumed ever since Socrates that the judgment of right or duty called for a defense, and a defense of a particular kind. We must show that the act alleged to be right leads to someone's advantage. The advantage might be to the agent himself or to others; and it might be in increased happiness, in enlarged knowledge, or in many another good. But if our approval was to be justified, some advantage there must be. Here, Prichard insisted, lay the mistake. No such justification is necessary or possible. The reason why we should keep a promise or avoid a lie is not that someone is going to reap a profit from it. There is really no reason at all outside the fact of duty itself; the reason for acting in this way is that it is self-evidently right and obligatory. We should do our duty because we see that it is our duty, just as we should believe what is true because we see that it is true. No more ultimate justification can be given in either case. What is right need not be right because it is contributory to the good, for it may still be right when it produces no discernible good at all, even when it produces, for all we can see, a surplus of evil. It is because of this emphasis on right as not derivative from good that Prichard and some other philosophers have received their name: they are called ‘deontologists’ because their emphasis is on το δεον that which is right or binding, as distinct from that which is good.
Prichard discusses the moral claim, "ought," by arguing that no definition can be put on this term but it is easy to recognize its properties. "An "ought", if it is to be derived at all, can only be derived from another "ought." This "ought" is directly connected to an obligation to act on what is good. Therefore, according to Prichard, an "ought" can only be the consequence of another "ought." Everyone can recognize when they "ought" to do an action, yet we are unable to define "ought" because the word "ought" would be in the definition.
Prichard’s way of explaining rightness amounts to saying that it is ultimate and inexplicable. ‘The sense of obligation to do, or of the rightness of, an action of a particular kind’, says Prichard, ‘is absolutely underivative or immediate’; ‘our sense of the rightness of an act is not a conclusion from our appreciation of the goodness either of it or of anything else’.
Prichard argues that moral philosophy rests on a mistake because it assumes that there needs to be a proof that we ought to do what in our non-reflective ethical consciousness we immediately apprehend as our obligations. There needs to be no proof, Prichard contends, because our non-reflective ethical consciousness is an intuitive knowledge of self-evident moral truths.
Prichard claims that the sense of obligation is absolutely "immediate" and cannot be arrived at by an argument. Moral rightness is intuited directly and cannot be proved.
* H.A. Prichard, "Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?" in Moral Obligation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949).
Contemporary Norvegian philosopher)
Truth itself never changes, but the forms in which we try to express it are never fully adequate
Most of the 'kings of philosophy' in line of succession from Socrates until Husserl - have firmly held that truth is immutable, or else it cannot be truth. They reject, on grounds of epistemological principle, that knowledge of truth can arise from sensory observation, that is from our sciences. Because spiritual truth is always held to be absolute and eternal, unchanging truth will not prove vulnerable to physics or other sciences because scientific knowledge is always developing and thus changing. Science is necessarily fragmentary, and its approach to reality is never complete. Old theories are discarded or modified as research progresses.
The urge towards the truth within us insists that some explanations must be false, while there must always be a true explanation. The sense of truth and truthfulness is thought either to be inherent to the structure of the human mind or else only developed through experience. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in between. Unity in understanding or 'knowing as a whole' is a goal that no seeker of truth can give up, and this goal has been sought since time immemorial. However, there are very good reasons for the view that there are questions upon which we can never reach an unambiguous, complete and clearly expressed truth. Despite this, mankind necessarily continues to seek the truth both in worldly and otherworldly matters. Since much good or ill evidently depends upon whether one has a true or a false understanding, one cannot just give up truth seeking simply because human understanding has certain limits.
It is quite logical to our minds that a truth must always remain the same if it is to be truth. The ancient issue of truth is whether it is something that can be known as an unchanging idea, quality or essence. If so, then comes the question as to whether it can be established objectively, that is - so as to be demonstrable for the benefit of everyone who wishes to know it and test it.
I may believe in the existence of objective truth, such as in moral questions and I have conviction that sometimes I do find evidence of there being a genuine supra-personal answer to what is 'truly right' in some matters. But this belief does not allow me to say that I know it with certainty. That I cannot be certain that any given assertion expresses an unchanging truth does not invalidate the ideal of truth as something to be sought and approached. This is a necessary and constant ideal of all good science, philosophy or meta-science and spirituality.
Reason requires that there must be a 'true' answer to any clear question, quite independent of particular individuals' opinions. The contrary of that right answer will also necessarily be false. Yet when anyone of influence has claimed to have the one and only true theory or teaching, valid for everyone at all times and places, it has always eventually led followers into conflict with others... that is the great tragedy of absolutizing any science, scripture, doctrine, belief, commandments or laws. It involves the failure to recognise that, though truth itself never changes, the forms in which men try to express it are never fully adequate truth itself never changes, the forms in which men try to express it are never fully adequate and that words and their interpretations change with time, place and circumstance.
* Robert Priddy, Oslo 1999, chapter seven of the book 'BEYOND SCIENCE'
( Australian philosopher. b. 1948)
Some contradictions are true
Hegel's law of contradiction states that "everything is contradictory”. Graham Priest regards Hegel as one of the first philosophers to adopt an appropriately critical attitude to the otherwise dogmatically held belief in the truth of the Aristotelian law of non-contradiction. Hegel not only questioned the law of non-contradiction, he denied it, and while this would be sufficient to damn Hegel in the eyes of most logicians, Priest defends Hegel on just this count. Hegel here anticipated the existence of systems of logic, which allow certain propositions of the form "p and ~p" to be true.
Graham Priest argues that human thought encounters irresolvable contradictions. He is the champion of what is called dialetheism, i.e. the view that there are dialetheias. A dialetheia is a true contradiction, that is, a sentence A such that 'A & ¬ A' is true. Since falsity is defined as truth of the negation, a dialetheia can be equivalently defined as a sentence A that is both true and false (as might be the case, for example with the famous ‘liar’s paradox’). This thesis may look at first sight almost unintelligible, making us wonder what the meaning of truth and negation would be if there are true contradictions.
Aristotle introduced the LNC ( the law of non contradiction) as “the most certain of all principles”. The LNC has been taken as the most indubitable and incontrovertible law of thought and being, and as the supreme cornerstone of knowledge and science. As a challenge to the LNC, therefore, dialetheism flies in the face of what most philosophers take to be common sense.
Of course it makes no sense to talk of inconsistent objects, situations, or states of affairs. The world is all there, all together: how could some pieces of it contradict some other pieces? On the other hand consistency and inconsistency might be taken as properties of sentences, or theories, or propositions, or maybe thoughts, or beliefs, etc. Contradiction has to do with discourse. The world, with its non-mental and non-linguistic inhabitants — armchairs, trees, people — is not the right kind of thing that can be consistent or inconsistent, and ascribing such properties to the world is, as some have said, a category mistake. Contradictions do not exist in reality but they can arise because the language in which they are phrased is sometimes inconsistent.
*Priest Graham, Doubt Truth to Be a Liar. Oxford University Press, 2006.
(Greek sophist, 490-420)
The subjective relativism of all truths
Protagoras’ most famous saying is well known: "Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not" . Like many fragments of the Presocratics, this phrase has been passed down to us without any context, and its meaning is open to interpretation. Plato, for one, ascribes relativism to Protagoras. Plato interprets "human-being" as referring to the individual, so Protagoras turned out to be advocating a subjectivistic relativism, when he talked about one individual's sensation may radically differ from others' sensation. For Protagoras each person like you and me is the measure. Absolute truth has vanished. Instead there are as many truths as the number of people. Thus truth becomes relative to each person. This view seems to make the teaching and the pursuit of truth impossible because everybody already has his or her own truth.
Protagoras is also represented by Plato as holding the thesis: "It is not possible to think what is false". Protagoras held the thesis for the following reason: "because one can only think what he experiences, and what he experiences is true." This means that Protagoras did not respect any distinction between thought and opinion. Protagoras claimed that whatever one experiences is true. If I say that honey tastes sweet to me, that is a true saying, so long as honey actually does taste sweet to me. Given that I cannot be mistaken in my judgment about how things taste to me, my thought must be a true one.
This means that there is no separate or objective truth apart from how each individual happens to see things. Consequently, Protagoras says that there is no such thing as falsehood. The relativism he seems to advocate has the strange logical property of not being able to deny the truth of its own contradiction. If Protagoras says that there is no falsehood, then he cannot say that the opposite, the contradiction of his own doctrine, is false. Protagoras wants to have it both ways -- that there is no falsehood but that the denial of what he says is false -- and that is typical of relativism.
He concluded that error and false belief are absolutely impossible. For a belief says only how things seem to someone, and how they seem to anyone is always how they are (true for that person).
Protagoras was also a famous proponent of agnosticism. In his lost work ‘On the Gods’, he wrote: "Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not or of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life".
* See Guthrie, Williams. The Sophists. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1971
Contemporary American religious scholar)
Religions are diverse and plural, not expressions of the same inner truth
In his new book God Is Not One, Stephen Prothero shows how the world’s religions ask very different questions, tackle very different problems, and aim at very different goals. According to many popular religion writers all religions are "different paths to the same God." Not true, says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. In his new book God Is Not One: Prothero shows how the world's religions ask very different questions, tackle very different problems, and aim at very different goals. And he explains why this matters both personally and politically.
Beginning with Islam - which of all the great religions has the greatest contemporary impact - he then moves on (in order of influence) to Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion, Judaism, and Daoism. He highlights the unique contributions each tradition has made to our collective conversation about the things that matter most. * Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
* Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
* Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
* Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
* Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
To claim that all religions are the same is foolish. And to suggest that these traditions don't matter is not just foolish, but dangerous. Throughout history and across the globe, religion matters. It has, after all, toppled the Bamiyan statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan and the Twin Towers in New York City. It has stirred up civil war in Sri Lanka and Darfur. It has moved elections in the United States. And it has resisted coalition troops in Iraq.
So all religions lead to God? That is certainly the foundation for a widespread and well-meaning modern assumption. But as Prothero shows us in this erudite and very wide-ranging study, the world's different faiths differ enormously in their essentials as well as their incidental manifestations, and any serious consideration of the role of religion must begin by recognizing that fact.
Through discussion of the world's great religions, Protero makes a convincing argument about religious difference, a hopeful antidote both to the idea that religions are mutually exclusive and to the schmaltzy claim that ‘all religions are one.
His core point - that religions are diverse and plural, not necessarily mystical expressions of the same inner truth - is bracing and relevant.
*Prothero Stephen , God is not one, (HarperOne; May 2010; Hardcover; $26.99; ISBN 9780061571275),
(Contemporary Greek philosopher of science)
Scientific theories are approximately true: the NMA argument
Psillos defends the view that we ought to be realists with respect to scientific theories. Adopting a realist attitude towards scientific theories entails that the entities posited in these theories are objectively real, existing in both observable and unobservable realms and further, that because the entities spoken of in science are real, it is a matter of course that predictive success follows.
The predictive success of science is something that, taking the realist attitude for granted, is not very surprising. Psillos calls it ‘epistemic optimism’—the realist’s belief that they are justified in holding that theoretical assertions are (approximately) true. So, in essence, the realists are arguing that successful scientific theories have accurately described the unobservable world and, mutatis mutandis, this true description of the unobservable world is what best explains why scientific theories are empirically predictively successful.
The central tenet of Psillos’ scientific realism is the so called NMA or the “no miracles argument”, which aims to show that the best and successful scientific theories are reasonably true, so the NMA actually defends the realist claim that successful theories should be nearly appropriate descriptions of the world both in its observable and unobservable aspects. The success of science is thus not miraculous, science describes the way the world is. Psillos’ claim is that the ‘no miracles argument’ is an instance of inference to the best explanation for the success of science by defending that scientific theories are approximately true. This method is criticised by the anti-realists so far as scientific realism characterizes scientific theory as a story of what there really is and as scientific realism is seen as an attempt to 'discover rather than invent' anything.
Psillos suggests also that when it comes to assessing the support which scientific theories enjoy, we should not examine only their empirical adequacy. We also need to take into account several theoretical virtues such as coherence with other established theories, consilience, completeness, unifying power and capacity to generate novel predictions. These virtues capture the explanatory power of a theory, and explanatory power is potentially confirmatory. Psillos goes on to stress that for the realist the possession of theoretical virtues is an evidential matter. The rivals of realism, typically, deny that explanatory power has anything to do with confirmation and truth: theoretical virtues are pragmatic, rather than epistemic. Realists like Psillos defend the view that these theoretical virtues have epistemic force because they are part and parcel of rational scientific judgement.
*Psillos, Stathis, Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth, Routledge, 1999
(American philosopher, b. 1926)
Putnam advocates a view which he calls “internal realism”, opposed to metaphysical realism. Metaphysical realism, which he rejects, is called by him an “externalist” perspective for which truth is correspondence between words-thoughts and external things. But for him there is no transcendent point of view from where reality can be assessed but only a variety of points of view of actual persons reflecting various interests and purposes that their descriptions and theories express. This means that there are different perspectives and therefore differing views of truth. The “internal realism” he defends is based on “conceptual relativism” which recognizes the possibility of different descriptions of reality, all of them true and rationally acceptable ways of saying what there is. He claims that there is a plurality of apparently incompatible ways of interpreting the external world. These ways are actually incompatible if and only if they are taken as “absolute”. If we give up the dogma that there is only one true interpretation (the absolutist claim) then we can recognize that these different ‘ontologies’ are right and correct. None of these ontologies can be declared as the winner, but none as the loser as well. What counts as true statements will differ from one ontology to another, from one “conceptual scheme” to another.
According to Putnam facts are never independent of conceptual choices. Facts are scheme relative. This implies that every fact is a fact only within a conceptual scheme to which there are acceptable alternatives. Every true statements we make reflects a certain scheme of conceptualisation, a certain mode of representation. This view of conceptual relativity includes the claim of a plurality of alternatives, equally correct ways of describing what there is. On this point Putnam dissociates himself from the Kantian view of a unique conceptual scheme, the same for all human minds. For Putnam there is a variety of possible conceptual schemes, all of which are equally justifiable.
Truth is not independent of a choice of conceptual-theoretical scheme. But within a given scheme a statement is true when what the statement is about is as the statement says it to be. It is important to notice that Putnam’s view does not include that truth itself is conceptual-scheme relative. The concept of truth itself does not change from one conceptual scheme to another.
Putnam’s view is a form of realism. There is an objective reality that is what it is independent of our wishes, fancies or preferences. We can’t decide what the facts are. But his realism differs from “metaphysical realism” in that no reality is independent of our conceptual-cognitive activity. We are always dealing with the world as structured in some conceptual scheme to which there are acceptable alternatives. But within such schemes, things are one way rather than another independently of our choices and beliefs. The mind does not make up the world. This is “internal realism” which has the familiar features of realism, with the important qualification that we have realism in each of the many different ways of conceptualising the world., instead of having realism “ all at once” for a unique reality. There is no one realism but a plurality of realisms. We can use a realist conception of truth inside each scheme, though we cannot raise the question as to which scheme is the true one, in the realist sense of ‘true’. Putnam’s internal realism amounts to a relativized form of realism, in which truth comes to no more than “idealized rational acceptability”, some sort of “ideal coherence of our beliefs with each other and with our experiences as those experiences are themselves represented in our belief system”.
Putnam’s internal realism is a rejection of traditional realism which he characterises as the fantasy of imagining that the form of all knowledge claims is fixed once and for all in advance, as well as the fantasy that there must be just one way in which a knowledge claim can be responsible to reality – by “corresponding” to it, where correspondence is thought of as a mysterious relation that somehow underwrites the very possibility of there being knowledge claims. One cannot speak once and for all of “all propositions” as if these constitued a surveyable totality, and one single “truth predicate”, whose meaning is fixed once and for all. To the traditional external realism of monistic truth, Putnam substitutes the internal realism of pluralistic truth.
* Putnam, Hilary, Reason, Truth and History, Cambridge University, 1981; The Many Faces of Realism, LaSalle III, Open Court.
(Greek Philosopher, c.360 – c.270)
Pyrrho argued that every object of human knowledge involves uncertainty and thus that it is impossible to arrive at the knowledge of truth. He is known to be the founder of the sceptical school of philosophy. However his philosophy was purely practical in its outlook. His brand of scepticism was not posited on account of its speculative interest, but much more because Pyrrho saw in it the road to happiness and the escape from the miseries of life.
The wise person, he said, should ask him/herself three questions. First: what things are? To which no answer is possible because we only know appearances. Second: how does one relate to things? In fact things appear differently to different people. The diversity of opinions makes it impossible to determine true knowledge about these things. Third: what should be our attitude towards these things? The answer is that there ought to be complete suspense of judgement. As we can be certain of nothing we should not make any positive statements on any subject. One can never say : “this is true” but only “it seems to be true”, “it appears to be so to me”. Nothing in itself is true or false, it only appears to be so. In the same way nothing is in itself good or evil. It is only opinion, custom or law that decides what is good and what is evil.
The theory that there is no truth but only opinion leads Pyrrho to invite people to the practice of apathy and quietism. The wise person ceases to prefer one course of action to another and the result will be “ataraxia” (apathy). Complete suspension of opinion entails complete suppression of action. Indeed all actions are founded on belief, but all beliefs are delusions, hence the absence of action is the wisest course to follow. In apathy the wise person renounces all desires. Desire is based on the wrong view that one thing is better or truer than another. The pursuit of illusionary truth and the desire of illusionary good can only lead to misery. One should abstain from both.
Pyrrho believed that there is no possibility of attaining happiness unless one first realises that all philosophical views are equally false and that the real truth of things cannot be attained.
* See Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Pyrrho
(Greek philosopher and mathematician, c.580-c.480 BC)
The idea that truth can only be sought in the purity of abstraction and therefore is mathematical in nature, was picked up and developed by Pythagoras. He suggested that every truth can be expressed by mathematics.
Pythagoras showed that mathematics has some profound philosophical implications, in so far as it is the chief source of the belief in eternal and exact truth, as well as in a super-sensible intelligible world. Exact reasoning applies to ideal, rather than physical, objects. Furthermore, numbers appear to be time-independent. Hence mathematics seems to deal with an ideal, eternal world of pure thought and eternal truth.
Pythagoras realized that qualitative differences in sense perception are based on mathematical reasoning. His discovery that vibrating strings, under equal tension sound together harmoniously, if their lengths are in simple numerical ratios, established for the first time a profound connection between truth and beauty.
Pythagoras’ disciples, or Pythagoreans, believed that the principles of mathematics were the principles of all things. Now, since the principles of mathematics are numbers, and they thought they found in numbers, more than in fire and earth and water, similarities with things that are and since furthermore they saw expressed by numbers the properties and the ratios of harmony, since finally everything in nature appeared to them to be similar to numbers, and numbers appeared to be first among all there is in nature, they thought that the elements of numbers were the elements of all that there is, and that the truth about the whole world was that it is harmony and number.
*See O'Meara D.J., Pythagoras Revived , Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989