Absolute Truths

I’ve been pondering the concept of absolute truths for some time now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, in this postmodern world, there really aren’t any absolute truths, except perhaps those that can be proven through science.

In the world of postmodern thought, we each create our own reality. Our truths, destiny, morals, and values are our own, and nobody can disprove them as untrue. If we like, we are free to believe that life is essentially meaningless; that we are on this earth for the same reason animals are here: to be born, to survive, to reproduce, to raise our young, and to die, and once we are dead, our bodies decay and that’s it. We can alternately believe that life on earth is only the first step (or one step) in an eternal journey. Maybe we go to heaven or hell after we die. Maybe we are reincarnated. Maybe we watch over the earth as a spirit guide after we pass on.

I personally like to find meaning in things; I don’t like believing that there is nothing of real substance or truth in the world. I try to find the truth. I remember reading in some old book that the word “truth” cannot be modified; that is, you cannot say something is “very true” or “not as true” because things either are true or they are not true. There are no shades of gray. I do believe that truth is no longer just black or white. What is true to someone maybe false to another person, and what is absolutely true to another may only be partially true to someone else.

We can no longer say, for instance, that “Christianity is the one true religion” of the United States, or that Christian values are the only true values. Many people are vehemently opposed to those statements. We cannot say that Christianity (or any other religion) holds absolute truths and values, because there are plenty of people who do not follow the value and belief system of Christianity.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, said (or maybe someone else said it first and it was later attributed to him) something to the effect of, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” In a way, I think that is how a lot of our modern “truths” come to be. Perhaps they are not really true, but they are statements that someone or some entity wants us to believe are true. Maybe the “truths” that really were true died out or became unpopular and were replaced with lies a long time ago.

Thus, it is important for each of us to search for our own meaning in the world, and I think that’s part of how the school of postmodern thought came about: the extinction of absolute truths. We must find the truth for ourselves, or else we may believe in “truths” that are not true at all, but are lies perpetuated by the government, the media, society, etc.

In a way, I do lament the lack of absolute truths in the world (or at least in America) today. But with so many different belief systems, moral codes, etc., I no longer think it is possible for there to be any type of absolute truth. We are living in a postmodern society, for better or for worse.

To thine own self be true. –Polonius, from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

13 thoughts on “Absolute Truths

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong Maggie, but it looks like what you are saying is that something ceases to be true (or becomes true) do to the changing of an individual (or group) opinion. If something is true, it’s true, no matter how much I argue otherwise. That is what “truth” is. I may not like gravity, but no matter how much I insist it’s not true it still is. In fact once we claim that “there is no truth” we’ve just argued a truth by stating an absolute truth that there is no truth. Which is it? We can’t have it both ways. In that instance we’ve done nothing more than stated our opinion about truth. Truth remains.

    Whew…this is a bit much for the end of a long workday. As always I enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

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    1. I suppose that’s a flaw of the postmodern school of thought. They don’t realize that, as you say, “once we claim that ‘there is no truth’ we’ve just argued a truth by stating an absolute truth that there is no truth.”

      Interesting, and yes, it is a bit much after a workday, but it was something that was on my mind.

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  2. You seem to be looking for absolute truths in places where they cannot be found–the shifting and relativistic material world. Simply because it is difficult (or even impossible) to discern absolute truth in a postmodern does not mean that absolute truth does not exist. It simply means we are incompetent to recognize it ourselves. The fault lies not in truth claims, but in ourselves.

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  3. I like your challenging thoughts Maggie, however if I may be so bold, I think we are always in danger of alienating our fellow human beings if we constantly need scientific evidence to convince us of everything. I’m not sure what my Father would’ve said to me if I’d asked him for scientific evidence every time he gave me advice or shared his life experiences with me. Sure there’s people who can’t be trusted but let’s not tarnish everyone with the same brush. A skill we should work on is to be able to separate lies from the ‘truth’. Love your blogs.

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    1. I agree. It bothers me when I hear about people needing their “truths” to be backed up by science or empirical evidence, when a lot of the time, as you say, personal experience and emotion can be truths as well.

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  4. I agree. I particularly agree when you say that there are meanings to everything. And whatever theory someone may put across, there will always be some reason/’truth’ as to why they have thought of that theory.
    Another thought-provoking post!

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  5. I’ve recently been thinking about stuff like this too, so it was cool to get your take on it. I agree with your idea that there are no absolute truths. It makes sense, really — nothing can prove itself to be true, only other truths, and since those other truths can’t prove themselves to be true, nothing is inherently true. We must decide for ourselves (or as a society) what our starting point will be if we are to make any rational decisions or conclusions.

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  6. It’s not so much that there aren’t any absolute truths in a “Postmodern” world as it there isn’t a valid recourse to equate Truth with Meaning. The whole idea of Postmodernism is the incorporation of paradox. As far as existential meaning goes, it has lent its hand in requiring “absolutes” to be shiftable and dynamic. Much of this can be seen in the growth of either 1. Scientific Truth as a world view because it incorporates “seeking truth” and “possibility and negativity” (I could be wrong about that last thing) versus 2. The Buddhist or Eastern Asian trend in religion that stresses a notion of being one with the self and not words. Basically, meaning is absolute but non-communicable and Truth is objective and perfectly communicable. The truest Postmodernist (if there ever was a thing) would be perfectly okay with accepting both objective truths (external/objective things – the “Apollonian” as Nietzsche calls it) and personal meaning (internal/subjective things — Sensorial events i.e., sight, sound, color, etc.). They are 100% mutually exclusive in our world so yes, there are no absolutes, but no, they are not meaningless. Hope this helps!

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