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Finding Truth


I’ve spent some time over the years investigating the philosophical concept of truth. Gandhi dedicated his life to the pursuit of truth. Christians believe the truth will set them free. But if we do not agree on what the truth is, how can we maintain a cooperative society?

From the archives at Maggie’s Farm:

Compromise may be the bread and butter of politics, diplomacy, and law suits, but it doesn't work in the pursuit of truth and reality. You can't be half-pregnant. Can you be half-guilty? I think so, but the legal system isn't really constructed that way—it is constructed to settle a matter.

If you think Bush lied to the people to pursue a nefarious scheme, and I think he did not, then the reality isn't that he half-lied. If you think Buddha is the manifestation of God, and I believe that Jesus is the only way, then the “all religions are equal, and all gods are the same” silliness is nothing but a “truth-compromise” — a spineless cop-out in the disguise of “tolerance.”

In the meat world, I rely on the rule of thumb that the truth is in the middle. To me that means more extreme perspectives are usually some distance from the provable facts. But not always.

Some truths are absolute. Sometimes this is an inevitable logical result of the construction of language. Black may not be the opposite of white, yet they are certainly not the same color. To understand the truth of white as the opposite of black, we need not only an understanding of “black” and “white”, but also what “opposite” means.

The same mechanism extends beyond innocuous abstracts. Sometimes killing is murder, for example. Calling every killing a murder, however, softens the terms and takes us farther from any meaningful truth. The contention—and the quest for truth—revolves around some fixed and agreed-upon definition of all the words describing the idea.

Living and choosing closer to the truth takes effort. We are wise to periodically reaffirm that our basic language means what we think it means. Then we must apply reason to claims and assertions. It is hard, and probably acceptable to use shortcuts and rules of thumb for minor choices. But for the big stuff, without intellectual rigor, one is likely to end up supporting concepts as foolish as half-pregnancies.