Monday, February 27, 2012

Let Me Apologize: Does Truth Exist?

Before we can lay a solid philosophical foundation, we have to discuss truth.  Specifically, in this post, we have to discuss if truth even exists.  Is there anything, even one thing, that is simply true?  There are those who deny this.  They claim that everything- even the world around us- is subjective.  They say, when we look at a tree, "you're not seeing a tree.  Your brain, through all the training you've received growing up, sees a tree, and interprets it.  What you're seeing may not actually have much relationship to a "tree" in any way."

This is important, because if there is no Truth, then there is no philosophy.  It's that simple.  Either Truth and Philosophy, or No Truth and No Philosophy.  If there is no Philosophy, then I may as well stop this series of posts, because Conservative vs. Liberal is then just a question of preferance.  I like chocolate, you like vanilla.  But, if there is Truth, if it really exists, then it is possible- if not guaranteed- that either Conservatism or Liberalism will be closer to the Truth, philosophically speaking, than the other.  And if this is the case, we have the beginnings of our discussion over which is more true. 

So, back to the question: is there even one single objective truth?  Can we find one thing that we can say "This is how it is," and know that we're correct?  We'll I could simply assert something silly.  I could say, "I, the Dedicated Tenther, on this day, the 16th of February, in the Year of Our Lord 2012, feel chilly," and that would be Truth.  It is true for all people in all places at all times that, today, 16FEB2012 (when this post was authored, not published), I feel chilly.  Not that anyone else does, or that it's a particularly chilly day, or anything like that.  Objectively, I feel chilly.

However, that's a little less profound than we mean, and far more contrived.  So we'll take a different tack.  We will put the burden of proof on those who claim there is no truth.  That truth is not knowable.  Let's take our example, above.  If someone says to you, "Hey.  You see that tree?  You don't really see it, your brain is just interpreting something and saying that's a tree."  He is claiming, at the same moment that he claims truth is unknowable, to know the truth.  For, to know that the tree you think you're seeing isn't actually the tree as it is, you must first have some idea of what the tree really is.  You must have some truth against which you are comparing your vision of the tree, to know that the tree you're seeing isn't truly the tree.

Indeed, it seems that if you claim there is no truth, you're claiming to know the truth that there is no truth.  We call this a "self defeating statement."

Now, some of you may be feeling let down.  "I was looking for something profound!" you might be saying.  If you think about it, though, you'll realize that this is very profound.  Not only, in this post, have we discovered truth, we've discovered that you literally cannot (logically) deny that truth exists, for so doing is claiming to know the truth. 

Box one checked off the list: Yes, Truth Exists.  Next question: is Truth Knowable?

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