Posted by Mike
When we sense that we are on to Truth, sometimes we get a feeling that is something like what we have when we see a beautiful sunrise.
What is this rather intangible thing that we call truth? In an earlier posting, I wrote about aspects of truth which I called established truth and emergent truth (I used the term “awakening”) in relation to science, ethics and morals, and religion. Dave wrote about truth in relation to personal responsibility. What does this word “truth” mean, and what do we mean when we use the word? The dictionary (OAD) defines truth as, “The quality or state of being true: he had to accept the truth of her accusation,” which doesn’t help us very much. So if we look up “true,” we find, “In accordance with fact or reality…rightly or strictly so called; genuine…real or actual…accurate or exact.” Examples the OAD gives include, “A true story….” “Of course it’s true!” and “That’s not true!” All of these definitions seem to relate to a comparison between what is said or known and an other “something” that is being used to compare it with. And when the word “true” is used, the implication is that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two.
What is this other “something” that is used in comparisons related to what is true? Of course it will differ in every case. In one example above: “He had to accept the truth of her accusation,” the comparison is between what was said and what had actually occurred in the past. With “In accordance with fact or reality,” we are comparing something again, with something known or observed. If we talk about “real or actual,” the comparison aspect gets a little fuzzy, but again we are talking about comparing against an ideal.
Sometimes we get the idea that truth is absolute or completely objective. We have notions that as an ideal it is real, tangible, and doesn’t have it’s subjective aspects. Plato’s “ideal forms” never existed in reality. His simple ideal forms were things like “circle,” “square,” and “triangle.” They were abstract, imagined, just as mathematics is abstract, though like in mathematics what is indicated can exist in reality. For example, we can have representations of circle, square, and triangle, but we can never represent in reality the exact form. In mathematics, if I say I have five balls, the concept is abstract, but I can have five separate objects.
What is my point? It’s obvious, I’m sure. Truth is an ideal, but to think that we can always, often, or perhaps even ever capture it is unrealistic. As with Plato’s ideal forms, an abstract notion of truth can be useful as a goal that can be sought and perhaps approached, but like parallel lines extending to infinity, we will never converge with it. I think that’s okay, though. In many cases we can circle around it and nudge it just a bit, so that we end up feeling comfortable with what we’ve got. Just remember, we don’t have absolutes or total assurances here. But the feeling that we sometimes get when we are close can be satisfactory, like that beautiful sunrise or sunset.
“Chase after truth like hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat-tails.” – Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” – Andre Gide (1869-1951)