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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.”

the truth 2

“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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REFLECTIONS ON “WHAT IS TRUTH?”

TRUTHTOM CRUISE

From notes gathered into my journals: Will I ever “get to the bottom of it?” [bottom of what?]

Should I know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

* * *
TRUTH = the quality of being true or correct according to SOME ground or test for establishing the reality of a statement (proposition, idea, thought, belief, opinion).

“Truth” assumes that what it applies to DOES depict fact or reality.

But some statements are to be tested: proposals (accept or reject); resolutions (yes, or violated); promises (kept or not); suggestions (heeded, or not); commands (obeyed, or not).

***TRUTH IS THE CONFORMITY OF THE INTELLECT WITH THE THING (logical truth, “truth of knowing”).

SHOULDS: Contain VALUE JUDGMENTS, without moral import at all. “You should turn here.”  YET, the action COULD have moral import…and consequences: “You should turn here, or you’ll….”

PRACTICAL LIVING demands certain guidelines or limits within which all humans should behave.

BASIC MORAL PRINCIPLES can indeed be set up to govern most human actions–yet exceptions can be provided for, with careful and strong justification.

So, we live with NORMATIVES (“It’s good/right.”) and PRESCRIPTIVES (“You should not do it.”).

**Yet, even if a proposition is true, there is no guarantee that people will act in accordance with it–yet the proposition still remains true whether they do or not….

THUS:
Just because they do it doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because they believe it doesn’t make true.

* * *

PRINCIPLE OF TRUTH-TELLING, OR HONESTY:

The principle that states a human being should always OUGHT to strive to tell the truth or be honest, except when it would interfere with or seriously violate the principles of GOODNESS, VALUE OF LIFE, and JUSTICE. [This principle is necessary for meaningful communication and human relationships…]

Vital-Lies-Simple-Truths-CoverARE SOME LIES VITAL? 

VALUE OF LIFE [SANCTITY OF LIFE] = 1st moral principle = life of humans is to be preserved, protected, valued

GOODNESS/RIGHTNESS = moral/ethical = good/right
Promote good over bad
Cause no harm/badness
Prevent badness/harm

JUSTICE/FAIRNESS = not enough to do good and avoid bad, but some effort must be made to distribute the good and bad resulting from actions = moral rightness, equity, fairness:
Exchange = payment/remuneration
Distributive = merit, reward (for work performed)
Social = fair and just for all
Retributive = eye for an eye/punishment

* * *

From On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt (Knopf, 2006):

Truth is so important to us . . . we should especially care about it. Yet common sense tells us that we know what it means to tell the truth, …and what it means to give false accounts: to lie.

Higher levels of civilization must depend even more heavily on a conscientious respect for the importance of honesty and clarity in reporting the FACTS, and on a stubborn concern for accuracy in determining what the facts are.

[No one in his right mind would rely on a builder, or submit to a physician, who does not care about truth. There is a clear difference between getting things right and getting them wrong, and thus a clear difference between the true and the false.]

…societies cannot afford to tolerate anyone or anything that fosters a slovenly indifference to the distinction between true and false. AND indulge the . . . narcissistic pretense that being true to the facts is less important than being “true to oneself.”

We need to avoid being debilitated either by error or by ignorance. We need to know–and, of course, we must understand how to make productive use of–a great many truths.

Our success or failure in whatever we undertake, and therefore in life altogether, depends on whether we are guided by truth or whether we proceed in ignorance or on the basis of falsehood.

WE REALLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE TRUTH… 

…hiding our eyes from reality will not cause any reduction of its dangers and threats.

If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted “rationality” good-bye.

For every fact, there is a true statement that relates it; and every true statement relates a fact.

…caring about truth plays a considerably different role in our lives, and in our culture, than does caring about the accumulation of individual truths.

It is because we appreciate that truth is important to us that we care about accumulating truths.

It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact, and truth that we come both to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific nature of our own identities.

How, then, can we fail to take the importance of factuality and of reality seriously? How can we fail to care about truth? We cannot….

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