Truth

Stephen C. Rose
Apr 4, 2015 · 4 min read

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Not long ago I launched an idea called Triadic Philosophy. It is summarized in Triadic Philosophy 100 Aphorisms available at the Kindle Store.. It grew into several more books. “The Evils of Characterization” is a successor work that develops themes within Triadic philosophy.

The most hands-on, common way of looking at truth may be called evidentiary.

This is truth based on evidence. Whether we are speaking of the law or of science, evidentiary truth is the current gold standard. It is the acquiring of the evidence needed to “prove” a hypothesis, a hypothesis being an assumption of what will prove to be the case. On investigation.

The current reality of DNA evidence is a clear indication that yesterday’s evidentiary truth may prove fallible. Many have been convicted of crimes they never committed and DNA evidence has made the difference.

So let me cut to the chase:

Evidentiary truth, the crown of scientific method, is itself fallible. Every hypothesis over time may be subject to revision or even overturning.

A second broad way to look at truth is as experiential.

Experiential truth is what one “testifies” to on the basis of the “evidence of the senses”.

These senses include everything we bring to the table when it comes to expressing what is true. The range that goes from supposition and hearsay to actual, if approximate, evidences of living. It remains more or less removed from scientific truth.

This leads us to the conundrum of our time: the porous nature of experiential truth and the often questionable status of today’s scientific method.

Let me unpack this.

Twitter is a good example of the porous nature of experiential truth. Quite literally, on Twitter the range goes from assertions that have no foundation to honest human reflection. Still, even the most “truthful” expressions remain supposition. Porous truth!

Why is scientific method questionable? On one level it is as reliable as ever. To the extent that it obeys its own rules and comes to conclusions that reflect no predisposition to arrive at a particular result, scientific method is as close as we can come to truth.

But to the extent that scientific method reflects the biases of its sponsors, or, as pertinently, the impulse of its authors to arrive at particular conclusions, it is several degrees removed from being true.

Let me summarize, aiming at the best case.

We have a fund of experiential wisdom that may or may not serve us well.

And we have the results of scientific method which are, at best, the closest thing there is to truth.

It is my contention that scientific method could and should be employed to measure the results of human actions and expressions.

We need a basis for assuming the integrity of scientific method. And we need to start using it to find the truth about who we are and about how we should live and move and have our being.

Two recent events suggest the beginnings of movement in this direction:

It is now almost certain that the battle against smoking has been decided in favor of giving up the habit. This would not have been impossible without the accumulation of abundant scientific proof of the dangers of smoking.

Today, the battle against prejudice remains virulent around LGBT issues. But as with smoking, the evidence is now persuasive that who we are sexually is not merely a matter of choice but of innate inclination. Society is adjusting to a reality that cannot be denied.

Perhaps the world’s move away from rampant pollution will benefit from a similar movement toward scientific truth.

Still, negative characterization continues to turn what should be reasonable developments into power conflicts that require years, and much real suffering, to resolve.

The hope of achieving harmony between our experience and scientific truth lies in the capacity to measure experience. To date, such measuring has been limited. We know meditation is positive. But science as it relates to ethics is in its infancy. We need evidence regarding the extent to which conscience exists and about our innate sense of right and wrong.

Philosophies and religions are unable to function with much effect in a world where science reigns. They fall into the suppositional realm. We concentrate on events as they unfold. Breaking news, breaking cultural and sports events. Anything tangible.

When will vaunted big data begin proving out the value of this or that course of thought or action? When will science begin to move toward objective standards of evaluation and prediction within the realm of what is now caught in a mire of supposition on all sides?

Needless to say, negative characterizations fill the void. Truth, in the words of an old hymn, is forever on the scaffold.

Let me close with a simple axiom:

Truth has one ally — honest investigation subject to change.

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Stephen C. Rose

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