Written By Thomas Perez. September 20, 2013 at 4:23PM. Copyright 2013.
What Is Truth?
Before I answer the question above, I would like to say this; I have studied “things concerning truth” close to 34 years now (as of the date of this article), and I have come to the conclusion that it is better to side on caution when it comes to truth. It is also better to avoid “definitive statements” or claim “absolute truth.”
Whether that truth is; allegorical/spiritual, or of the Biblical Literalist, one should never claim “absolutes.” Take eschatology (prophecy) for example. In eschatology we have the Full and Partial Preterist persuasion (as in the past or with some events still beholding to the future), the Historicist (ongoing – as in the Reformers point of view), and the Futurist persuasion (of which many are held sway to today). All of them have valid points of persuasion and opinions. You see, we just cannot be sure about “these things.” Prophecy may even overlap – as they seem to do. Notice the phrase I used (“they seem to do” as opposed to “they do”). For me to say that “they do” is declare a definitive statement. I choose to stay away from absolutes.
Now someone may come around and claim, “If Thomas prefers to stay away from what is absolute, how can he be absolute about the Bible, the Qur’an, the Vedic texts, their faiths, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc?” Well…you know what? They would be correct (to themselves) and I would be correct (to myself). I have no absolute truth because that would mean that I have the absolute essence of truth. But if I do have absolute truth, then the same reasoning can apply to others who claim to have the absolute truth also. If so, then why differ concerning New Testament ideologies? Moreover, why are there difference’s concerning issues of faiths, and even politics?
I can not prove an individuals truth to be wrong. Neither can they prove my truth to be wrong, because we both see truth by what we perceive. To do so would be a violation of conscience. And while having my own persuasions, convictions and beliefs about the deity, virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc; I have come to believe that they actually classify me into the realm beholden to a poor man’s narcotic (meaning that they are beholden to own my conscience, opinion and persuasion on things). However, each addict, including the agnostic, can dialog and discuss. We not to persuade or convince, but to merely present, without the definitive statements of absolute truth, and leave their conscience to their conscience. Perhaps they would one day embrace your own particular narcotic.
To me it is a matter of belief and faith. Demonstrations of this is seen when a Futurist becomes a Preterist. A Preterist becomes a Futurist. A Historicist becomes an Allegoricalist. An Allegoricalist becomes a Historicist, etc. I can go on and on, God has seen it all. But I suppose it never ceases to amaze God that what we perceive to be truth is merely really what we have exposed ourselves to. Sometimes, this exposure is found in our childhood (being raised in a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or being raised in a atheistic or agnostic environment, etc). Sometimes our exposures are of our own choosing. Sometimes our decisions to leave one school of thought in favor of another are from our own personal studies, disappointments, or victories in our personal lives. And when these things happen, often times, even our soteriological views are changed as well.
In The Republic, Plato sets forth the simile of the line by which he divides all knowledge into the realm of opinion and the realm of true knowledge. While opinion relates to particulars (for example, an individual horse or an individual Christian Doctrine), knowledge relates to universals (the essence of horses, the “horseness,” that is applicable in all cases, the norm of the particular horses. Similar to eschatology as in eschatological utterances).
For Plato, opinions can be shaken by criticism or by conflicting evidence, while true knowledge cannot. In the Republic, he seeks to illustrate his meaning by distinguishing four grades of cognition, each with its own class of objects. The lowest grade is that of mere guesswork (eikasia), which has as its objects the images of dreams or the reflections in water. A higher state of cognition is that of belief (pistis), where one has learned to distinguish physical things from their mere shadows. Here a person has a conviction about the experience of the world as known through the senses. It is only when we move higher, to understanding (dianoia), that we have knowledge – when we move, so to speak, from a particular horse to the essence of, “horseness,” – that which makes all horses alike as horses, but revealed as different from human beings and animals.
There is, however, one more step needed to ascend to the supreme first principle (noesis). Each step in the ascent to knowledge moves to a higher level of abstraction, farther and farther from the particular and more and more toward the universal: from the shadow of a horse to a specific horse to horseness to the basic and fundamental principles characteristic of all biological life.
Plato’s ‘Simile of the Line’ Contains Two Schools of Philosophical Concepts…
A. Knowledge…Pure Reason, Understanding
B. The Intelligible World…The Forms, Scientific Concepts
A. Opinion…Belief, Imaging
B. The Invisible World…Sensible Objects, Images
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things by employing the words “like” “as” or “than.” Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors compare two things directly. Perhaps this is where Immanuel Kant got his ideology of ‘transcendental idealism’ from? Moreover, it would appear that even the Scriptures reveal such similes (as in the invisible & sensible objects) as quoted in the following passages: Matt 13:24-32, 38-45, 47-50, 18:23-35, 20:1-16, 22:2-14, 25:1-13, 14-30, Mark 4:26-31, Luke 13:18-19, 21, 14:16-24, 19:12-27. The term “likened to” according to these passages are no different than Plato’s simile of the line in this respect.
The principle goal of truth is not the conclusion or pentium of all knowledge within the boundaries of observable conscious reason, but the method whereby all beliefs, doubts, data and self consciousness can be approached without prejudices and provincialism. When one approach’s what he/she deems to be truth without any preconceived ideas or connotations, one can begin to think critically, clearly, collectively and comprehensively about the world in which we live in and at the same time respect those of diverse persuasions or narcotics.
Opinions, persuasions, convictions, and beliefs should always come full circle. Perhaps it does. Let us remember that our actions toward others – impact – other’s beliefs about us – this causes other actions towards us – which reinforces our beliefs about ourselves – which influences our actions toward others – and on, and on, and on…an endless circle of repetition.