By BigLemon 27 Comments
The question of whether or not there is such a thing as objective truth or knowledge has long boggled the minds of men and women throughout human history. To make matters more complicated, there have developed several “lenses” through which the question may be examined. For instance, from an empirical standpoint, it seems pretty clear cut. Science, although not as adept at answering “why”, more often than not can come up with the answers to “how” things work. How do birds fly? How do lungs operate? How is a baby formed? These are all questions upon which science could and does explicate endlessly. So through the empirical lens, it would seem fair enough to say that there are indeed absolute truths to the world. However, if we look through an ethical lens, the answer becomes more opaque and not as easily interpreted. When is it okay to kill? Is it right to lie in order to protect someone? Is stealing okay if it is for survival purposes? These questions are much harder to answer, as it seems that everyone in a given sample of people could give any number of different answers.
If we learn things by experiencing them through our sensory capabilities (seeing, hearing, touching, etc.), then how can there be such a thing as objective truth? If someone were to tell me it was raining outside, but I was never to experience the fact for itself, how am I to know it was raining at all? This brings into the equation the idea of “belief”. I know that it was raining outside because I believe what the weatherman told me. In this mindset, knowledge can be seen as entailing that which is both true and believed. To continue from the previous example, it is true that it was raining outside, and, even though I did not experience it for myself, I know it to be true because I believe it to be true. The fact that it was raining is a conviction of truth based solely upon my willingness to believe it as such.
Objective truths are true everywhere, and at any time. For instance, it is accepted as truth that 1 + 2 = 3. Objective truths are not created, they are discovered. It is assumed that these truths have always existed, and will continue to exist throughout time. In this sense, there is such a thing as objective truth. As addressed earlier, empirical objectivity is more easily proven and more difficult to argue against. In terms of ethics, there are some objective truths, but to make an argument that there is an ultimate, absolute “right” and an ultimate, absolute “wrong” is in vain. Most world religions and cultures have some sort of rule that states that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us, but not all religions and cultures believe that eating shellfish is impure or sinful. So it seems that the larger, more encompassing the idea, the easier it is to make a case for a single, objective truth.