31 October 2011

THT: Oh Say, What is Truth (Part II)

 A while back, I posted under this same title. It was interesting to read that now... months later. I think it shows how my thinking and thought processes are developing and how I really am trying to get at the core of things. I did not begin this post with the idea of God in mind. It was simply an investigation of truth as an idea. However, I found myself connecting the idea of truth and the idea of God together in the end. To begin, I posted a series of questions on several different facebook groups. The questions were:

How do you define "truth?"

Is it possible to recognize "truth" when you find it?

If so, how?
Here are some of the responses that resonated with me or that I found interesting/thought provoking:

"I don't know if there is absolute truth... very little it seems. Recognizing my truth = feeling peace. Anxiety and depression means I have gotten out of my truth."

"I believe in absolute truth but we haven't gotten their yet."

"Truth doesn't have a final destination and should be replaced with the pursuit of knowledge and explanations. A truth seeker should have the willingness to change his/her mind what you think, if new evidence comes to light which may contradict."

"Knowing the truth is hard. Knowing whats's not true, not so hard."

"We do not have to capture truth by quick statements. We have to test, to weigh, to reflect, to debate to and fro and pro and con, to question our own assertions. Truth does not exist as merchandise ready-made for delivery; it exists only in methodical movement, in the thoughtfulness of reason." (Jaspers, page 4)"

"I think the best epistemologically weak mortals can do is try to learn lots of different perspectives/theories, and try to apply the razors of consistency and parsimony to shave off the less likely. We're rationally limited and overwhelmingly ignorant- I think most appeals to or claims of truth are thinly founded."

"Great questions. I don't know except to say that truth should be the product of testable and repeatable inquiry."

"A statement is true when it describes fact. A theory is true when it can accurately predict outcomes. But the statement is only a perception. And the theory can hardly account for every possible variable in the physical world.

You can only achieve true statement when the universe can get no smaller and you can perceive every detail. You can only achieve true theory when the universe can get no larger, bringing in no new input. So, until we find the most minute particle and the boundaries of existence (and how can we know that there are limits in size on either end of the spectrum?!), we cannot even speculate at knowing the truth if it exists at all."

"In my opinion, the closest we could possibly get "the truth" is to find someone who perceives all things clearly. The sum of all things at once. Perfectly clear and accurate. (God?) Still, this person would not be truth, but he/she would comprehend it."

"No matter what we do or how we evolve I think we will always interpret the world through our own unique experiences and that means that none of us see the world the same way. I kind of laugh when we claim we are right or that something is true... Sure from a certain perspective things appear that way..."


One question still remains. Is truth absolute? It sounds like some people view truth as being subjective and personal and others view it as objective and universal. There are a couple who believe it is sort of a mix... that truth is both. I don't know if I agree that it can be both. I agree that if truth is absolute, humans could never truly KNOW it simply because everything we claim to "know" has been filtered through our own perceptions and experiences and the interpretation and meaning we attach to them... but that doesn't mean that truth isn't absolute.

The idea that a "truth-seeker" must by nature be willing to adapt to new evidences and information and readily change their ideas about what truth is makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like when I was active in the church and believed as I should, this idea was actually discouraged culturally even while it was taught doctrinally. In the church, we are taught to "study it out in [our] minds" along with prayer. I view prayer as a kind of meditation. It allows you a moment to reflect on your feelings/thoughts/hopes and desires. However, as an active believing member, you are pretty much taught that anything that sheds negative light on the church is "anti-mormon" and completely unfounded.

This same idea is held in classes at church. Asking probing questions or challenging questions is met with resistance. If something you are being taught doesn't resonate with you and you want to probe deeper, you are often accused of "driving out the spirit" or at least treated as if you are. Questioning the wisdom of the leaders of the church is a no-no. Now I look at those experiences and realize that those environments were actually toxic for sincere truth-seeking people. I think that is why so many church goers find themselves dissatisfied with church attendance. It is not mentally stimulating or deeply enlightening. It is repetitive and shallow. That is the end of that tangent.

Anyway, moving on. I really liked the comment about the difference between theory and truth. It is so thought provoking. I feel it actually begins to really start to explain the necessity there is for some kind of supreme being. Here's why:

If human beings are incapable of actually KNOWING truth due to the fact that everything we claim to know has been filtered through our own unique lenses of perception, can truth actually exist? I mean, if all logical beings will always be incapable of knowing it can it exist? Plato just came to mind because I am starting to realize that what I am describing is much like Plato's theory of forms. Plato argues that all that we experience are forms or shadows of truth or "ideal-ness," (yes I made it up). For example, the chair you are sitting on isn't really a true chair, it is a chair that has been made in the attempt to copy the one true, ideal chair which we are incapable of really knowing because we can only perceive it's shadow. To me, this "shadow" of the ideal represents our own perceptions which act as unique filters between our comprehension and actual truth. We then interpret those perceptions and accept them as our reality. Take this facebook comment to help explain what I am getting at: 

"Once, when I was in kindergarten, we were coloring pictures for an art show. I had chosen to color a dog. First I colored the grass green and the sun was yellow. I left coloring the doggy until last.

As I began to shade in its head with my brown crayon, the student next to me shouted: "NO! Dogs are black!" He shoved my hand to the side and tore a black line through my drawing and scribbled haphazardly over the animal's body.

I was devastated and cried for a good five minutes. Looking back, I realize that the boy probably had the perception that since (maybe) his own dog was black, all dogs were black and that- in his mind- I was acting against "truth" by coloring the dog on my paper brown."

So then here is my question Plato: If our whole world is simply a reflection of the ideal world... simply a shadow... doesn't there need to be some kind of intelligence that comprehends the ideal? Some intelligence that comprehends truth 100%? Because if no intelligence can actually comprehend it, wouldn't it be incapable of existence? I mean according to Descartes (I think, therefore I am), the proof of existence lies in awareness. Therefore, if it is impossible for any intelligent being to be aware of truth, it is impossible for absolute truth to exist.

I am by no means a philosophy junkie. I studied only the minimum that everyone studies philosophy in college... so my knowledge and understanding of all these philosophers is quite limited. However, from what I gather from what these men wrote along with my own thoughts and contemplation on the subject of truth, here is the conclusion I feel I have come to for now (which may change in the future):

If truth is absolute, God must exist. 

So... is Plato right? Is there a set truth... a perfect world out there that our world is always striving to become? One that is no respecter of persons? I feel that even atheists must believe in truth or ideal-ness. Activists and social reformists sure must believe that they are fighting for a better world... one that comes closer to real fairness and equality. So where in space and time does that ideal world that we are striving to become exist? How does it enter into our collective consciousness? Is THAT God?

For other reading see these wiki articles:

Theory of Forms
Allegory of the Cave
I think, therefore I am



Anonymous said...

Thought you might enjoy this article about truth. It was written by my former mission president:


Trev said...

Fascinating post! I love the comments you share and reading your conclusions about truth and comprehending it. I think I agree.

My dad lately has been really into reading about theories of consciousness as the source of existence. It's a little "out there," but he's been reading books by people with legitimate scientific backgrounds. I'll see if I can remember to ask him about them and link you to them to see if you'd be interested in checking them out.

jen said...

In reading this, I realize we are talking on facebook... I knew that. I should have recognized your name, but I didn't. :)

I like the conclusions you come to. I also love that you are just thinking about it and asking questions.

My answer came from don Miguel Ruiz's books. (Not sure which one, they're all a lot alike.)

bradcarmack said...

You're a philosopher now. It's too late: it's obvious you care too much about epistemology. Embrace your fate.

jimf said...

Have you seen this video?

jimf said...

"**The** Truth: what a perfect idol of the rationalistic mind! I read in an old letter - from a gifted friend who died too
young - these words: 'In everything, in science, art, morals and religion, there must be one system that is right and
**every** other wrong.' How characteristic of the enthusiasm of a certain stage of youth! At twenty-one we rise to such a
challenge and expect to find the system. It never occurs to most of us even later that the question 'what is **the** truth?' is
no real question (being irrelative to all conditions) and that the whole notion of the truth is an abstraction from the
fact of truths in the plural, a mere useful summarizing phrase like **the** Latin Language or **the** Law."

-- William James ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James )
_Pragmatism_ (1907),
Lecture 7, "Pragmatism and Humanism")
( http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5116 )

Brad Carmack said...

I'm currently reading "The Will to Believe: and other essays in popular philosophy," by William James. I'm persuaded by most pragmatism arguments.

jimf said...

"The Truth" as an intensely odd philosophical sub-basement:

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