Friday, April 4, 2014

Absolute Truth Again

A friend sent me this article, and I had some nits to pick with it (below).

First off, a word about my own philosophical and religious biases.  I am reasonably certain that ancient Skeptics, Stoics, Epicureans, Cynics, and pre-Socratic philosophers (people I have studied intently over the last few years) are not post-Modern (nor even Modern, like Kant).  The Buddhists and medieval Daoists I am interested in are also not post-Modern (nor even Modern, at least not the majority of them).

I am not really certain that there is any such thing as a coherent "post-Modernism" out there in the world, and if there is I am definitely not one of its advocates (at least not knowingly or evangelically).

Math is not locksmithing (let alone "ethics" in the broadest sense).  Contrary to Craig's analogy, more than one key can fit a door, which can always be opened without keys, as well.  It need not be arrogant for the locksmith to insist that only one key will open a certain door (it might be, depending on how he makes that assertion).  It is, and will always be, naive and presumptuous.  Craig's analogy to math here just shows that he fails to notice how all human communication is not mathematics, an obvious empirical reality that many "non post-Moderns" (perhaps even some whom he quotes as authorities "on his side") would concede (and perhaps even embrace: what makes you think I reject St. Augustine entirely? I don't, even if I cannot be him, i.e. craft my own life as an exact replica of his).

The underlying subtext to Craig's entire article, as I read it, is that there is a single, true way to live one's life (something that he calls Christianity).  I do not believe this, not even if I become a Christian at some point in future (as I might well do: I am not ruling that out).  Like other people before me, including the very pre-Modern Socrates, I do believe that it is arrogant to presume one knows something when one does not really know it.  People like Socrates (and Kant, for that matter) have very good reasons to reject the idea of simple, absolute truth existing as something we can build our lives around.  Historically, what happens when you and I embrace this truth and champion it?  Well, you mount a crusade to make me kiss your cross (or die), while I stir up a jihad to make you wear my burkha (or die).  That fight between us is stupid (even if it is not always arrogant or inhumane).  To pursue it is to become liable in the creation of dysfunctional societies (like the one we are currently living in, a ridiculous caricature of civil order in which showing love for my neighbor means forcing him to wear my burkha against his will because "God says so!" or "think of the children!").  I don't want any part of this nonsense.  I don't see it as particularly good.  Insofar as Christianity is being good, I don't think it is particularly Christian.  Insofar as God wants us to be good, I don't think he approves it.  (So take that, Craig:  I think God disapproves your Christianity.  I suppose this means I must be another agent provocateur of post-Modern Satan.  How convenient for you: now you can dismiss me without considering whether I might have anything valuable to say.)


  1. If there is absolute truth, it seems to me that Heraclitus gets it pretty well with the observation that "war is the father of all things." You can call that war peace. You can call it love. You can call it life. You can call it death. You can call it anything you like, really, and rest assured someone else will have described it in similar terms at some point in recorded history.

    At this point in my life, the existence of absolute truth as something ontologically real simply does not matter. I don't care that people believe all kinds of nonsense about what makes the world go round (the economy works in a fashion that I can reveal using the latest astrological, I mean econometric, techniques from Mt. Olympus! My god rules while yours drool!). There is no refuting the Hydra of human stupidity that ceaselessly generates endless iterations of absolute truth, all of them eventually dangerous (whether or not they represent something "real" out there beyond us or are pure solipsistic bullshit: it doesn't matter and cannot be conclusively determined by the limited tool we know as reason). Every time you cut another head off that Hydra, Mr. Craig, three more grow in its place. We must learn to live in a world of lies and bullshit and perspectives that don't perfectly cohere, for that is empirically where we live (a point that you simply drive home even deeper with articles like the one I am responding to here).

    Absolute truth does not need to be defended. It does not need to be discovered. It does not require cultivation, worship, human interaction, etc. It simply exists, like Parmenides' Being, utterly impervious to what any harebrained human being (or nematode) happens to be thinking at any moment in any time. The urge to rationalize it, to make it articulate, to bring it down to our level and use it in our human games, is perverse. If God is absolute truth, then he does not need your worship, or mine, or anyone else's. He already has it. He does not need philosophical proofs. He does not need reason. He exists beyond such petty things, parochial trappings of a humanity that is in fact arrogant when it presumes that something it cannot conceive cannot possibly exist. What nonsense.

  2. "How can we have decent society if gay people are allowed to marry?"

    Wake up tomorrow. Smell the roses. Get about your own business. Forget that gay people exist, and you will see.

    "How can we have a decent society if Democrats exist?"

    Rinse and repeat.

    "How can we have a decent society if Republicans exist?"


    "How can we have a decent society if atheists exist?"


    "How can we have a decent society if evangelical Christians exist?"


    "How can we have a decent society if feminists exist?"


    "How can we have a decent society if chauvinists exist?"

    Bloody hell.

  3. "How can I be happy as long as you live, Persius, and draw breath to utter blasphemies such as those on this blog?"

    Well, I suppose you could just murder me outright. Or you could go the legal route and have me put in jail (ostracized, sentenced to drink hemlock, crucified, tarred and feathered, etc.). You could exile me to some distant realm (far from Rome and your blogroll, some place where I won't get in the way of your games and shows by spoiling the illusion that they are utterly and unproblematically righteous). That is your problem, not mine.

    I must fight this war we call life as best I can, which means that I cannot deny my integrity, even when it annoys you by not being your own.