Minimizing Truth

September 7, 2007

“What is truth?” – is the classic question Pilate asked of Jesus.  Is truth something internal to me such that I determine what is true.  If I believe it, it is true.  Astrology is true.  Astrology is not true.  Relativistic confusion abounds.

Or is truth outside of me?  Is there some “other” out there?  A form. A logos. A God. A universal code to which all things must aspire?  Thus some more enlightened, whether it be in science, history, language, ethics, are more right in their assessment of what is true about the world?

Of is there really a third way, another lense through which to peer such that truth is neither inside us nor outside us.  Rather truth is just not.  Perhaps when we say “x is true” we are really saying “x is the case.”  And if I present x to the public sphere for investigation, the results will confirm that “x is the case.” 

For instance, the temperature at 9News in denver on Sept 7th at 8:24 am is 62 degress Farenheit.  I make that claim and you and your friends can go confirm that it is or it is not.  And interestingly, in the process you will not use an anemometer (mearsures wind velocity)or a barometer (measures atmospheric pressure).  You will use a specific instrument that measures temperature.  You will use the investigative tools that are germane or local to the issue at hand.  Moreover, in this instance, the measurement of temperature is to a scale that has been instituted by “just us humans.”  There is no other “temperature logos” out there – “just us.”

So if I take this minimalist conception and apply it to some of Jesus sayings, what do I find?  Often Jesus says “I tell you the truth…”  And in context he’s saying “this did happen or was said and you should go investigate the facts to indeed confirm that x is the case”  In this context (and yes I fully admit Jesus uses “truth” in may other contexts and I’ll get to that later) can this minimalist view of truth fit with Jesus’ use of language?

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Advice from an Atheist

September 6, 2007

Simon Blackburn writes an engaging, persuasive, and witty book about his conception of the nature of truth in “Truth:  A Guide.”  As he introduces his audience to the seminal debate between the absolutist and the relativist he has this to say, “I try to write with the creed that we need to think and to reflect, if we are to be in control of our words and ideas rather than be controlled by them.”

Whether it is philosophy, politics, theology or just our everyday personal lives – we should heed Blackburn’s advice!