Are You a Truth Seeker?
I’m a self confessed truth seeker! Are you? I discovered this about myself when I realized what a strong drive I have to be right. I am aware that this can sometimes be a problem in relationships. No one likes a know-it-all, the person who just has to be right about everything even when they aren’t, you know, the person who just has to have the last word.
I get that – and though there may be occasions when I lean in that direction, I think my desire to know the real truth of a matter, for the most part, is a virtue. It motivates me to be diligent. It motivates me to be as intellectually honest as I can be with the evidence. It motivates me to listen to people and to hear both sides of an argument.
I have found that if you only hear one side of an issue, it will seem right, until of course, you hear the other side. It is like those TV courtroom dramas where the lawyer gives their closing arguments and it just seems so persuasive, until of course, you hear the other lawyer’s close and it seems even more compelling.
It makes sense to me that to flourish in life we should try to maximize our number of true beliefs, while at the same time minimize our number of false beliefs. Now, blind faith can do the former – if we blindly believe everything, then we will believe all true beliefs. Woo-hoo! But unfortunately, we will obviously believe all false beliefs as well.
On the other hand radical skepticism can minimize our false beliefs. If we are a radical skeptic, then we will not believe anything. But of course that means that we will be lacking any true beliefs as well. It seems that it might take a little work, therefore, to achieve a maximum number of true beliefs and a minimum number of false beliefs.
But does truth really exist? Philosophers like me define knowledge as warranted or justified true belief. Notice what follows from this. If you, or anyone for that matter, know anything, then truth must exist, since truth is part of the definition of knowledge. I would suspect that you probably think that you know some things, or if you don’t, surely some really smart people must have attained knowledge about some things. If so, then you must acknowledge that truth does exist.
But what about the skeptic and the relativist who deny that truth exists in any objective sense? Notice that they think that their view about truth is objectively true, since they think that others should agree with them.
The radical skeptic who denies that knowledge or truth exist, thinks that he knows his view on this is objectively true and that others should agree with him. He believes that it is objectively true that there is no objective truth!
The relativist who says “what is true for you is not true for me”, is saying that it is objectively true that truth & knowledge are just relative to individual or cultural opinion and that everyone should agree with him about that. So he too thinks it is objectively true that there is no objective truth! He thinks that what you believe is true only for you, but what he believes is true for everybody!
I’m sure you can see that both the skeptic and the relativist are caught in acts of self-contradiction. The way they make their claim refutes the claim being made.
The point is, everyone believes their view is true, even if their view denies the existence of knowledge and truth. They still think that they are right about that, and that others should agree.
On this subject of truth, I recently heard an outstanding lecture by the philosopher J.P. Moreland. (available here) He argued that in the history of western culture, religious and moral claims used to be considered knowledge claims, even in the church. But as a result of intellectual attacks on Christianity beginning in the mid 19th century, and a “feelings oriented” anti-intellectual response from the church, that both religion and ethics have come to be thought of by our culture as non-cognitivist.
That is, religion and ethics are no longer thought of as being about knowledge but rather only about speculation, feelings, wishful thinking, or faith. I agree with Moreland’s analysis and his view that religious and moral claims are actually about knowledge.
Join me in taking a closer look at some religious and moral claims and concepts over the next little while with the keen eye of an honest seeker of truth. I suspect that you may be surprised at what we discover.
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