Well, because as I have said in earlier posts, I believe that there is a difference between scientific, 'objective' truth - which incidentally I would never disparage or trivialise - and the kinds of truth we set our sights and live by. This is the space that used
to be filled by religion. But it is not there any more. There is, as Jean Paul Sartre once put it so poignantly, a 'God-shaped hole' in the middle of our consciousness.
In a secular, liberal society, I think the assumption is that an intelligent, educated adult such as the type of ideal citizen that was envisaged by John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and so on, will naturally have a sort of moral bearing or compass which would take over when we freed ourselves from the 'tutelage' of religion. I suppose that is true for some, but it is certainly far from the case for everyone. I mean, as a teenager I was acutely aware of my own many habitual defects and shortcomings, hence my engagement with Eastern philosophy (which is ongoing). Hence also this debate: every time this topic ('What is truth'?) comes up in this forum, there is a large vote for "what I say it is" and a somewhat smaller one for "what is advocated by positivism and/or analytical philosophy and/or science etc etc".
Actually I don't think we know any more. It is very confused. Culture had developed, through the ages, myths and metaphors and various ways of communicating these deeper truths about life, now a lot of it has been thrown out. Hence what I term 'metaphysical embarrasment'. Nobody wants to admit how impoverished modern "culture" (if we can call it that) has actually become in this regard, so there are a lot of taboos about it. This is one of the main things driving the popularity of Dawkins, in my view. (Futile hope, though. It just results in even deeper denial, isolation, confusion and hostility. I know, I have hung out on the Dawkins forum and there is a lot of angst there.)
Actually since that last post, I googled 'Cartesian anxiety' (a very beautiful phrase to my ears) and found the book it came from. Here is one of the reader reviews which is extremely germane to this topic:
"Are we the measure of the all things or is truth independent of our beliefs and wishes? Bernstein begins tackling this question by observing that the real debate is not between absolutism and relativism but between...(well, read the title!) He claims that while few (philosophers anyway) believe that truth is eternal, many at least believe that it is not merely about our own subjectivity. But the real question for Bernstein is Why all the fuss? Is there a certain tone of anxiety present in the discussion? Bernstein says that indeed there is and it's due to conflicts in concern between the need to believe in a stable reality and the fear that rheified cultural schemes can become the basis of intellectual and social tyrany- Bernstein calls this a "pracical-moral concern" and manages to discuss it without presuming that there are no serious theoretical issues involved. I'm an absolutist myself (what a philosophical dinosaur I am!) and I found this book so enthralling that I engaged in frquent, feverish marginal annotating (and in my schools, you didn't buy the texts so you DID NOT mark them up). Whatever your philosophical persuasion, this book should bring some illumination along with many happy moments of reading."
Text isBeyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis
(Paperback) by Richard J. Bernstein. Looks like a pretty good read too, I am going to look for it in the library.
---------- Post added 07-15-2009 at 03:48 PM ----------
One thousand years ago, everyone believed the earth was flat. It was obvious. Everyone agreed. If it was round, people would fall off. So ... that was the truth. Now, you and others decided there is a new truth. What's the difference?
The difference is, one belief was a TRUE BELIEF, which can be verified by a wealth of observation, measurement, and so on. The other is FOLKLORE, which was never verified by anyone, but simply the best guess that anyone could make given the state of knowledge at the time.
And honestly, without wishing to sound patronising, there is a helluva difference and one that shouldn't really need to be explained or argued about.
---------- Post added 07-15-2009 at 03:56 PM ----------
There are many truths. It is specific to person to person.
Does this go for math?