Quid est veritas? Veritas veritas est?

Is Truth True?

Elliot Bougis

When I proposed (in appallingly feeble Latin) a motto, which was revised by my Latinate superiors thus: Potest veritas se defendere (Truth can defend itself), someone brought up Pilate’s question to Christ, “Quid est veritas? What is truth?” and asked me for some help in responding to arguments against truth in favor of relativism. This post is my effort to help that reader, and perhaps others.

Relativism is the idea, immensely popular in our age, that truth is different things to different people and cultures in different places and times. By now relativism is not so much a specific argument, as a general climate of thought in most of the world. It denies that there is something like absolute, universal Truth “out there”. Even if there were such an absolute reality, relativists add, we are not equipped to know it. We can never reach a “God’s eye view” of reality, which is what they take Truth to be. According to relativists, we are all confined to our own narrow perspectives and limited by our own cultural biases. There is not truth: there are many truths, all relative to the inquirer. …

Because this article is being considered for publication in a magazine, I can’t have it “published” online or in any other periodical, so, if you’d like to read it, email me at fidescogitactio AT gmail DOT com.

One Response

  1. elliotbee,

    Thanks for this post!

    Yet, how about the emotivism that popularly exists among modern philosophers that says an ethical utterance isn’t about a fact; it’s merely the expression of an emotion?

    That is, somebody’s expression that something is wrong is no more a fact than the jeering of a badly performed play.

    The underlying idea behind much of this is, as said, that moral utterances are merely expressions of emotions; they’re not attempts to state the way things are in some moral reality; that, in all, there isn’t such a thing as a moral fact.

    I find such a view prevalent in many moderns where morality itself is seen as nothing more than human emotion; that, as said, they’re merely expressive of emotions one feels towards certain actions and states of affairs.

    The principle view that moral utterances do not express moral facts primarily subscribes to the non-cognitivist notion, of which emotivism is of one variety, which declares there is no such thing as moral truth because if there were such a thing as moral truth there would be correspondence to facts because that’s what truth is; and if there were correspondence to moral facts, there would have to be these moral facts which would have to consist of certain peculiar properties.

    Since they’re aren’t any such properties as that, this non-cognitivism is the better notion as it avoids the problem of cognitivism that says such things which imply the actual existence of moral truth vis-a-vis that moral language actually expresses moral facts when, in fact, they do not (well, at least, according to these folks).

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