My friend found my statement “Truth is in the mind of the beholder” offensive. Being an Ayn Rand objectivist, he insisted that truth is absolute, something either is, or is not true.
In my two posts I tried to argue that in an infinitely complex world and from our very limited perspective, we cannot make any statement that is absolutely true.
In part two, I made a promise to talk about absolute truth. I kept postponing it because I wanted to address the subject in an inoffensive manner. My friend is a staunch atheist and he may not like the implications of my final point.
Let me blurt it out anyway: There is absolute truth and its name is God.
Anything that we posit to be absolutely true IS absolutely true. God is God. The invisible pink unicorn and the flying spaghetti monster (may you be forever touched by his noodly appendages) are both absolute truth.
The fact that makes them absolutely true is that they have absolutely nothing to do with reality.
Absolute truth must be proclaimed, posited, asserted, POSTULATED into existence.
The definition of Krishna above is a perfect example. How do I know that Krishna is absolute truth in all circumstances? I know it because the swami said so and I chose to believe him. He is even better than Jesus who, as we know, is only “the way, the truth and the life.”
Cynics may ask what does it even mean for a person to be “the absolute truth in all circumstances,” but those who accept the truth will know better. Absolute truth can only be accepted, not examined.
Truth can only be absolute when it is independent from the real world, when it cannot be measured against it, when it exists only in the mind of the beholder. The truth of faith is absolute because it does not depend on independent verification. Beliefs in the coming of the Caliphate or a communist utopia are absolute. You cannot disprove them.
Compared to the constrained truths of the real world, proclaimed truth is simple. The constrained truths of reality are measured against its infinite complexity and tampered by our limited abilities to make observations about it. Proclaimed truth cannot be clear or complicated. The less it has to do with reality, the easier it is to accept it as absolutely true.
Absolute truth is dangerous because it isn’t really absolute. Since the criteria of it being absolute is that it has to be a posited, it is dependent on the minds of those who agree on its nature of being absolute and true. For every religion (and I include communism and environmentalism among them), the truth of their credo is absolute as are the underlying assumptions. That is why it is impossible to reason with them. You can only argue with reality constrained truth.
Constrained truth can be argued about as we can examine its correspondence to reality. We can set criteria to test it against. Absolute truth cannot be tested as its truthfulness depends on nothing more than its definition. It is not possible to argue the absolute truth of Krishna’s definition.
Absolute truth therefore is fundamentally political. Absolute truth must rely on consensus and/or force.
The ultimate test of the value of any statement is its utility. Does it help us to understand or to better operate in the real world? Constrained truth does that; absolute truth makes understanding the world more difficult.
Accepting the fact that truth is constrained does not diminish its value.
God is not alone. Mathematics is absolute truth. Logic is absolute truth. Any formalized and closed system of ideas is absolutely true. Any self-referenced system is absolutely true. Declarations and statements in a computer language are absolutely true which point leads us to the only criteria to evaluate such systems: referential integrity.
Theoretical physicists have great opportunities in finance. Better than theoretical mathematicians because they deal with the real world, not with abstractions. Mathematics, especially at higher levels, is pure abstraction. Abstractions can be absolutely true, but in most cases they have no relevance to the real world. Mathematics is a wonderful world of truth but it is geometry, physics and statistics that helps us truly understand the real world. Is π true? Absolutely? Does it have to be?
Absolute truth can only exist in closed systems. These systems can be very useful and important in our quest for knowledge as long as we understand that the knowledge gained isn’t readily transferable to reality. A closed system is only as good as its designer and its designing principles.
The world is what it is. Our knowledge and understanding of it will always be constrained. Accepting this fact is the only thing that can bring us better understanding and more truthful statements.
Demanding absolutes is demanding faith.