Below are excerpts from a discussion I had with an atheist who seems to believe that truth does not matter. These are merely excerpts, and more of the excerpts are mine than the “doubter’s.” Of course, this is for several reasons. First, its my blog, and I get to decide what goes here. Second, sadly, not a lot of my questions were answered, although a lot of my responses are answers to the doubters points as they came up. A fair conversation by two seekers of truth would have included my objections to the doubters points being answered with a somewhat similar effort to the answers I put forth. But then again, isn’t this blog titled “Does Truth Matter?” for a reason? Yes. And the avoiding of difficulties and red herring responses that made up the majority of responses I got simply aids in proving that at the least the doubter is consistent; they do not believe truth is important:
Matthew Menking – Truth is the conformity of what is in the mind with what exists in reality.
That that is, is. That that is not, is not.
I agree that truth is not always something people conform to. All that means is they do not have/live/know the truth. Not everyone “conforms” to 4+4 being 8. It’s still 8, whether they “conform” or not. This is what is called objective truth. 4+4 is either 8 or it is not. It can’t be 8 for you but 7 for someone else. If it is 7 for someone else, they are WRONG. Its not a matter of that being “their truth.” There is no such things. We do not create truth, we recognize it. We do not make 4+4 equal 8. We simply come to recognize that that is the case.
It is no different from whether there is a god or not. There either is or is not. It will never be the case that, as long as we are using a univocal definition of god, that there is a god for you and not for me. It may be that you are right and I am wrong and there is no god, or I am right and you are wrong and there is a god, but it will never be that there is a god for one person and not for another.
Its the law of non-contradiction. And you cannot show that the law of non-contradiction is false, for any statement you make to show that it is false thereby proves it is true. Human thought and human communication (one must precede the other) are not even possible without the law of non-contradiction. And the law of non-contradiction proves from its premises the law of objective truth.
Even the great “subjectivist” thinker Descartes knew this, and in fact, based his whole system, the one modern philosophy (which includes the category of “free thinkers”) is based on, on the objective certainty of mathematical proofs. And his premise was mathematical certainty. He also used this premise toward proving the existence of God. So please don’t try to pretend that mathematical objective truth cannot be equated with other ontological objective truth.
Whether we can know for certain [and how we can know and with what degrees of certainty] the particulars of objective truth is debatable, and falls to the field of epistemology, but THAT there is objective truth is certain.
We could, besides your link here on “two-truths” in Indian, look at the two truth theories of the Latin Averroists, based on their readings of the great medieval Arab philosopher Averroes. The two truths theories fall by their own admissions once logically taken to their own conclusions. Even the attempted defenses of these types of theories by “divine miracles” cannot stand. For example, some use to say that philosophically it is true that all human souls are one, but theologically all human souls are individual, by a “miracle” of God. The FACT that God cannot make a square circle or a “rock so big he can’t lift it” prove the absurdity of even miraculous two truth theories. The statements are simply absurdities, and not limits of power, even of divine power. They return to the basic law of non-contradiction, which “even God” cannot supercede.
That that is, is. That that is not, is not.
Doubter – Why does there even have to be a right and wrong? It isn’t about who wins when it is the truth it is about what is and is not. To many times people try to win that power of knowledge that is not really something to win but to change and grow from. If I say you win does that really make it true? Why do you have to try to win so badly when beliefs are what they are…beliefs? Who do you really try to convince in life things…yourself or others?
Matthew Menking – Who says its about winning. Perhaps the statement “there is a truck coming” actually matters so that someone will “get out of the way.” Its not about winning an argument, its about having someone “not crushed by a truck.” I am not sure where the discussion of “winning” came into this (it certainly was not me). You are simply throwing in a red herring.
We were discussing truth, not winning. Why does there have to be a right and wrong? Free will and intellect. If every intellect automatically recognized that 4+4 is 8, there would be no right and wrong, only right. There is only right and wrong because we are capable of error. Clear thinking helps lessen the occurrence of this error. If you are really asking “why there has to be a right and wrong,” this is my answer.
Who should we really be trying to convince? It should be ourselves first, then others. We should want to know the truth. We should seek the truth. We have an intellect for the very purpose of knowing “what is.” We should be aiding one another in seeking the truth. This is the first and primary point of community at any level. This is why we have tradition (our parents can help us know the truth), specialists (because we can’t learn everything ourselves), and revelation (because some things we simply cannot know by our own powers).
Yes, truth matters, not to win, not to have someone else lose, but because of TRUTH.
Doubter – Then you should be able to let the truth be found by others what ever truth it is and not worry.
What ever truth there is, and if you really believe with all your faith by the book on Abrahamic gods then you should be able to look at that and follow it with out worrying if this god can’t keep it all under control all by himself.
Don’t have to keep pressing the same information over and over if it is really the other person who is to believe in any truth. The truth is what it is and searching for it is not evil.
Matthew Menking – You think that each should be able to live according to their “own truth” it seems. But in practice, I doubt you do. What if “my truth” includes that I must tell others about the truth. Who are you, then, to tell me that I should not? What if my truth is that I think adult men should go around punching little babies for the “fun of it?” Who are you to impose “your truth” on me.
What most people really, in practice, mean when they say that people should be allowed to live according to what they believe is “I should be able to live how I want without interference, and others, as long as they don’t specifically bother me, can do what they want.”
I, rather, believe that there is truth, and that the more we live in conformity with truth, the better off EVERYONE will be. Less people will get hit by trucks, less babies will get punched by grown men, etc, etc. Because there is not only truth, but truth matters.
Searching for the truth is not only not evil (we agree) but I believe it is a responsibility of all. This is what discussions like this are about. Seeking truth. Its a dialogue seeking truth. As the proverb says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Or one human another, if you prefer).
The truth should be taught with love, of course. In fact, the Bible (which I have rarely mentioned in our “debate” by the way) says explicitly:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
This is what, through preaching the truth but in love, I hope to do. And if you truly think that each should be able to live according to “their truth,” then you will never question me for doing just that. “My truth” includes sharing this truth with others.
Its Good Friday, I wish you well.
Doubter – “3.3 Do We Have Free Will? ”
“A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.” –Sam Harris
Matthew Menking – Well, I think Sam Harris is wrong about the facts. One of the facts is that of experience. The scientific method, which Sam Harris highly values, is one based on empirical evidence. Personal experience is itself empirical evidence. So he has to discount it to “prove” his theory.”
But let us suppose that Sam (and the ancient materialist philosophers from ancient Greece 2500 years ago; Sam Harris has said nothing new) are correct. That being the case, then I have not freely come to believe in God, and you have not freely come to not believe in God. I, in fact, being nothing more than the movement of material particles in my brain, am in no way responsible for my actions. and you are bound and determined to think as you do, no matter what the truth is. How then do you call yourself a “free thinker” when free thinking doesnt even exist?