Saturday, July 16, 2005

Universality of truth

Adelaine's post prompts you to think: Is it really that hard to accept the universality of truth?

Imagine two people talking:

Conversation #1

"Truth doesn't exist."

"Is that true?"


"Wait a minute... If that's true, then truth exists!"

Conversation #2

"OK, maybe truth exists. But it certainly cannot be known."

"So you're saying now that truth cannot be known?"

"That's right."

"Then how do you know that that's even true?"

As soon as we reject the existence and knowledge of truth, we start to draw square circles. We get into a more serious problem than trying to figure out what is truth - or who has truth.

Believe it or not, truth exists and it can be known. Knowing it not just intellectually but loving it as well makes all the difference in life.

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Blogger Sigmoid said...

Interesting concept. That means we need to know what is untrue than we have truth to compare with. So in the absence of false, there can be no truth. Hehehe...

July 21, 2005 7:51 PM  
Blogger Tin Soldier said...

Hi sigmoid!

I don't think you necessarily need to know what is untrue before you know what is truth. Of course a lot of times (maybe all the time) we know better by making mistakes first, but I don't think truth can only be known by comparison to falsehood. Even if we grant that truth cannot ever be known (although I think it can but let's just say it can't be known), it doesn't follow that if truth cannot be known then there is no truth. It's just that nobody knows about it under this assumption... which is a very weak assumption, by the way, because if our minds are already made up that we really can't know about truth, then why bother to conclude anything about anything at all? You would have no assurance whatsoever of knowing if what you believe is worth believing.

July 21, 2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger therese said...

Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.

July 22, 2005 7:02 PM  
Blogger *adelaine said...

my dear friend, i must pass you this GREATTTT anime that questions human morality.. but not every related to our discussion- just that it was quite a good watch..

i am re-reading mere christianity and picking lots of good stuff that i missed out the last time.. mm.. maybe u r supposed to read and re-read stuff like these..?

i read a apart that CS lewis tore dualism apart saying that good and evil is not equal as evil is only perverted good but it cannot exist by itself etc.. etc.. very good argument.. i agree, no one will do something that they do not enjoy simply because it is evil.. but u do it to get sumthing good out of it for yourself (most of the time)ot others. But u will do good simply because it is right even if at time u do not enjoy it...

inversely, what is un-truth..? preverted truth...(?) like sum1 once said, i am not lying- this is my version of the truth...

i was just thinkking.. what if there is no wrong..? just how far it is from what's from the real "RIGHT".. but how do u know u r right... if u don't know/don have all the facts, u cant make a fair decision.

lets say u r living on a small island. no where else to go.. one of the people there suddenly caught a deadly containgous desease with no known cure so far.

every1 wants to kill him, or it might risk spreading to other inhabitants... but maybe he will get better or some1 else might find a cure..

what is the "right" thing to do.. and what is "wrong"?

yikes, time to go bek.. speak soon!

August 10, 2005 8:21 PM  
Blogger Tin Soldier said...

Dear Adelaine, as you keep reading Lewis you will find it more and more interesting what he has to say about the topic.

Before I agree or disagree with your hypothesis that there is no objective wrong in this world, let's lay some necessary groundworks. To be able to frame a question to which legitimate answers could be given, we need to ask ourselves if we're speculating something that corresponds to reality as we know it. It is one thing to try to imagine a world where there is such a thing as a spheric cube. It is totally another to assert that such a thing really exists.

When our what-if takes us on the quest of affirming a reality where there is "no wrong... just how far it is from the "real RIGHT", as you put it, the first question I'd ask myself is: can such a thing even be possible?

Here's what you've just said: (1) There is no wrong. (2) What we've mistaken as "wrong" is just something that is apart from the "real right". Therefore it may be concluded that nothing is wrong.

Did you notice that even in our effort to hypothesize such a reality, our own propositions failed us? What exactly is that something that's far from the real right? When A is far from B, A is apart from B, right? (In fact even when A is near to B they are both apart from each other.) According to the principles of non-contradiction, if A is apart from B, then A is non-B. So if Wrong is apart from Right, Wrong is not Right. If what's wrong cannot be right and what's apart from right is wrong, then there is after all such a thing as wrong. Hence the hypothesis that nothing is wrong falls apart.

To believe that there are no such things as wrong is to put way too much faith in the idea, one which we can't even articulate convincingly in our best efforts. Even Christianity seems so much easier by comparison.

As for your island illustration, I don't think it supports your hypothesis that nothing is wrong. Because granted your hypothesis we don't even have to worry about whether or not to kill the person with deadly disease. Either way no wrong could have been done. What's the right thing to do? Only in a reality where an objective moral standard exists can such a question be legitimately raised.

P/s: I'd love to watch this anime.

August 11, 2005 3:21 AM  
Blogger Tin Soldier said...

Continuing here from my last comment... I need to point out something that has to do with the second thing you said as follows: How do we know we are right if we don't know or don't have all the facts? We can't make a fair decision.

If it must come to the point that we absolutely cannot know anything for sure at all to enable the execution a fair decision, why then even postulate that the person is the culprit that causes the disease? Why are we so sure that it must be him (let's say it's a him) in this instance? Why not worry first about accusing the wrong man due to the absolute lack of facts?...

I hope we can establish now that not being omniscient is no good reason for not making a decision or not being able to make a fair decision. (To believe that is like saying only God has the right to make decisions, not humans.) In fact I don't think facts is the point at all. May I suggest (if it's not already obvious at this point) that our call to action in this particular instance does not emerge on the level of factuality, but MORALITY?

When it comes to killing another human being for the death threat that they are bringing us, may I ask just how many facts do we need? Solely on the level of factuality there is no grounds whatsoever to fret over wrongfully killing an innocent man. "My island is infected with a deadly disease", "That man seems to be the most likely cause of the disease" and "I can't get off this island" is all the facts we need to do away with the problem by way of eliminating the root--facts which we already possess, by the way. So what's stopping us from deciding? Isn't it the mandate of a moral obligation to "be fair"?

A few years ago social scientist Os Guinness said in a UCLA veritas forum that there are some ideas that can be thought, but not lived. We could very well formulate certain ideas about the non-existence of absolute rights or wrongs within the comfortable walls of our intellects and physical distance from a real necessity to carry out such moral judgments. But one of the most convincing arguments for real rights and wrongs in the universe in which we live has been and will always be manifested when a wrong and therefore unfair decision is made on us. Only when we ourselves suffer under the raw execution of power by others, especially when it's an unjust execution, are we able to be entirely convinced of real moral absolutes.

August 14, 2005 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Bertjacko said...

synthelabo... talk bout jack bauer la!!

September 24, 2005 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tin Soldier said...

We know Jack Bauer knows there is a real difference between right and wrong, even if he had to kill one man to prevent a deadly virus from spreading to the entire island. He realizes that he's making a tough choice between sparing one life and sparing one million lives. Far from being an example of immorality or even amorality, he is a man with a clear sense of right and wrong. That is still true even when his actions are debatable.

October 02, 2005 2:05 PM  

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