I love this playful, yellow stylization of the Chinese character for
“Truth” — it is on wheels and has measuring devices and all that is grounded (The top “T” shaped symbol means “ground”). But “Truth” we should always remember, Truth can be misused as an abstraction. Plato, even as bright as he was, was tricked by abstractions. Plato’s realism viewed abstractions as things to be discovered.
Let’s look at “Soul Music”: Someone coined that expression when they were trying to generalize about a certain group of artists or songs. The phrase caught on, for whatever historical complex reasons, and then other people all started using it in their own way. And society negotiated various meanings of the word until it settled into a fairly accepted range of meanings. But it never has one meaning. So when people argue about “What is Soul Music?“ they are forgetting that we invented the word and it has no meaning in and of itself.
Similarly, “What is Existentialism?” is debated in many undergrad philosophy programs. But even the so-called existentialists did not call themselves that. Existentialism doesn’t really exist, it is just a convenient abstraction to discuss apparently (though often not actually) related ideas.
Now, on to “Truth”. We often debate when a claim is true or false. In medicine, we have rules about how to debate these issues. The rules have evolved slowly. But not everyone agrees with all the rules, so the “truth” about medical facts can still be debated unless the debating individuals agree upon the rules.
Here is my working definition of “Truth”: Truth is the set of things found to be true according to an agreed upon set of rules. The problem is, that not everyone may agree upon the set of rules or upon the set of items that pass the rules. So in this way, “Truth” is always allusive.
Now many folks feel “Truth” exists, as Plato felt, in a rather ghostly fashion, just like “Table” or “Person” exists for us all to discover in the realm of forms. But this sort of thinking is mistaken.
So here is my definition of “A truth” (not “Truth” as an abstract). A truth is the best approximation to agreed upon tests of desired outcomes. That is probably the best we can do as mere sensory-limited organism. Asking “What is Truth?” is a loaded question where the word “Truth” carries ephemeral images and hints that there are desires all will share in common if they just think clearly.
“What is Beauty?” carries the exact same problems. A person can subjectively decide what they are attracted to. Cockroaches may find a pile of feces gorgeous, for instance. There is not such thing a “Beauty” in an ethereal sense. There is only Beauty in that the speakers agree on what the rules of testing their judgements.
Hmmm, that does not sound half as tight as I expected. I am sure qualified philosophers have already put this much better. I felt like I had a clear idea what to say as I began this — can anyone help me ?
Did any of that make sense? If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed the graphic!