Belief and Epistemology
the question of truth


Giving a watertight account or proof of a universal, objective, Truth has been the ‘holy grail’ of philosophers over the ages. This elusive Truth continues to obsess religious and political fundamentalists – and some others who should know better.

We have noted that traditional philosophy addresses the question of reality in terms of ontology (what ‘being’ is) and epistemology (what ‘truth’ is ‘is’). To do this philosophers have generally used logic as a vehicle for ideas of truth in a bivalent sense, i.e. a proposition either ‘is true’ or ‘is not true’ and nothing else.

The challenge in this book is not to this logic per se but rather to the way, and where, it is used. It will be argued that this bivalent approach can lead (and too often has led) to a fundamentalist ‘realist’ view. This is the view that there is an accessible objective reality and that we can really ‘know’ it (whatever that means); that the concepts and views we form of reality can be objectively true; that they apply universally and hence can be imposed as unquestionably correct.

We have noted that we can, unthinkingly, ignore our subjectivity and attribute to our ontological ‘is’ of being a transcendental objective status and then transfer this objective status to an epistemological ‘is’ of truth. We can be led to adopt the concept of an objectively knowable truth, which sits (conveniently for some) alongside the idea of a transcendental God who knows (or even ‘is’) it. We can see how the idea of an objective truth has been appropriated throughout history by religious and political leaders who have found the concept of an unchallengeable truth useful in the exercise of power.