Philosophy, is the talk on a cereal box
Religion, is a smile on a dog
I’m not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean
When someone initiates a conversation or a comment by saying, “Well, to tell you the truth…” or “To be honest…” you have come up against one of the larger philosophical conundrums of human existence. Really? You are telling me the truth now? What about all those other times? Are you usually a big fat liar with the proverbial pants aflame hanging from deregulated sources of power and telecom above the ground?
Lately, I have been doing a lot of reading on “truth” and contemplating pragmatism, absolutism and relativism wrt TRUTH. This is largely the result of teaching TOK; helping my students articulate how/if truth varies among academic disciplines and contemplating if we see things as they are or as WE are. Oh, and of course dealing with liars.
The question is “What is truth?” Like, what is real… or are those two things the same anyhow? William James said that what you believe is true = truth. The existential philosophy reminds us that what is is, and the meaning we assign to it is our own deal, often arbitrary; the individual defines everything in this existence. Joseph Campbell said: “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be.”
This leaves me wondering if we create truth, even those absolute truisms I hear fundamentalists with crucifixes, yarmulkes or turbans claim is “out there.’ The notion of a singular truth smacks of absolutism and makes me very uncomfortable. It seems incredibly arrogant. I was “deleted” from someone’s friend list on Facebook because after he took issues with something I had said (on my own page) he emailed me saying he finally understood why we could not see eye to eye, I “refused to accept that there is an absolute truth,” which he fully subscribed to. This individual was never a friend of mine, we only knew each other in the way you know everyone when you grow up in a town like mine and attend a high school like PHS. I always thought he was a total idiot. And a total Little Man. (Related? You make the call.) To assume that a singular truth applies to everyone, everywhere, at every time, makes you a total moron. It would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.
Listening to the US Healthcare debates, reading more news about climate change/no climate change as I sit in some of the most disgusting weather on the planet and seeing Sarah Palin’s ridiculous Twitter commentary (on anything she can manage to spell correctly) it dawns on me that the truth only seems to matter to people in terms that serve a purpose for them. At least the news of the Winter Olympics seems to be real-ish… in terms of listing the winners anyhow.
Does the truth matter if, in the end, we are simply putting our own perspective and meaning on it everyday anyhow? I want to think so and believe so. I want it to be true. But I don’t really know why. I want people to be honest with having to tell me they are “being honest.” I want people to understand that the way they see things is A way to see them, not THE way to see them. I want to stamp out mutual exclusivity.
But, to be honest, today I am just too tired and so… it… goes…