What is Truth?

ministry-of-truthby Glenn Fairman   12/15/16
Truth has always been accompanied by a doubled-mindedness. It is something that people claim to want, but few can bear. Socrates searched for it. Jesus bore witness to it, and Pilate answered, albeit rhetorically, “What is truth.” Truth is seeing things as they really are and ascribing to them their appropriate valuations. It is an identity that rises above mere opinion and affirmatively corresponds to a reality that transcends itself. Jack Nicholson says that we can’t handle it, while the Son of Man holds that it sets us free. Truth is a lot like virtue – in that most everyone claims to desire it, but the general consensus deep down is that they would rather have pie.

Yes, people do not always welcome it, when, like a Jehovah’s Witness, it comes knocking at their doors. For much of humanity, self-deception holds a more soothing comfort: for illusions are fuzzy and forgiving like jogging pants. Some people never look in the mirror because of truth and tests are constructed in order to determine if we know what people say it is. And if you are standing before a judge or fighting a war, it would seem a very good thing to have truth on your side – and an AR-15.

The ancients equated it with wisdom. The Enlightenment valued it as a tool of emancipation from a world it was trying to bury. The post-moderns, beginning with Nietzsche, however,bat-child-escapes denied its ultimate existence and brashly claimed that the whole historical veneration of truth was merely a cynical means to secure power. Their legacy to us, one that is even now being chipped away, is that truth is perspectival – one man’s truth is another man’s false narrative.

And so, it is against this backdrop that the current outrage du jour is so illuminating. Indeed, the American political elite’s “firestorm in a thimble” is the abomination of “Fake News” and how it has set the teeth of the unwashed against the benevolence of their Masters. The current drum beat of the Democratic Party: a most emotionally demonstrative group reduced to hysteria by the impending coronation of “Dr. Evil,” is that old saw – “we wuz robbed.” And like all conspiratorial machinations, its fetid roots go deep down into places both fantastic and unexpected. Having been embarrassed by the nests of cockroaches that Jill Stein’s recount uncovered when the antiseptic light of truth was switched on, Dem operatives scurried into more promising trashcans. As I write, the Russkies (and I believe King Nimrod) have been implicated for the heinous act of helping to overturn an election that was bought and paid for, fair and square.

Now, after 8 years of enduring the Obama administration’s forced sodomization of America, I would be less than truthful if I didn’t confess to finding this whole melodrama as satisfying as watching Anthony Wiener being frog-marched out the front door of a Chuck-E-Cheese. The Left’s self-evisceration – their wailing, renting of garments and gnashing of teeth, appeals as schadenfreude to whatever wickedness resides inside me. Moreover, the drubbing administered to our Ministries of Agitprop is as a sweet and savory offering to that fickle Goddess of Comeuppance. But I digress.

Yet, there is something perhaps more intellectually interesting afoot here. The current infatuation with “fake news” carries with it the unspoken notion that there must then be a genuine news, and for those political post-moderns (primarily of the Left)clinton-adopts-alien for whom truth is akin to a Golden Corral buffet, this presents an epistemic contradiction.  In fact, these termites – who have been tearing down the institutions and metaphysics of those who embrace the existence of objective necessary truths, are now showing their true colors. Indeed, men for whom the ratchet of history can only swing left must now face a double-bladed quandary if they care enough to be consistent.

But such consistency is only a niggling irritant for those who would remake the earth. Even so, reactionaries, revolutionaries, and jealous housewives with rolling pins realize that in the workaday world, there are at least two sides to every story. And so, in our age of disinformational white noise, one group’s heresy is another’s gospel until the aggressive and expansive state decides it must stamp its “good housekeeping seal” to ensure an atmosphere of serene orthodoxy. Moreover, if the latest Zuckerbergian miracle can accomplish quietly what used to take thugs with iron bars smashing printing presses, then no auto de fe is needed for the future’s velvet-lined Stalinism.

Which brings us to this.  The United Nations, that rational fountain of light that never met a tyrant it wouldn’t throw a cocktail party for, would love nothing more than to license journalists and control the dissemination of information via the interwebs. Those toothless jackals, fancying themselves as the Guardian Council of Oa, have been itching for the opportunity to sink their talons into the messy anarchy that fueled the Trump and Brexit populist coups, and nip these shenanigans in the bud. The American Left is of the same accord, and would be ecstatic if it could succeed in wiring the jaws of those rabble rousers planting IEDs on their road to El Dorado.  Fortunately, the Right’s “Fake News” counter-offensive has been highly successful in exploiting and ridiculing the Left’s glass pyramid of lies and distortions. And nothing is more infuriating to the Devil, posing as an angel of light, than to be laughed at with his underpants pulled down around his ankles.

No worldly reservoir of power can ever claim to be in full possession of the truth, and given the self-interest that oozes freely from our fallen natures, only a state of tentative certitude is conducive to the preservation of ordered liberty. Humility has ever been in short supply in the salons and thinkatoriums where a bodyguard of lies must be called upon to help pave the way for the sterile City of Man. On this side of Heaven, any society that abandons its once raucous conversation for a tidy Oriental monologue, prepares its own sepulcher; and like Pilate, washes its hands of truth in its pursuit of a peace, that is no peace at all.

Glenn Fairman returns from the wilderness and writes from Highland, Ca. And that’s the truth.
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17 Responses to What is Truth?

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Perhaps the thing which the Left hates most about truth is that it sets firm standards. And standards imply that things can be rated according to their excellence or lack thereof. Good, better and best. But also bad, worse and worst.

    I have long maintained that envy is a primary mover in leftist thinking. Envy not only of others’ wealth, but perhaps more importantly of such non-monetary things like the talent, happiness or physical appearance. These people are unable to meet commonly accepted standards which are bequeathed to us by history and nature. Thus they must do their best to destroy these standards. The lazy untalented malcontent might not be able to play like Al Di Meola, but he can play “Guitar Hero” with the best of them.

    Mass movements such as Communism and Nazism are full of such envious people and it is not uncommon for them to reach the top in such systems.

    Here are a few quotes from the composer Richard Strauss which I find instructive.

    I consider the Streicher-Goebbels Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honour, as evidence of incompetence—the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent.

    Do you believe I am ever, in any of my actions, guided by the thought that I am ‘German’? Do you suppose Mozart was consciously ‘Aryan’ when he composed? I recognise only two types of people: those who have talent and those who have none

    The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.

    Sloth and mediocrity hate and fear truth, because it is a rebuke to them. I do not believe a lasting political system can be built on falsehood as long as the people continue to reject lies.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    The truth is what actually is or was. Most of the time we can’t be absolutely sure of it, which is what makes it seem relative.

  3. Anniel says:

    I read this on a comment this morning, so forgive me if you have seen it already. From Eric Hoffer in his work “The True Believer”
    The True Believer who is empty inside & needs a Mass Movement, any mass movement will do, to fill his inner void.
    If you separate the True Believer from his true beliefs you destroy the artificial life style he has created in place of the real life style he never had.
    The hard core and neurotic True Believer clings to his beliefs for fear that if he were to lose them he could no longer survive!

    Watching so many people asserting that they know the truth, but the rubes out there couldn’t possibly be smart enough to know anything like truth is disturbing. Glenn is right. Only true humility will keep us going in the right direction.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Truth may exist, but it has a hard time being recognized and respected without these three things:

    1) Trust
    2) Integrity
    3) Wisdom

    I was reminded of this through a minor, even somewhat amusing, incident regarding my brother’s foster child who had loosened a couple front teeth a day ago when he banged into something. The dentist told his foster mother that he shouldn’t eat anything hard for a while. This information was then relayed to, and enforced, by the foster mother onto the child.

    That’s all well enough and dull. And then you realize why we have so many lawyers. Children are born lawyers. My brother and his foster son came by for lunch yesterday and we watched an episode of Frasier and played a computer game afterward. I have a candy jar full of Tootsie Pops and the kid usually is allowed to have one after he eats his lunch. But not today because it was hard candy. We let him have a fig bar and piece of soft chocolate instead.

    So, what is the kid’s argument for still being able to have a Tootsie Pop despite the current rule against eating anything hard? “But that’s what momma said for home,” the clear implication being that because we were not at home that therefore the same rules did not apply here at the office.

    Granted, when you’re just a three-year-old, the decisions of parents can’t seem to be anything but arbitrary. You want what you want and these Big People keep throwing up obstacles.

    The kid’s logic was sound if prohibitions against eating hard things were considered to be a matter of geography, not tooth physics. It seems doubtful that the kid could think any of this out in that degree. But human nature, and it’s ability to parse “truth” to fit one’s desires, came up, seemingly automatically, with a lawyer-like proviso. Truth had to give way to authority in this case.

    We know there are plenty of commandments from parents that are arbitrary (which doesn’t necessarily make them wrong…you need to set limits for limit’s sake sometimes). But you can see that the truth of the tooth depends on the wisdom of the dentist (to get the facts and remedies right), the integrity (and legitimate authority) of the mother to implement them for the good of the child and the teeth (and not some other nefarious purpose), and the trust of the child to make this entire transaction (small though it is in this instance) work out.

    Of course, as Mr. Kung would remind us, “Life is complicated.” We know there are a lot of hawked truths that are not truths (such as “climate change”) but serve only to satisfy the desires of those who want hard candy, thus some sources ought not to be trusted. And it takes wisdom (experience combined with knowledge) to root the liars out. And if there is not a fair amount of integrity regarding truth in a culture (or a family), truth itself just cannot work because the dynamic of deception/rooting-out-deception eclipses trust and certainly undermines authority. Soon cynicism and distrust become badges of honor. (“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” etc.)

    That truth exists is not in question. But it hasn’t much of a chance when liars are routinely elevated and lauded in our culture.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Very good. And the problem today is that so many people have forfeited that trust. Few people grasp that just because someone is a liar doesn’t mean he always lies (though it does provide grounds for skepticism), and likewise that just because you’ve never caught someone in a lie it doesn’t mean he never lies.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        And the problem today is that so many people have forfeited that trust.

        I quite agree, Timothy.

        Adding to the complexity of life that Mr. Kung surely would assent to, often we pass on mistruths, half-truths, fables, misinformation, or whatever, with no ill intent. Who hasn’t believed something to be true that turned out to be false or at least not 100% of the truth?

        Truth starts, of course, with objective reality. Not all things are relative. But for truth to intersect human culture in a meaningful way, there has to be integrity and wisdom amongst the truth-tellers. No one need pose as infallible, but I hope when I say something you think, “Gee…Brad is off on his feminist or Leftist tangent again, but I believe he believes what he is saying with no ulterior motive than that he thinks that it is true.”

        Integrity is not the same as infallibility. We all believe things that are not 100% true. But we couldn’t function in this world if we needed 100% proof just in order to act in this world. That wouldn’t work. A lot of assumptions and trust are involved. That is why it is so tragic that the mainstream news media, for example, lacks integrity. You can’t trust them. But we need specialists who can, with integrity, inform us as the facts (as best they can know them). We citizens can’t be everywhere at all times.

        It’s thus tragic when scientists spread baloney about either global warming or Darwinism. It undermines the authority that our truth-tellers need in order to inform us of the specialized facts. Indeed, people such as Richard Dawkins and Al Gore have whored-out the authority of their trusted posts for the ends of their politics (or pseudo-religion). So has Pope Francis, for that matter.

      • Faba Calculo says:

        There is also a (I believe) smaller group that has forfeited integrity. I often think of these people as engaging in the Galileo dishonesty (named for some of those who disagreed with Galileo, not the man himself). I’m told that, when Galileo challenged doubters to look through his telescope to see what he saw, some would do so and claim to have seen anything, while others would refuse outright to look on the grounds that they didn’t wish to look through “a wizard’s wand”. Unfortunately, the integrity-challenged children of such individuals are still with us.

        Admittedly, not even all objective facts can be easily proved, but some can. For example, I once had a major fight with a coworker about when it was that I had finished a work-related document. When I pointed out that the copy was stored on the servers, with the time/date stamp of the last time the document was both clearly listed and beyond my ability to change (at least to change in my favor, as I was arguing that it was done earlier than he alleged), he refused to look. Shocked at such behavior, I repeated my challenge multiple times. When he finally looked, without even admitting what he had seen, he immediately went on to some other facet of the paper he believed to be wrong. Thus, he amazingly hit both version of the Galileo dishonesty.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          There’s an interesting variant on that from a 1950s experiment that came up in a political article in 2004. A group of people would like at a pair of bars on a wall and decide which was longer. One was a test subject; the others were part of the test and would lie about which was longer. Many people would end up going along with them — sacrificing their own view to the whim of the Majority.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          That’s an interesting story, Faba.

          Everyone professes to love the truth. And I do believe that the truth exists outside of our own opinions (other than truths about our opinions, desires, preferences, tastes, proclivities, etc.). The hard part about truth then is acknowledging it (or separating it from feelings or preferences or simply disentangling these things from what is called objective truth). And that’s hard to do when we get too emotionally attached to one idea or another.

          In the olden days, this was considered okay and normal. Man lived a short, brutish, and generally ignoble life. However, in the days of science and reason (and I mean them in the way Richard Feynman understood those words, not Richard Dawkins) we are required to gain the habit of objective thinking…that is, if we wish to rise above the slime.

          But objective thinking – including the never-ending stream of shit sandwiches we occasionally have to eat as one cherished idea after another is thrown on the scrapheap — is difficult. And, of course, that’s assuming anyone cares to try it. Most don’t for the simple reason that humanity is a pit of vipers and liars and you are immediately at a disadvantage if you have integrity — quite aside from the obvious fact (truth) that lying is often advantageous. And even if that is not the case, a honest person will tend to be hated by many. So to fit in I think it becomes a habit for many people to hold integrity and truth at arm’s length.

          Of course, holding to truth and integrity doesn’t mean you have to tell the woman that the dress makes her look fat, etc. As I said in another thread, I see truth as a method that can be used for good and ill. Upstream of truth in order of importance are wisdom and goodness, if not a few other things as well.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I believe I have mentioned before that one important lesson I learned in Asia is that the truth can be a very dangerous commodity. Using the truth indiscriminately, can result in all sorts of bad things happening, not only hurting the feelings of overweight housewives.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Mr. Kung, if we were to all keep journals as frank and honest as possible, it would be interesting to see how much of our lives was governed by truth and how much by other things. And then list those things.

              Habit. Culture. Tradition. Inclination. Situation. Coercion. Bad luck. Good luck. Initiative. Sloth. Making a living for your family. We have to make due with things that are true (reality) at nearly every point…or we couldn’t balance our checkbooks. Gravity, numbers, and all sorts of hard facts become part of the landscape.

              But I can’t help thinking that only those involved in scientific pursuits, mathematics, or technology/industry are driven by truths. And even then, we’ve seen how corrupted these ventures (particularly science) can be by ideology and money.

              Did I wake up this morning with truth as my guiding light? Heck, no. That’s not to say that falsehood is. But I think Shakespeare better understood reality than most philosophers: The play’s the thing. — Hamlet, act 2, scene 2.

              And that’s ironic because in an attempt to delouse this website of pointless bitching, the airing of grievances, intellectualizing, and just a general institutionalized dissatisfaction of anything and everything, I’ve consciously tried to cut back on the drama. But I wouldn’t deny what I think is the truth of human existence. The play’s the thing.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                But note that Hamlet plans to use the play (The Murder of Gonzaga) to get the king to expose his guilt — i.e., to reveal the truth to the royal court. It works, too — but Hamlet chooses not to act when he gets the opportunity for fear that he would be sending the king to Heaven.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                By sheer coincidence, Timothy, Perry Mason used that line in a case today. And certainly I’ve taken that Shakespeare line out of context. But it does appear to me that if there is a God in Heaven, “The play’s the thing.” We are all given our little dramas to take part in. You’ll never get perfect justice…or truth, for that matter.

                But you get existence, a struggle, many joys, many sorrows, and sometimes a standing ovation or two if you’re lucky. But most are bit parts with little fanfare. If the Producer has a sequel for our lives in mind, well then we’ll just have to wait and see, shan’t we?

  5. Gibblet says:

    “Integrity is not the same as infallibility”

    That is an important distinction, no matter whether one is viewed under a microscope, through a window, or in the mirror.

  6. Ben Plonie says:

    Jewish ideology might usefully be called ‘Realism’, in the sense that the God of Israel is an appellation for absolute objective reality and the context for all existence in any sense; material and abstract, natural and supernatural. All and everything, the totality of realty, what it is, where it’s at and what’s happening. Conscious and willful and purposeful, with a unique identity and actively involved in ongoing history and destiny.

    Misunderstanding on this concept arise from the East/West divide in which each viewpoint, Christianity and Islam in this case, sees Judaism through its own lens. Eastern Islam understands entirely different things about Judaism than Western Christianity and vice-versa. And each misunderstands entirely different things about it. Each considers it a defective and deficient and heretical version of itself. And each considers it a tool of the other; Islam thinks Judaism is of the West, and Christianity thinks it is ‘oriental’. Judaism is an open book whose meaning is hiding in plain sight.

  7. Faba Calculo says:

    One thing that can tell you whether or not a given person is to be trusted is their making truth into a moving target. That is to say, condemning one side in a debate of lying if it’s not their side doing it, while they ignore it altogether if it is their side being dishonest. Unfortunately, it’s rare indeed to find a large group of people on any sides of just about any debate that don’t engage in moving the goalpost when it suits their beliefs.

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