To understand western history, one must be open to different understandings of the nature of truth.
Modern thinkers tend to hold that truth is relative. Each person or group creates their own truth.
At first glance, relativism seems like an objective and superior way to approach the history of ideas. I find the approach shallow as a person who holds the view that truth is relative will never be able to truly understand the point of view of the thinker that holds that there is such a thing as truth.
What Is Truth?
I find relativism shallow. I find that most relativists arrive at their opinion because they ask the question "Is there a truth?" before asking the more fundamental question "What is truth?"
The answer to the question "Is there a truth?" depends upon one's definition of truth.
Most relativists arrive at the conclusion that each political faction has its own truth simply by starting with a weak paradox ridden definition of truth. More often than not, they will base their proof of relativism on some sort of series of symbols.
Here is an example, Most people hold the statement "1 + 1 = 2" is true. However, in binary code "1 + 1 = 10". The relativist would claim the example proved truth is relative. The binary mathematician just created a truth separate from the decimal mathematician.
I believe the above example simply demonstrates that truth is not found in symbols. That is the binary symbol "10" and the decimal sybol "2" both point to an idea that is deeper than two.
Truth and Perspective
I've been interested in the mathematics of visual perspective. Perspective reduces a three dimensional space to a two dimension surface.
In perspective we learn that everyone sees the world from a different point of view. What we hold in our mind is not a full represenation of reality.
The Symbol "Truth"
It is blatantly obvious to me that the people running around screaming truth is relative and those that hold to the tradition that there is one truth simply have different definitions of "truth."
The word "truth" after all is nothing but a symbol that can be attached to different things. I could name a dog "Truth" then say with a straight face that "Truth drools."
Undoubtedly, there've been people who've claimed the words they have are true. The cunning of the world need simply change the definition of the words and suddenly the system of words put forward as truth is dotted with paradox. Such claims to infallability of words are naive.
I think it is quite rare for historical figures to hold that their words are infallable. When the word arises, it generally takes awhile to deduce how the speaker uses it. In most cases "infallable" is used in the negative ... such as "my opponent thinks he is infallable."
The Truth of Reality
A more classical view of truth is that truth transcends the symbols we use to represent truth. We all have different perspectives of this reality and different understanding of the words in our vocabulary.
Truth and Logic
Truth plays an important role in classical logic. The goal of classical logic is to define terms, and to create statement from the terms which can be tested.
If the statement is logically consistent with our other firm statements, and if it seems to mesh with reality, then we assign the statement a high truth value.
The idea that different statements have different truth values is an inherently transscendent as there is always a possibility that we will find that what we thought was true isn't.
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