In Search of Truth

Diogenes was noted for holding a lamp during the day, saying he was looking for an honest man. He often disrupted the teachings of Socrates and Plato, by bringing food and drink to their lectures. He even criticized Alexander the Great to his face. He was a founder of the school of Cynicism.

Finding truth was like finding an honest man in daylight with a lantern. It’s not impossible, but the tools you use don’t help.

Many will say, “I know the truth when I see it!” There is an element of truth to the phrase. But does this mean that a blind person cannot know the truth? Does visible evidence guarantee truth? There are thousands of magicians that hope people will only use their eyes to know a truth.

A friend often uses the phrase “sufficiency of the evidence” in knowing the truth. Yes, but when is it sufficient? Don’t most people set a limit, and when the limit is reached, then truth is found. Is it the same limit for everyone?

“I know because I saw, I know because I read a book, I read three books, I took a class at a community center, a college. I know because I have a degree, I know because I teach, I know because I once knew for certain, and now I’m not sure!”

The worst of all proof is, “I feel it in my bones!” But isn’t that the most honest answer?

I’m not an expert on Bedouins, I’ve read very little on their culture, and spent less than an hour listening to a young woman explain the Bedouin life to a tourist group. Something did ring true to me during the discussion. Bedouins have embraced technology and the modern life. They have engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. but they also have a deep connection to the “good life”, the life of a tribe. Living with little technology, sleeping in tents, tending herds, praying, and drinking strong coffee. Simple truth may be found in a simple life.

The “good life” can also be seen as the intentional simple life. The world is often too much, and causes a confusion in value systems, “What is the value of this? Is this important? If I embrace this, will I be a slave to this in the future?” These are good questions.

Why do we need a written code of conduct that determines the truth of things? Because we have been given the gift (or curse) of rationalization. All things are subject to interpretation.

Life is sacred. What about war? What about self defense? What about the impact of one absolute right, when it conflicts with another absolute right? In our culture today we handle this by making one of the absolute rights as false. Both can’t be true, so one is false. Weirdly enough, that actually might be true, but it might also be false. What are we to do? How can we know truth?

Sadly, I go back to, “I feel it in my bones”. This is dangerous because I must be honest about the things that I’ve experienced, the things that I have read, I must know that I’ve looked at the possibility that I’ve been manipulated, or that I have not seen correctly, I must look at how much that I “absolutely know” something.

“I believe, help me in my unbelief”.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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