Few questions make me scratch my head as much as the ever-popular “What is truth?” I don’t itch so I’m not scratching for comfort, nor am I befuddled by the answer. The reason I reach for my cranium is that I feel I can see right through that question. Hiding behind the questioning is the urge to get rid of one type of truth and usher in a whole new ball game. A person who asks us to tell them “what truth is,” has already established that they believe in truth. They believe in basic logic or else why ask a question? Clearly the questioner still believes in the truth-content of language, or else they would not speak or they would speak incoherently. They also believe in the law of non-contradiction or else they would not be expecting a reasoned answer. Underneath the question is a boat load of established truths that even the Questioner dares not question.
So why ask the question?
In his brilliant work “The Abolition of Man,” C.S. Lewis addresses our Post Modern world of ultra skepticism. Lewis points out that even the Questioner is equipped with basic truth but seeks to question objective morality established on the Western world’s judeochristian foundation. One of the first targets of the post modern Questioner is sexual morality. Next is the inherent superiority of human kind over the animal world. One step at a time, the Questioner strips our Christian morality away from more and more layers of society. And it all begins with the seemingly innocuous “what is truth?”
C.S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man” centers on a grammar book that was sent to him for review. In this grammar book, the authors introduced grade school children to the notion that adjectives such as “beautiful” and “awesome” were purely subjective. This horrified Lewis who, instead of writing a favourable review for the unsuspecting authors, wrote a scathing critique. Lewis saw the beginning of the end of Reason snuck into the Trojan Horse of Moral Relativism in a child’s grammar book.
Lewis’ point was simple, if two people are observing a large waterfall and one of them exclaims that it is “beautiful” and “awesome,” this statement is either true or false but it cannot be purely subjective. If it is deemed purely subjective, as Questioners claim it is, then the ability to give real value and therefore real rights to life and people is stripped clean from the universe. And we are left with an amoral world which Nietzsche warned us about. A world in which might makes right and no one can appeal to a True Moral Law and therefore a world in which anarchy will find a home in the hearts of all the most enlightened men.
Many will scoff at the notion that such a world of chaos could exist in the questioning of the words “beautiful” and “awesome,” but it is there. The man who witnesses the waterfall and attributes beauty to it is not commenting on the amount of water being displaced. He is referring to a quality held by the waterfall and not a measurable quantity. Yet it is precisely this that Questioners don’t want him to do. They seek to allow him only the ability to measure hydrogen and oxygen, nothing more. Yet, if the waterfall does not contain the quality of Beauty, than no other objects, including humans, can contain any qualities either. Forget “worth” or “dignity” for they too are only adjectives and therefore purely subjective. As a consequence, humans cannot possess “inalienable human rights” as the U.N. Charter of Human Rights claims they do.
If humans do not possess value they are relegated to becoming ants in a hierarchy of usefulness. Much as the Nazis categorized the unfortunate Europeans who fell into their clutch. The German machine created the concept of Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) and set about systematically executing Jews, homosexuals, mentally handicapped and Slovakian ethnicities. By contrast, the U.S. Bill of Rights and the U.N.’s Charter place a token value on humanity the way we place a value on currency. No matter how dirty a hundred dollar bill is, it is worth exactly one hundred dollars. Likewise, a homeless man is worth no more or less than a successful business man in the face of the court system. We refer to the fact that someone has the quality of human-ness the same way we refer to the “beauty” of the waterfall. We are pointing away from measurements (i.e.: quantities) and towards Value (i.e.: qualities). And Value is not measurable. Not today and not tomorrow. But it is just as real as weight, length and height.
Therein lies the true end game of the Questioner (whether they mean to or not): to eradicate our world of Value and usher in a barbaric realm of clanging armies struggling to dominate through sheer will power. Nietzsche, who believed we live in a world devoid of Value, expected the 20th century to realize this truth and to unleash a very bloody, war-filled era. Precisely what did occur as a direct result of the creation and machination of atheistic regimes such as Mao’s China, Lenin’s Russia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. With Moral Relativism comes the whirlwind of anarchy. It is an unavoidable consequence.
To ask “what is truth?” can be an act of intellectual high jacking. A way to undo what does not need undoing.
However it can also be an honest question in the hands of a sober, unbiased mind. In fact, it is the starting point of philosophy (i.e.: reason and logic) to determine how one knows what they know. The proper questioning of “what is truth” is known as the discipline of epistemology and will be the subject of PART 2.