Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Can We Know Truth?

Originally posted on March 30, 2012

Perhaps we should not even try to know “truth,” because it’s an asymptotic limit, like the speed of light, or perfection. The idea that we need to know what’s going on is so late 19th century (and early through mid-20th century with some hold-outs even today).

The problem with the desire to really “know” the truth is the illusion that if we can grasp it firmly, we can then feel righteous in imposing our truly one and only absolute truth on others whether they like it or not. Truth is a rationalization for colonialism. Alas, the truth is that all truths are half truths, as Whitehead pointed out. For most truths that involve real people, there are other viewpoints, and instead of trying to grab truth, it might be far better to seek kindness, peacemaking, the capacity to allow folks to find for themselves what works for themselves.

Consider the fantasy that there is an ultimate truth that can be known, a “there” to “get.” It implies that if we can only grab truth, hold it, possess it, then we’ll have won!  Truth seeking often hides a very us versus them type of mentality. An attitude of kindness that tolerates a fair amount of harmless less-truth may be better.

Another reason we can’t know truth is that there’s waaaay too much information (some more true than other stuff, some less so). The information explosion has gone far beyond what any human can know. Instead, it’s time to surrender and do our part to contribute to us. Never more than now is the old saying from the Baghavad Gita relevant: Do not become attached to the fruits of your actions.

It’s all being handled far more than we know by the co-creation of our angelic or arch-angelic tutelary spirits and our learning in this fire to become more responsible. Becoming more responsible involves many elements:
   – broadening our circle of caring to include all
   – learning to become far more critical in our thinking, more reasonable
   – cultivating non-reason, which includes sentiment, humor, play, fantasy, imaginativeness, and so forth…
   – integrating reason with recognition of the proper uses and applications of non-reason
   – developing collective action and collaborative efforts built on these

Here’s an idea: Let’s relinquishing the quest for “truth” (in quotes) and instead seek to reduce the power of falsity, or less truth, which still rules much of the world. Instead of seeking a final truth, it might be better to simply identify relative falsehood  and comparatively more truth.

One Response to “Can We Know Truth?”

  • Matthew says:

    “Alas, the truth is that all truths are half truths, as Whitehead pointed out.” I’d do well to remember this. I mentioned the myth of enlightenment in an earlier comment. The myth of progress subsumes the positivity I ascribed to enlightenment. It’s not truth I seek, nor clarity but meaningfulness.

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