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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The Truth As a Woman


“Supposing truth is a woman–what then? Are there not grounds for the suspicion that all philosophers, insofar as they were dogmatists, have been very inexpert about women?” Nietzsche

What makes forming any type of workable ethical system up hard is that there are a lot of moving parts. For examples, ethics is very tied up with morality, and what is morality tied up with? Truth. What is the truth tied up? The definition of truth. As you can imagine, there are many subcategories I could list, as well as general categories not mentioned.

Nevertheless, here at the bottom rung of truth, there is still an intensive amount of work to be done. For one, there is the issue basic definition. Although, most people go about their lives, as if this isn’t the issue. If a person hasn’t seemed to run into any problems, they don’t see why this can lead this to a meltdown. They are one of the lucky ones! Then there is the question of how we can obtain truth. Then, there of what to do with the truth, once we have found it. Is it better to hide certain devesting truths? Once again, I could go on. And on. And on. Well, you get the point.

It is as if, throughout the ages, people have prized the truth as a pure virginal woman. If she was not protected, she could be harmed, murdered, or worse have her “purity” tainted. People were executed for her. People fought wars over her. Families disowned each other over her.

The truth, however, is not in need of protection. If for example, Big Brother style, every book, every website, every media, and every outlet of every kind was changed from past to present to future to say that Abraham Lincoln was a slave owner, and over time people learned “the new history” and the rest of us died off would that change anything? What if no one ever, even up to human extinction ever figured out that Abraham Lincoln did not own slaves? Does that change anything? Well, the actual truth doesn’t change. The only difference is human ignorance. Martyrs aren’t dying for the truth. Their dying for the spread of the knowledge of what they believe to be true. Their beliefs may or may not be truth. No one can taint what is true.

Now this, is of course, works for certain definitions of truth. Most us, I’m assuming, use the word truth in “objective” way. In other ways, something it something corresponds. Now the problem, is that definition is not always good, and some for example, prefer pragmatic definitions, but that is a post for another day.

The Bias of the Obvious in Philosophy


Philosophers often struggle and strive to create logical arguments to get at the truth of a particular subject or so the claim is. In philosophy classes, students are bombarded with various forms of logical deductive and inductive arguments, so that they know what qualifies as a genuine argument. The students are trained to avoid logical fallacies, and they write many a paper, where they will lose many a grade point if they fail to make a logical argument and avoid these fallacies. Still, doing real philosophy is not this simple. I would argue, that philosophers are often “biased”.

This is not to say that philosophers aren’t, for the most part, making logical arguments. The problem is that even a logical argument can potentially be wrong, if new information arises. For example look at this argument:

  1. All white bears are polar bears
  2. X is a bear
  3. X is white
  4. Thus, X is a polar bear

That argument is logical, but it is also wrong. Non-polar bears can be, of course, white. But, if someone had never heard or seen a white non-polar bear, this argument would seem reasonable, wouldn’t it?

And, this brings us to the next point. Philosophy and logic are absolutely indispensable, but logic alone is not enough to bear the weight of the burden of proof in many cases. If someone had never had a science class or lived a long time ago, it would make sense to them that the sun went around the earth. Why? It seems patently obvious to the naked eye. Both modern knowledge and logical argumentation is necessary to prove that the earth in fact goes around the sun and the like.

One of the problems philosophy faces in arenas outside science and instead in arenas such as morality and religion is to get past the “obvious.” It is obvious to some that God exists, and it is obvious to other that he/she/it doesn’t. Many a premise and conclusion are made to prove both sides of this debate correct, but the debate still rages. For example, when people make the claim that something can’t come from nothing, this will seem obvious to many people, but has anyone ever dealt with absolute nothingness? Could we be wrong about the obvious? I’m not trying to claim the answer one way or the other, but the point is, how would we really know? These philosophers and lay people are relying on the obvious which is in reality a bias!

Nevertheless, it is not just religious philosophy that suffers from the problems of the bias of the obvious. For many the idea of maximizing happiness as a moral system seems obvious, not that there aren’t arguments for this, but should we be digging deeper? Sure being happy and causing others to be happy seems “nice.” However, it is tempting to ask if happiness and pleasure are really the highest aims to being human.

There are many other cases and examples I could have used in philosophy. I hope to have used some relatable ones. The problem with philosophy, sometimes, is that it is often trying to answer questions before we have enough knowledge, or it is trying to answer questions where superior knowledge will never be found. Often the bias of the obvious is used, so I beseech you to notice this when you are doing your own critical thinking.

 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to like and comment!

Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?


Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism

My Complicated Relationship with Religion


Certainly, I have a complicated relationship with religion. Currently, I am a non-religious atheist, or as I’m better described, a devout skeptic. (See the menu on the left for an article I wrote on that term.) I have been this way for years. Now, when I say I have a complicated relationship with atheism, that doesn’t mean I’m going to run to church today and go get “saved.” It’s much more “complicated” than that.

Basically, I find world religions to be truly fascinating! I’ve even invested a good amount of time and money studying them. I enjoy understanding them both from an academic prospective and from the subjective experience of their followers. This, of course, means I occasionally, once or twice a year, go to different religious services to experience what it is like to be a member of a particular religion, but I never officially join.

Although I hate what religions can do in some instances to a society, I don’t hate religions or religious people. In fact in some ways, I enjoy them, but what on earth do I mean by this? Religions are the closest things we have to actually living out a fantasy book or movie.

There is an idea in religions that there is something beyond this realm, and people can somehow harness it’s power. This is practically the plot to every fantasy book, and while I don’t believe that this religious notion is true, it is fascinating and fun to play with and study once in a while.

So, I warned my readers. My “relationship” with religion is a complicated one, but at the end of the day, I am not a theist. I don’t know if anyone can relate, and I suppose that’s okay.

As always, feel free to comment, even if you don’t like what I wrote!