The standard route of science and spirituality in attempting to find answers to the big questions has been very limited, in my opinion. We strive to attain truths about how we should live our lives, but in doing so we cling to the idea that there is only one True answer to every question. We shun all other answers, dub them incapable of existing as truth. But I do not believe that this method of seeking understanding is conducive or helpful to how we live life as individuals. I believe that in attempting to seek the answers, we must change our way of thinking about how we pursue them. The first thing to change, is how we think about Truth.
In the pursuit of knowledge we strive for an ideal I will refer to as The Truth. A universal human Truth. One that is not just fact, but right and righteous. One that defines what it means to be a human existing in the world in a factual, moral, and good way. A definition of the human condition. A north star by which to align our lives so that we know the path we are on is right. The Truth is what gives us answers to questions like “What should I do in this situation? What will be the results of this situation? What should humans do in this situation? How do I live my life? What is the purpose of human life?” The universal human Truth is how we get the answer to all our questions.
The pursuit is made difficult by the fact that everyone seems to strive for a different Truth. It is defined by who we are, our beliefs about the world, the individual facts that we hold to be ‘correct’. These are the individual steps of logic in our mind that align with the north star of Truth and point us down the ‘correct’ path.
Truth in One Dimension
Most often in our pursuit of knowledge, people view Truth as Objective. It is a single point, a destination, with the pursuit of knowledge, the Quest for Truth being a path to that destination. Our Quest for Truth is what brings us from point to point, conclusion to conclusion, and while we may get lost sometimes along the way, overall this quest is leading us closer and closer to The Truth.
Objective Truth, I believe, is infinite. There will never be a moment when we have understood everything about everything. There will always be more nuance, and more frontiers. The nature of what it means to exist as a human being in the world will also be changing as long as time exists. But even considering if true understanding is infinitely far away and we can never reach it, it is still a singular destination, one conclusion. By the law of Contradiction, there can be only one Objective Truth.
Truth in Two Dimensions
The Truth of the world, Objective Truth, may indeed be a single point, but the Truth of human individuals, Subjective Truth, is not. And Subjective Truth is what be must use when answering questions about the human condition because the human experience is subjective. Its infinite nature makes Objective Truth unknowable to us finite beings. We are creatures incapable of experiencing life in a way that is not subjective. Our individual existences cannot find meaning in an infinite Objective Truth. So, when trying to answer questions about our individual lives, we as humans must answer those questions through Subjective Truths.
Yes, in our quest for bettering our understanding of the Objective Truth we strive to make our Subjective Truths align more closely with the Objective Truth. There are many instances where our Subjective Truths must align with the Objective Truth, otherwise we would not be able to function. For example, one must believe that gravity is a force that keeps us clinging to the planet’s surface. Not doing so will lead to hazardously wrong conclusions and predictions. If you think gravity doesn’t affect that tiger coming to attack you, and that it will just float harmlessly away before it mauls you, you are sadly going to be taken out of the gene pool.
However, for many other factors, existing as a True human being and interpreting the world in a way that is True means something very different to different people. In the case of ‘opinions’ it cannot be proven that one person’s Subjective Truth is more valid than another. Does the better human being think blue is the best color? Or does the better human being think red is the best color? Any opinion that someone holds is their Subjective Truth. It helps them to guide their life and make decisions. And though there may be one true color for human beings to like to be the very best human beings, we as yet and may never have an answer to that question. So there will always be many equally valid Subjective Truths in the human condition.
The Quest for Truth
In our minds, we want to be able to follow a path of logical thought that will lead us to a ‘correct’ conclusion. This pursuit is not only individual, but spans our species. Our species as a whole is trying to ‘move forward’ towards the ideal of Truth so that we may better understand how to exist in the world as humans.
Individually, this drive is how we process information in our minds, and use it to arrive at conclusions. As a species, it is a drive that has allowed us to survive and grow.
The limiting factor in our Quest thus far is in thinking that Truth is a destination, and that the Quest for Truth is the route to that destination.
When we think of Truth as one dimensional, we can rely on logical rules like the law of Contradiction to draw conclusions about the validity of a ‘Truth’. We have in modern times approached the Quest for Truth as an attempt to ‘disprove’ other paths, and narrow our scope. This is done with the hope that by eliminating all false paths, we will eventually be left with one correct path.
However, as discussed above, The Truth of the human condition has many paths. Multiple Subjective Truths can be valid. We cannot sum up The Truth of the human condition with only binary true and false answers. While eliminating false paths is a valid and important strategy, this cannot be our only method when trying to understand the Truth.
So if we know that two things cannot both be true at the same time, how are we to conceptualize the Quest for Truth? What are we really looking for when we seek THE Truth? Subjective Truth is not a singular point, not a single destination, so how do we seek something that has multiple values? Again, many people see The Truth as synonymous with The Objective Truth. But this assumes that humans are capable of experiencing the world completely objectively. Which we are not. So, this is where I would like to change our interpretation of The Truth to be two dimensional.
The Quest for Truth in Two Dimensions
The Quest for Truth in our limited subjective human experience, is not a journey towards a single destination, it is the discovery of a vehicle by which we can reach many destinations. The Quest for Truth is not the solving of some equation to reach an answer. It is the quest to uncover the equation itself.
To put this in more mathematical terms. In A+B=4, The Truth is the entire equation, not the value of 4. The Objective Truth of the world may be 4, but our Subjective Truths are the values of A and B. If the Objective Truth is 4, and we have no other information, then any number of Subjective Truths can arise. A+B can be 2+2 or 3+1 or 0+4, or 4.7+(-0.7) ect. And as long as there is insufficient data to determine anything more about the values of A or B, all of these versions of the Truth will be equally true. 2+2=4 is as equally True as 3+1=4, despite the Subjective Truths being different.
The various values in the Subjective Truth side of the equation are different for different people. The variables themselves can differ, while the definition of The Objective Truth, and the definition of The Truth as the equation, stay the same. Thus different people can have subjective experiences, while remaining true to and abiding by the same universal human Truth of the human condition.
Reaching Truth Together: Truth is a Network not a Road
By bringing the definition of Truth into two dimensions, it becomes not a destination but a journey in and of itself. Finding The Truth is not about having reached a specific conclusion, but about finding how the conclusion was reached and how it relates to other conclusions that could have been reached.
With Truth existing in one dimension, the most optimal Quest for Truth can be visualized as a road. When we bring Truth to two dimensions, the optimal Quest for Truth becomes a circuit or grid. It is a mechanism by which all Truths are connected to each other. It is a network by which we as humans can ‘reach’ and understand each other, by which we can appreciate other Subjective Truths.
We can see this phenomenon in Education. Just because someone memorizes facts does not mean that they understand why they are facts. When educating people it is more important to teach them how to reach conclusions, rather than the conclusions themselves. The Quest for Truth is not reaching knowledge, it is the tool of understanding, the mechanism by which they have reached knowledge. This way people can think for themselves and find their own Subjective Truth.
The more Subjective Truths we have access to as a whole, the more data points we have to test out different definitions of Truth. Many Subjective Truths we find to be….not Truths at all. When all’s said and done they do not add up to the Objective Truth, and thus are not valid. These we can use in determining what values and facts are NOT valid in determining the Truth. Process of elimination. This is where the ‘narrowing of scope’ method is useful in our Quest for Truth. However, we must also take into account all of the Subjective Truths that ARE true. Find out what is similar, find out what is not. How can differing values bring about the same conclusions? This is how we will really begin to be able to make conclusions about what the Truth is. This is how we must evolve our thinking in order to reach a higher understanding. We will reach Truth by thinking together, comparing and validating each other’s Subjective Truths, not by alienating each other’s Subjective Truths. We must understand our fellow man in order to better understand ourselves.
1 thought on “Striving for Truth: The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything”
“To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying, and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none…. The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear….” –Friedrich Nietzsche