Taking a step back from the clamor on social media, from the pundits and news sources, which have rarely been so vitriolic, righteous and passionate since the last presidential election, the more distant perspective gives me pause. One thing rings out to me as truth in the cacophony of disparate voices; it seems that everyone believes passionately that truth is truth, and truth is objective and people should know what truth is.
Yet, there is so much disagreement, and so many shades of disagreement. There is a virtual panoply of disagreement on all subjects, an almost infinite array of shades of disagreement even on matters on which some agreement can be found. But there is one common denominator.
The common denominator is that we all seem to believe that truth exists and that truth is objective. We all seem to believe that other people should know what that truth is and understand it and that we should convince them of what we think it is. Further, all of this is couched in moralistic terms.
How interesting that we should (obviously) believe these things! From the religious to the agnostic to the atheist and even the downright anti-religious, we all act as if moral truth is a “thing”, that we can and should know it, and we spend a lot of time trying to convince others of our own particular view of that “thing”.
Not only are people passionately convinced truth exists and truth matters, but they believe that there is a moral quality to knowing understanding and reflecting that truth.
How odd. How ironic in a modern world in which moral relativism has taken a seemingly overtaken the idea of moral absolutes, where morality progresses and evolves over time (purportedly in the direction of higher morality), where nothing is written in stone any longer, literally and metaphorically.
On what basis does the modern man think that morality is so objective?
I happen to believe that we are all right. Truth does exist. Truth is objective. Truth does matter.
But, my take on all of this is that we (human beings) are simply not in the right position and don’t have the right perspective to know exactly what truth is. Animals don’t care about morality or truth, and we are no position to be the arbiter of it in any form other than a relativistic, self-centered, culturally constrained way.
Think about the context of human kind in the expanse of the universe and time.
Both the scientist and the poet could describe our position in the universe and time better than I. We are, as a human race, just an insignificant blip in Cosmic time. We exist tenuously on an insignificant Rock in space compared to the totality of the universe as a sheer Mass. Although we are rational thinking beings, we are limited by our position, limited by our size, limited by our finiteness and physical attributes.
We simply don’t, and necessarily can’t, have any kind of universal perspective on these things other than what can manage to leverage with our minds. We certainly have tried to do that, and we have managed some pretty good leveraging, considering our infinitesimal stature in the universe and apparition-like existence in the vast eons of time.
But we ultimately do not stand on top of the universal mountain. We don’t have the view we wish we had. We can’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know all the boundaries of our unknowing.
Still, we are convinced, as our actions and words betray, that truth exists; truth can be known; and truth is objective.
I submit that the relativistic nature of our modern morality is the necessary corollary to our modern refusal to acknowledge a Supreme Being, or at least a Supreme Being who we are willing to let loose in the public square. I realize that this is no earth shattering revelation. But it bears stating, if for no other reason than to compare the obvious truth of that statement to the obviously visceral notion that truth isn’t as relativistic as we attempt to make it out to be when we are being philosophical about it.