(German philosopher, 1852-1933)
Vaihinger calls his doctrine the philosophy of “as if”. He means by this that when thought oversteps its limits and forms ideas which cannot be other than false, we may sometimes accept these ideas as if they were true, because we find that they have a practical value. Such ideas Vaihinger calls ‘fictions’. Fictions are not hypotheses, which have some relations to fact, whereas fictions have no such relations and are unverifiable. They do not represent anything in the world, but they may nevertheless be useful. For Vaihinger indeed theoretical interests are subordinate to practical interests. Ideas and judgements are at the service of the will to live. We should not expect our ideas to give us ‘a portrayal of reality’ – an impossible task – but rather to provide us with an instrument for finding our way about in the world. Fictions may be helpful in this respect and therefore they have value for us in spite of their theoretical falsity.
Fictions enter into most areas of our thinking. In mathematics, for instance, fictitious ideas such as the square root of minus one are proved to be very useful. In all areas of knowledge ideas which are in one way or another contradictory or erroneous nevertheless have the value of utility. In the field of religion, basic ideas such as God, soul, etc. are all fictitious. It is most advantageous to recognise their fictitious character, for then one will not be distressed about trying to make sense of them. The value of fictions is not affected by their theoretical falsity. Religions would save themselves a lot of trouble and time spent in trying to show the truth of their claims. They should admit that religious ideas do not lose their value for life once believers decide to regard them as fictions. For Vaihinger indeed religion is not theoretical belief but practical belief and that means that the believer is one who acts as if his belief were true, even if they are false. The dignity of the ‘religion as if’ is said to lie precisely in the fact that “the good man does good although theoretically he does not believe in a moral world-order”. He acts as if he did believe in it. This is Vaihinger’s brand of ‘religion as if’ built up on a pragmatic, even though at the same time pessimistic, basis.
* Vaihinger, H. The Philosophy of “As If”, see Macquarrie J.,Twentieth-century Religious Thought, Harper & Row, New York, 1963, p. 80-82.
(Contemporary British Christian theologian and apologist)
Epistemological difficulties in the truth claim of pantheistic religion
Since the duality knower-known is an illusion in pantheism, what could be the meaning of knowledge in the case of the atman-Brahman identity? "Knowing" this identity cannot be a real epistemological process. According to S. Radhakrishnan : "As the distinction between the highest self and the individual is one of false knowledge, we get rid of it by true knowledge." (Indian Philosophy, vol. II, p. 622). This "true knowledge" corresponds to experiencing a pantheistic perspective on reality. To "know" Brahman is not equivalent to having a relationship with an external personal being. Therefore, a better term than that of knowing what Ultimate Reality really is, is that of experiencing unity with it, through certain meditation techniques. Meditation is a way of transcending duality through focusing consciousness on the ultimate unity of the world in Brahman, and terms such as "direct knowledge of truth" represent one's actual experiences in meditation.
According to this doctrine of world-illusion (maya), empirical knowledge is elusive in matters of finding out ultimate truth. The senses, through which we interact with the phenomenal world, as well as mind, which operates with this data, provide confusing information when trying to grasp spiritual realities. They feed human ignorance (avidya) of the true reality, which is Brahman.
However, argues Valea, we can consider empirical knowledge illusory only by using an objective standard as reference against which it can be proven to be wrong. As long as the knower is inside the world of illusion, bound to it, he or she cannot know what is wrong with his empirical way of knowing. In other words, in a closed system where illusion reigns, we can prove that empirical knowledge is true or false only by having an absolute standard which does not belong to the same system. Without such an epistemological basis we cannot make objective judgments on reality. But what could be the standard for establishing the illusory value of empirical knowledge? If it is a god, a being which is external to our closed system but still able to communicate with humans, we arrive at what is called revelation in theistic religions. In this situation we should accept duality and intelligible communication inside a dualistic system, but this obviously cannot be the case in pantheism. If the required standard were an internal one, such as experience (the effect of living out "reality" in one’s personal life, or experiencing life as suffering), we arrive at another contradiction of an epistemological nature: if we knew from experience that phenomenological knowledge is false, then no room would be left for reaching "absolute knowledge" because it is always introduced and mediated by empirical, or first hand, experience. In other words, as long as all information we get about spiritual reality is mediated by our senses (sight and hearing) and mind, and these have ultimately illusory value, how can we know that the pantheist perspective itself is not a deceptive illusion itself?
As long as atman, the core entity that defines human existence, has an impersonal nature, personhood is a hindrance to attaining liberation and, consequently, has to be abolished. The oblivion of personhood does not refer only to some of its products, such as egoism, but to the very existence of the psycho-mental faculties which define it - intellect, will, emotions, consciousness, communion, etc. All these are said to belong to the inferior ego, totally distinct from the self (atman). No possible relationship can exist between them.
However, it is only personhood that makes us distinct humans and confers personal identity, not the impersonal atman devoid of any attributes. Since real freedom is experienced only at liberation it must have a different meaning from what we normally imagine. It means liberation out of personhood, not becoming a free person. So the puzzling thing is that there is no personal agent left to experience freedom when the self merges with Brahman !
See Internet Valea Ernest
(Christian Gnostic theologian, c.100 – c.150)
The direct experience of the divine Truth through gnosis.
The Valentinians made a clear distinction between belief (pistis) and gnosis. To them belief in a body of teachings was much inferior to gnosis. Pistis, the Greek word for faith denotes intellectual and emotional acceptance of a proposition. To the Valentinians, faith (pistis) is primarily intellectual/emotional in character and consists accepting a body of teaching as true.
Gnosis is not rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge ('He knows mathematics') and knowing through observation or experience ('He knows me'). As the gnostics use the term, one could translate it as 'insight', for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself. Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.Whereas faith corresponds to the intellectual/emotional aspect of religion, gnosis corresponds to the spiritual/experiential aspect.
Valentinians linked the distinction between pistis and gnosis to the distinction they made between psyche and pneuma. The psyche (soul) was identified by them with cognitive/emotional aspect of the personality (the ego consciousness). The pneuma (spirit) was identified by them with the intuitive/unconscious level. The psyche was seen as consubstantial with the Demiurge while the pneuma was consubstantial with Sophia (and hence with God). Both the psyche and pneuma were capable of salvation. Psyche was saved through pistis while pneuma was saved through gnosis. Hence they distinguished two levels of salvation: psychic and pneumatic.
The psychic level of salvation was characterized by conversion (metanoia) and faith (pistis). This corresponds to receiving oral and written teachings since the psyche "requires perceptible instruction". The psychic level of salvation is "believing from human testimony". Through pistis and psychic salvation, one attained to the level of the Demiurge. In order to be saved the person had to freely chose to believe and to do good works. The psychic level of salvation was decisive in that it opened the person to the possibility of attaining the pneumatic level. Receiving the Valentinian tradition was only a first step towards the goal of gnosis.
The superior pneumatic level of salvation depends on the person having already attained to the psychic level. At the pneumatic level the person was reborn through spiritual resurrection and directly experienced the divine Truth through gnosis. At first men believe in the Savior because they are lead to that point by men, but when they encounter his word they no longer believe because of human testimony alone, but from the Truth itself. Through gnosis one could participate in and experience the divine realm. One attained gnosis through the grace of God, not by choice. Psychic salvation was by choice while pneumatic salvation was by election.
In orthodox Christianity (Ireneaus), pistis is an end in itself. The object of pistis is pistis itself. This easily leads to a rigid dogmatism. Salvation comes to be seen as acceptance of a specific body of dogma to the exclusion of all others. In Valentinianism and other forms of "Gnostic" Christianity, the object of pistis is gnosis. The teachings are seen as a series of metaphors that point to the higher reality of gnosis.
The Valentinians criticized Irenaeus' rigid emphasis on dogma and pistis (faith) alone at the expense of gnosis. In their view, Irenaeus' Christianity was unspiritual and offered only the lower psychic level of salvation. while they themselves had attained the higher pneumatic salvation.
*See Valentinus - A Gnostic for All Seasons, introductory essay by Stephan A. Hoeller (from the Gnosis Archive website).
(Indian Vedantic philosopher, 1481-1533)
For Vallabha's monistic metaphysics of total identity between beings (S'uddha-Advaita-Vedânta), reality excludes all non-being: there are no differences between beings, everything is the same as everything else. The world, the souls and Brahman are one and same reality: the finite and the infinite are not different. There is nothing "missing" in the finite, which is not - as S'ankara claimed - the product of Mâyâ. It is only the EXPERIENCER who misses the fullness of Brahman in his experience of finite realities. His 'experience' is the cause of ignorance and as a result he upholds the distinction of the finite from the infinite.
Brahman has the capacity to express as well as to hide its nature. Thus, out of three qualities of Sat (Existence), Chit (Consciousness), and Ananda (Bliss), Jiva or ordinary soul fails to manifest Ananda and both Ananda and Consciousness are hidden in jada or insentient beings. Full manifestation of all the three expresses the true nature of Brahman. Thus, Brahman is Truth in all its threefold expressions and as such there is no scope to call any of its manifestation as "illusory" or "mithya", that is "false". This is the main basis of "Shuddhadvaita Philosophy" of Vallabha, and also the point to defeat the "Mâyâvâda" of Shankara.
However, one can raise the objection that if reality is absolutely one and non-differentiated, and if on the other hand the differences exist for the ordinary experiencer, how can one account for the 'reality' and status of the experiencer himself? If the experiencer is real he must be different than the experienced reality and if he is not real where does the experience of reality come from? Hence if everything is true and nothing false because there is no otherness, how can one explain the status of the experiencer who recognizes the difference of finite and infinite?
For Vallabha the ontological distinction of finite and infinite is meaningless. His monistic ontology of "truth only" does not explain the dichotomy of truth/falsehood on the epistemological level. S'ankara had turned the difficulty in introducing his elusive concept of Mâyâ. In rejecting it, Vallabha is unable to account for the existence of false knowledge and ignorance. If there is truth only, where does falsehood come from?
* See Mercier, J.L. From the Upanishads to Aurobindo, Asian Trading Corporation, India, 2002, 110-115
(Pen name of a contemporary American philosopher)
“Truth respect”: an attitude toward truth distinct from absolutism and subjectivism. 1.Truth respect is an intellectual disposition in which we esteem impartial truth, avow the limitations of our own knowledge, and accept that these convictions do not stand in contradiction to each other. Defined in this manner, ‘truth respect’ has three distinct parts, 1. impartial truth; 2. limited human knowledge; 3. non-contradiction between 1 and 2. In commonsense thinking, we (the vast majority) in varying degrees, accept these three basic presuppositions about truth and knowledge as a matter of course.
In the first place we understand that truth-as-truth is impartial. That is to say, in commonsense thinking we know that truth is internally harmonious, universal, reliable, and independent of our knowledge of it. In the second place, we also know our own personal knowledge, while reliable in many circumstances, is also limited, mutable, easily infected with mistakes, and in a continuous process of development. Added to that, in a third step of commonsense thinking, we understand that impartiality of truth and human limitations are simultaneously true. That is to say, impartial truth and partial human knowledge complement and do not contradict. Whether we critically appreciate it or not, the three truth assertions just mentioned underlie sound reasoning, normal conversation, and day by day courteous business. These three root verities taken together are implied in the term ‘truth respect’.
Peg 1: Truth Is Impartial. Truth in its full extension is an intellectual aspect of reality that is unchanging, internally harmonious, universal and without error. Impartial truth is the same for all.
Peg 2: Human Knowledge is limited. Human knowledge, as plus defined, refers to those items in our thought systems we believe to be true that actually are true. Human knowledge is limited and easily compromised by ignorance and illusion. Human knowledge varies from person to person and time to time; it is in a continual process of growth or decline. It is often in need of modification, and it is always in need of development.
Peg 3: 1 & 2 Are Simultaneously True. Pegs 1 & 2 do not contradict. Rather they are complementary and concurrently true. The solution to the elemental problems of truth & knowledge is to accept with firm resolution that all three of the above primary elemental generalities (PEG) are true.
2. Truth respect, absolutism, & subjectivism constitute the three modes of viewing the meaning of truth as it relates to human knowledge. Truth respect is an attitude toward truth that is distinct from absolutism and subjectivism. Pegs 1, 2, & 3, taken together, deny the assumed (usually unsaid) minor premise of absolutism and subjectivism, that is, the hidden premise which equates truth with human knowledge. Truth respect emphatically maintains that we humans do not create truth. Instead we discover it through properly directed rational activity. We discover truth in limited increments: there is always more to find.
* Virginis Vallee The Roots of Sound Rational Thinking , see Internet
(Contemporary American maverick philoopher)
No one can deny the existence of truth in itself.
“Retortion” is the philosophical procedure whereby one seeks to establish a thesis by uncovering a performative inconsistency in anyone who attempts to deny it. Proofs by retortion have the following form: Proposition p is such that anyone who denies it falls into performative inconsistency; ergo, p is true.
We can use this procedure to establish the existence of truth, by which I mean the existence of truths. By the existence of truth I mean the existence of truth an sich, in itself, and apart from minds. Can it be proven by retortion that there are some truths that subsist independently of all minds?
Suppose one tries to deny that there are truths. One asserts: there are no truths. But to assert any proposition is to assert it as true. Assertion by its very nature is assertion-as-true. Note that one can assert that a certain proposition p is false, but the content of that assertion is not p, but a distinct proposition q, namely, the proposition that p is false. Clearly, to assert q is to assert q as true. In sum, to assert is to assert as true.
So one who asserts that there are no truths is asserting it as true that there are no truths. The upshot is performative inconsistency: the act or performance of asserting 'contradicts' the content asserted. The 'retortionist' -- to give him a name -- then infers the mind-independent truth of ‘There are truths’ from the undeniability or ineluctability of ‘There are truths’. The crucial move here is the move from a proposition's ineluctability to its being true independently of any mind and its operations.
I will go so far as to say that not even God can deny the existence of truth in itself. Suppose God were to assert : there is no truth in itself apart from Me! But then there is a truth apart from him, namely, the truth that there is no truth apart from him. The content of the divine assertion 'contradicts' God's asserting of it. So not even God can deny the existence of truth in itself.
*See Internet Bill Vallicella
(Contemporary Dutch theologian)
Van de Pol takes ‘convention’ in the sense of habit. When people agree between themselves on a set of ideas and practices, their behaviour in the long run becomes a habit. What has been agreed upon in a particular community will gradually and almost unconsciously modify and determine the behaviour all members of the community. The outcome of the process is a conventional collective behaviour: conventional opinions and attitudes, conventional norms and judgements. People do not know any longer how the conventions have appeared as they often go back to a very distant past. The established conventions are such that the people think they are bound to hold them even if the reasons for them are quite obscure.
All religions, at all times and places, have manifested a pronounced conventional character. This is often due to the fact that religions are a mass phenomenon. On this point the difference between religion, philosophy and science is striking. In most cases philosophers and scientists are individuals who have been able to surmount conventional interpretations. The case is different with religions which are not a matter of individuals but of communities. Religion is a social as well as cultural and even in some cases an ethnological phenomenon (the religion of the tribe, the Vedic Indian religion, the Parsee religion,etc.)
The conventional aspect of religion consists in the fact that religious convictions and practices are considered as true and good not because one perceives their truth and goodness on the basis of reflection, experience or personal discovery, but because they are what people have always been told at home, at school, in the temple or church, in the religious environment in which they have grown.
The characteristics of religious ‘conventionality’ can be described as follows:
- People accepts religious conventions in a natural, spontaneous, a priori way without critical reflection. Would some one question or express doubt on what is prescribed, he would be a danger for the conventions and traditions which defines the community to which he belongs. The acceptance of religious conventions is hardly compatible with any kind of challenge and questioning.
- The main purpose of religious conventions is to provide the believer with a feeling of peace, security and protection. They want to shelter believers from the existential anxiety that haunts every human being.
- Communication with the external world does not seem to accord with the substance of conventional religion. Religious authorities often endeavour to prevent, as far as possible, the relation between believers entrusted to them and people “who think otherwise”.
- Religious conventions have a function of conservation and protection. Attempts of personal reflections on certain debated questions are suspicious. On the other hand a large number of believers are unable to have a personal opinion on religious matters. They are unaware of the fact that religious conventions and traditions do not give them the guarantee of really possessing the truth. They get a shock when they discover that what they had always believed on account of religious conventions, is not so certain as it appears.
- Religious conventions tend to foster isolation, myopy and intolerance. They stand as an obstacle to a fruitful encounter and dialogue between members of different religious communities.
- Religious leaders believe themselves bound to defend and maintain at all cost the conventional convictions and norms of their communities. The growing awareness of the laity in religious matters is often seen as a danger by religious authorities who see the phenomenon as a threat to the conventional idea of religion. This is the conflict between maturity and authority, maturity and conventionality. Progress in maturity on the part of serious and deep thinkers entails a progressive ruin of religious conventionality. A growing number of believers today expect from religious authorities true answers to the questions concerning the plausibility of traditional doctrines and practices.
- Finally one must stress the harmful link that exists between conventionality and prejudice. The deep motive of prejudicial views lies in the anxiety felt in the face of a possible destruction of conventional convictions and practices, and consequently the loss of personal security. Prejudices have much to do with affectivity and emotions. They play a harmful role in the process of knowledge. In fact they exclude all possibility of right judgement and honest search for truth. Some prejudices are so deeply rooted in the structure of personality that to renounce them would be a danger for personal integrity: “To change all that, would entail a complete reversal of meaning in my life”. This is particularly the case of prejudices of the religious type. In this case the individual prejudices of believers are rooted in the collective prejudices of conventional religion. The fact that religious conventions are collective prejudices is the greatest obstacle on the way of an ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.
* Van de Pol, W.-H., La Fin du Christianisme Conventionel, Centurion, Paris, 1968, p.31-46
(Contemporary Scottish reader in computing science)
Vagueness rather than the false-true bivalence
Classical logic is based on binary dichotomies: yes/no, true/false. But that is not suited to thinking about the world's fundamentally vague things, which include some of the things science is based on, such as measurement. In fact vagueness seeps in everywhere. We think we know what things like obesity or poverty are but they are context-based concepts. Our daily lives are full of vagueness or fuzziness. When we describe someone as "tall," for example, it is as though there is a particular height beyond which a person can be considered "tall."
Kees Van Deemter cuts across various disciplines to illuminate the nature and importance of vagueness. He shows why vagueness is both unavoidable and useful, and he demonstrates how tempting--and how wrong--it often is to think in terms of black and white, true and false, instead of the richly graded spectrum of the world around us. Vagueness, the author argues, allows us to focus on what matters, leaving out irrelevant details, and adding texture to what would otherwise be unintelligible facts. The embrace of vagueness, however, comes at a price, for when degrees of grey are accepted, concepts like truth, belief, and proof loose their power, and we are banished from that paradise in which truth and falsity are the only possibilities.
Vague expressions entail borderline cases and are inherent to the nature of language. Even though vagueness is preferable to crispness in some circumstances, the use of vague expressions can lead to misunderstanding and inconsistency. Most notable is the test case of the paradox of the heap, also known as the sorites paradox: how many stones compose a heap?
Still Van Deemter argues that without "vague" notions life would be more difficult. Vagueness can be tackled. "Fuzzy logic," which is not fuzzy at all but a system that picks out things within a range, helps.
*Van Deemter Kees, No exactly, In praise of Vagueness, Oxford University Press, 2010
(Contemporary Canadian professor of philosophy)
The pragmatic theory of truth ... is false
What is truth?
According to the pragmatic theory of truth, truth is defined as usefulness. That a statement is true means that it is useful—truth means "what works." On the pragmatic view, then, for a belief to be true means that it guides us successfully when we act on it. By "truth" we mean whatever helps us achieve our values or goals.
Here is an example from religion. To believe that "Jesus loves me" is true means (merely) that this belief is useful for me, i.e., it gives me peace and meaning in my life. For others, peace and meaning come from, say, Buddhism, or Islam, or the New Age—so "Jesus loves me" is not true for them. In other words, what works for me does not work for them. I have my truth, and they have theirs. We should not accept this theory, for two reasons.
First, although actions based on truth often lead to success, from this fact it does not follow logically that all successful actions are based on truth. It turns out that falsehoods can be useful, too. And we know this. We need to make a distinction between a belief that is true and a belief that works. But the pragmatic definition of truth fails to make this distinction.
Second, it is a plain fact that many truths simply cannot be regarded as solutions to problems or as useful. They just are. Think of the truths that there is a bit of dust under your desk, that there is a leaf on the window ledge, etc. These truths hold whether I use them (e.g., in this column) or not.
Thus, the pragmatic theory of truth should be rejected. It fails to account for our pre-theoretic distinction between truth and what works, and it fails to account for the fact that some truths just are, whether they work or not. That a belief works may count to some extent as evidence for the belief's truth, but it's not what truth means.
*Hendrik van der Breggen, "What is truth?" [Apologia, November 13, 2008].)
(Dutch-born American philosopher of science, b. 1941)
Bas van Fraassen is known for his arguments against scientific realism, particularly for his argument that it is a mistake to suppose that the aim of science is to discover true theories. Instead he maintains that a more reasonable (and indeed actually attainable) aim for science is to discover empirically adequate theories - i.e., theories that fit the observable facts sufficiently well.
Realism holds that it is part of the aim of science that the claims it makes about unobservable as well as observable entities are literally true. Realism holds further that to accept a scientific theory is to believe that these claims are true. In place of realism, van Fraassen proposes a view that he calls “constructive empiricism”. It holds that scientific theories aim at theories that are empirically adequate (rather than ‘true’), and that the only belief involved in acceptance of a scientific theory is belief that the theory is empirically adequate.
van Fraassen illustrates his position in suggesting an analogy with some of the basic stands that people take in regard to religion: fundamentalism, atheism, liberalism or agnosticism.
- Scientific realism is somewhat like religious fundamentalism: the doctrines in question are interpreted literally, and believed to be true.
- Some forms of anti-realism, e.g. fictionalism, are analogous to atheism: the doctrines are interpreted literally, and believed to be false.
- Other forms of anti-realism are like liberal theology, for instance Bultmann's demythologized Christianity. Religious doctrines are held to be true, but only if interpreted non-literally and symbolically.
- Agnosticism interprets the doctrines literally but withholds both belief and disbelief about their being either true or false. Van Fraassen’s version of anti-realism belongs to this agnostic type. According to him, although theories are either true or false, their truth or falsehood cannot be known and in any case the question of their truth or falsity is irrelevant to science. Van Fraassen believes that the primary criterion for judging a scientific theory is whether it is empirically adequate; that is, whether it accounts for the observable data.
Besides empirical adequacy van Fraassen uses pragmatic criteria in judging theories. Among these are mathematical elegance, simplicity, wideness of scope, and explanatory power. However, he stresses that these are not criteria of truth.†Rather they provide reasons for preferring theories independently of the question of truth.
* Van Fraassen, The Scientific Image,Clarendon Press, 1980
(Contemporary American ‘anti-Christ’ author)
Our corrupted spiritual perception cannot perceive the true reality.
Whatever we know about physical reality is based on lies. The foundation of the universe and thus of physical reality is constructed on a system of spiritual deceit.
Ideologies, propaganda, and systems of law can successfully deceive and maintain fictional realities for millennia in a nation of people. Human-accepted religions are based on spiritual and physical fraud. We accept this fraud as truth, and based on this corrupted understanding we have woven a reality that has no connection in the environment based on truth.
We know that god is a fraud because he is a god of mysteries. If we cannot understand him, see him or have two-way communion with him he proves himself to be a fraud. An honest and loving god would not prevent two-way conscious communion. If we pray to god and do not instantly and surely know that our prayers are heard and manifested he proves himself a fraud. This god isolated himself from his creatures. We are not sure that he exists!
Because of our ignorance in spirit our physical beingness is based on religion-a belief system. We believe things and scenarios of reality but we know nothing in truth. What we observe and experience is given to us by input of a spiritual control system wherein all future events are already frozen into the progression of the display; and nothing we experience and believe to know has a foundation in truth. God gives prophesies, so he has already established the future. There is thus a plan like in the composing of a play or symphony. Our souls exist in a spiritual coma because we have no spiritual insight at all. We, as spiritual beings, flounder in a morass of make-believe fed to us by a liar; hence our reliance on religion.
Souls, as spiritual entities underlying their physical bodies, are lost because the core of truth in their beingness has been invaded by a system of lies. As spiritual beings we are devoid of truth and thus absent from true reality. The souls underpinning our physical existence are absent in reality. Even though Jehovah, Allah, the Great Spirit Thor, Zeus or whatever name he goes by, planned and designed the working of the universe, and souls were its builders and its inhabitants through the human forms they adapted, it is a work of fiction and does not exist in reality. It is a mere construction in the collective minds of a bunch of deceived souls. It is a sickly, spiritual hallucination.
Truth depends on correct perception, but when one's spiritual perception has been corrupted, the true reality cannot be perceived. The condition of physical creatures is that their spiritual perception and understanding is based on a system of lies.
* Hans van Krieken, The Truth about Reality, What God and Religion Do Not Want You to Know, 2008
(Belgian philosopher, 1904-1993)
The question of the truth of knowledge does not occur on the level of perception. Truth is the conformity of the knowing subject to the known object: this supposes the distinction of two contents of consciousness to be compared. In perception there is only one content of consciousness: the perceived object and nothing else. The question of truth can be raised only on the level of judgment where we compare the act of affirming and the perceived object expressed by this act.
Truth is the conformity of the judgment to the object that expresses it. Conformity presupposes that there are two terms that are compared to each other. For the conformity to be known , both terms of the comparison must be known. These two conditions of duality and comparability are realised in my consciousness when I formulate a judgment. The duality in question is between the object present to my consciousness and the act of judging by which I express it. Both are the contents of my consciousness. My judgment is true if it attributes a character to the object which the object really possesses. Otherwise my judgment is false. The conformity implies that the mind has made a decision and taken a definite attitude towards reality. The mind conforms itself in an active fashion to the object known. The judgment is the subject's own work and it is in the judgment that there is truth.
Truth seems to be easy: it is only a matter of conformity of the mind to the object present to my consciousness. Still we all know that the judgment involves the risk of error. How is error possible since the attitude of the mind is dictated by the object present to my consciousness? According to Van Steenberghen, all errors in judgement occurs on account of a variety of factors extrinsic to the object of my knowledge which make my judgment go beyond the real datum which should be the exclusive norm of my affirmation. Under the influence of these external factors, I attribute to a subject predicates that do not belong to it. For instance these factors may be the subject's haste, temerity, confusion, prejudices, mistakes in logic. etc. To the objection that our judgments are uncertain because no permanent objects exist and therefore no permanent truth about them can be ascertained – so that truth must be said to change all the time like reality - one must reply that even if all objects are fleeting, it does not prevent the knower from making judgments that are eternally true.
Experience of being is an infallible knowledge. Its objectivity is absolutely guaranteed. Experience of being is the immediate presence of the known in the knower. It is an intuition. Knowledge as experience realizes the immediate union, the real unity of the datum and the knowing subject. Never mind if one calls the datum "phenomenal", because the phenomenon is something real too. Every experience implies somewhat a real identity of knower and thing known, not just and only a juxtaposition in space and time like the teapot and the teacups. This is not illusion. The experience may be imperfect: the identity may be superficial, transitory or limited, nevertheless these imperfections of human knowledge do not hurt the perfect objectivity of my knowledge of the real.
* Van Steenberghen, Fernand, Epistemology, New York, Wagner, 1949, p.17Osq
(Dutch born reformed theologian, 1894-1987)
Christian truth must be presupposed : argumentation for the truth of Christianity is useless
The gospel truth should be presupposed and not argued for: such was Van Til’s view for whom to defend the truth of the gospel was to deny the (Calvinist} doctrine of the total depravity of man. He believed that man's reason was damaged due to the Fall and that direct argumentation for the truth of Christianity would be useless. He stated that "on account of sin man is blind with respect to truth wherever truth appears." Van Til taught that without the correct view about God, man cannot have the correct view of himself and the world. The unsaved man is biased against God; he presupposes his own autonomy. The unsaved man believes he can start with himself and find truth without aid from God. There is therefore no neutral ground between believers and nonbelievers. The nonbeliever presupposes human autonomy; the believer presupposes the existence of God. With the absence of neutral ground, traditional apologetics cannot even get started and is useless.
All people interpret the facts by their preconceived world view (their presuppositions or biases). Therefore, if we want to keep apologetics it must be by way of “presupposition apologetics”. People are not unbiased observers who allow the facts to determine their world view, and so two opposing presuppositions are competing for a person's allegiance. The nonbeliever presupposes that he himself is the final or ultimate reference point in all human thought, but the believer rightly presupposes the final or ultimate reference point in human thought to be the Triune God who speaks to man through His infallible Word. There is no neutral ground here. Consequently one cannot argue for Christianity. Instead, the validity of the gospel must be presupposed.
Cornelius Van Til contended that "all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning." By this he meant that "the starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another." In other words, when attempting to prove something, a person must first assume the conclusion to be true before proving it to be true. Van Til claimed that every argument contains its conclusion in its initial premise: "all reasoning" as circular. The point he was stressing is that we argue from our presuppositions, not to them. One must presuppose the truth of Christianity, and this cannot be done “apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit”.
*Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969
(Contemporary Dutch theologian)
1. All human knowledge is the result of an interpretative activity. The truth of an interpretation depends on the nature of the subject-matter to be interpreted as well as on the skill of the interpreter. Different subjects demand different methods of interpretation and interpreters in different situations employ different means to perform their task.
To assess the truth-value of an interpretation, one must take into account two things: first the conclusion of the interpreter, that is his final statement, and second the way he has come to his final statement, that is, the interpreter’s basic interpretative question.
In that basic question are contained all the components of the context of the interpreter’s actvity. Even more one should say that the interpreter’s conclusions are implicitly present in his questions.
Thus the truth-value of an interpretation ( and all knowledge is interpretative) does not depend first on the conclusion and final statement of the interpreter but also and more on the role of the question it implies. It is not only the conclusion of the interpreter that can be qualified true or false but also his interpretative question. The question that precedes the conclusion is a part of the whole interpretative truth. Even more the truth of the whole interpretation is primarily the truth of the question, secondarily the truth of the answer-conclusion of the interpreter.
2. To give primacy to the questions rather than to answers and conclusive statements amounts to state that truth is primarily the truth of life of concrete persons and secondarily a noetic intellectual truth. Any propositional truth which claims to possess the key to history is alienating, enslaving and dangerous when it is unrelated to the truth of life. To use other words to express Vas’s central idea, we could say that “essential” truth must always be linked to “existential” truth. Essential truth must always follow and not precede existential truth. It follows that truth is both universal and particular, perennial and temporal. It is perennial in so far as it is a quest for meaning, universally valid in the developing historical structure of its inevitable question. But it remains particular and temporal in the answers given and the conclusions reached, which are never absolutely evident but always open to revision and correction.
It is quite remarkable that existential truth is never truth in conflict with other viewpoints but in participation and dialogue with them. On the contrary isolated essential truth is truth versus other essential truths because it is exclusive of other truths than itself and thus bent to produce heresy and unorthodoxy. Dialogue is impossible on the level of essential truth on account of its being static, dogmatic, isolated and propositional. Essential truth is closed and that is its pitfall while existential truth is always open like all questions are open while answers and conclusions are naturally closed. To keep its openness essential truth must realize at all times its character of provisionality and relativity. If this mental attitude is kept then the task of essential truth is seen in its proper perspectives and limitations.
It must be admitted that essential or propositional truth is unavoidable. Man does not live alone with questions. He needs answers and conclusions even though he must remain open to the revision of these answers and conclusions and be aware of their provisional character due to the fact of their being conditioned by the historical context. Human life is not made only of questions but also of answers and affirmations, which nonetheless are never absolute and final. We are in need of syntheses and sytems but we should never be possessed by them..
3. These considerations may now be applied to the case of Christian (or any religious) truth. Christian truth is interpretative knowledge. Its truth-value is primarily found in the questions and secondarily in the answer it gives. That means that Christian truth is not about particular events, facts, doctrinal statements. Rather it is motivated by the same perennial question common to all human beings: the quest for meaning inevitably projected in the context of a certain historical situation. The concrete situation for the Christian is the Christ revelation, in which he expresses his quest for meaning and commits himself to further processes of questioning. What differentiates Christian truth from other religious truths is whether human existence’s meaning can be worked out in view of the Christ-event.
“Christian” truth is thus not exclusive: it is not the only truth. Christianity is not the only historical context in which human beings ask questions of ultimate concern. Still it is perfectly legitimate to call it “Christian truth”. For truth is one but also plural. It is one in reference to the question and plural in its answers and non-evident conclusions.
* Vas, George, On the Historical Sructure of Christian truth, in Heythrop Journal, 1968 , 129-142, 274-289
(Italian philosopher, b.1936)
A postmodern view: foundational truths in state of crisis
Vattimo is the champion of what he calls “pensiero debole” or ‘weak thought’, a particular type of knowing characterized by a profound rethinking of all the notions that served as foundations of western civilization in every field of culture. According to this view the traditional values became such only because of precise historical conditions that do not exist anymore; for this reason their pretension of truth has reached a state of crisis. At the root of the "pensiero debole" (weak thought) lies the idea that the thought is not capable to know the state of being and therefore it cannot even determine values which are objective and valid for all men.
For Vattimo, human thought has arrived at the end of its metaphysical adventure. Now, a philosophy that requires certainties and unique fundamentals for the theories on man, God, history, and values cannot be proposed any longer. The crisis of the fundamentals has made vacillate the very idea of truth: the evidence which was clear and distinct has become obfuscated. Reason is not central anymore, it is as if it had lost its power, it has entered in a dark zone and has taken therefore unclear contours, just as if it had eclipsed. The basis of Vattimo’s "pensiero debole" (weak thought) is built on the idea that man interprets the world within linguistics horizons, not fixed but historical. What gets dissolved is: the fundamentals which are certain and the traditional idea of truth.
"Pensiero debole" (weak thought) means that the foundational concept of philosophy has consumed itself; the ultimate foundations, the incontrovertible principles, the clear and distinct ideas, the absolute values, the primary evidence, and the ineluctable laws of history have dissolved. The "pensiero debole" is the end of modernity, of that period that goes from Descartes to Nietzsche and which is dominated by the "idea-forza" (idea-strength) of human progress, intended as an orientation towards a model of life and action, as an aspiration to ultimate values, founded on the capability of man to exercise reason.
This implies that today we have to start with a loss and a renouncement: renouncement of fundamentals which are certain and of ultimate destinies. But such renouncement is also the abandonment of an obligation, the removal of an obstacle. Now truth becomes the transmission of a linguistic and historical patrimony which renders possible and gives an orientation to the comprehension of the world. The overcoming of traditional philosophy leads to the ethics of the interpretation. Philosophy today must abandons its foundational role and the truth must cease to be seen as an adaptation to the thought of reality; now it is played as continuous interpretation. It is the task of the philosopher, confronted by a human condition which has profoundly changed, to find criteria of judgment which have social and circumscribed values that have no pretenses of being global or total.
Simulation, faking, artificiality, superficiality of appearances show themselves shamelessly in place of true fundamentals, in place of the foundation. The thesis of Vattimo is that in this relative chaos lie our hopes of emancipation. The lack of transparency is not a phenomenon to combat; on the contrary, it is the symptom of a great turnabout, which includes the entire scope of existence.
The end of modernity opens a new phase based on listening and on attention to that which, under the strong light of reason and history, could not be discerned or in any case it was unintelligible. It is a phase that starts to open and to communicate with other cultures, and it characterized by a more tolerant and pacific vision of human coexistence.
Vattimo, (La fine della modernita), The End of Modernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Post-modern Culture, Translated by John R. Snyder, Polity Press, 1991
(Indian philosophical system)
1. Truth is knowledge that conforms to the nature of reality. To know an object as it really is, is truth. Truth is “vasutantra” (dependent on the thing) and not “buddhitantra” (dependent on the mind). Even the Vedas cannot alter the nature of things. The nature of truth is thus conformity to reality.
Advaita Vedanta maintains that all cognition is intrinsically valid and self-luminous, in no need of verification. This is the theory of the intrinsic validity of knowledge that the Advaita school has taken over from the Mimansa dars’ana (see Mimansa). The truth of a cognition need not be checked by another cognition. When we know, we do not doubt that we know. The truth of knowledge is intrinsic and that means that a cognition need not wait till it is established by another cognition. If we doubt, it means that there is no cognition. Besides, if we have to say that a cognitive state is known by another, then there will be an infinite regress and this is absurd. Of itself knowledge is always self-luminous and true knowledge.
2. However the criterion of truth cannot be correspondence or conformity to reality. The rejection of the correspondence hypothesis does not mean the turndown that knowledge points to an object outside corresponding to it, as has been said above. It only means that since all knowledge satisfies the condition of agreement with an objective counterpart, correspondence cannot be regarded as the criterion of truth. Therefore there can be no verifying whether our knowledge of an object tallies with the real nature of the object. Such verification is not needed. If there is a criterion of truth, it is found in the absence of contradiction, that is, in non-contradiction. Truth is knowledge which does not suffer contradiction by any subsequent knowledge. For instance dreams are false because they are contradicted by the subsequent knowledge of the waking state. Or the world in which we live is false because it is contradicted by our subsequent realisation of Brahman-knowledge. Should one say therefore that for Advaita the criterion of truth is “coherence” of a statement with the rest of experience? Coherence alone cannot be regarded as sufficient because there may be more than one set of “truth-systems”. The criterion of truth is coherence and also comprehensiveness: because truth is the unity of all reality.
3. Inference as a means of true and valid knowledge is strictly limited to the empirical sphere. Even here unless there is perception to support it, it fails to be convincing. In any case inference has no application to super-sensuous matters. Because of the lack of perceptual support, we cannot assert, for instance, that Brahman is the cause of the world. We have no right to assume that the world is an effect. In fact all so-called inferences with regard to trans-empirical matters derive their support from S’ruti only (the scriptures, the Vedas). Inference must be supported either by perception or by S’ruti.
This shows that Advaita Vedanta gives little place to inferential reason. Knowledge based on mere reasoning, the lower level of discursive thinking, is inconclusive. According to Advaita, spiritual intuition (samyag-dars’ana) alone can give certain and immediate experience of reality. True universal propositions can be reached only by integral experience of supersensuous realities. Still Advaitists like S’ankara do not banish reason altogether. They feel the need to make intuitions acceptable to reason as far as this is possible. Intuitions must cohere with the rest of human knowledge. This is not so much distrust of reason but the realisation of the limits of rational knowledge.
4. S’ruti , as understood by Advaita Vedanta, stands for the authority of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Through them the Rishis have received and conveyed the Eternal Truths. They have recorded for posterity the truths that they were able to hear in the inmost depths of their hearts. There is nothing “dogmatic” in this procedure because the truths enshrined in the S’ruti can be verified by any one who is open to follow the right spiritual discipline. The Brahman-knowledge imparted by the S’ruti is a universally acceptable truth that stands beyond the competence of mere reasoning and is reached only at the superior level of intutition.
5. Until now we have expressed the nature of truth from the empirical standpoint. According to Advaita, the reality of a world of multiplicity is ultimately false. From the ultimate stand point, truth is the ground of which the whole of diversity is an appearance. Truth is Brahman. At this highest level, the distinction of truth and reality disappears. The difference in name is due to the difference in our approach to it. The Absolute is beyond being and knowing, object and subject. Therefore Advaita adopts a form of “double-truth” theory: the absolute Truth which refers to the world as illusion and the ordinary truth, comprising all the true assertions that can be made from the standpoint of common-sense.
* Iyer, Venkatarama, Advaita Vedanta, Asia Publishing House,New York, 1964, p. 134-160; Hiriyana M., The Essentials of Indian Philosophy, London, Allen & Unwin, 1949, p. 167-170
(Contemporary South African Buddhist monk)
Religions are not the truth, they only help us to realize the truth.
We are Christians and we are Buddhists, but no matter what teaching you believe in, the truth is only one. It does not matter that your understanding of the truth is a different version to mine. Both are human versions, ordinary versions of the truth, not the truth itself. Because we don't get what the truth is, we think religions are different, that some are higher or lower and we fight against each other. That is wrong. That is because we don't have a clear mind.
For the defiled mind everyone has a different version of the truth. So now our point is, not to change to a religion of a different name, or adopt a different faith or to change to a different God. We need to make it all one within us. Everyone has the potential for that oneness, that clearness, that openness of mind. That is the purpose of religions. It is okay to have many names for different religions and different faiths, but we have to realize that religion itself is not the truth. It's okay to have different methods and ways, but don't cling to the methods or cling to the ways. Ways and methods are not the truth, they only help us to realize the truth.
If you are a Christian and you cultivate that great love towards sentient beings, then the Lord is in you. If you are Buddhist and you cultivate that selflessness and egolessness, then Buddha is in you. No matter what religion you have, your obstacles are ignorance and attachment. So don't take religions wrongly. Religion is only for you to balance this mind, to clear this mind, to free this mind.
If any religion cannot bring you this peace of mind, then you cannot blame the religion. It's not the religion that makes you confused. It's because you don't know that the problem is within your own mind. You don't have the right attitude, the right view from inside out. You need to balance this mind away from the extreme.
What is important is not the teaching, what is important is the mind. If you have that open state of mind, teaching is everywhere, teaching is in the birds singing, teaching is in the sunshine, teaching is in the moonlight, because when you have a clear mind, you realize the reality and you do not have ignorance in you.
Now we teach and we think: 'This is the truth!', but no, learning is not from hearing, its not from reading, it is from the mind. Teaching is only for you to cultivate the enlightened mind and after you have cultivated this mind you will realize that you have the wisdom within you and that everybody has the same.
My point is, don't let the teachings, don't let the names, don't let the labels, don't let the dogma or doctrines, separate us. We should not be separate from Muslims, we should not be separate from Christians, we should not be separate from the traditional shamans and healers. You can learn from the sky, you can learn from animals, you can learn from anything. You learn in order to purify your mind so that you can find the Lord and you can find Buddha within you. And that is religion.
*See Internet Ven Man Ya
(French philosopher, b. 1906)
1. Truth is a relationship between intelligence and being. It belongs first to the intelligence in so far as it it is in conformity with being. This truth of intelligence is called logical truth. Secondarily and derivatively truth applies to things in as much as they have some relationship to intelligence. This truth of things is called the ontological truth. In both cases truth is a relation.
It is improper to conceive truth as a relationship of resemblance or similitude, like the more or less perfect resemblance between a copy and its original. This theory called the ‘bill-board theory of truth’ is absurd because it takes knowledge for being pure passivity. The relationship of adequation which constitutes truth is a relation of correspondence between intelligence and reality.
The terms of the relationship of correspondence are being and the intellect. First, the foundation of truth is being: ipsum esse rei est causa veritatis. By ‘being’, one should understand not only what actually exists but also possible, ideal being, the being of reason. Second, it is in the intelligence that truth is found. Truth is in the judgement of the intellect. There is truth or falsehood only when we affirm something. One could speak of truth in sensation and simple apprehension but this truth is not known by the acts that posit it. They know their object but do not know their conformity to the object. One should say that in these acts truth is present ‘materially’ but not ‘formally’, that is, they are not known as truth. It is only in the judgement that truth is formally present, that is, is known. Truth indeed is a matter of adequation and adequation requires the two distinct terms present in the judgement, not in simple apprehension.
2. The thomistic school professes that truth is one, indivisible and immutable.
- That truth is one does not mean that there can be only one true judgement on every thing. It means that a truth cannot contradict another. To say that truth is one is to take into account the principle of non-contradiction. Thus, for instance, the theory of ‘the double truth’ (natural and revealed) must be rejected.
- That truth is indivisible means that there can be no degrees in the truth of a judgement. There can be degrees in error or in the ‘material’ sense of truth, that is, in the extension and depth of knowledge, but not in the ‘formal’ sense of truth because for a given judgement there is no middle between adequation or inadequation to the real ( the principle of excluded middle): it is either true or false.
- That truth is immutable does not mean that things cannot change. It means that formal truth does not change. A judgement that is true at a certain time for certain events is immutably true for that time and that event. Thus the idea (Hegelian, for instance) that truth evolves is absurd because it confuses the two meanings of truth: material and formal. What evolves is reality and the mind, the object and the knowing subject. It is is evident that the mind can progress in the knowledge of truth and reality. But it is impossible for a judgement to progress towards more truth because truth has no degree.
* Verneaux, Roger, Epistémologie Générale, Paris, Beauchesnes, 1956, p.83-93
(Neapolitan philosopher and historian, 1668-1744)
1. The central thesis of Vico is that “verum et factum reciprocantur”, that is, the true and the fact (understood as what is made) are interchangeable or convertible terms. We know the truth of things that we have made or fabricated, otherwise not. It is only in artifacts that our knowledge of the thing is complete and therefore that knowledge is true. Truth is the perfection of knowledge and that is possible only in the case of artifacts. For God everything is true because he has made everything, Things have no secrets for him for he is their creator. The same goes for human beings: things have no secret for them provided they have fabricated them. “Just as divine truth is what God orders and produces as He comes to know it, so human truth is what man arranges and makes as he knows it”. (Vico, selected works, transl. Leon Pompa, p 51)
Truth for Vico is perfect knowledge. We have that perfect knowledge only when we make things. If we do not make them, our knowlegde is not perfect and there is no truth to claim about them. Truth can be known of artifacts, not of natural things which man has not made. But for God in whom there is perfect knowledge, everything is true because he has created everything. There is knowledge of truth only in creation, i.e. in action.
2. Vico’s concept of truth is thus operational. The knowledge of truth is the knowledge of how a thing is born and has come about. It is in making that we know the truth about things.. Vico disavows the Cartesian rationalism which upholds the view that truth is to be found in static clear and distinct ideas. The truth of mathematical propositions, for Vico, does not derive from some intuition into the timeless nature of mathemathical objects. According to Vico one demonstrates geometry because one makes it. Demonstrative knowledge of some truth is the knowledge possessed by the one who has created it ex nihilo. The necessary truths of mathematics are derived from their being constructed by the human mind. The demonstration in mathematics is precisely the same as the operation which is in all cases for Vico the criterion of truth. For this very reason one cannot attain truth in physics as in mathematics because physics deals with the elements of natural things that are outside us. Indeed if the criterion of truth is to have made it, the only way that truth is attainable in physics is by experiment, that is, by an activity, which seeks to imitate the creator in order to penetrate in the causes of things. In physics as anywhere else Vico’s verum-factum principle demands that the knower of the truth be the maker – the experimenter – who penetrates into the cause of things.
3. However for Vico the priviledged field of human knowledge is history. In the study of cultures one can come to know how the things that human beings have created have been born, Vico applies his operational concept of truth to the study of history. He deplores that philosophers have bent all their energies to study the world of nature which God alone knows to the neglect of the study of the world of civil society which men have made and therefore are able to know. History is the primary field of knowable truth. For it is Vico’s contention that peoples are in agreement on essential ideas and general dispositions. In the study of history, by the knowledge of causes and the genetic method of explanation, one can arrive at the knowledge of the truth in reflecting on past events.
* Vico: Selected Works, translated by Pompa, Leon, p.51 sq See Campbell, Richard, Truth and Historicity, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992, p.255-268
(Gallic author of Christian writings, died in 445)
The determination of Catholic truth by universal consensus: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est..
In the determination of the Christian truth, Vincent recognizes the inadequacy in a simple appeal to the text of scripture in that the scripture is subject to a variety of interpretations. Something more is needed. He settles on the principle of the “consensus of the faithful.” In other words, there has to be universal recognition by the laity as well as the clergy. A doctrine cannot be local. A doctrine cannot be new. Another way to sum up his teaching is “catholicity”.that is, the substance of Christian doctrine must be universal.
He writes: “I have devoted considerable study and much attention to inquiring, from men of outstanding holiness and doctrinal correctness, in what way it might be possible for me to establish a kind of fixed and, as it were, general and guiding principle for distinguishing the truth of the Catholic faith from the depraved falsehoods of the heretics. . . . Holy Scripture, on account of its depth, is not accepted in a universal sense. The same statements are interpreted in one way by one person, in another by someone else, with the result that there seem to be as many opinions as there are people. . . . Therefore, on account of the number and variety of errors, there is a need for someone to lay down a rule for the interpretation of the prophets and the apostles in such a way that is directed by the rule of the Catholic Church. Now in the Catholic Church itself the greatest care is taken that we hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all people: “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”.
“In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. …. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.”
* Vincent of Lerins, The Commonitory, Chapter 2 - A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity
(Contemporary American Orthodox theologian)
The Christocentric perspective of truth
“Knowing truth” is central to the Christian faith. Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” He taught that knowledge of the truth is possible and liberating, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Truth is knowable. Truth is do-able. Truth is proclaim-able. Thus, the Christian finds herself at odds with radical pluralists who claim that all truth-claims are equal, with postmodernists who question whether truth is knowable, and fundamentalists who reduce truth to propositional truth-claims.
Still Bible-reading Christians do not hold a monopoly on truth. People of all backgrounds and faith traditions can and do come to right conclusions about created reality and about God himself. But where this happens, whether in the person of a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist, we point to Christ, and we locate the fulfillment of that truth in Christ. This is how we apply our belief that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
This is not an accommodation to pluralism, but an awareness that all truth is God’s truth, and that, ultimately, all truth, whether it states this explicitly, finds its source and end in Christ. I realize that most people from other traditions will not be satisfied in having their perspective reduced to an affirmation of the truth as it is in Christ, but my belief that Jesus is Lord of all – not just a “personal” savior, but the truest and best reflection of God – precludes me from affirming anything different. .
This christocentric perspective of truth affirms truths in other traditions but also recognizes legitimate differences. An unwillingness to do so is unfair to Christianity, and for matter, to all other faith traditions, for they all express different truths. The Christian claim to truth recognizes our own inherent human limitations. Even the fullness of revelation in Christ recognizes that there is more truth waiting to be revealed.
Contrary to Christian fundamentalism, which often comes across as arrogant in its obsession with absolute truth, the Christian tradition recognizes that God cannot be held to the limitations of human logic. Vital as it is to reject religious relativism, it is equally important to underscore the proper boundaries of absolutism. Contrary to postmodern relativism, the Christian tradition argues that God’s truth is catholic – truth that both transcends and embraces all human cultures. But a degree of relativism—in the sense of cultural sensitivity—can be a positive thing. It can serve as a much-needed corrective to cultural imperialism, which for centuries has been so destructive around the world.
See Internet © Richard J. Vincent, 2007
(Hindu philosopher, founder of the Ramakrishna mission, 1869-1902)
1. Vivekananda makes the important distinction between the One Eternal Religion – the Sanatana Dharma – and the particular historical religions. Religion, for him, means spiritual realization of the “truth within” which, for him, is “Oneness”. The different historical religions are the varied expressions, manifestations or phases of the Eternal Religion. The source of all religions is one and the same and therefore they should not be considered contradictory, but complementary. Each religion takes up one part of the great universal truth, none of them can present the truth in its totality. The goal of every religion is “to realize God” and this realization once achieved is called ‘The Religion’, distinct from the religions. Religion with a capital R is the end and the Truth, the religions are instruments and means to the same end. They are steps towards the Truth and not Truth itself. However at times Vivekananda writes that all religions are “true”, in the sense that all religions are the expressions and manifestations of the same Truth.
If all religions are true and have the same goal, why should there be many religions? Vivekananda answers that the infinite variety of cultures, nations and people require different methods or paths in attaining to the ultimate goal which is the realisation of Truth/God. The diversity of religious expressions is something to welcome and in which one should rejoice. The more there are paths to the Truth, the more there are opportunities for every one to come to the knowledge of Truth. Vivekananda assimilates the different religions to the four classical yogas – jnana, bhakti, karma, raja – each of which satisfies people of distinct particular natures.
Vivekananda advocates a policy of religious tolerance. Exclusivism, the view that there is no other true religion except one’s own, is unacceptable. It is the root cause of religious hostility and intolerance, “the most dangerous of all diseases”. No religion has the right to claim that it is superior to or truer than another. Religious conversion is unnecessary and harmful for each person must attain perfection in his own religion. An individual’s hereditary religion is the one best suited for him.
2. However Vivekananda has often expressed another view about religions in which he does not consider them equally true. Some religions are better or truer than other religions. At the top of them all is Vedantic Hinduism in its Advaitic form. Advaita, he claims, is not only the best religion in comparison with others, it is the final and absolute Religion. It is not one religion among other religions, it transcends them all, being ‘The Religion’. Vivekananda here seems to imply that for him the absolute truth of Advaita Vedanta is an article of faith. Whatever truth there is in religions, is the Truth of Advaita. This is Vivekananda’s inclusivist position. When he suggests that all religions are equal, he means all religions are equal among themselves except the Advaita Religion which is the goal of them all.
Vivekanada’s inclusivist position is well exemplified in that he grades religious truths in a hierarchical order, according to their closeness to Advaita. Such is the case for him within Hinduism itself in which he denounces the inadequacy and imperfection of the Dvaita (dualism) and Vis’ishtadvaita (mitigated dualism) expressions of the absolute truth of Advaita. Likewise, the various historical religions are lower stages leading to the same ultimate Advaitic truth. They are the necessary steps for people to reach the Truth, that by which they travel, not from error to truth, but from lower truth to higher truth, from good to better. Each stage is “true” but some are lower truth and others are higher truth. All the religions are considered by Vivekananda as preparation for Advaita, and as such they are all good, helpful and relatively true.
3. Still in some of his lectures Vivekananda expresses himself in sharp contradiction with the irenic and conciliatory view described above. He rejects the historical religions as false, unnecessary and degrading. Even more he considers them as positive obstacles in the path of man to realize the Truth. He forcefully denounces the “superstition” of dualistic religions. But then in condemning religions in this way he seems to contradict his own teaching about the harmony of all religions.
* See Daniel P.S. The Hindu Response to Religious Pluralism, Kant Publications, Delhi, 2000, p 120-152; Srivastava, R.S. Contemporary Indian Philosophy, Munshi Ram Manohar Lala, Delhi, 1965, p.68-74
(German b. American political philosopher, 1901-1985)
The main aim of the political philosopher is to remain open to the ‘truth of order’ which has its root in the divine.
The philosophy of Eric Voegelin particularly focusses on the spiritual meaning of personal resistance to the untrue in social and political structure. For him the meaning of openness in the experience of men and political societies invariably leads to the mysterious encounter with divine reality and, more particularly, how divine reality is to be delineated by language symbols.
Voegelin's magnum opus, Order and History, demonstrates that openness of inquiry demands receptivity to the experience of theophany, i.e., the awareness of divine presence in the consciousness of men, as it is reflected in the history of philosophy and culture, in the experience of our contemporaries, and in our own lives. Openness to the "truth of existence" involves an experience of tension and dissatisfaction with a condition of imperfection and of a possible fulfillment beyond time and the world. Voegelin’s thesis is that truth is not a doctrine, but rather a recognition of structure in reality.
The incarnation of ‘the truth of divine order’ at the social level serves all humanity. For this incarnation to occur, "the members of society (or at least their representatives) must not lose contact with the experience of participation in the ground in which the truth of order is encountered”.
Voegelin distinguishes between the first reality, which we experience, and the second reality, which we imagine. Our increasing capacity to create veridical second realities has a number of threats as well as opportunities. It can be used to help more fully understand the first reality but it can also be used to eclipse the first reality. Voegelin argues that people often encourage the eclipse of first reality by second reality as a power ploy. First reality is controlled by nature whereas second reality is controlled by people. The people who control this second reality have a vested interest in replacing first reality with their second reality. Unintentional blurring of first and second reality can also be threatening. One should not get carried away into arrogantly assuming that the world we imagine can substitute for the world we experience.
What man participates in at various levels and what he sometimes seeks is order. Myth, revelation, and philosophy are symbolic articulations of the order experienced. The separation of faith and reason never quite arises - man need not believe in God, for he experiences, or can experience, an order that has its roots in the divine. Voegelin analyzes these experiences, because only by these experiences does man make contact with ultimate reality. Furthermore, these experiences, whose record constitutes history and meaning in history, are themselves confirmation of reality, which Voegelin calls the divine ground of being.
Voegelin's main point is that a sense of order is conveyed by the experience of transcendence. This transcendence can never be fully defined nor described, though it may be conveyed in symbols. But insights may become fossilised as dogma. The main aim of the political philosopher is to remain open to the truth of order, and convey this to others.
Voegelin denounces what he believed to be unsound “Gnostic” influences in politics. He defined Gnosis as "a purported direct, immediate apprehension or vision of truth without the need for critical reflection; the special gift of a spiritual and cognitive elite." Gnosticism is a "type of thinking that claims absolute cognitive mastery of reality”. Relying as it does on a claim to gnosis, modern gnosticism – such as is the case with Marxism, Fascism and dogmatic Christianity - considers its knowledge not subject to criticism.
*See Federici, Michael. Eric Voegelin: The Restoration of Order, ISI Books, 2002
(German physicist and philosopher, b.1943)
There is no problem of truth because perfect knowledge does not exist.
Vollmer argues that "it is not the goal of epistemology to give absolute justifications for claims to knowledge and truth". He adds that if we had such knowledge, true, reliable, universal, objective knowledge, epistemologists might feel the obligation to explain how such is possible. But so far, nobody has exhibited a single piece of perfect knowledge. Thus, there is nothing to explain; the problem simply does not exist.
Vollmer opposes perfect and absolute knowledge to fallible knowledge: our knowledge - uncertain, imperfect, conjectural, preliminary, fallible as it may be - has a chance, at least, to be objective, to be true for the real world as it is. So the dilemma is: perfect knowledge about nothing, or imperfect knowledge about the real world - what do we prefer? Of course, there is no choice, we have to choose the second alternative . Vollmer advocates fallibilism which excludes any form of certitude and concludes the hypothetical character of all empirical knowledge.
He claims that his understanding of evolutionary epistemology is realistically oriented. It has a realistic ontology, meaning that the world is generally independent (for its existence) of our consciousness, is lawfully structured and is quasi-continuous. It is partially knowable by perception, thinking and inter-subjective science. The fact that our hypotheses of the world are often proved wrong, proves that the world is real, but means that any hypothesis, scientific or otherwise, is provisional and preliminary. This naturalistic, realistic world is subject to the correspondence theory of truth - meaning that a statement is true if, and only if, it truly reflects the state of affairs it purports to describe. Still the correspondence theory of truth does not supply a criterion of truth, but only a definition of truth. As epistemologists came to realize after 2.500 years of fruitless search and growing doubts, there are no satisfiable sufficient criteria for factual truth. What we have are necessary criteria like consistency, corroboration, coherence, or consensus, as exhibited by the different theories of truth. Bur for the definition of truth all these theories rely, in the last analysis, on the correspondence concept.
* Vollmer Gerhard, Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie (Evolutionary epistemology) ,1975, 8. Aufl. 2002
(French philosopher and writer, 1694-1778)
According to Voltaire what is true is accepted by all. All the propositions of geometry, algebra or arithmetics are accepted by all. Why? because they are true. What can be demonstrated is true, what cannot be demonstrated is false. Evidence only is the source of true knowledge.
These are the characters of truth ; it is of all time; it is for all men; it has only to show itself to be recognized; one cannot argue against it. Wherever long dispute arises on a particular topic it signifies that both parties are wrong. As truth is founded on evidence, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise. Never has there been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at noon. There are no sects in mathematics or in experimental physics.
The true philosopher knows the limits of knowledge: he acknowledges his ignorance and accepts that many questions have to remain unanswered. Above all he must combat all forms of dogmatism, whether metaphysical or religious. Metaphysical systems are based on a priori constructions and contradict each other. Historical religions such as Christianity are superstitions that should give way to a rational religion favouring deism and morality. All sects are the ground of error and error divides whereas truth brings people together.
Voltaire presents himself as the champion of tolerance. Tolerance is "the consequence of humanity". As human beings are all formed of frailty and error, they should readily pardon reciprocally each other's folly. For Voltaire this is the first law of nature. It follows that the individual who persecutes another, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. In the absence of absolute metaphysical or religious truth, man must accept that the peace brought by mutual tolerance is more vital than the illusory claims of absolute truth. Peace is better than truth. Discord is the great ill of mankind; and tolerance is the only remedy for it.
* Voltaire, Traité sur la Tolérance, Gallimard , Paris, 2OO3; Voltaire,Philosophical Dictionary, New York, Knopf, 1924
(American psychologist and philosopher, b. 1917)
Von Glasersfeld is the promoter of a radically individualistic version of psychological constructivism. He defines it as " an unconventional approach to the problems of knowledge and knowing. It starts from the assumption that knowledge, no matter how it is defined, is in the heads of persons, and that the thinking subject has no alternative but to construct what he or she knows on the basis of his or her own experience. What we can make of experience constitutes the only world we consciously live in … all kinds of experience are essentially subjective, and though I may find reasons to believe that my experiences may not be unlike yours, I have no way of knowing that it is the same".
Von Glasersfeld claims that descriptions of a true reality (a testable, empirical world) are not possible due to the fact that we cannot step outside of our internal perspectives and experiences. He suggests knowing involves understanding reality as we experience it. Knowledge is a human construction made by the individual.
He advocates a form of subjective empiricism that puts its emphasis on the thoughts of the knower and views the search for truth as an illusion. Knowledge can never be considered true in the conventional sense (e.g. correspond to an observer-independent reality) because it is made by a knower who does not have access to such a reality. . . . From his constructivist perspective truths are replaced by viable models - and viability is always relative to a chosen goal. He redefines knowledge as the "conceptual structures that epistemic agents , given the range of present experience within their tradition of thought and language, consider viable." Viable here means "to fit"--in other words, the learner creates knowledge based on his or her experiences that fit into his or her understanding of reality.
Von Glasersfeld argues that a subject cannot truly "know" reality, they can only know their understandings of reality as it fits their experiences and affects their lives. Therefore, the subject adapts what knowledge he or she finds valuable or important to their perception of reality. In other words, the subject will use new knowledge in a way that is useful to them, based on their cognitive constructs. Furthermore, our understanding of reality will be different from others' understandings, since we all base our own realities of the world upon our own individual cognitive constructs and personal experiences.
* Ernst von Glasersfeld. Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning. The Falmer Press - London & Washington, 1995
(American philosopher and theologian, b. 1923)
1. Faith and natural convictions are both responses to facts and both claim to be true. Faith does not stand outside or beyond the realm of truth and falsity. The act of belief can take place only on the assumption that its content is true. It is meaningless to believe anything unless it is assumed to be true. But faith differs from natural conviction. The bedrock of natural conviction is knowledge (perception, intuition, inference…) Faith is not based on knowledge in any of its form. The content of faith is such that it lies totally beyond the ken of human competence. The only legitimate basis of a religious act of faith is a divine revelation, the content of which is inaccessible to man’s mind.
2. Natural conviction is a response to evidence. The whole weight of ascertaining the fact is carried by the object. The case is different with mere opinions in which the object reveals itself as unclear and uncertain. Opinions are subjective while a conviction echoes the certainty that the object provides. Absolute evidence and empirically ascertained facts rule out opinions. Opinions are legitimate in reference to things that are uncertain. We all have the right to give our opinion about this or that. Only we should know that it is impossible to determine which opinion is true or false, even though there must be objectively true or false opinions. Indeed the realm of truth must not be identified with the realm of truths accessible to the human mind. The domain of truth extends as far as being.
3. Faith and opinion have in common that neither is based on ascertained human knowledge, as natural convictions are. That is why both opinion and faith are called belief. However faith and opinion are dissimilar on several accounts. First, in opinion the subject bears the responsibility for the validity of his calculations. In faith one relies on – and surrenders to - the information that comes from the object, that is, divine revelation. Second, an opinion is always uncertain whereas the claim of faith is that it is certain. Third, an opinion is a lower form of conviction based on an imperfect stage of knowledge. It is a stand taken by a subject towards an object but with no guarantee that it is certain. Faith is not a lower form of conviction: its object is not such as it reveals itself as uncertain. Even though different from natural conviction , it lays claim of being absolutely certain. Many think that faith is an opinion because it lacks certainty. But faith is not an opinion because the man of faith accepts the content of his belief as true, not because it is his opinion but because it is God’s word as revealed to him.
4. Faith differs from natural conviction in that its content is inaccessible to human knowledge and experience. Faith is not based on knowledge in the strict sense. It lies above reason. Moreover it differs from rational conviction not only in its epistemological foundation but also as an act. For rational conviction is typically intellectual and theoretical. The act of believing is not simply a theoretical response to the divine revelation but it involves all human faculties: mind, heart, will.
The distinction of “faith in” and “faith that” is illuminating. “Faith in” implies a response of trust given to a person. It implies a unique relationship in which a person has manifested him(her)self as being essentially trustworthy. Faith is a response to this trustworthiness. In “faith in” man believes in God. “Faith that” refers not to a person but to a truth. In “faith that” man believes in eternal life, for instance. The two types of faith are linked in this way: “faith in” God necessarily lead to the “faith that” what he says is true. “Faith in” is the very basis of “faith that”. “Faith that” without “faith in”, severed from trustworthiness of the person imparting the information, is irrational.
“Faith in” radically differs from natural conviction. The former is directed to a person, the latter is directed to a state of fact. But “faith that” also differs from rational conviction , even though both are related to state of facts. But “faith that” is grounded on “faith in”. For it is through his total trust in a person that the man of faith accepts whatever the person (God) reveals. Hence the difference between “he believes in the immortality of the soul” and “ he knows that the soul is immortal”. The first says it because he accepts what God reveals, the second says it because he succeeds in proving it by purely rational arguments.
5. “Faith in” implies the essential attitude of trust. Sometimes we trust in what people say. That is “faith that”. We trust the information we receive. But radically different is the case in which our trust is directed not to what a person tells us but towards the person himself. That person deserves our trust and we give it to him/her. Our trust is a response to his/her very being (not just saying). This phenomenon, rare maybe between humans, explains well what is “faith in”, namely a vision of a person’s absolute trustworthiness. Hence our response is of self-surrender This attitude implies that “faith in” God affects the very core of man’s being, his subjectivity, affectivity as well as intellectuality. “Faith in” is a typical religious experience, not a mere theoretical acquiescence, but a surrender of the whole being.
For the man of faith, reality is not identical with world and theoretical truths. Reality is above what man can perceive or conceive. Even more, the unperceived reality is more real than the objects of every day experience. Moreover the man of faith is convinced that this unperceived reality is a key to an understanding of the world as he experiences it. That reality sheds light on the meaning of the world.
Faith is not “blind” or gullible. On the contrary, it implies a vision, the opposite of blindness. Faith is not the enemy of reason. It transcends reason. It deals with a domain in which reason is not competent and cannot therefore be offended. The philosopher, even if he probes in the field of natural theology and the problem of God, remains a knower. The insights he gains are the highest ascent of the human mind that can be. However faith implies the abdication of reason, a submission of the mind to something higher than what can be reached by natural knowledge. Unlike the philosopher , the man of faith surrenders and abandons himself. Philosophy reaches God as the absolute He, but the man of faith turns to God as a Thou. The philosopher thinks about God, the man of faith adores and worships God.
6. Faith gives absolute certainty. Rational conviction is not the only ground for certainty. We cannot equate certainty with either self-evidence or proof. Faith affords an equal and even superior certainty. But can something unknown yield certainty?
The history of the world reveals that people have laid down their lives, not for absolutely certain rational truths, but for their faith. People willing to make the supreme sacrifice of their lives must be absolutely certain that they are not mistaken. According to Alice Von Hildebrand, this is the best existential proof that faith grants man absolute certainty. It shows that the quality of certainty afforded by faith cannot be compared to any other type of certainty: it engages the totality of the self. Faith and doubt are irreconcilable: the assent given by faith is unconditional and absolute. For the man of faith, what he believes in is absolutely true.
* Von Hildebrand, Alice, Introduction to a Philosophy of Religion, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1970, p.42-76
(German R.C. philosopher and theologian, 1882- 1972)
The absolute theoretical authority of the Church: the guarantee of Truth
1.Theoretical authority is a guarantee of the truth of a statement. In the natural, human realm we find only relative theoretical authorities. We accept the truth of a generally admitted scientific discovery–the existence of cosmic rays, for instance–although we ourselves are not able to verify it and still less capable of grasping it as we grasp an evident fact. The teacher’s authority is only a relative one: many scientific “truths” once universally accepted have subsequently been discredited. It would be unreasonable not to accept what such a theoretical authority teaches–it would even be foolish–but we know, nevertheless, that this authority is not infallible, and thus is relative.
There is but one absolute theoretical authority: the Church in matters of faith and morals. It is a basis of the Catholic faith that Christ has entrusted His divine revelation to the Holy Church and that the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is infallible in matters of faith and morals–that she is an absolute theoretical authority in these matters.
It is because of this absoluteness that we are obliged–even morally obliged–to accept the Church’s word as true, to believe in it; whereas to accept the word of human, natural–relative–theoretical authority is never obligatory. Not to accept it may be unreasonable, but it is not morally evil. And obviously belief in the teachings of the Church has the character of faith–that is, an unconditional, solemn clinging to her teaching; whereas all belief in natural theoretical authorities is a mere natural conviction and differs radically from an act of religious faith.
2. Practical authority, on the other hand, appeals not to belief–to the acceptance of a truth–but to obedience. We are obliged to obey an authentic practical authority and to submit to its commandments. Whereas no natural theoretical authority is obligatory, there are true and binding practical authorities in the natural realm. Such is the authority of the parents over the child; such is the authority of the state. The Church is a practical authority of a higher order, because here the partial representation of God has a sacred character. It is a sacred authority and, in all matters which belong to her realm and competence, her commandments and administrative measures have a solemn and morally binding character.
Thus we can see that the theoretical authority of the Church appeals to our belief, while the practical authority of the Church appeals to our obedience. The infallibility of the Church applies only to the Church as a theoretical authority. In what concerns the practical authority of the Church, her positive commandments, the question of infallibility does not apply. A positive commandment, an administrative measure, or any prescription cannot be true or false but only valid or invalid, good or evil, useful or useless. Truth is never the theme in the positive commandments or laws of any practical authority.
Our belief in the teachings of the Church de fide must be an absolute and unconditional one, but we should not imagine that our fidelity to the Church’s theoretical authority is satisfied merely by acceptance of ex cathedra pronouncements. We also must adhere wholeheartedly to teachings of the Church in matters of morality, even if they are not defined ex cathedra. Here, as in all cases of the teaching of the theoretical authority, the old maxim applies: Roma locuta: causa finita.
* von Hildebrand Dietrich, The Charitable Anathema. Roman Catholic Books (September 1993)
( American writer, 1922-2007)
The quest for truth in science is a hoax
Vonnegut views science as a revolutionary religion, one whose 'rituals' create destruction and chaos, and whose blind worshippers believe the one shameless lie: that science can improve humanity past its violent tendencies. Scientists, the most devout followers of humanity's modern religion, believe that they are saving the world with their knowledge, when in fact they are merely speeding up the time for Earth's demise. The truth that scientists seek is the purpose of life, the awareness of which will 'improve' humanity as a whole. But Vonnegut believes this quest for truth is actually a hoax, as scientists instead use their knowledge for the purpose of advancing their precious religion alone.
Vonnegut mocks humanity's dependence on fact and 'truth' by making his scientists mindless zombies, unable to see a bigger picture in the universe other than their facts and figures. These statistics many times blind scientists into believing that their work is 'beneficial to humanity'. But although they may be armed with this 'new knowledge', scientists seem to lose humanity in the process of 'learning the truth'. Vonnegut illustrates how science is a religion that caters to a selfish race of individuals, who would rather die than forsake the shameless lies they are indoctrinate themselves with.
The world heralds its scientific triumphs as victories for mankind and products of ingenuity, when in fact these advancements are superficial. Vonnegut does not see any point in the existence of science, as it only bolsters man's ego, while giving him excuses to kill other members of his race, several million at a time. Man's greatest technological feat only serves as a weapon of mass destruction, thus proving that humans are only capable of creating instruments of death with their scientific knowledge. Science serves as a religion to the brainwashed, backward, and destructive society known as mankind, and its meaninglessness reflects the people who worship it with utmost reverence.
*See Internet Vonnegut Karl
(French philosopher, 1920-2002)
There are no philosophical truths but only philosophical opinions
Vuillemin argues that philosophy is unable to reach the truth. Indeed every philosophical system proposes its own perspective on what is reality as distinct from appearance and there is no way to demonstrate that one partcular view is better than another. Philosophy aims at the knowledge of truth but there is no philosophical truth extrinsic to a particular system. Vuillemin states that the plurality of philosophies makes the concept of philosophical truth inadequate and improper at least if one understands truth in its ordinary sense.
How then should one choose a philosophy? He replies: by a free choice, but thate choice, he adds, cannot be guided by a principle of the best possible choice. If then philosophical principles are the object of a choice, philosophical propositions by which the choice is expressed are neither true nor false. There are no objective criteria to discern which are the best philosophical systems, there are no criteria of rational decision in philosophy.
The idea of demonstrations and refutations must be abandoned in philosophy. This implies that there is a pluralism of mutually exclusive philosophical systems. Philosophical pluralism is in fact what distinguishes philosophy from science. However this pluralism is not a relativism. Vuillemin upholds that they are complementary viewpoints on a unique reality, but that it is not possible to show that they are more than viewpoints and opinions. All philosophical systems describe, albeit partially, a particular perspective on a truth that transcends them, without any one being able to say which is the best .
Philosophical propositions are supposed to aim at the knowledge of truth but in fact they are only the expression of a free belief, which by nature is not cognitive, and the fruit of a rational decision, very much like an ethical choice.
* Vuillemin Jules, What are Philosophical Systems?, Cambridge University Press, 1986