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“I, TomDickHarryJoeMaryJaneAnnDorothy, do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

WHAT IS TRUTH?

TRUTH

Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of “truth to self,” or authenticity, we can find in Wikipedia.

More?  Truth is usually held to be opposite to falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning.  The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy, art, religion, and science. 

Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life.  Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. 

Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians.  Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another, and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth.  There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truth-bearers capable of being true or false; how to define, identify, and distinguish truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

So, “Tell the truth now.”

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“I repeat.  Are you 100% certain, sure, absolutely positive?”  “100%!”  “Well, I looked him in the eye, and I could tell he was telling the truth, by God!”

The search for truth, write Richard Marius and Melvin Page in a popular textbook A Short Guide to Writing about History (2014) is based on three processes: the search for evidence or SOURCES; the evaluation and ANALYSIS of the evidence; and the PRESENTATION of one’s findings.

PRIMARY sources are NEAREST to any subject or topic of investigation: all kinds of materials written or other communications–including, even, sculpture and architecture, interviews, statistics, geography, military history, videos,

SECONDARY sources are ABOUT sources: books and articles by scholars–or even book reviews, documentaries, biographies. 

THEN: ASSEMBLE sources; EVALUATE sources (who, what, when, where, why); DETERMINE reliability (bias, prejudice, incompleteness). 

Good historians, the authors write, do not implicitly trust their sources, nor do they trust their own first impressions.  They do not either simply ask random questions: they systematically use questioning and make inferences. 

THEN: Historians fit together the evidence to create a story, an explanation, or an argumentation (p.20): the PRESENTATION.  The results of the findings–the “truth of the matter”–come in the form of DESCRIPTION, NARRATION, EXPOSITION, or ARGUMENTATION–the four common modes of communication or expression. 

In the search for the truth, they write (p. 48), “Skepticism is one of the historian’s finest qualities.”

A note about ARGUMENTATION: [Classical definition: “A mode of communication which attempts to convince or persuade by using ethos, logos, or pathos.”]  They state that argument is “a principle of organization that unites facts and observations to present a proposition to the writer” (58); arguments arise “because the evidence can be interpreted in different ways according to the assumptions of the historians themselves” (78).  

© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2018

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ: 1 May 1881–10 April 1955, was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, and Teilhard de Chardintook part in the discovery of the Peking Man.  He conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving).

Although many of Teilhard’s writings were at one time censored by his Catholic Church, in our time he has been posthumously praised by popes.  However, some evolutionary biologists are still negative.  Nevertheless, Chardin has had a profound influence on the New Age movement, being described as “perhaps the man most responsible for the spiritualization of evolution in a global and cosmic context”–even being described as a “visionary” philosopher and a contemporary “truth-sayer” or “prophet.”  Teilhard de Chardin has two comprehensive works, The Phenomenon of Man, and The Divine Milieu.

(Teilhard is mentioned by name and the Omega Point briefly explained in Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stephen Baxter’s The Light of Other Days.  The title of the short-story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor is a reference to Teilhard’s work.  The American novelist Don DeLillo’s 2010 novel Point Omega borrows its title and some of its ideas from Teilhard de Chardin.  Robert Wright, in his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, compares his own naturalistic thesis that biological and cultural evolution are directional and, possibly, purposeful, with Teilhard’s ideas.)  [Wikipedia]

“The perception of the divine omnipresence is essentially a seeing, a taste, that is to say a sort of intuition bearing upon certain superior qualities in things.  It cannot, therefore, be attained directly by any process of reasoning, nor by any human artifice.  It is a gift, like life itself, of which it is undoubtedly the supreme experimental perfection.”  (The Divine Milieu, p. 131.)  

“When a distinguished but elderly statesman states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  –Arthur C, Clarke

“Mystics seem intent in regarding the death of earth as the birth of the new cosmic man.  In this respect, Teilhard de Chardin’s vision is remarkably like A. C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End”: ‘Let us suppose from this universal centre, this Omega Point, there constantly emanate radiations hitherto only perceptible to those persons we call “mystics.”  Let us further imagine that, as the sensibility or response to mysticism of the human race increases with planetisation, the awareness of Omega becomes so widespread as to warm thechildhood's end jackeet earth psychically while physically it is growing cold.  Is it not conceivable that Mankind, at the end of its totalisation, its folding-in upon itself, may reach a critical level of maturity where, leaving the earth and stars to lapse slowly back into the dwindling mass of primordial energy, it will detach itself from this planet and join the one true, irreversible essence of things, the Omega Point?  A phenomenon perhaps outwardly akin to death; but in reality a simple metamorphosis and arrival at the supreme synthesis.’”  –Chardin, The Future of Man, p. 127, in Harper’s, December 1971: 77-78)

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Omne agens agit propter finem.    Every agent acts on account of an end.

To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.

The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.

Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does.  His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end.  The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing.  Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”

The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident.  The first affective motion is love (amor).  The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will.  Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action.  The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons.  It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another.  It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”

BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality.  Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity.  Confusion results when community is lost.

HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT.  I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.

[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

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