Doug Bruns

Truth?

In Philosophy, Religion, The Examined Life, Thinkers, Truth on February 7, 2010 at 5:51 pm

“Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

“I have never believed in the power of truth in itself.”

Quote number one, a first-century desert prophet. Number two, a twentieth-century French philosopher. Both quotes were directed to a people subjugated, living in an occupied country, itching for insurrection. (The second quote was written in an essay to a “German Friend” in July 1943. To put it in context, Camus continued: “But it is at least worth knowing that when expressed forcefully truth wins out over falsehood.”)

But what of truth? Or is that Truth? As a philosopher professor drilled into us, Define your terms. What is t/Truth? Socrates held truth a thing to be pursued, not discovered. I like that idea. It takes it off the mount and puts it in the streets. But then he was convicted of “corrupting the youth” and sentenced to death. (My, how we protect our children.) Will the pursuit of truth get a person killed? Some hold (those without all the suffocating theological tendrils, in particular) that the desert prophet died in pursuit of Socratic motivation, the pursuit of truth. But I think, more likely, he was too close to preaching insurrection. It was politics; but another forty years would pass before it would come to pass: the insurrection. That lead only to the diaspora, not freedom.

But knowing the Truth and being free on account of that knowledge is a very inviting prospect to a people living in bondage. Not to go too far astray, the juxtaposition of these two ideas I find elegant in their opposition. One, knowledge of t/Truth as salvation. The other t/Truth as impotence without force. I look to history for reconciliation. How else would one possibly proceed?

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