I Needed An Outlet – What Is Truth?

frustrated

Every. Damn. Day.

That is the reason I created this blog: I needed an outlet.

For my thoughts, for my questions, for my speculations, basically for everything.

I want this place to be like the Ancient Greek “Socratic Circles” which conducted cross-examining of thoughts and arguments to get closer to the truth. Note, that the goal of these discussions and arguments were not to win or be right and make someone wrong, but was to understand one another and help each other become closer to the truth. All of that, with a touch of crazy (okay, a lot of crazy).

structured-socratic-seminar

Okay, wait, who gets to put their piece in though…

I guess this question could start my first blog post then: What is truth?

*Scottish accent* If I’m going to give a definition of what truth is, I don’t want people to put me head on a spike for me lack of understanding the truth, so just bear with me and try to understand what I’m saying, aye?

So,

Truth for me is: universal law. By universal I mean that in all regards it can be applied and still hold the value of being true and by law I mean that in all regards it must be obeyed or it will lose the value of being true.

universal_laws_300w

Everyone must follow Universal Law…that includes you Alt-Right!

So just as how universals are applicable in all events and how laws, whether they are judicial or scientific, must be obeyed, truth too has to fall under this criteria.

Because if it were not universal then it would be contradictory in the sense that my truth is not the same truth as someone else, and that cannot be the case because that would mean our truths are contradicting each other, so whose truth is the actual truth?

This is why we need the law part of truth. If we are to say that truth is universal, the only way to enforce the perpetuation of truth is to embed the universalization in law. Because if we do not, then anyone could simply state a new truth and claim it as being universal, when in fact it is not.

For example, during the Holy Crusades, crusaders would wage war based on the truth that God had ordered Christians to take back the “Holy Land”. This truth, being a truth only for Christians, became a universal truth to most of the world at the time. If there was a law preventing this truth from being claimed, then how could they have justified that truth?

jerusalem

That does not look fun. At. All.

They wouldn’t be able to. The only reason they were able to justify this truth was in the claim that it was “God’s will” and if it was “God’s will” it was the truth. Their justification was simply that they could and no one could stop them. And as a result they massacred men, women, and children of all religions and walks of life.

But that was not God’s will in my understanding. God’s will for me is quite different. The thinker in which I believe has influenced me the most on this matter is John Scotus Eriugena, an Irish theologian and philosopher.

johannes-scotus-erigena

I mean look at this dude.

In Scotus’s mind God was the only thing that had all knowledge and could see the truth in everything, in fact, he was truth itself, much like if God was a universal law, rather than an entity. If we think of God as a universal law rather than an entity, we get closer to the idea of God in which I think Scotus believed.

In his work Concerning Human Understanding Scotus refutes Henry of Ghent’s claim that: because our senses can be mistaken, ultimately our ideas of things are mistaken, thus we cannot truly know things, only God can give us this knowledge of truth. But Scotus, being a logical theologian, refutes this claim by explaining the relations ideas have with the senses analyzed through science (math and logic) and finally why this process creates an immutable concept, namely God.

Scotus first explains that we create ideas through our senses, so he is an empiricist. However, he knows that our senses can sometimes be false. So we have to understand why this is. He explains that our senses are fallible, but the nature that is within something is not fallible. We can understand nature as being in this regard. So somethings being is immutable. So even though our senses can be wrong, that doesn’t change the fact that there are immutable concepts.

For example, the concept of: a whole. When you think of a whole, you think of somethings entirety, as if I were to draw a picture of a circle, that circle would be fully connected. That would be a perfect circle or whole. But if you were to cut that whole in half, you would have two parts of a whole. He then goes on to say that these parts are the mutable parts or the parts that can change, but the whole can never change, it is immutable. 

So what can be understood from this? We could interpret this in the sense of Math. If we are to look at the mathematical function of whole and parts, I would attribute the properties of fractions and wholes. In the laws of arithmetic, a whole is composed of a multiple array of fractions, but these fractions, if determined to become a whole, will always be related to one another. This relationship could also be seen as the fundamental function of logic.

So if we have two fractions, 1/2 and 1/2, if we are to add those together, we would get a whole, i.e. 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 (whole). If we deposit Scotus’s mutable senses into the position of the 1/2’s then we get mutable sense + mutable sense = immutable whole. Which if we looked at the mathematical concept of it, it makes logical sense. But how can we then attribute mutability to fractions?

The beauty of fractions, is that they come in all shapes and sizes. So much in the way that the senses also can extract an array of results, the division of a whole can result in an array of fractions. For example, if I take 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/2 that would equal 1 or a whole. Even though 1/4 is not the same value as 1/2, if you include enough 1/4’s and 1/2’s you can eventually get to 1. Such is the same on Scotus’s model of non-contradiction.pie_01-06a_40557_mdSo for Scotus a whole was an immutable concept. But the parts of a whole, were mutable and much like the senses they varied. But how does he make the claim that a whole is an immutable concept? John Scotus adds an intriguing aspect to his philosophy, that being of conformity.

The Wikipedia definition of conformity is: compliance with standards, rules, or laws. If we are to understand conformity in this regards, we could interpret John Scotus implying that in order for us to claim that a whole is an immutable concept, rather that math is real, we have to conform to that idea.

For example, I have an idea of a circle but you also have an idea of a circle (which is actually a triangle). If we are following the laws of formal logic, we can never have any contradictions, as the law of non-contradiction states. So, Scotus believed that because I have an idea of a circle and you have an idea of a circle (which is actually a triangle), both ideas of a circle cannot be true and one must be false. Because if both were true, that would be a contradiction. That would be saying a circle is a circle but a triangle is also a circle which is not the case only because we conform to the ideals of pragmatic math and logic.

So if we then accept (conform to) the laws of arithmetic and logic, we then allow ourselves to become closer to the truth. But in this regards, what is the absolute closest thing to the truth? God. It is my understanding that because God was all-knowing and truthful, he was the ultimate scientific goal of medieval thinking. Scotus just as Henry did, believed that God was the immutable being that allowed us to understand things. But if we look at this in the way that Scotus is portraying his logic of conformity. Could it not then be seen that God for Scotus and many medieval thinkers, was simply what we call today, modern science?

In that regards what we thought was religion, was actually science, and what they thought was science was religion. But in fact, science and religion in this manner are synonymous. If we look at it in the John Scotus model, it would look like: science (1/4 + 1/4) + religion (+ 1/2) = Truth(1, whole). So in this case science and religion are serving the same purpose, the purpose of becoming closer to the truth. But because of conformity, a split in a whole has been made.

In medieval times, I would think that just as how we conform to scientific terms, they conformed to religious terms. So in this regards, their “seeking God” in religion, was for the modern scientist, equivalent to “seeking facts” in science. I think it may help to view God as not an entity in which embodies the concept of truth, but is the concept of truth. So if you look at truth this way, a philosopher’s pursuit of knowledge is no different from a theologians pursuit to find God.

science

Who made this? This is such a nice picture.

John Scotus himself believed that philosophy and theology were in fact the same discipline. And it would seem that if we are to look at his philosophy in this way, this seems to be the case. So then what is the ultimate pursuit of “finding God” or “finding the truth”?

It would seem that the ultimate pursuit of discovery would be to once again, as religious scholars did, unite the two disciplines of science and theology in attempts to conform ideas in hopes of creating a coherent and pragmatic logic to understanding truth.

Which at the end of the day, sounds a lot like a universal law to me.

But hey, I don’t know. Just a random thought.

Thanks and stay classy, like Greek classy.

1672846-poster-1280-hipster

Yeah, like him.

CK

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