The Nature of Truth

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Truth is not the same as reality as postulated by the ancient Greeks. Marcus Aurelius was wrong in saying: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective not the truth.”

Friedrich Nietzsche also reiterated: “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

As regards Nietzsche, whom I have great respect and admiration for; I have noticed that in his writings, he will oppose every writer and philosopher including himself. From all indication he is a nihilist. And indeed, maybe not so rightly, Leo Tolstoy described him as “stupid and abnormal” but to some of us he is still a brilliant poet and philosopher. We all know what the excesses of knowledge leads to: in much knowledge is much sorrow, in much wisdom is much grief.

Going back to our subject matter, we must be careful with this “disordered” kind of reasoning. If everything is an opinion, it then seeks to say that the entire universe exists only because we perceive it; therefore it is an extension of the self (Ego) and its opinions. This leads us to Solipsism but that is the greatest illusion. I think we are moving towards a psychological situation when the ego is forcing its way into the subconscious trying to make everything its own, so to speak. Yet the ego itself is nothing but a poor borrower of mental energy. Nothing that exists in the go belongs to the ego.

Those animals, which are equipped with the relevant senses, also perceive the same things we humans perceive. The sun is not only perceived by me but by everyone who has eyes. Water does not only quench my thirst but also everyone’s thirst. Therefore water is a kind of liquid for quenching thirst. The peculiar characteristics of the sun and uses of water are not only real to me but also universally real to everyone.

Different things, people and entities have different realities. So if truth is misconstrued to be reality. The question then, is whose reality? The reality of the slave or that of the slave master, the reality of the boss or that of the servant, the reality of the society or that of the accused standing trial, the reality of the east or that of the west? So really, whose reality? Many confuse reality with truth. Truth, in a universal sense, is objective and independent and seems to radiate from a central point whereas reality is mostly subjective. Two or more people can experience different realities but may still be in the domain of same truth.

In my definition, truth simply is a “convergence of realities.” In other words truth is not something that is fixed but rather something that extends within the framework of core realities. The fact that my morning comes earlier and I see the sun before someone living in Philippines doesn’t mean the sun I saw was different from the one he saw. It’s the same thing seen at different times. Minor differences do not negate a thing’s objectivity.

I have a big problem, in this age of reason, with the dictatorship which scientific knowledge is trying to establish over the human mind.  Suppose that we didn’t know that something exists. Then science helps us to discover such and such as existing. Immediately theories are put forward as if the thing’s existence begun when the discovery was made. Let us take vitamin c for instance. The first man who ate an orange didn’t know it contains vitamin c. He saw the thing, it looked good, he tasted it, it tasted nice, and he ate it. And only millions of years later before science discovered exactly what orange does in the body.

Should we be waiting for the evidence from science before eating oranges, we would have denied ourselves of the enjoyment of oranges for millions of years. This same line of thinking is what leads atheists to say that there is no evidence for the existence of an objective entity called God so he does not exist. It’s like saying we do not know what nutrients can be found in an orange, therefore we will not eat an orange until further research is done to ascertain that it gives vitamin c. It follows logically that until the discovery of vitamin c in oranges, vitamin didn’t exist in oranges. This is exactly what scientific research is trying do.

In this regard, even the primitive man, who ate the thing because it appealed to his sense of taste, was wiser as compared to us. Excess of knowledge and wisdom pushes us towards nothing but foolishness. We know much about other planets, we know the components of gases on them, we have even built robots to explore extraterrestrial life, also trained chimps to talk using sign language and run errands, yet we have failed utterly – all of humanity – at simply raising young ones of our own kind into responsible and virtuous adults.

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13 thoughts on “The Nature of Truth

  1. Mate, I enjoyed this post but to a point.
    Don’t you think there is truth in

    it then seeks to say that the entire universe exists only because we perceive it; therefore it is an extension of the self (Ego) and its opinions

    Can you talk of the universe in any real sense without being able to perceive it in one sense? Isn’t the universe our idea and that if there is anything we would know objectively it is us? That we appear to the intellect as both subject and object in any real sense of the word?

    But I have every issue when you say

    This same line of thinking is what leads atheists to say that there is no evidence for the existence of an objective entity called God so he does not exist.

    because to make an assertion without demonstrating that it is a fact is bad for a guy dealing with the subject of truth. How, my friend, do you come to the conclusion that god is an objective entity and what is it in the very first place?

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  2. Pal, please bear in mind that I’m only a poet not a philosopher.

    If the universe is an extension of the self and exists simply because we perceive it then it must necessarily collapse when our lives come to an end. But it doesn’t. That’s how come it’s older than us.

    What we call intellect (ego) is but a modification of a part of the instinctive mind which the intellect must submit to. The ego often deceive itself by pretending to exist on it’s own. Whereas the instinctive mind inevitably shares in the collective archetype of our species.

    Inability to demonstrate certain facts does not nullify the existence of those facts. Actual facts remain facts whether we have been able to demonstrate them or not.

    God is universal truth. He therefore encompasses the entire universe and its laws. Like I said earlier, the universe exists independent of us. If humanity is annihilated today, the universe will continue to exist supporting other life forms.

    I hope I have answered your question.

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    • oh pal, the universe ends when you die, for you, that is. You can no longer talk about it when you are stiff. In fact, it would be absurd for a dead person to talk about the universe.

      how would we talk of something as being fact when 1) we don’t know what it is 2) we can’t demonstrate it?

      You have not answered my question on what god is. Saying it is a universal truth tells me nothing about its nature or its existence.

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      • Do you believe in collective experiences/consciousness? I, for instance, I am not the same as the universe. I am only an object existing in the universe together with other objects. True, when I am no more I cannot perceive the universe but others will. One cannot define things solely from one’s own perspective and accept it as objective truth.

        Every fact we know and can demonstrate now was once an opinion. For instance, when you are in your bed room and someone enters your compound, you can feel or even catch a glimpse of another person in your space although you may not know who it is. You investigate and realise it was an old friend. At the point of realisation, you become certain who it was but it doesn’t mean your friend entered or existed in your house at the point of realisation. He was there unnoticed for quite long. I think I will have a to make a detailed post on the different modes or nature of “knowing.”

        I don’t think I can succinctly define god for you as that will lead us towards organised religion which I detest myself. Except to say that god can be found in truth or god is truth. Think of all the characteristics of truth. God is something of or relating to the mind. In indigenous African societies, god is largely a personal thing. Each individual has his personal deity aside the supreme god. No one tries to impose his god on others as the Christians and Muslims do which has caused a lot of havoc in this world. I believe only introspection can lead us to what is called the true god. And everyone must do his own introspection.

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        • Pal, in your comment you asked me to recall you are a poet not a philosopher, I should have asked you not to use poetic language. It usually does pass over my shoulders.

          No, I don’t believe in collective experiences/ consciousness. The only consciousness I know of is my consciousness. Each person’s experience is unique to themselves. I was clear in my statement about the universe being your idea. I said the moment you become stiff, it ceases to exist for you. I didn’t mention others in that statement.

          When you write the post on modes of knowing, let me know and please use little poetry, I suck at it badly.

          We are again at the heart of the dispute. In my post I said I don’t claim to know what truth is. You promised to show me. You now tell me god is truth which reads like truth is truth, and poetry or not, you know this doesn’t bring anyone close to knowing what god is nor what truth is. I believe on introspection, all one finds is themselves.

          You may find this link interesting
          http://asq.africa.ufl.edu/wiredu_98/

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          • I see. Socrates said that for specifics to have meaning there must be universals. Maybe we must somehow agree on a precise definition of “self” and compare it’s relation to the external world. According to the gestalt theory, a thing existing as a whole is greater and different from the sum of its individual parts. If indeed we conceive the universe as a whole (objectively), then we will see many things other than ourselves. But should we concentrate on our individual consciousness then of course we will see nothing but ourselves. Now I think that the self itself is not static but it extends and there is always a part or parts which do not belong to it. It may belong to the “divine”-something abstract.

            To disbelieve collective experiences is to deny the existence of other objects in the universe. It follows logically that one does not even need to look left/right before crossing a busy street since the street and its people are only an extension of his consciousness and cannot exterminate him/her. Or can it? Again, we need to define “self.”

            The phrase “truth is truth” may sound awkward but it is not contradictory nor empty. It seeks to say that one must make his own journey of finding truth (god) but the real truth to be found must resonate with all of us.

            I think philosophy itself or logic as a way of thinking, is anti-godistic and anti-wholistic, because it breaks down ideas into individual parts and analyses them strictly in relation to “nothing.” It can never lead one to a transcendental god or truth. There are certain concepts we can never understand without making references to other entities.

            Lastly, I’m not aware at all, of overly using poetic language but I think that is how I communicate best. I will notify you of the post on “knowing” but I have to inform you that it will likely contain poetic language.

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            • We are doing well so far. That was just my attempt at humour. I think it failed.

              We conceive the universe subjectively. I don’t know how we would do otherwise.

              Why would I be knocked down when I can see them or hear them? I didn’t say they are unconscious, I said the only consciousness you can know is yours and project it to others of similar make up.

              Why must finding truth lead to god and not to us.

              Philosophy as a way of thinking isn’t anti anything. Not as I see it. I don’t think it’s aim is to provide answers as much as it is to ask the right questions

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              • “Subjective” is defined as something taking place entirely in the mind and modified by individual biases. In philosophy it is defined as a mental act performed entirely within the mind.

                You could be knocked down while crossing the busy street even if you see and hear the cars. The street is not subjective but objective. Though you perceive it with your consciousness, it is sharply detached from you and not an extension of your consciousness. I don’t know how else to explain this. It’s like you believe in mind over matter. But matter exists independently.

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  3. Interesting thoughts, Tawia! Perhaps Kant may be of use here: purely on epistemology of reality. The difference between dreams and consciousness, e.g. there is a certain order in reality (vs nonsensical dreams), such that repeatable results occurs under the same conditions. Though not perfect proof of causation, it offers a very usable rule to deduce presence of “reality”. Simply, “limitless” and “general” repetition is very unlikely to have arisen from subjective sources.

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    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am not much of a Kantian. I respectfully disagree with his stereotypical descriptions of the Black race in his early writings. I don’t see how such a man (though learned) can be said to be a moral philosopher. Kant himself has never been to Africa, he quoted Hume in his essay “Kant and The Negro” and many of his contemporaries believed their ideas about the African race.

      But for the sake of the argument on the epistemology of reality, I agree half way. It is true that when repeatable results occur under the same conditions one knows that one is dealing with some reality. But what if conditions keep changing or constantly vary over time (as we know natural or worldly phenomena to be).

      Although repeatable results may occur under the same conditions, same cannot be true under constantly varying conditions. Every new and different condition will trigger some degree of change in “reality” thereby rendering a specific reality subjective and “temporal.”

      Anything beyond the threshold of consciousness initially appears “nonsensical” until it enters the domain of consciousness, where the intellect tells us what it is. So the difference here is between “what is perceived” as against “what is.” Kant’s description, I think, limits itself to only “what is perceived” at a particular time.

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      • No worries, Tawia. Like you, I respectfully disagree with Kant in many areas too, e.g. ethics and morals (his part II work). But save that, we do need to examine his fundamental (part I) work on triaging the concept of truth(=reality), and his answer to Hume’s epistemology issues. So as to coalesce all the various arguments and thoughts in a full review.

        Just to synchronize our terminology, if you can kindly help me, let’s take truth = reality (as defined in philosophy). Perceptions = what people think or perceived to be true (which may or may not be). With the same terminology, perhaps we are closer in agreement than we think?

        We do agree that causation (e.g. ultimate physical laws) is not proven (per earlier comment). Science will continue to splice knowledge (like the atom), perhaps infinitely. However, at this level of science, the everyday person (billions) through time and in a myriad of conditions will observe the same physical “truth” explainable by known “rules”. Perhaps at a different angle (“to the sun”), but still within the same operable “rules”. There is no new and differing physical “reality/truth” created. Physical “reality/truth” is objective, and objectively available for all to experience alike. (Opposed to dreams)

        Of course, if the person wears a red tinted lens (slave/slave master), he will perceive the world as red, while the rest of the 6 billion will perceive it as it is and know it operates by given “rules”. Someone perceiving “redness” does not mean that physical “reality/truth” is subjective. Physical “Reality/truth” is still objective and explainable by “rules”, while the person’s perceptions (of redness) are subjective due to his subjective lenses / equipment.

        Pausing to check if we are in agree till this stage! 🙂

        (The next big and separate topic re:slave and slave master is then the discussion of perceptions, relativism – moral relativity. Shall we take this at a future time, after we are able to come to a conclusion re: “reality/truth” vs perception discussion?)

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        • I was in agreement, until the third paragraph. I am not sure what you mean by “operable rules” but what I know is that there will always be new and differing reality (subjectively) in so far as we consider reality (assuming you agree with me) to be sort of a continuum which, if objective, will lead us to truth.

          I think what one perceives depends solely on the threshold and the “strength” of one’s consciousness, which determines his understanding. But this is a most general rule and things can change suddenly without (perceivable) cause. Nature is self animated by force(s) we are still struggling to know. Physical reality is indeed objective, and objectively available for all to experience alike but it can be modified by internal sources. This modification however is an end product of the mind and it’s an essential survival technique.

          The slave/master relationship is very interesting to me, in as much as it reveals what consequences lie ahead if one disregards truth. One is free to “taint” his perception whichever way and when it coincides with objective reality and nature works to his advantage, he may call it a miracle, otherwise it’s a tragedy. It appears that the difference in our views is in degree of detail and not basic orientation.

          I feel that any truth which is not objective qualifies only as some reality. Of course future discussions are always welcome. I will try and post some ideas on relativism.

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  4. Yes, we are still in agreement about objectivity of the physical world. “Operable rules” in the third paragraph refers to scientific rules we are aware of, and are physically operating for us. The use of the term “operable” in the third para was meant to eliminate infinite knowledge spiral/splicing (which is irrelevant for day to day living). Hence, we are agreed >>> “Physical reality is indeed objective”

    It is also agreeable that the full workings of self animation does qualify as part of the unknown. (Though there may be some discussion on how the extent the unknown portion actually affects day to day life. My thoughts are the management of the known can be sufficient.)

    With agreement, we can later discuss perceptions and tinting (or the word “reality” as you use it). Yes, people frequently try to operate within physical rules (and social workings) with the objective to achieve what they perceive to be in their advantage. And yes, the discussion on relativism can clarify this a little.

    Further, the vital Question for me is people’s understanding of what is “in their advantage”. Where we can derive and convince people of common purpose (“collective happiness”, “common good”, stewardship etc), + set in a “reasonable” level of meritocracy, it will help lift all of us greatly, since our technological level is adequate for our needs. That is one of the key thoughts for my blog, though to suit my readers, I am keeping the discussions currently at a very practical to life level. Good to meet you, Tawia, and thank you for taking time to reply/discuss.

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