One person’s truth seems to be another person’s lie. People can be so contrarian in what they believe. Who can judge the truth? Does only God know the truth? Individuals seem unreliable when making suppositions about truth.
In order to know the truth and speak the truth, people must be autonomous beings. Without freedom a person can not make what seeming is the right choice. To be “truthful” is a very human endeavor. The question continually comes up about whose truth has merit, which truth is reliable. The problem with an assumption of truth is even more complex than people might think.
In order to hold a truth people must think freely. People often assume that they think freely and are fully conscious beings. Unfortunately studies show that people can act upon impulses not associated with conscious thought1 . There seems to be a discongruity between those behaviors that are innate, and those that are freely chosen. It seems even more so that one can be blind to this difference.
It is critical to know what constitutes our instincts, and what comprises our free will. If not, how is one to know when they think in an objective manner? If one does not think freely, then they cannot claim to live a completely autonomous life. Without these attributes of reliably free cognitions, one might cease to be fully human, and must be no longer inerrantly an ethical beings. To be an ethical being one must be able to choose what the right choices are. Without autonomy, one may not be immoral, but one must be “amoral”.
A more practical reason why one would want the human specie to act freely, is that one can have a well ordered society, based on good principles of behavior. Without autonomy one cannot have this. On a larger scale, not only must autonomy be beneficial for the individual, but it is necessary for a well ordered society, and hopefully someday a world at peace.
It is clear that peace must be a goal of all peoples, even with the great distrust that exists between peoples. While in a more enlightened age, one country might not covet the resources of another, but rather share them, an autonomous being could (if they so chose) make such a thing reality. While this might be dismissed as claptrap, it is important to remember the fate of rulers in the past who have ignored the “other” after which the ground shook from unrest.
Identifying one’s dogmas are vitally important for social cohesion. From evolutionary theory, one knows that when traits that are passed on, they can survive into successive generations. This innate nature of Homo Sapiens, and all life, may be biased to enhance one’s survival, even to the detriment of others. This orientation may have worked well in agrarian societies, but in our large urban centers our instincts can often get us into trouble. One only needs to look at the prison statistics in the USA for example.
While it may be a tall, and perhaps an even impossible order, one must endeavor to understand one’s innate nature that hovers right behind their consciousness. In order to identify one’s dogma, one must be critically aware, not only of themselves, but how one understands the world. For the way one views the world (i.e., Weltanschauung) can tell us how individuals understand themselves.
In order to change the way one looks at the world then, one must look intimately at the way the individual looks at themselves. Most people are confident they are “good people”, that is they are morally upright, and act according to principle; although one may be marginally conscious, if at all, of how self-serving this principle could be when based on an innate need.
How can one remedy this situation in which people find themselves? If there is no immutable truth, then how can one decide if one is right or wrong? Unfortunately different people attach different meanings to truth. For example, it might be true that the Democratic Party goals are more aligned with the working people. It might be true that the Republican goals ultimately enable others in society to thrive if they so choose. It may be true that the Socialist believes that all wealth should be more equitably distributed, for a more stable society. Or it might be true that the Libertarian values liberty over all others.
How is one to decide what is the most desirable of all goals? How is one to decide what belief system one adheres to for a firm foundation and growth? In order for people to find what is wrong about the world, people must know first what is wrong with their own way of understanding this world. People often have different views, and may even change radically their views over a lifetime. Understanding is necessary to examine these dogmas.
In order to examine dogmas one must suspend one’s beliefs. If one is interested in stamp collecting, and they are reading this, this person will likely move on. Or if one wants to understand the Hubble Constant, one will not look here, but will look into the discipline of Astronomy or Cosmology. Yet, when one considers; the stamp collector and the astronomer both have a stake in what is said here. The stamp collector might dismiss this missive because it has nothing to do with commerce. The astronomer might dismiss it because it has nothing to do with science. The stamp collector and the astronomer can both benefit from this appeal, being subject to the human condition. Dogma enters all lives. Bias manifests based in class, status, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, species and so many other innumerable ways that touch all.
It is through this understanding, through our perception, that the world can prevail as it is. Some think of the human race as sheep, choosing whatever path the leaders choose. The call to arms, the making of treaties, the resumption of ties, all happen while one lives their lives, make their decisions – whether good or bad – and after, if one is so fortunate, take themselves safely to their graves.
The goal of this book then is to pierce beneath the facade, to ennoble those among us that can search for the truth. This is for those who will take up the mantle of Socrates and more. For whether one finds the truth or not, nor is even able to do so, that is better than not knowing the truth, but being deluded. If there is no truth to be known, how can one know this if one is not willing to search for it?
- “The work on people’s lack of introspective abilities again points at the importance of the unconscious, but also at the fact that human behavior does not necessarily follow conscious intention or conscious goals”(Page 233). Handbook of Social Psychology: Fifth Edition-Volume 1. Edited by Fiske, S., Gilbert, D., Lindzey, G., Wiley: New Jersey. ↩