Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Truth Is For Today

The true is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as the right is only expedient in the way of our behaving. For what meets expediently in all the experiences in sight won’t necessarily meet all farther equally satisfactorily.

William James expressed those words in his 1906 lecture to Lowell Institute in Boston. James reminds us that truth is flexible. What we believe today may not be true tomorrow. Our behavior may be right today, but that same behavior can be unacceptable in the future. We all incorporate our own truths and they expand as we expand. We believe those truths to be absolute within a certain context of time, and they are above question. We base our future beliefs on our past beliefs, and that foundation gives us a sense of comfort in the now. Truths are guidelines that influence our behavior, how we interact, and how we create.

James went on to say:

Ptolemaic astronomy, Euclidean space, Aristotelian logic, scholastic metaphysics were expedient for centuries, but human experience has boiled over those limits and we now call these things only relatively true or true within those borders of experience.

Relatively true are words we all can relate too. Truth is relative to the believer, but it may not be relative to someone who has other influences and associations built into their belief structure. All of our truths and beliefs are in a constant state of expansion. We have a difficult time recognizing the influences within those truths and beliefs as they expand.

One example of expanding truths and beliefs is our political system. The system is based on the will of the people. The will of the people is a discernible good that all can experience. The will of the people has been turned into a truth by us and the system. But as our system expanded, the will of the people turned into a manufactured will of privileged individuals.

Our will is not that will. We didn’t recognize the influences and associations attached to the plethora of expanded truths and beliefs that are incorporated in our current political system. We still vote using our perceptions of the old system, and that is where the separation takes place. Our belief about the will of the people has remained the same, but the system changed. The will of the people is now a manufactured will of the people due to the survival and economic influences and associations that constantly develop within the system.

Joseph Schumpeter in his 1942 book Capitalism Socialism and Democracy reminds us that:

If we are to argue that the will of the people is a political factor entitled to respect, it must first exist. That is to say, it must be something more than an indeterminate bundle of vague impulses loosely playing about given slogans and mistaken impressions.

Everyone would have to know definitely what he wants to stand for. This definite will would have to be implemented by the ability to observe and interpret correctly the facts that are directly accessible to everyone and to sift critically the information about the facts that are not.

Facts are perceivable truths verified by right actions. In our political system we have unverified facts that constantly float about like air molecules. They morph into the will of people by default due to our inability to observe and interpret these new facts in a way that fits into our controlled belief structure. A plethora of these facts gradually become truths that we don’t stand for.

No comments: