It is a question for all ages: What is truth? What is the truth? What is the truth about this? The search for truth is one of the defining characteristics of western culture. (By that I mean the many cultures that have grown out of the Judeo-Christian worldview, generally also influenced by Ancient Greece and Rome.) The belief that truth is at the very least theoretically knowable or discoverable is the driving force behind the science, the philosophy, the art of western culture. In these days of all out assaults on this culture, the desire to know truth, the belief that it even exists objectively, is out of style. In many ways, 2012 is similar to 410 when the Vandals sacked Rome, or perhaps 732 just before the Muslim conquest of the West was stopped by Charles Martel.
Only now the danger comes from within the minds of the western elite themselves. “Pride and a little scratching pen” have been used to end the search for truth and the belief in the Truth that makes the west itself. And so, we should talk about truth.
Obviously, in one little blog post, no one could actually answer that question. So, what I will do here is to try and talk about some of Truth’s characteristics. What kind of thing is truth? There are three notions about the nature of Truth that I think are fairly common. (In no particular order, since I actually have no information about which might be the most common or not.)
1. Truth is relative to every individual, hence individuals ‘create’ their own truth.
2. Truth is always found as a compromise between extremes.
3. Truth is the single point that is not falsehood.
The first definition is worthless, by which I mean: that definition is useless, if a word only means something to every individual person, than that word (and hence the idea it reflects) might as well not exist. Words are reflections of ideas by which we attempt to communicate with other people. And while it is true that to some extent every word and idea’s meaning is colored by the person understanding it, that emphatically does not imply that it only has meaning insofar as each individual wants it to. The very fact that I am trying to describe some aspects of what I believe the Truth to be means that I also believe that ideas about truth are knowable and communicable; something that anyone who believes #1 and tries to convince other people about it must also believe. Hence, someone who believes that they create their own truth, has the same logical problem as the person who believes that there is no absolute truth. The former has decided that ‘their’ truth is that they make ‘their’ truth, and then they promptly attempt to convince everyone that their truth is the truth.
The second idea about truth there, that it is always a compromise between extremes is, I believe, due to a misunderstanding of the golden mean, and what compromise really is and what it is really for. For instance, Bill Clinton either had sex with that woman or he did not. The truth is one or the other, and a compromise between the two extremes is laughable. Compromise exists because while principals and ideas can be narrowed down to logically sound statements, how to apply those principals in this messy messy world we live in is very confusing. Two people with the exact same set of principles (ideas about truth) can come to two very different methods of implementation. And hence, if we have to work together to try to make something happen, we have to compromise our methods even if we are in a situation where none of our principals are in conflict.
I do not think that the Truth qua Truth is any different in nature than the truth about an event. The nature of Truth remains the same, the difference is scale and applicability. So this leaves the last idea, #3. To envision what I mean, do not think about truth as a line or a continuum, but rather as a probability density. (I always envision a diagram I think was in my physical chemistry textbook of the probability density of an electron around some atom.) For here, I just hijacked a picture from Bing images.
I envision the Truth to be that point at the very top, at which point movement in any direction rapidly becomes a lie. (Incidentally, I think that slope down is the infamous ‘slippery slope’.) That is why from the bottom (e.g. from the viewpoint of a lie) the truth is huge, imposing and terrifying, and from the top, the truth is tiny, fragile and… terrifying. The Truth itself is something too good to not be frightening to sinful man, and yet the attempt to stand on its pinnacle and believe the truth, and of course also believe in the Truth as embodied in Jesus Christ, is the heart of Western culture and civilization. At the risk of sounding like the sadly insipid Shepherd Book, I will say that anyone searching for the real truth, the knowable solid and sometimes terrifying truth is close to the heart of the West irrespective of what they actually believe. Being Christian myself, I belive that I have a Book that directly reveals as much of the Truth as man’s mind can handle from the Creator of the universe and our minds. In this I find the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. It is the comfort, the strength, the sword and shield and song of what we crassly call Western civilization, and I think could better be called the civilization of truth-seekers.
When I said I wouldn’t write anything… I guess I was wrong 🙂