— Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons
I’m questioning the extent to which truth has relevance for human beings.
Our cognitive framework is such that every object must first be distilled through our subjective faculties in order for us to recognize or understand it. With this in mind, it’s easy to see the fundamental nature of truth for human beings—that is, truth is only that fiction which we hold dearest. If truth is necessarily objective, and if there exists in the world some object of this kind, then it is immediately and by definition tainted and thus made false by our senses through which we can only subjectively perceive and make sense of it.
Hume already showed how the science we hold as truth itself is just another article of faith. We can’t prove causation from reason, only unscientific experience. The scientific method, and all science derived from it, then, rests on an assumption of a first principle of causality that we have never and could never prove. Hume’s conclusion? Our entire understanding of everything—science, reality, perception—is fundamentally one rooted in faith. Quantum mechanics has, as of late, to some extent affirmed his claims, and what scientists in that field have been finding completely undermines the history of science that atheists and freethinkers hold so dearly as undeniable truth.
Our personal and scientific considerations of objects alone as true are constantly being thrown out and revised. Depending on how strict a definition you affix to it, these objects either do not exist, or our approximations of them must be treated as false (if only because they are not “completely” true, and something that is true is necessarily completely true.) It should be trivially obvious how the foundational technique for acquiring scientific knowledge (i.e. the scientific method) is, by virtue of being an empirical technique, rooted in experiential observation. The scientific method, then, is only a hypothetical method, and not capable of touching truth. We must accept its resulting science only as a “strongly held theory,” which is exactly the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of faith.
Knowing “something close to the truth” is no less knowing a falsehood than knowing something further from it. Science exists on an assumption of proximal truth. The “closer” truths of the scientist, then, are not truths at all, but only more arrogant falsehoods than the man who accepts faith as the fundamental principle of his understanding, because–unlike the man of faith—-the scientist refuses to accept his so-called truths as articles of faith founded on the unproven precept that subjective perception is equivalent to objective reality.
I’m not suggesting people deny their most strongly held beliefs just because they aren’t outright provable. Instead, I’m arguing for the recognition that our epistemic framework seems to deny us true knowledge. In this light, we should accept all knowledge for what it really is: strongly held belief.
This liberates us from the often disturbing realities that would have us accept materialistic, deterministic likelihoods that would lead us down the path of fatalistic philosophies such as nihilism. By recognizing the truth is utterly out of reach, we are free to adapt for ourselves those conjectural false-truths which may not be true at all but seem to make us strive toward improvement in their practical delusions.