Friday, March 30, 2012

Do you know the truth?

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it. ~Terry Pratchet

First it should be noted that Terry's quote doesn't address the concept of "the truth" itself but rather says that he finds those who are striving to find "the truth" better company than those who believe they are in possession of it. In other words, it's a comment on people and their attitudes, not the nature of truth. I, too, think that people who are willing to admit they don't posses "the truth" make better companions than those who presume to already know it. They have no interest in changing their opinions since they believe that what they know is absolutely true. While this attitude affects religious people, it doesn't only affect them. There are many people with many opinions on a variety of subjects who believe that what they know is unassailable and claim that nothing will ever change their mind. I've found people who think they know "the truth" to be pompous and arrogant, uninterested in learning anything that may challenge their presumptions. They aren't fun to be around because all they're interested in is their own thoughts. They have no motivation to listen to anyone else or entertain new ideas. 

Then we need to define our terms. What is “the truth” and what is meant when it’s capitalized as “the Truth”? We need to know the context in which that phrase is being used. That will help us understand what “the truth” may represent on a certain topic. 

Lastly we ought to acknowledge the limitations of our humanity. We can only know what we have the means to discover and the words to describe. We as humans, because of the evolutionary limits of our senses, cannot perceive everything. Because of the capabilities of our brains we cannot know everything. The inability to posses absolute knowledge means we cannot reach absolute conclusions. There’s always the possibility that exceptions and contradictions to what we currently know exist and we just haven’t encountered them yet. 

That’s why the search for knowledge, the quest for “the truth” whatever that means in any context, ought to be considered an ongoing, lifelong pursuit. I like being around humble people who can admit their own ignorance and yet continue to explore and learn as opposed to those who believe they have nothing left to learn as they already posses “the truth”. 
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