In any and every issue you need to know the truth if you are to stand any chance of success. Whether you are trying to lose weight, plan your financial security, trying to figure out how to be healthy or happy, you need the truth.
If you act on truth you at least have a chance of success. There are other factors, of course, and success is not guaranteed. However, if you act on untruth you are very likely doomed to failure. This failure will occur somewhere on a sliding scale from inconvenience to losing your life!
The word ‘Truth’ is the linguistic label we give to a concept that rests on four earlier more fundamental concepts. They are its genetic antecedents and without them, the concept cannot stand. Without grasping and accepting these foundational concepts, the word ‘truth’ is meaningless because the concept of truth cannot exist.
1. Reality is an objective absolute
The concept of truth beings with the recognition of reality. Existence exists independent of your consciousness. It is not a swirling mist of chaotic probability in which your mind can influence the outcome. You do not create reality with your consciousness, it was here already before you arrived. It exists independent of any consciousness, human or supernatural.
This issue is the very first question in philosophy. Either reality is objective or it is subjective, no other alternative is possible. Either it is the object of consciousness or it is the subject. This is also stated as the primacy of existence versus the primacy of consciousness.
The fact is that you would have a hard time demonstrating that consciousness creates reality because it doesn’t, and very few philosophers would even attempt to claim it. But this is not to deny that the mind has some degree of control over the body and your experiences. However, many refute the objective nature of reality without acknowledging that subjectivism is the only alternative. subjectivism is not embraced openly as a philosophy, but rather implicitly as a vague and undefined psychological escape clause that enables people to deny that facts are facts and that actions have consequences when it is convenient to do so.
These days it is very popular to believe that consciousness creates reality, or that you create your own reality, but the major problem with this idea is that it destroys the concept of truth! Why? because if it were so, then everybody’s claims would be true, and nobody’s. there would be no such concept as truth, contradictions would have to exist. But they don’t. And reality demonstrably is an objective absolute.
It can be summarised by the law of identity which states that things are what they are. Algebraically this is stated as A is A. Everything that exists has an identity and is inseparable from it. Existence and identity go together. To exist means to possess an identity.
2. Reality is knowable
Imagine you are standing at a busy road intersection and you need to cross. Are you able to know when to cross? Of course, you are. You would use your eyes and your ears together with the sum of your existing knowledge of reality to identify the cars and trucks that represent dangerous obstacles to your safe passage. This ability to judge and evaluate potential danger will rest on your knowledge of traffic, weight, speed and momentum, forces and impact etc, together with the knowledge that your life must be preserved by your own actions.
You would draw on this sum of knowledge and use it to determine when a safe crossing could be made – if at all. At no point would you or anyone claim that it is impossible to know when to cross that road or if it was possible to cross it. You would trust your senses and your knowledge of how reality works – even if you could not make your knowledge explicit. The very same principle holds in knowing any and all aspects of reality. Some aspects of reality are much harder to determine than others, but they are still knowable and you can know them.
To the extent that you can know where the bathroom is, you can know reality. And don’t let any abstract philosopher tell you otherwise.
3. Reason is your only means to acquiring knowledge
Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by your senses. As you set about to identify any and all aspects of reality, as you begin your investigation to know the truth on any issue it is your faculty of reason that you must use.
All knowledge begins with the evidence of the senses. To determine the simple truths about the more concrete concepts around you such as chairs, cars, planes and buildings, you rely heavily on your sensory perception, although it is still your faculty of reason that integrates all the data and makes sense of it in the light of all your previously acquired knowledge that serves as the context.
But as you examine issues that are more and more abstract you must rely more and more on a process of reasoning. When you examine complex issues such as government policies calling for some specific action, or if you are trying to determine the truth about whether or not to get a flu shot or vaccinate your children, you must weigh arguments and evaluate the strength of the logical connection between propositions. You must question assumptions, check premises, think in principles and continually exercise judgment. All of this uses your faculty of reason.
Emotions will not lead you to truth
Reason is your only guide to knowledge. However, because reasoning takes effort and mistakes can be made, many people seek to avoid that effort and look for short cuts. But if we avoid a process of reasoning the only other option we have is our feelings – in other words, our emotions. It is very popular to do as you feel. In fact, we have heard that it is better to follow your heart than your head in difficult decisions. But unfortunately, this is a duff steer. Emotions are not a replacement for thinking and reasoning, they are not tools of cognition, and you will suffer the inevitable consequences if you rely on them in your efforts to find truth. Why? because if emotions were a means to know truth, then two people who felt differently about the same thing would both be correct and so contradictions would have to exist. But they don’t.
Faith is the cardinal truth destroyer
The most widespread ‘apparent’ short cut to truth is faith. Faith is invoked by religions where no reasons can be offered. In fact, faith is the belief that reasons are not necessary. Faith is the antithesis of reason. To accept something as true on faith is to accept it as true without any reasons at all, and often in contradiction to evidence to the contrary.
Truth is the correct identification of some aspect(s) of reality. Truth is that which corresponds to reality, and evidence and reasons are the means of showing that the criterium of correspondence to reality has been met. To accept a claim without any supporting evidence or reason is to abandon reality as the standard of truth and therefore destroy any capability for certainty in your mind on any other issue. Remember that certainty increases with the weight of evidence. It is a measure of how much evidence supports a claim or idea.
4. You have free will
You are the spark plug and ignition system of your life and your quest for truth. Nothing will happen if you do not make it so. You are a being of volitional consciousness. This means that in any and every issue you must choose to initiate a process of thought and to think or not is your most fundamental choice.
The universe will not push you into thinking or into action. Nothing is predetermined or fated. You have control over your consciousness and you must initiate it. This is how you create your life experience and shape your character. You must choose to think, and therefore to arrive at chosen values consciously and therefore act consciously. Accepting this premise means you are able to proceed to test any convictions you hold or ideas you hear against reality.
On the other hand, if you believe that things are fated or are predestined to happen, then firstly, you have no incentive to think or to search for truth. The concepts of truth and knowledge are destroyed in the minds of those who hold this conviction because of this, and because the ability to test ideas is negated.
The determinist view holds that all the activities of your consciousness are outside of your control. But let’s examine the implications of this. Many ideas can enter your mind that are false. If you hold the determinist conviction that ‘you believe what you have to believe’ or ‘what you are predestined to believe’, in other words, if everything is predetermined, then you are not free to test your beliefs against reality and you are unable to validate or reject your beliefs. If the actions and content of your mind are predetermined, and may or may not have anything to do with reality, reason and logic, then you can never know if your conclusions are true or false. You can only know that you feel compelled to believe they are true.
Knowledge is the correct identification of the facts of reality. So in order to know if you have identified the facts of reality correctly, you must be able to test your conclusions. You do this by the process of reasoning and checking for contradictions. But you can only do this if you are free to choose. If you are not free to choose, then you can test nothing and you can know nothing. There is only that which you feel compelled to believe. This is why the first premise that you must hold as a truth seeker is that you have free will.
If it is the truth that you seek, you must first be able to form the concept of truth. The truth of any issue or idea or claim or proposition is the measure of its correspondence to reality.
Without reality being an objective absolute no concept of truth can exist.
Without accepting that reality is knowable you cannot form a meaningful concept of truth.
If you deny your own faculty of reason as the means to identify objective reality, then you have no means to know truth.
If you deny that you have free will you have destroyed the concept of truth. The denial of free will is to say that anything anyone claims is only that which they feel compelled to claim. Without free will no idea can be tested against reality and thus truth cannot be determined.
Next you must learn the thinking techniques and the reasoning process that enables us to discern truth.