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Truth Is Absolute

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January 30, 2020

Truth Is Absolute

 

            In our world today, there are many who claim that “truth” is relative, that: what may be true for one, may not be true for another. At first glance, this opinion does not seem to be too radical. However, when considered, the statement is ridiculous. Truth by its very being TRUTH must be an absolute objective reality. What varies from person to person, is their perception. By way of example: there is a car crash between two different vehicles. There are various witnesses to this crash, and when asked to describe what they saw, each will tell a slightly different version. Who is telling the “truth”? ALL OF THEM. However, they are telling the truth about how their brains interpreted the absolute reality of two cars crashing. The perceptions would be  dependent upon position or orientation of the observer (were they facing the crash, or did they need to turn their heads at the sound of screeching tires?); memory recall under stress; prejudices; etc. Witnesses who remain at the scene of an accident, I believe, are sincerely trying to help and tell the truth as they are best able to remember. However, if there are twenty witnesses with twenty slightly differing versions, are there twenty different accidents of still just the one?

            Understanding the idea of “physical truth” as an absolute is not too difficult. For centuries, educated people thought the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, the moon and the stars revolved around the earth. As science was able to over come superstition, we have since learned that the earth revolves around the sun and is but a infinitely small part of an unimaginable expansive universe. When did our version become “true”? The answer is the obvious: The truth always was, what changed was our abilities to correctly interpret the science. What is not easy to fully grasp is the “truth of an idea”. Atheists believe that God does not exist. Theists believe that God does exist. In short, only one can be true! If God does exist, then all the denial in the world does not eliminate the existence of God. If God does not exist, all the faith in the world cannot create God. God either is or is not!

            For people of religion, God is Truth, an absolute existence independent of, and above human perception. Thomas Aquinas, in his Suma Theologica argue that the idea of God is defendable and demonstratable as the First Cause, which causes everything:

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause.[1]

            A point to be considered is that what really differs between atheists and believers, between believers in one religion versus another, are the ideas about God, and God´s relationship with the created world. The various opinions and beliefs are defendable by argument and perception, but all are limited and incapable to the total truth of God. Similarly, philosophers have debated for centuries over the manner and value governance, personal rights versus social rights, universal morality versus personal morality, etc. Each philosopher presents their arguments by way of a system of  logic, demonstrating the “reasonableness” of their ideas. One might reasonably argue that none of them are completely, without fault. One might argue that in all of them, there are elements of the “truth”, but each falls short of the fulness of truth. Philosophies, like religions, are developed by human beings incapable of absolute vision or imagination. Philosophers develop their philosophical ideas out of an agglomeration of their human experiences and perceptions of significance.

            Although there are a multitude of philosophies proposed throughout human history, I imagine that each philosopher attempted to correctly interpret the “times and circumstances” as a defense of their beliefs. I believe that Karl Marx was truly and deeply moved by the human atrocities perpetrated through the greed of industrialists and capitalists. Charles Darwin saw religion as a threat to true science and the discrediting of religion a major point of his evolutionary theories. Are we to presume that Jean Paul Sartre was uninfluenced by WWI as he developed his ideas on Existentialism? Men and women throughout the millennia have proposed ideas in an honest to attempt to promote a perceived truth. I do not believe that any have ever successfully proposed the full and absolute truth on any topic of human behavior or governance.

            It is my opinion that as throughout human history there have been countless people willing to bend the truth beyond recognition in order to avoid some punishment or gain some advantage. In earlier times these attempts were called “LIES”, today we call them “SPIN” or “ALTERNATIVE TRUTHS”. Certainly it seems allowable, if not expected, to exaggerate some advantages, and obscure some disadvantage when selling a used car, a home, or running for office. There is a logic in the phrase “Caveat Emptor” (Let the Buyer Beware). It is a far different and more serious offense to the idea of truth to blatantly lie and then berate anyone who challenges the obvious lie. In the judicial system, perjury is a felony. It seems in our modern political era, perjury is the road to election victories. Human relationships, such as marriage, friendships, and commercial interests cannot exist outside the realm of honesty. Honesty is implied in any human bond.  I cannot imagine how anyone can legitimately suppose that society is stronger and safer when the “truth” is not demanded of our elected and appointed officials.

 

 

[1] Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica (Complete & Unabridged) (p. 10). Coyote Canyon Press. Kindle Edition.