What is Truth?

William_Turner,_Light_and_Colour_(Goethe's_Theory)

Stormy Sea with Dolphins circa 1835-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851If you drop a stone, it falls.
-It is true that if you drop a stone it falls.
The words “It is true that” add nothing to the first statement.
Therefore “Truth” is a redundant concept.

This is the Deflationary theory of truth, as I understand it. Thanks to Luke. “Truth” becomes valueless, and that is a shock to me who had found it of inestimable value. I think of concepts of the Gnostic God as The One or Being or The All, beyond all conception; moral truth and factual truth are properties of God.

I am wrestling with atheism at the moment. Christians absorb this, make it OK and our own by calling it Doubt. Quakers are my main source of social life, and I remain Quaker because I have given up on something hard to put into words-
-knowing that there is A God
-perhaps, believing for what I could get out of it, such as Everlasting life
-understanding what “God” means, so that I might disbelieve in it

Stormy Sea with Dolphins circa 1835-40 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851There is still something 

more than myself.

There is stuff I don’t know, and stuff I misunderstand. This includes the nature of dark matter, and the motivation of someone who does something I don’t like. It seems to me to be valuable to have a concept of Truth, even to worship it, as a corrective for my misunderstandings.

Unless you are born again, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and I have had moments where the falsehood I cling to because my life seems to depend on it falls away, and it feels so painful and so transformative that rebirth seems a good metaphor for it. Once I felt as if I had been banging my head on a wall with the intent of breaking through that wall, and was now staggering about blinded by concussion and blood and sweat running into my eyes, which was an improvement as I might just randomly stagger through the door.

Deflationary theory. Oh, OK, then. All it means is that I can’t name God, “Truth”. I practise conscious incompetence: I am conscious of the possibility that what I perceive is different from Reality, and attempt to improve my perceptions and understandings. Often, words help, but not always.

By the way, Jonathan Hockey, if you want a “good debate” don’t close off comments so soon. What you see as “showing how out of touch Christianity is” is in fact our adjustment to acceptance of homosexuality in the West. We would not think it so important if we all agreed. And transsexuality is as much a social construct as homosexuality. What we do with our arousal and desires is a social construct, yet there are people exclusively aroused by their own sex, from nature and nurture, and people who try desperately to be aroused by the opposite sex and fail (all those ex-ex-gays).

10 thoughts on “What is Truth?

  1. I’ve heard it said that without a feeling of awe, there isn’t much religion. The religion is supposed to re-link you to God. And aside from tricks with words, truth remains a necessity for any discussion.

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    • Religion, especially for those of us brought up in it, can be habit and a source of social interaction, with the occasional prodding towards the more moral act. I am not saying that atheists can’t be moral, just that the fish on the back of your car never looks more ridiculous than after you cut someone up.

      Possibly truth is useful in discourse about what it is to be human, and how we relate to truth, but not a useful word in discussing what is, which is, necessarily, true.

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  2. I wish I could write as well as you do … you’re gifted with words (the right words). I love this: ” I practise conscious incompetence: I am conscious of the possibility that what I perceive is different from Reality, and attempt to improve my perceptions and understandings. Often, words help, but not always.” I think Bumba misunderstood what you were saying … then again, who knows? The word “awe” is forever associated in my mind with the horrible Bush administration’s war in Iraq … that whole “shock and awe” nonsense. Anyway … well done!

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    • Mmm. And “Awesome” as a synonym for OK; and yet “awe” still has its original meaning.

      I am not sure I understand what I was saying. I roll the word “Deist” around in my mind. Having thought that it was an Enlightened step towards rationalist atheism, I might be able to make sense of it as a possible belief-system now, before gazing speculatively at the foothills of Love.

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      • Ha ! I often find myself wondering if I understand what I said … especially when people come up to me a passage in a book highlighted and tell me how much it moved me. I look at it and think (a) did I write that? Yes, I did, and (b) what in the be-jeepers did I mean?

        I hesitate to use the word Christian in describing my belief system (such as it is) because of all of those negative connotations (especially in the States, where no respectable Progressive dares use the word). I do feel comfortable saying I’m an Episcopalian because, ergo, I need to be a Christian as well … at least sort of. It’s ever so complicated !

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        • Read that comment again, very carefully. Is there a revelatory slip?

          Oh, come on- Piskies! Married lesbian bishops, John Shelby Spong talking of spiritual Meaning of Life completely divorced from the Virgin Birth or the idea of Christ leaving his tomb and floating off into the sky. Not quite Universalist Unitarianism, but quite intellectually justifiable. Just because the “Christian Right” Evangelicals might say they were followers of Christ and we weren’t, that is no reason to go along with that ourselves.

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  3. Reminds me of a story, perhaps true. Forgive me if you’ve heard it. John Wayne, in an early acting job as one of the centurions standing beside Jesus’ cross, Marion/John lounging on his sword. His line, “Surely, this is the son of God.” spoken with a relaxed drawl.

    “Come on!” Yells the director, “Can’t you put a bit more awe into it??!”

    “Aaaaw, surely this is the son of God.”

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