So I think most agree that real truth exists. The question now lies in how about we determine that that is. What is real truth? Is it logic, emotion, the Bible, Jesus or some kind of manifestation in our minds? How do we determine this? I took an epistemology class and we used logic to prove what real truth was. I’m starting to understand that logic in many ways falls short. I am completely baffled when we get to this question. I’ve come into contact with so many conflicting views, and unfortunately, by default I choose my own logical conclusions, which are full of fallacies and inconsistencies.
For instance, many people believe the Bible to be truth. There are many problems with this option. For starters, how do we determine that the Bible is our truth? Did we logically come to that conclusion? Or do we trust what the Bible says about itself? Or maybe we trust Jesus to be the truth, but then how do we know about Jesus but through the Bible? Maybe it’s a combination of both Jesus and the Bible. We need the Bible to believe in Jesus because that is our historical source of his life and mission, and we need Jesus for the Bible to be truth because the entire Bible is centered on Jesus.
Here is my problem with all this. If I didn’t write this sentence, most people would probably leave comments on this post listing reasons and proofs as to why we need to truth the Bible as our absolute truth to knowing Jesus who is our absolute truth. People will be using logic, over and over again, without knowing it, to prove the view of believing in the Bible and Jesus as their kung-fu combo for truth. So does that mean that technically logic is our absolute truth since it is used for determining what we determine as absolute truth?
Then there will be the others that will argue that we determine absolute truth by faith, and they will logically prove that they need to accept it by faith. Again, logic is the foundation of their arguments. How can anything ever be proven wrong, how can you tell anyone what they believe in is wrong or right if you aren’t using logic.
I have a hard time escaping logic when it comes to determining what truth is in my life. I don’t think I believe anything that is illogical. There are things that I believe that probably have good arguments to prove and disprove it, but I don’t think I have one belief that is illogical. Do you? What is it? If logic isn’t the basis of what is absolute truth to you, what is it?
7 thoughts on “It’s True If It Makes Sense (Logic)”
I’ve chosen my beliefs from an empirical basis. I think that definitely includes logic to some degree implicitly, but I definitely do not determine truth by logic alone. I see logic as having one primary downfall — what we call logic is not applicable everywhere. Quantum phenomena is the most obvious example. What kind of sense does it make for light to be both wave and particle at the same time? What sense does it make that certain fundamental particles can be in two distinct states simultaneously? Or in two distinct LOCATIONS simultaneously?
The answer is not that these things are illogical, but that “quantum logic” is simply different than our “standard logic.” We all think in “standard logic,” but in my view, if I can’t apply my logic to the subatomic world–the basis of our physical universe–how can I possibly assume that it works on a metaphysical level?
Empirically, we know that logic “works” on a macroscopic physical level — we get airplanes to fly, we can measure that the universe is 14 billion or so years old, etc. So I think it’s useful to apply it, since it’s a primary tool of ours. But I also think we have to recognize that applying it to anything beyond our physical, macroscopic world places it outside its sphere of accuracy, and hence its results cannot be relied upon.
Back to my original answer, I base my beliefs on empirical observation. I have directly experienced, for example, varying degrees of interbeing, and this is only modeled effectively (by what I’ve been able to find) by Buddhism. I think we have to constantly test our experiences, maintaing an open Beginner’s Mind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beginner%27s_mind) at all times. As soon as we think we have The Answer, Absolute Truth, we become locked in, rigid, and we stop learning because we rule out all other possibilities. I find this to be one of the worst problems we face because we become closed off to any possibility other than our own.
That’s why I think an empirical basis is such a great approach — we can constantly test everything based on their effects. When we see that anger in us actually causes us pain (despite the initial surge in energy we often feel), then we can begin to see how harmful it really is. And we can test that by reducing our anger response. If it has a beneficial effect, then we continue it and extend it. If not, we abandon it.
Of course, there’s the obvious objection that we can easily misinterpret our experience. I agree, which is why we need a community, and access to wise spiritual leaders, to help us along the way, to ensure that we don’t keep misinterpreting things. That’s the primary purpose of our teachers in Buddhism. We can only attain Awakening on our own, through our own practice, but without the help of others, we can easily be led astray by our own ego’s misinterpretation of effects.
Great question! Thanks for the opportunity to respond.
This is a good topic, and if you’ll permit me, I would like to take issue with your first statement that most agree that real truth exists. If you’re talking about something (a statement, I’m assuming) being true, you can parse that out in different ways. But what do you mean by “exists”?
Logic is a way that we engage with statements. I’m no logician, so I can’t speak to this really well. There are different kinds of logic–some that allow for contradictions (see Graham Priest). However, the question could also be put–why should you be logical/rational? You seem to assume that “truth” is a good, a value we all want to have, to uncover, etc. And you assume that logic leads to truth. Those are two big assumptions!
Even assuming those, have we identified what it is for a statement to be true, what it is that “makes” a statement true? Is there a specific relationship between my words and the world that “makes” it true? Is it the way in which that statement guides me as an agent, in successful or unsuccessful behavior? Shouldn’t we do these things before engaging in a White Rabbit chase and loading up on terms like ‘faith’?
So while I think most people have ways in which they *use* truth as a concept in daily life, I don’t think that we all understand what it is.
(Oh, and also, putting the descriptor “absolute” before “truth” just muddies the waters further, in my opinion.)
It is interesting that a child of postmodernity such as yourself is wrestling with the idea of logic as the supreme being considering the faith in logic that marked modernity is slipping away fromm society faster than an F1 race car. The idea is not where you find your logical conclusion but what informs your logical conclusions. Logic itself has been proven to be flawed due to the intense subjectivity of it. a bias exists in logic whether you are a happy clappy evangelical pastor who has never been to seminary or you have your doctorate in theology from calvin college. it is important to realize that its not how we get to our conclusion but what informs our coclusions that really matters and i would say that there are three major things in most christians who have not studied worldview that make up their grounding in logic
1. global capitalism
3. their pastor*
* i say their pastor and not the church because in this day in age mose evangelical christians rely more on the opinions of their pastors than scripture or tradition.
Are you implying that Formula F-1 race cars are slipping away… How do you know that to be true?
Mike – Thanks for your comment, that really sheds a lot of light on Buddhism, which I think is very interesting, especially your last paragraph there which I find to be quite similar to strands of Christianity. This blog hopefully is exactly what you pointed out about using community, wise spiritual leaders to help me along the way.
CK – I feel like I’m back in my philosophy class, defining and questioning everything :) When I say that real truth exists, I mean that there is undisputed facts. (or something like that) They are two big assumptions, I’m trying not to assume that logic always leads to truth, I think that’s what I’m asking if anything, how do we arrive at these undisputed facts, and is it by logic, because from my experience, logic has been the only way. What you say about our words and our world, that is interesting and as got me thinking on a completely different level, thank-you. I full agree with you about the descriptor ‘absolute’ and I’ve been using it out of hopefully the knowledge of my post before, that I don’t really understand the point of the adjective.
Nick – Can you answer the question then? If logic is flawed what do we depend on to find us truth, and when you give me your answer, how did you get to that answer?
Sorry if my comment was unhelpful or too heady! Just trying to pick apart some questions that might get at what you’re asking…
I’m not sure what kinds of “brute facts” we have access to, and if they’re all that interesting. It seems like you want something Kantian, a synthetic a priori, from which we can build up solid knowledge. (Synthetic means it tells us more than just what is part of a definition, like ‘all bachelors are unmarried men’; a priori means it isn’t from experience–because the senses are not entirely trustworthy).
And that’s why I don’t know if logic will do the trick–because we do need to integrate experience, and experience (I think) is always both interpreted by a framework and something that informs the framework. There’s no simple way to extricate them.
So ‘undisputed facts’ — maybe like ‘water is H20’. But moving from that to ‘Jesus is the son of god’… tricky…. appeals to logic don’t seem to be what you need, especially since depending upon how you interpret your terms, you can fit them to be logical.
(Too, based on your observation, like Mike implies with quantum physics, you can adjust your logic–one thing can be in different places at the same time…in some contexts)
Does that get more at what you’re asking?
Ck, it was very helpful, it just reminded me of philosophy class (which was my favourite class btw.) I hope you didn’t take it as an insult or anything.
I’m working on a post (right now) that lead from what you wrote in this comment and from a long conversation tonight with a few friends. So I’m not sure what I’m talking about and the questions you ask are helpful and I think where they are leading helps the direction of my next post.