Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding Truth in Society

I recently attended the Spindel Conference at the University of Memphis. Paul Taylor, the main speaker, discussed race, racism and liberalism in the 21rst century. The part of the lecture that I followed most closely was his point about finding truth in society. According to Taylor, people are able to find truth in certain social and political situations. He argued that “truth-seeking” should be the goal of every society and gave an example of an ideal society for which truth could be found. Taylor continued by stating that “truth flourishes more readily” in liberal societies.

Having studied Hannah Arendt’s “Truth and Politics”, I wonder if Taylor’s argument can be considered valid. Arendt explained that truth can be broken down into two major categories; rational truth and factual truth. Rational truth is produced by the human mind and is found by men in solitude. Factual truth, on the other hand, is comprised of facts and events.

Based on Arendt’s definition truth, Taylor’s argument is incorrect. It is unlikely that people will be able to find these truths in any social or political situation. Rational truth cannot be found because social and political situations involve people interacting with each other. This eliminates the possibility of finding rational truth. Factual truth is threatened by people in power, false witness, and opinion, all of which can be found in social and political situations. Even in a society in which people believe that truth may “flourish the most” (liberal societies), it is doubtful that people will find it.

I believe the goal of society should be to find truth. Finding truth in these situations, however, does not seem plausible in today’s world. The government has become too powerful for people to find truth in political situations. They have the power to change information and hide it from the public. Also, the advancement of technology has increased the ability for anyone to distort truth in social situations. Mass media and the internet allow people to say what they want whenever they feel like it. If truth cannot be easily found in these situations but can be easily distorted, where does this leave our society?

1 comment:

Thach Truong said...

I disagree with the argument that rational truth cannot be found “because social and political situations involve people interacting with each other.” If like its definition rational truth is the product of human mind and is found by men in solitude, regardless of what happens with his human interaction, THE MAN will eventually find out that truth. If THE MAN can find discover that rational truth in solitude, how could human interaction have any chance to interrupt his mission? Saying that rational truth is a product of human mind does not imply that human mind can twist and manipulate it in any aspect like factual truth. That rational truth has to follow a certain pattern of logic and consistency. Taking mathematical truth, an instance of rational truth, as an example, we have decimal numeral system, binary system, octal system…different numeral systems came from different countries and different culture; however, these systems are totally related to one another and consistent. There is no way you have 1 plus 1 equal 2 in decimal system and when you convert that calculation into binary system and get something DIFFERENT than 10 (1+1=10 in binary system), it will always be 10 and that is why it is consistent. In short, I just want to emphasize the fact that for rational truth, it can be expressed differently by different cultures and countries; however, by nature, if it is truly rational truth, there is only one, and even though it might get expressed differently, at the core, there is only one truth – and that is what makes rational truth different from its factual brother.