Thursday, August 9, 2018

Truth and the Truth

William James:
What hardens the heart of everyone I approach with the view of truth sketched in my last lecture is that typical idol of the tribe, the notion of the Truth, conceived as the one answer, determinate and complete, to the one fixed enigma which the world is believed to propound. For popular tradition, it is all the better if the answer be oracular, so as itself to awaken wonder as an enigma of the second order, veiling rather than revealing what its profundities are supposed to contain. All the great single-word answers to the world's riddle, such as God, the One, Reason, Law, Spirit, Matter, Nature, Polarity, the Dialectic Process, the Idea, the Self, the Oversoul, draw the admiration that men have lavished on them from this oracular rule. By amateurs in philosophy and professionals alike, the universe is represented as a queer sort of petrified sphinx whose appeal to man consists in a monotonous challenge to his divining powers. The Truth: what a perfect idol of the rationalistic mind! I read in an old letter - from a gifted friend who died too young - these words: "In everything, in science, art, morals and religion, there must be one system that is right and every other wrong." How characteristic of the enthusiasm of a certain stage of youth! At twenty-one we rise to such a challenge and expect to find the system. It never occurs to most of us even later that the question 'what is the truth?' is no real question (being irrelative to all conditions) and that the whole notion of the truth is an abstraction from the fact of truth in the plural, a mere useful summarizing phrase like the Latin Language or the Law.
Pragmatism, Lecture 7: Pragmatism and Humanism

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Seems like a somewhat wordy and dense way of saying there is no single Truth, and those who insist there must be are narrow minded and deluding themselves.

Or to quote a very small snippet of a larger quote by Carl Sagan: " if there's only one human nature!"