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Presentation on theme: "THE ANSWER AND ITS EFFECTS ON OUR THINKING WHAT IS TRUTH?"— Presentation transcript:


2 WHERE DO WE START? To answer the question, “What is truth?” means we have to arrive at a definition of truth Is that even possible? This is a question with which philosophers have wrestled for many long years; what hope do we have of coming to an answer? The “truth” implies that there is “right” and “wrong,” which to some degree points to the branch of philosophy called “ethics” Ethics teaches us how to ask “moral” questions Let us come to some “ground rules” whereby we can operate together as “truth seekers” in this class

3 Philosophy, or the “love of wisdom,” is not usually considered to be the highest paying job on the market But what can we learn from a contemporary philosopher whose work at Google shapes important questions, the answers for which affect our own lives? GREEK PHILOSOPHERS SOCRATES ANTISTHENES CHRYSIPPUS EPICURUS THE ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY

4 HOW DO WE DETERMINE RIGHT AND WRONG? phy_in_prison.html phy_in_prison.html


6 THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LIFE Religious systems exist to help mankind wrestle with and solve questions of right and wrong They contain much human wisdom, but none perfectly describes “the truth” These systems are often contradictory, which is why you find the world struggling through “religious wars” Yet, the best of what religious systems has to offer has brought meaning, stability, and a lot of human progress over the centuries It is my opinion that science, as an enterprise, is a religious system But that is a subject for another day



9 ANOTHER WAY TO SLICE THE PIE Greek mind Time is linear Man can know the truth through his rational abilities Man is capable of solving the world’s problems All religious paths lead to spiritual enlightenment Hebrew mind Time is cyclical Man is completely dependent on God, even if he does not acknowledge this dependence Only God can determine what is finally good and true


11 OUR PERSPECTIVE For the purpose of this course, you should understand that it presents a perspective that is essentially derived from Western culture, and that it is not the whole picture When you get to college, you will encounter a variety of perspectives from which people view the world A common point of view is that “everyone creates their own truth,” which is also called “moral relativism”

12 OUR PERSPECTIVE (CONT.) It is important to know “where people are coming from,” so you can understand their point of view and evaluate the quality of the “truth” they believe as it relates to your own personal convictions and conscience Understanding different perspectives helps you understand audience (people), context (ideas), and various rhetorical situations This is why I am asking you to examine your thinking, and your own perspectives – so you can understand where you “fit in” when you leave

13 IF EVERYONE CREATES THEIR OWN TRUTH… … then there are no “right answers” What are the implications for such a position? Everyone is right, and no one is wrong (“My answers can’t be wrong, professor. They’re my truth!”) Everyone’s perception and memory work flawlessly, with no blunders, glitches, or gaffes No one adopts other people’s truths, because truth is personal, individual, and unique

14 WHERE DOES IT ALL BEGIN? Early childhood experience, in which we are told about the world before we actually experience it, fills us with preconceptions about how the world works Unless education makes us acutely aware of these preconceptions, our process of perception is deeply influenced by these early teachings

15 WHERE DOES IT ALL BEGIN? (CONT.) “Seeing is believing” is as true as “Believing is seeing” – we all look through “filters” What we regard as our unique perspective bears the imprint of other people’s ideas and beliefs

16 SPEED BUMPS TO GETTING AT THE TRUTH We all are capable of perceiving reality imperfectly We all are capable of demonstrating imperfect memory We are all susceptible to making decisions with deficient information Even the wisest among us makes mistakes

17 IMPERFECT PERCEPTION Perception is not flawless, and is influenced by our desires, interests, and expectations We think we remember a “fact” from a textbook, make it our exam answer, and later find out we had not correctly recalled the fact, thus our answer is marked wrong Instant replay often shows us our initial cry of “bad call!” was actually an erroneous perception Perception is often mingled with interpretation – the expectation that an event will unfold in a certain way, which can color our perception of the way the event actually unfolds Distractions, powerful emotions, loyalty, and affection also color our perception

18 IMPERFECT MEMORY We forget details and often resort to imagination to ‘fill in the blanks’ When we retell a story, we embellish to make ourselves look better or say something we thought of later that we wish we would have said Salvador Dali The Persistence of Memory, 1931

19 IMPERFECT MEMORY Memory is vulnerable to contamination from outside the mind - experiments Did you see a bear? (there was no bear) The difference in perception of an accident when the words “hit” and “smash” are used Adding “fake” events to a description of an event can cause people to “remember” the fake events as true Salvador Dali The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, 1954

20 DEFICIENT INFORMATION The quality of our beliefs rests heavily on the quality of information that backs them up The problem of misinformation – wrong directions, bad advice – is all the worse when it occurs in complex matters like interpreting the law, making medical decisions, governing citizens, and religious life Not everything on the Internet is true! Even “experts” who devote their whole lives to a subject cannot know everything about their subject, because of the age in which we live and its associated knowledge “explosion”

21 EVEN THE WISEST CAN ERR So far we’ve established that people can be mistaken in what they perceive and remember and that the information they receive can be faulty or incomplete These matters concern individuals; what happens when group judgment goes awry? All too often, what is taken as truth one day by the most respected minds proves erroneous the next Galileo, Copernicus, and other paradigm shifts A whole host of others in your textbook

22 TRUTH IS DISCOVERED, NOT CREATED Review Ideas and beliefs are unavoidably influenced by other people’s ideas and beliefs, particularly in childhood Perception and memory are imperfect (Dali’s paintings) Information can be inaccurate or incomplete Some people’s thinking skills are ineffectively used or “woefully meager” What then is the most reasonable view of truth? The truth about something is what is so about it, the facts in their exact arrangement and proportions Our beliefs and assertions are true when they correspond to that reality, and false when they do not

23 TRUTH IS DISCOVERED, NOT CREATED (CONT.) Did time run out before the basketball player got the shot off? How does gravity work? Who stole your hubcaps? Are there time/space limits to the universe? Who started the argument between you and your neighbor last weekend? Have you been working up to your potential in this course? To look for the truth in such matters is to look for the answer that fits the facts, the correct answer

24 TRUTH IS DISCOVERED, NOT CREATED (CONT.) Truth is apprehended by discovery, a process which favors the curious and the diligent Truth does not depend on our acknowledgement of it, nor is it in any way altered by our ignorance or transformed by our wishful thinking King Tut’s tomb did not spring into existence when archaeologists dug it up; it was waiting there to be discovered Art forgeries are not genuine when people are fooled, and then fake when the deception is revealed Cigarette smoking is not rendered harmless to our health because we would prefer it to be so

25 WHY THE CONFUSION? Much of the confusion about truth arises from complex situations in which truth is difficult to ascertain or express Are there really UFOs piloted by extraterrestrial beings? The answer is hotly debated in some circles, and assertions are made that purport to express the truth. But the fact is, there is not yet sufficient evidence to say we know the truth about UFOs However, that does not mean that there is no truth about them, or that people who affirm their existence or deny it are equally correct It means that whatever the truth is, we do not yet possess it

26 WHY THE CONFUSION? (CONT.) Difficulty also arises when we ask psychological or philosophical questions (abstract vs concrete) Is the cause of criminality genetic or environmental (nature vs nurture) or some combination of the two? Is there an afterlife? What constitutes success? All of these questions have answers, but the are incomplete or tentative That fact should not shake your conviction that there are truths to be discovered

27 THE PROPER APPROACH FOR A GOOD CRITICAL THINKER Determine that you are going to have the right frame of mind as you pursue the truth Give it a sense of adventure that great thinkers in history have experienced Keep the following thoughts in mind I know I have limitations and can be easily mistaken Surely I’ll never find all the answers I’d like to But I can observe a little more accurately, weigh things a little more thoroughly, and make up my mind a little more carefully If I do so, I’ll be a little closer to the truth And that is far more reasonable than saying “Everyone makes their own truth” or “It all depends on how you look at it”

28 YOUR ASSIGNMENT Check the website Review this presentation again, along with the Ruggiero textbook, chapter 3, “What is Truth?” On page 38 in Ruggiero, respond to Applications 4 and 5, plus answer the following question, typed, 1” margins, 12 point font, 500 word minimum: “What makes something ‘wrong’?”


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