Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beyond outline to thoughts on "How Can I Find Truth?"

Socrates Café

Serious Questions to Ponder Series

Question 1:  How can I find truth?

One of the most basic questions we can ask ourselves is how can I find truth.  Every serious seeking for answers must face this issue early on in our quest. 

Ao what is truth?  There is much debate about what truth is as well as most every other topic under the sun.  What I mean as truth is that it corresponds to the actual state of reality and is not an illusion.  Reality is that which does exist as opposed to that which does not exist.  What “is” defines reality and what “is not” defines illusion.  Truth is reality or perhaps more accurately an accurate description of reality.  

So as I will use the term in this discussion, truth is an accurate understanding and communication of reality.  To seek truth is to figure out what reality is and adapt my thinking to it.  [1]

But how can I find truth?  As I see it there are two extreme options both of which can cause us to approach our search without real balance or hope of really defining reality.  

The first is lawless superstition. Superstition is beliefs without any possible rational basis that are use to interpret all of our experience and lives.  An example of superstition would be faith in horoscopes which believes we can determine the destiny of individuals by knowing the position of the stars.  A google search on “horoscope sites” comes up with 107 million so this show the extent of people still using this method to try to gain knowledge of the truth.  

The other extreme would be legalistic scientism.  Scientism sets up a dogmatic and limited approach that hold to the idea that only what can be discovered by the scientific method is real.[2]  On the one hand there is an effort here to avoid all superstition and hold the standards of finding truth so high that we avoid as much error as we can.  But one of the problems is that while the scientific method can be very useful in understanding some aspects of reality it seems clear that it is very limited in studying other things such as justice or love.  Many have argued that the scientific method cannot prove the scientific method since it is based on philosophical presuppositions that precede it.  For instance the reality of the actual physical world and the dependability of there being “laws” or “patterns” of behavior of the physical world that can be observed and predicted to respond in a particular way.  

A practical example of this struggle can be found in the Psychiatry in which the DSM 5, produced by the American Psychiatric Association which developed, clusters of symptoms and required a judgment call by the psychiatrist to define the clients problem such as depression.  The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMHH) promotes a new approach that is called the “Research Domain Criteria” in which a biological measure could be used to define all psychological problems.  The problem is that the “reality” of the needs of people are not always easily detected by the “hard science” of biology.   Dr. Victor Reus, professor of Psychiatry at the University of California expresses doubt about the use of genetic testing and biology alone to diagnose mental disorders:

"Trying to control all those different elements, and trying to put together a portolio of biomarkers to help either diagnose people or predict their course of treatment is, I think, not likely to be clincally useful." 

This points out the danger of what is called “reductionism” which while describing part of reality ignores another part.  The whole is greater than the parts. 

So what other options could we use in our quest to find the true nature of reality? 

One approach would be to use many different rational ways to seek the true state of reality.   There would be then an inductive weighing in of the evidence we could gather from various sources to try to comprehend the truth.  Some examples of this would be:

A.  Logic vs. the illogical -  A cannot equal non-A – Law of contradiction.  Something cannot be true and false at the same time.  No true paradox possible.

B.  Existential experiences which give us a “eureka moment” of insight into the state of reality. [3]

C.  Historical Occurrences

D.  Scientific discoveries

E.  Trusted Revelation from God.  Based on other conclusions such as there is a God who could be understood, then one could strive to seek what would be a careful evaluation of divine revelation about HIMSELF and other aspects of reality. 

F.  Metanarrative, which is a “big story”, that provides the most likely harmonization of the collected data.  The “Mega-Story “is an attempt to get a “forest” view of reality based on the information we gather from other sources.  [4]

So each of these approaches, which keeps us from wild superstition on the one hand and a reduction of reality by scientism on the other could be used by a person to seek the true nature of reality.

In conclusion, the search for how to find truth must itself be undertaken in an effort to find the “reality” of how human beings, limited as we are, can come to understand what exists.  Each of us must struggle through the process of determining how we will seek for the true nature of what actually exists and see through what are illusions.   This is a vital task for each person to take who desires to find truth. 


[1] For a discussion on the various understandings of truth we can look at

[2] “The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis.”

This raises the issue of the Philosophy of Science which tells us that the scientific method rests on a more basic philosophy which cannot be proven scientifically.

Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith by Clifford Williams

[4] The seven main “mega-explanations are:
1.     Physicalism or Materialism – The belief that everything is physical, or is necessitated by, the physical.  There is no “super natural” world in which God or other “spirit” beings exist.  Everything is ruled by and understood by the laws of physics and natural science.

2.     Pantheism – The belief that God is everything and everything is God.  In reality there is only one being that has an appearance of being many.  All is one and all is God. 

3.     Deism - A belief in God based on reason rather than revelation and involving the view that God has set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs.

4.     Polytheism - The belief in more than one deity, especially several deities.  None of these deities are eternal, infinite, all knowing, omnipresent, or all powerful. 

5.     Theism - belief that one God created and rules humans and the world, not necessarily accompanied by belief in divine revelation.  This one God could have also created other “spirit beings” but these beings are dependent and under the ultimate control of the one God.  God is the source of morals, ethics, and ultimate justice for humanity.

6.     Nihilism - The belief that there is no objective basis for truth, objective knowledge about anything is impossible, and that life is pointless.

7.     Christianity - the world view based on the life, teachings, example, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus the Messiah/Christ.

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