The Truth Part II


Objective truth is an interesting notion. Us finite creatures like to think of it as both existing and accessible, and perhaps, most importantly, capable of informing our morality. I would, however, like to point out that morality and truth-seeking can only really matter to the “developed.” Those starving can only truly care about staving off their hunger and, perhaps, their loved one’s hunger. I, suppose, that might be tipping my hat to Maslow. Still, if one doesn’t think this true, one only has to look at the looting that takes place after a natural disaster.

Furthermore, even in a culture that is developed, one has to ask if objective truth can truly be found. It is quite popular today for people to think that science and philosophical debate can shine a light on objective truth. Unfortunately, people are not rational humans at heart, and as Nietzsche pointed out time and time again in Beyond Good and Evil often a philosopher’s  argument says more about the philosopher than the truth.

The problem, at base level, with trying to use logical methods to carve out objective truth is that human beings are not inherently rational beings. Thus, this begs the question of whether or not human beings even have the ability to discover objective truth. It is as if we can only see through a people through a windshield of car, while driving through a snow storm. We are prone to error, and these errors can be dangerous.

This is to to say, a little knowledge, without enough knowledge, can be dangerous. First year med students are known to want to over diagnosis themselves and their families with horrible illnesses, it is for this reason medical schools don’t give them prescription pads. Nevertheless, we give philosophers and clergy free reign over what constitutes objective truth.

On the other hand, objective truth may be out there, but can humans grasp it? I would argue that this is not clear, and this why much of the time we need to operate in probabilistic and pragmatic truth. It matters that Janet isn’t lying when she says John raped her. It matters that the engineer who worked on the bridge did his math correct, so I can be sure my car can go over it safely. It matters that the underlying mathematical system is sound. I can be reasonably sure, that everything shown on the Ancient Aliens program is horse shit.

Finally, some want to argue that we need to have one undefined axiom and rely on that for system of truths. They, conveniently, want to add God as this axiom. The problem, however, is that the really is no sufficient reason to think that such an entity exists, and its existence raises more problems than it solves. Even if it did exist, this beingm almost by definition, be incomprehensible to us finite creatures, but this isn’t the way most monotheistic traditions see God. Instead, the Western traditions are absolutist and ingrained with either “believe in our God and in our way.” The being the believe is defined with omni properties, acts a certain way, etc. Without these notions, the whole structure of their truth and morality falls apart. I would argue the falling apart of the absolutism of the monotheistic Western God is partially responsible for the chaos and culture wars we see today in the West.

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Skepticism: Faith and Authority


Most are not 100% skeptical all of time. For example, I consider myself a skeptic, but I don’t spend my time questioning whether the grass is really green or whether water is composed of H2O. I could, but I am fairly certain my original position that grass is green and water is composed of H2O is the correct one. There are certain people who will blatantly say that is never okay to take things on faith and authority, and when the idea that many people take, say science, on faith they try to weasel their way out.

However, taking things on faith and authority, in a very limited way, can be acceptable in certain situations. I think blind faith is generally a bad idea. Still, we need to consider non-blind faith. In other words, we need to consider faith that has a basis to exist. For example, I’ve studied evolution to some degree and I know some of the major findings supporting it. I don’t know a lot of the more complex studies having to do with evolution, but I generally accept most the mainstream findings of scientists. Why? Because, “faith” in these scientists is not blind. It is based on something factual and objective about this science in the first place. Also with science, I know the method. I trust the method; because, it’s method does weed hoaxes and the like. It is open to change and scrutiny. Is this improper? Given it’s record, I don’t think it is. I know how the scientific method works, and as far as can tell, it is working quite well at the moment. If, for example, I had actual knowledge that every part of Catholicism was true but I just wasn’t sure whether the deity was triune, I might take it on faith that my priest was right about God.

Also, I think it is appropriate to take things on authority sometimes, but it depends on the authority. Is the authority reliable/trustworthy? Does the authority have a good tract record? Does the authority have the knowledge to dispense a particular claim? Does the authority have his/her mental facilities in good working order?  Is the authority unbiased? These are questions that need an affirmative answer. The problem is that a lot of people depend on an authority who does not meet the previous qualifications. I’m not going to ask my tv repair man what’s wrong with my car. Likewise, I’m not going to ask a science question to a cleric.

I think most skeptics would agree with. Although, they might argue with how I’ve treated faith. They might say that what I’m arguing isn’t faith at all, but I’d like to hear an argument on why faith should be redefined. People don’t seem to realize that we greatly depend on faith and authority a good portion of the time. It isn’t always universally wrong to do so, but we should question ourselves from time to time about what ideas we’re accepting and why.