This is a big question. For our purposes let us answer this query in an informal as opposed to a philosophically formal way. (1) In my opinion, truth itself can be broken into three broad spheres: objective, subjective, and societal or pragmatic truth.
In objective truth, ideas exist independently of influences or change. For example: I am a deist, so I believe that an eternal God exists and so does the extant world. These truisms will continue long after my mortal being has left this plane of existence.
Then we have subjective truth — the “I think therefore I am,” of Rene Descartes. (2) This truth also includes my belief in God, Gaia, or the Universe. To our list, we must add a belief in myself, my capacity to learn, and my God-given mission in life. (3) The great tragedy of subjective truth is that if I believe that I am an inconsequential vessel — having no value or purpose in life — I am also such.
Subjective truth is the most difficult because it requires a true commitment to life if you will. As any educator, parent, or citizen knows, this is his job — to expose the minds of the young and the not-so-young to the fantastic opportunities of life. With some experience, I note that the modern pedagogue is faced with tremendous competition from the Internet. The average élève is overflowing with images and information — most of it fake. How does one overcome this influence?
Recently, one teacher spoke to me about a young student who is involved in an intimate relationship. The girl is, of course, too young to be confronted with a physical relationship. What does one say to her? What is the truth when you are “in love?” The only answer has to be that you are responsible for the self. There is no one but me to promulgate my reality. That said, to learn the subjective lessons of life takes time — sad!
The final truth is that furnished by our society — the values that my country or my group gives me: I must go to school, get a good job, get married, have several children, save lots of money — retire and die. One quickly realizes that if I do not want to accept the society’s values, I am then faced with opprobrium and other complications.
Freedom is, unfortunately not free, so if I decide to not follow these standards, I must expect problems. In all of this, it is important that I spend the time to reflect and ponder the questions associated with life — my life. As Socrates (469-399 BC) tells us, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Arthur Schopenhauer (4) leaves us with a thought: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
A closing thought: I believe that these three expressions of truth are important to reflect on. We are in a thoughtless period of history wherein we know so much and yet reflect so little. The idea of truth reinforces the value of life. Without life itself, there is no truth, no human development, and no growth. To uphold these principles, we must believe that truth exists and is simply manifest in the world.
To sum up: This week we asked the question, “What is truth?”
To be noted: from Sir Winston Churchill (5) — A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
Just for fun:
This week, on your thoughtful walk, please reflect on what subject truth means to you?
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: There is truth behind the Universe.