Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, September 14, 2010
There is one thing a professor can be absolutely
certain of: almost every student entering the university
believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.
Allan Bloom, American philosopher, author, teacher,
literary critic, born on this date, 1930
Well, I’m way beyond the university student age – by 43 years now. And I still believe that “truth” is relative. “Absolute truth” may, in some utopian or Platonic dimension, be a conceivable possibility. But not, I believe, in this Earthly Life. Human Life is, itself, relative.
“Relative” means “dependent upon”. My experience is that everything we humans “know” is dependent upon many factors. Some being: where we are born, what we are taught, and the list goes on. There is, of course, the machinations of “Religion”, which purport to tell us, by the dubious process called “revelation”, that there is such a thing as Absolute Truth – often by which they mean “God”. I rejected this self-serving proposition in my 20’s, and I still reject it in my mid-60’s. “Revelation” is a human invention used primarily as a tool for gaining control over others. Every tyrant has claimed or used it.
The only “absolute truth” I would warily entertain is Compassion. But Compassion itself is relative, since defining Compassion depends, like everything else, on what we are taught or learn. Great hearts and minds have spent millennia seeking to come to an agreement. At last look, we are no where close to unanimous agreement. Remember: medieval Christians thought it compassionate to burn “heretics”, witches and Gayfolk at the stake. And modern Islamist militants consider it compassionate to chop off peoples’ limbs, for they are administering “Allah’s justice”.
I think it is important that we understand that Truth is relative. It reminds us no one of us – individual, community, Religion – has a monopoly on Truth.
Should the moment arrive when we all agree on The Truth, I shall happily alter my opinion.