Absolute Truth and the Truth Paradox (First Part) ⇒ Bloggers on debate

Reader’s Prologue for first part:
Human mind is equally amazing and perplexing for its inquisitive nature. It is amazing for its curious nature to raise the yet unsolved question that “who I’m? Where I came from? Why I’m being there and for what’s reason.” The desire of knowing the purpose of life separates the human race to the other. Human mind can able to make the relentless journey over the observation, curiosity, question, examination, investigation and lot other ways to search the truth, which maybe lying behind the mystery of life. The tremendous progress of human mind was possible for the fact that this mind is still curious and prodigal to the fact of “Why I belong to the existence and for what extent it will carry on until the final destruction is coming over.”

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Curiosity and question is the mother of discovering the philosophical truth that why everything’s exists and for what reason. We discover knowledge and achieve the wisdom by confronting the real facts of existence. However, this discovery is perplexing in a sense that the more we be inquisitive to the purpose, even more we bound to partake the endless race between “questions and curiosities.” Searching the meaning of life was not an easy matter at the remote past and yet now it is the most complicated or controversial discussion if we consider the human progress at all.

This life is alike the wisdom-tree and we are the provocative creatures who is carrying the curiosities to pluck the ripened fruits from the tree, despite the prohibition. What is the main reason for this? Why we human are tremendously curious to examine and get the answer of everything belong or hide in the surface? I think the answer should be like this that, we wanted to dig and meant everything, because this everything carries some meaning to our life.

The meaning of human existence is relative to the other’s existence, that, “why they’re existed in the surface?” The list is longer day-by-day. The live and inert, visible and invisible, sighted or unseen… everything is matter to the question that “why we’re exist here and for what extent.” The basic of “why, how and what” leads the human mind to the present battleground, where we try to rationalize every action of life in an accordion.

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Human mind not only even greatly desired to know the reason and purpose of life, a silent desire of getting harmonious with everything is also poked it to search the rational meaning of truth; but, what is this truth? What do we mean by the word when we advise our mind to be truthful in every action? Is it rational to being truthful in life? Does truth mean something absolute like God? Who is God, and what’s the meaning of His true-existence? Does He really exist? And, maybe he is the falsification of the real meaning of truth? What does true mean to the end? What’s the value of truth? What do we mean by this? Being truthful is ethical or is it empirical? Is truth is the byproduct of our societal action or it perhaps born with us as an eternal intuition? What’s the rational meaning of truth? What’s the relativism of being true against lie? Does truth make us virtue? Lot of questions and conflicts about truth can easily rise by anybody, who thinks about it. Truth paradox is still vital when we think about the objective of life and the entire creature.

The discussion on Truth paradox on ethical, religious and philosophical ground is a never-ended debate and still we feel necessity to debate on it. Science is impersonal about the debate but when we consider the amplification of scientific progress in our daily life and consider it according to everything, -truth paradox perhaps relevant there to justify our action for the greater sake of human existence.

Here I pick two different articles from the two different blog to discuss something about the facts and meaning of life and the Truth Paradox. Matthew Hammerton tries to oppose the argument of “absolute truth” in his (Socratic Society) blog. J. Warner Wallace is an apologist on Christian faith, tries to search the opposite of Hammerton in his article, posted on the Stand to reason blog. Wallace’s article is elaborate, descriptive and informative on the both aspect of truth paradox.

I published first part of his article and second will come to the consequence of the first includes an excerpt of distinguished philosopher Bimal Krishna Matilal‘s book “Ethics and epics”, where he tried to focus on the moral dilemmas of truth in light of Indian and western philosophical perspective.

Readers I will glad if you are partaken the two counter point of truth paradox.

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There are no absolute truths
by Matthew Hammerton on Socratic Society blog


There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths
Friedrich Nietzsche: Human, All-too-Human

In contemporary culture, it is fashionable to echo Nietzsche’s words and proclaim that there are no absolute truths. Many people find this to be a truism, they feel that there is something obvious and right about it.

However, if you were to survey the latest philosophy journals, you would find no mention of ‘absolute truths’ and no philosophers intent on demonstrating the existence or nonexistence of this apparent species of truth. The reason for this is not a lack of interest, on the part of contemporary philosophers, in the issues that people have in mind when they proffer the locution ‘there are no absolute truths’. Philosophers have many things to say about these issues. Rather, the reason why contemporary philosophers eschew talk of ‘absolute truths’ is that they find such talk to be an impediment to careful, rigorous debate.

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The problem with the locution ‘there are no absolute truths’ is that it is a catchphrase under which several related but logically distinct ideas are collected. As such, whenever someone uses this locution it is unclear which (or which combination) of these logically distinct ideas they have in mind. Because of the lack of conceptual clarity in the notion ‘absolute truth’, contemporary philosophers prefer to avoid it and instead employ terms that capture with more precision the different ideas that people associate with ‘absolute truth’.

Below are several different theses which the locution ‘there are no absolute truths’ may express:

– Anything that we take to be true is revisable
– We can never have a ‘god’s-eye’ view of the universe
– All truths are a matter of opinion
– Truth is relative (to culture, historical epoch, language, society etc.)
– All the truths that we know are subjective truths (i.e. mind-dependent truths)
– There is nothing more to truth than what we are willing to assert as true

Each of these theses has been discussed, at one point or another, in contemporary philosophy and each are held or denied with varying degrees of confidence. So my advice is, if every you are tempted to talk about ‘absolute truths’ you should ask yourself which, if any, of the above ideas you have in mind.

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Is There an Absolute Truth? (Part_1)
by J. Warner Wallace on Stand to Reason blog


No Truth Means Everything is True, Doesn’t It?
For some of us, it might seem ridiculous to say that truth does not exist, because we have simply assumed the reality and existence of ‘truth’ since we were very small. But others out there have struggled with the idea that there can be singular, exclusive truth in all areas of life, and if you ask your friends to talk about issues of faith, you will quickly discover that few of them are able to agree on a singular, absolute truth. In fact, many of us have come to the conclusion that there is no one truth about anything. And when we say that nothing is absolutely ‘right’ or ‘true’, we are actually saying that EVERYTHING is ‘right’ and ‘true’! If no one particular idea or reality is true to the exclusion of others that are NOT true, then we have to admit that every idea, notion or reality is equally valid and ‘true’. Something in our intuition tells us that this simply cannot be the case.

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Now we may disagree on the nature of truth at the spiritual level, but it’s hard to deny absolute truths at the physical level. As I step out into the street, it’s either true or untrue that there are cars racing back and forth in front of me. I make a decision to step out based on the truth that I observe and recognize. If the street is busy with cars speeding back and forth, it is not both true and untrue that I can safely step into traffic. If I do step out, I will not be both dead and ‘un-dead’ as a result of the truth of the situation. The street is either filled with cars or it is not. It is either safe to cross or it is not. BOTH realities cannot exist at the same time. One truth must exist at the exclusion of the other.

Let’s put it another way. As I leave the restaurant tonight and enter the restaurant parking lot, I will need to find my way back to my car. While there may be other similar vehicles in the parking lot, only one of them is mine; only one of them belongs to me. My key will only fit in one door. If I am caught trying to break into a similar car, I will not be able to tell the police that this other vehicle is both mine and not mine. There is a singular exclusive truth about the car involved here. It is either mine or it is not!

Does This Exclusivity Apply to the Things of God?
But while exclusive truth seems rational and acceptable in the material world, some people have a much harder time accepting the possibility of objective, exclusive truth when it comes to spiritual matters. For these folks, there exist any number of diverse and divergent truths about God and even more possible paths to this God, all of which are said to be true at the same time! But it’s important for us to take a deep look at this claim of diversity and religious pluralism. We need to remember that the world’s greatest (and even not so great) religions don’t make the same claims about God and the nature spiritual reality. And it’s not just a matter of each religion adding something to the larger picture. Each of the world’s religious systems makes claims about the nature of God (and life after death) that are diametrically OPPOSED! The world’s religions simply don’t agree with each other! Buddhism claims that there is no personal God, while Christianity argues that there is a personal God. Judaism claims that Jesus was simply a man, while Christianity claims that he was God Himself! Islam encourages its followers to eliminate and destroy all infidels, while biblical Christianity encourages its followers to love their enemies. These notions are very different and very opposed and they are only a few examples of the literally thousands of points at which world religions disagree. It is fair to say that ALL of these world religions may be wrong about what they believe (each system must make its own case), but it is simply crazy to say that all of the world’s religions are correct at the same time; their truth claims are opposed to one another! In spite of this obvious conflict in spiritual truths (or perhaps because of this conflict), the world around us is making a couple of claims about the nature of truth.

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  • Truth Does Not Exist: First, the world tries to tell us that objective, absolute truth simply does not exist. This is an ‘ontological’ issue. ‘Ontology’ relates to the nature or essence of ‘being’. The claim here is that ALL truth is ‘perspectival’ in nature. In other words, all truth depends on your perspective! What may be true for one person may not be true for another; it really simply depends on your point of view.
  • Truth Cannot Be Known: Secondly, the world around us is also making the claim that even if objective, absolute truth does exist, we could never know with certainty what that truth is. This is an ‘epistemological’ issue. Epistemology relates to the nature of ‘knowing’ or being able to know something. The claim here is that we simply cannot trust our human mental faculties to tell us what we need to know to come to a conclusion about any truth we are examining.

For many great philosophical thinkers in history, understanding truth is elusive enterprise based on both its nature and our ability to comprehend it in the first place. But let’s take a close look at both of these concerns about truth. To say that truth does not exist is to simply make yet another truth claim and this nullifies any claim against the existence of truth, does it not? And to claim that all truth is ‘perspectival’ in nature is to once again make a claim that you want others to believe is NOT simply coming from your own perspective. When someone says that all truth depends on your point of view, they want us to believe that this statement is true and not simply their point of view! See the problem? And to say that we simply cannot know the truth, even if it exists objectively, is to once again make a self-refuting claim. How can we know that we cannot know? If certainty is impossible, then how can we be certain that certainty is impossible? Are you starting to understand the silliness of all of this?

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Truth is rather brutish in the way that it imposes itself on our lives. It’s like a safe dropping from a ten storey building; we either step aside or get crushed. While we may not know all that can be known about something, and while we may all have a distinct perspective about an issue, to deny the existence of truth or the sufficiency of our own knowledge of truth is to begin a series of silly mental experiments. At the end of the day, if we look up and see the safe falling, we are probably going to find ourselves stepping out of the way.

Now not everyone takes this rather common sense approach to truth. Great philosophers through the ages have at times also been great skeptics:

Andre Gide
“Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.”Molly Ivins
“I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth”Albert Einstein
“Truth is what stands the test of experience”Buddha
“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books, believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”

How Did We Get Here?
So how did we get to this place in our world where so many great thinkers distrust anything that is claimed as truth? How did we get to the point where we trust nothing and, at the same time, embrace everything? Let me tell you about my grandmother. She never had any doubt that there was a singular truth. She grew up in Naples, Italy and spent her early life in a world of common dreams, common values, common faith, common enemies, common holidays, and common lives. In a place like this, everyone agrees on what is true and what is a lie, at least when it comes to the major worldview issues. But my grandmother eventually migrated to the world’s greatest experiment in multi-culturalism: the United States. There is no other country in the history of mankind that has tried to blend so many different people with so many different backgrounds. Here, my grandmother had to confront the realization that there is more than one way to consider the world. She found herself in a place where few people agreed about ANYTHING. But she learned quickly that disagreeing about truth is not the same as believing that there simply is no truth to argue about; disagreeing about the truth does not mean that truth cannot be known.

So, How Do We Know If Something Is True?
How can we, as individuals, trust that the knowledge we hold is actually true? What is ‘knowledge’ in the first place and how is ‘knowledge’ related to ‘belief’? Well, philosophers have been thinking about this for some time and the traditional analysis of knowledge is usually described in the following way:

Knowledge = Properly Justified True Belief

Now, what exactly does this mean? It’s important for you and I to understand this simple little equation because our knowledge of ALL things (including our knowledge of spiritual matters) comes down to whether or not we hold properly justified true beliefs. So, let’s examine the definition more precisely, starting backwards from the definition of ‘Belief’ to the definition of ‘Knowledge’:

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‘Belief’
Let’s face it; you can’t ‘know’ something unless you ‘believe’ it. I can’t ‘know’ that there is a God unless I believe that God exists. But my belief is simply not enough; it is insufficient. You and I can both believe things that are simply untrue. It is possible for us to have false beliefs. And people who believe something that is false often think that they KNOW it. But there is a difference between ‘believing’ and ‘knowing’ in this context. You may ‘believe’ something that is false, but you can’t genuinely ‘know’ something that is false. Now think about this for a minute. We may ‘know’ OF something that is false, but what we ‘know’ is that it IS false! To actually ‘know’ something is to ‘know’ that it is TRUE. And you and I can’t actually ‘know’ something to be true unless it actually IS true. In other words, we can’t ‘know’ something unless it is NOT false.

‘True’
Most of us like to think that we hold the truth, yet when someone presses us to define what truth is, we might have a hard time trying to define it. How do we determine when something is true? Over the centuries a number of theories have emerged related to assessing, apprehending and understanding truth:

  • The Pragmatic Theory of Truth: One notion of truth is called the pragmatic theory of truth. It argues that the truth is simply what ‘works’. How many times have you heard someone say, “Your Christianity may work great for you, but it doesn’t work for me”? This approach to truth is very practical, if nothing else! If a claim doesn’t work, it’s simply not true. But what about realties like ‘death’? Death is not practical (it doesn’t ‘work’ for me), yet it is definitely true! And what about things that are definitely not true, but are practical and useful like say, a ‘successful lie’? While a little white lie might ‘work’ for me and help me out of a jam, it’s doesn’t make the lie TRUE, does it? While the Pragmatic Theory may be practical and useful at times, it will not lead us to truth.
  • The Empiricist Theory of Truth: The empiricist theory of truth says that the truth is whatever can be sensed using the five senses. Experience is the main factor in understanding and apprehending truth. How many times have you heard someone say, “I know it is true because I experienced it myself!”? While this may seem convincing at first, this theory of truth also falls short of the mark. Think about it: some of us will taste an orange and say that it is sweet, while others will taste the same orange and say it is bitter. Who is telling the truth? Sensory experience is too personal to be trustworthy!
  • The Emotivist Theory of Truth: The emotivist theory of truth says that the truth is based on what we feel! How many times have you leaned on feelings to figure out if something was true? At the same time, however, how many times have you struggled to convince yourself that what you are feeling isn’t really true, just the way you feel on that particular day? We all know people who hold irrational fears, and these feelings are not the best indicator of what is true! And what if I show you a handful of paperclips and make the claim, “This is a handful of paperclips”? How are your feelings going to assist you in determining if my claim is true? You aren’t really going to feel one way or the other about the clips, but it will still be true that I am holding paperclips! And people have relied on their feelings to follow Jim Jones, to sleep with a sex partner who later dumped them, to make an impulsive purchase. In each and every case, feelings fail to provide an objective measurement for truth! Like the first two theories, this theory is not a great way to assess truth claims!
  • The Correspondence Theory of Truth: This classic definition of truth is the theory that you and I use on a daily basis, whether we even know it or not. Let me describe it in Aristotelian language: If you say “Something is,” and it is, or “It is not,” and it is not, then you speak truth. If you say “It is,” and it is not, or “It is not,” and it is, then you don’t speak truth. This is called correspondence, in other words, a thing is true if and only if it actually corresponds to what is really there. As an example, if I claim that there is a chair in the next room, that claim is true if and only if I enter the room and find that there is a chair in the room! The claim corresponds to the reality of the situation.

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Just as belief alone is insufficient in determining if what I believe is true, belief and truth are insufficient in determining whether or not I truly ‘know’ something. In other words, I can believe something and my belief can be true, but I may still not actually ‘know’ the thing believed. Are you scratching your head? Let me explain. Let’s say that I think up the idea right now that Paris Hilton is playing golf. I work hard to convince myself that this is in fact the case, and as a result I now ‘believe’ it. Now imagine that by sheer coincidence, Paris Hilton is actually playing golf at this very minute. I have a belief, don’t I? And my belief just happens to be true, isn’t it? But there’s one problem; I have no EVIDENCE that my belief is true. I have no confirmation of my belief either physically or even psychically, for that matter! I just got lucky; it was a complete coincidence.

From a classic philosophical perspective, I do not possess real ‘knowledge’. Philosophers require more than luck or coincidence here. According to philosophers, real knowledge requires that there be an evidential connection between my ‘affirming’ something to be true, and the ‘reality’ of whether it actually IS true. Does that make sense? Knowledge is not just true belief; it is ‘properly justified’ true belief. If I had actually been watching Paris Hilton play golf live on television, my beliefs about her would have been properly justified. Do you get it?

Continued to the next part: Absolute Truth and the Truth Paradox (for the nonce a final part) ⇒ Bloggers on debate

Photo Credit: Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem; Nikolai Ge, Christ and Pilate (“What is truth?“), 1890;  jar of quotes.comquotation of.comanandabazar.com;  Michelangelo, The Temptation and Expulsion of Adam and Eve– interpretation, louisefountainterpretation.wordpress.com; Michelangelo, Adam & Eve with the Serpentthe art stack.com;

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