The truth

Palmer, Mark

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The Truth Baruch Spinoza said, “He who would distinguish the true from the false must have an adequate idea of what is true and false.”1 There are two things that I detest more than anything else: Being lied about and being lied to. In so many ways, the Truth is very much like a 3-Diminsional Puzzle. All of us experience the Truth from our own vantage point. We color it with everything that we have learned up to that point in our lives. The Truth is no less true, for each of us, just because we view it from our own place within, or outside of, the puzzle. From within the puzzle, we are actively a part of the Truth. We experience it with all of our senses and all of our emotions. It is personal. We are an integral piece of the puzzle, connected to all of the other pieces. One piece cannot be moved without moving, or at the very least, touching some of the other pieces. Being part of the puzzle makes it nearly impossible to be impartial and our own version of the Truth is weighted with our own experiences. Everything within the puzzle, both good and bad, affects us as well as the other puzzle parts. The view of the Truth from outside the puzzle is obviously different than from within the puzzle. For the most part, we see only the surface. If a puzzle piece moves or is moved, we may see into the puzzle and therefore get a glimpse of another piece of the Truth. From this vantage point, we are observers, first, and only become participants if and when we touch one or more of the puzzle pieces or they touch us. Even then, we are still outside the puzzle. 1 Ethics [1677] pt. II, proposition 42: proof, Benedict [Baruch] Spinoza (1632-1677) 1 If we choose to enter the puzzle, to become part of the puzzle, then we not only experience the Truth ourselves, in our own way, we influence or color the Truth from our vantage point and for all of the other puzzle pieces. We affect the Truth by our very participation. It is normal for us to say, “The Truth is what I say it is.” According to Demosthenes, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”2 The strength of our convictions will naturally shade the other puzzle pieces and may change their colors altogether. As De Montaigne has said, “I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little the more, as I grow older.”3 Even if we remain outside of the puzzle (or attempt to keep our distance from it) we may still affect the Truth by simply being there to observe the Truth. Even as we witness the Truth we become participants in the Truth by our simply experiencing it from our own perspective; a puzzle piece outside of or detached from the puzzle. At this point, it is entirely possible to have more, or possibly less, influence on the rest of the puzzle. Again, this all depends on the strength of our convictions and how we view ourselves as pieces of the puzzle. So, if we are a part of this great 3-Dimensional Puzzle and we truly believe that our version of the Truth is the true and correct version, does that make what you, or the other members of the group who make up this puzzle any less certain of your version of the Truth? Does the strength of our convictions make us more certain of what we believe? Even if what we believe conflicts with some or all of the other pieces of the puzzle? Do we force our version of the Truth on the other puzzle pieces or do 2 Third Olynthiac, sec. 19, Demosthenes (c. 384-322 B.C.) 3 Essays, bk. Ill [1595] ch. 2, Michel Eyquem De Montaigne (1533-1592) 2 MCP we accept their version of the Truth as the true and correct version? Do we “agree to disagree?” “Appearances to the mind are of four kinds. Things either are what they appear to be; or they neither are, nor appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, and yet appear to be. Rightly to aim in all these cases is the wise man’s task.”4 Epictetus. In the end, what is the Truth, really? For each of us in this great puzzle called humanity, our perception of the Truth is an ever changing and evolving event. We believe what we believe based on the facts presented to us at any given moment by all of the rest of the puzzle pieces. We may find that our perception of the Truth has been shaded by a different version of the Truth and it is therefore necessary for us to adjust our version of the Truth. We may even need to concede that we may have been holding an incorrect version of the Truth. What do we do then? Hu Shih states, Only when we realize that there is no eternal, unchanging truth or absolute truth can we arouse in ourselves a sense of intellectual responsibility. 5 Sulzberger states: “Obviously, a man’s judgment cannot be better than the information on which he has based it. Give him the truth and he may still go wrong when he has the chance to be right, but give him no news or present him only with distorted and incomplete data, with ignorant, sloppy of biased reporting, with propaganda and deliberate falsehoods, and you destroy his whole reasoning processes, and make him something less than a man. 6 4 Discourses, bk. I, ch. 27, Epictetus (A.D. c. 50-120) La Jeunesse Nouvelle [April 1919] Hu Shih (1891-1962) 6Address, New York State Publishers Association [August 30, 1948] Arthur Hays Sulzberger (1891-1968) 3 MCP Does this really make our original version of the Truth less true than it originally was? This world has become a more and more complex puzzle with each new decade. Often times we have an overload of information presented to us to process that we need to sort through to find the Truth. We have exponential external pressures by other puzzle pieces to change our position within the puzzle and how we view the Truth. How we handle all of those pressures makes us who we are. Our Truth always comes from within. We must maintain our own personal integrity and veracity. According to Samuel Coleridge, “Veracity does not consist in saying, but in the intention of communicating truth.”7 And, Thomas Huxley has said, Veracity is the heart of morality.”8 The simple fact that we are often thrust into the puzzle without ever being asked makes holding on to our own personal version of the Truth ever the more important. We find ourselves in situations that require us to interact with other puzzle pieces that we may or may not ever come into contact with again. Our actions in these situations can and will influence, shape and mold our view and version of the Truth as well as that of the other puzzle pieces. It cannot be helped. That is the nature of human interaction. Yet, still the Truth remains the Truth. To quote William Shakespeare, “Truth is truth; To the end of reckoning.”9 It is when a puzzle piece intentionally lies that there becomes a real significant problem. Plato states, “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the 7 Biographic/ Literaria [1817] ch. 9, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) 8 Universities, Actual and Ideal [1874], Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) 'Measure for Measure, act V, sc. I, L. 45, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 4 MCP soul with evil.”10 And to quote Aristotle, “Liars when they speak the truth are not believed.”11 And again, “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold.”12 These lies taint the entire puzzle and destroy the very value of the Truth. We desire the Truth so that we may make intelligent decisions based on the Truth and all aspects of the Truth. Lies cloud that Truth and confuse all the rest of the puzzle pieces. Descartes and Spinoza have said, “The first precept was never to accept a thing as true until I knew it as such without a single doubt.”13 And “He who would distinguish the true from the false must have an adequate idea of what is true and false.”14 These problems become magnified exponentially when and if the other puzzle pieces accept those lies as fact. At that point, the pressure on the Truth becomes enormous. The opportunity or possibility for error is inevitable. From Henry St. John we learn, “Truth lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.”15 One of the biggest problems with a lie is when it seems as though it could be the Truth. Does is seem to be a plausible possibility? It sounds as if it could be the Truth. Do we simply accept this as Truth or do we question the veracity of these statements? How do we decide? Once the Truth has been tainted and distorted by lies and half-truths the puzzle becomes disrupted and forever changed. What is Truth and what is not? 10 Dialogues, Phaedo, Plato (c 428-c. 348 B.C.) 11 From Diogenes Laertius, bk. V, Sec. 17, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) 12 On the Heavens, bk. I, ch. 5, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) 13 te Discours de la Methode [1637] I, Rene Descartes (1596-1650) 14 Ethics [1677] pt. II, proposition 42: proof, Benedict [Baruch] Spinoza (1632-1677) 15 Reflections Upon Exile [1716], Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751) 5 MCP “He said likewise That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies, That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright, But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.” Lord Tennyson16 Could there be a problem with one or more of the other puzzle pieces? Obviously, we each see the Truth through our own eyes and color the Truth with our own experiences, but, if those experiences have been harmful to us, what becomes of the Truth? Are we damaged enough to lie? Do we see the Truth in a completely different light? Can the Truth be found out through the lie? How does one, possibly damaged, puzzle piece affect the rest of the puzzle? These are all questions and problems that will need to be resolved within the puzzle itself. We look to Gladstone and see, “The disease of an evil conscience is beyond the practice of all the physicians of all the countries in the world.”17 And Huxley, “Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”18 As things stand in our lives today, we need to carefully consider every bit of information that is placed in front of us. Truth will always come to the forefront. Lies will be found out. Though the lies appear to be Truth, they remain lies and will always be lies. “That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.” Valery 19 We must earnestly seek out the Truth at every juncture of our lives. If we are to remain an active, functional, contributing piece of this 3-Dimentional Puzzle we must 16 The Grandmother [18641 st S Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) 17 Speech, House of Commons [May 7, 1877] William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) 18 The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species [1880] Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) 19 Tel Quel [1943] Paul Valery (1871-1945) 6 MCP remain true to ourselves and true to the rest of the puzzle. “Truth has no special time of its own; its hour is now—always." Schweitzer.20 “Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented.” Braque.21 Let us endeavor to always tell the Truth; never to lie. We depend upon one another and influence one another in so many ways. We are all integral parts of this giant 3-Dimentional Puzzle and we must act accordingly. Our very lives and the security of those lives interdepend on the veracity of our words. We must not “invent falsehoods.” “Liars when they speak the truth are not believed.” Aristotle22 “I will not steep my speech in lies; the test of any man lies in action.” Pindar.23 “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” Plato.24 We look to these ancient scholars for the wisdom and Truth of the ages. Their words and lives have been and will remain a prodigious part of our lives and this great 3-Dimensional Puzzle. It is my hope that you will find Truth in these words and that you will find your own Truth and your own place in the puzzle. Mark C. Palmer #21986 James River Correctional Center 2521 Circle Drive Jamestown, ND 58401 20 Out of My life and Thought [1949] Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) 1 Pensees surTArt, Georges Braque (1882-1963) 2 From Diogenes Laertius, bk. V, Sec. 17, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) 23 Olympian Odes IV, 27, Pindar (518-438 B.C.) 24 Dialogues, Phaedo, Plato (c 428-c. 348 B.C.) 7

Author: Palmer, Mark

Author Location: North Dakota

Date: October 24, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 7 pages

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