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.


Morals Anyone?

I think most of us try to be moral; although, none of us are perfect at it. However, I think we’re starting run into problems in our modern society. These days we live in a global society, so we need to have global morals not just isolated cultural ones. What should our morals be? As an atheist, I do not believe we should get them from any holy book. I propose that our main concern should be to never harm verbally, sexually, emotionally, or physically anyone. I also think we should all strive to be fair in our dealings with other humans. Other types value are of less importance.

However, I don’t think morals should be a set of simple rules. Maybe, we should distill moral values to a set of rules, when teaching children, but I think otherwise a set of rules is problematic. The problem is that it is very easy to run into grey areas. For example if someone threatens kill you if you don’t rape the next woman you meet, is it okay to rape? (For the sake of argument, we are assuming you can not defend yourself in any way, and the person threatening you will really kill you if you don’t meet his demands.) So here’s what I suggest: We come up with an axiom system for morals. Now, I’m not suggesting we turn morals into mathematics. I suggest to build this axiom system we get our terms from variety of sources: psychology, sociology, neuroscience, anthropology, moral philosophy, and et cetera. We need to know what is the healthiest way for people to live. We need to know what causes harm, and we need to be able to place some type of value for an amount of harm for each bad deed in a particular situation. For those, that are skeptical of putting values on harm let me give an example. If I don’t like spiders and someone pours a bucket of rubber spiders over me, that’s a prank. If I have a phobia of spiders and someone pours rubber spiders on me, that’s mean. Clearly, one will cause emotional distress.

The point is, I think we need to have a whole field of study for morals. Currently, there are many people discussing what constitutes morals from different backgrounds. I think the different backgrounds are complimentary. I think it may be awhile before we get a complete axiom system, but I genuinely think we should do this. I think morals are important, and I don’t think we should descend into moral relativism. I think there are things that are just wrong. Something may be viewed as moral in one culture and not in another, but I think culture can be wrong. If in some culture people sacrifice children to the sun god, I’m not going to say that’s okay. I think even without a set in stone axiom system, we can be sure it is causing harm, and I think we can and should say that it is wrong and vehemently oppose that practice.

Just my two cents.