Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Thoughts on truth, inspired by Bertrand Russell
Any concept of truth that deems truth to be somehow dependent on our culture or our minds or wills makes truth into something that we (either collectively or individually) create and control. This is the case for all views of truth that abandon correspondence as the essence and meaning of truth. This disregard for reality encourages what Russell called “cosmic impiety.”
The concept of “truth” as something dependent upon facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check is removed, a further step is taken on the road towards a certain kind of madness—the intoxication with power.
Russell is on to something deep and rich—a truth about truth and untruth. When people untether themselves from any responsibility to get reality right, to be true to the truth come what may, they forfeit the humility of being beholden to a reality outside of themselves—a reality that may prove one right or prove one wrong, but which one does not command. One must rather obey—or disobey. Whether one is an atheist or a theist or anything else, cosmic piety means submission to the truth of reality, come what may.