Friday, May 8, 2009

We Hold the Truth to be Self-Evident

When was young - an intellectual pretender, taking too many philosophy classes - I used to believe in truth. There had to be some underlying truths. I couldn't imagine a world without an anchor of truth.

Boy was I wrong. I mean, perhaps not philosophically wrong. Perhaps there really is an underlying truth. But if there is, there's definitely only one, and it is harder to find than waldo in the sea of perversions of truth that exist. 

Today I found myself in a situation where truth was so malleable, I began to question my own ability to evaluate it. I know what I believe, from the evidence I have. But, I then heard presented an entirely different account of the situation. If I were a witness, hearing both testimonies, I would be hard pressed to reconcile them. But, at the same time, I couldn't pick the liar. Both perspectives were, to the storyteller, entirely true. Indeed, the say it is hardest to catch a liar if they believe it themselves.

Really, there were more than 5 people in the room - and there were definitely 3-4 stories being told. And the remainder of the people were trying to make decisions based on these versions of the same set of facts - and were even lacking the less flattering set that were carefully concealed by ALL the storytellers. How could they possibly be asked to draw a conclusion?

It makes me really wonder... was this a particularly exceptional exercise in collective self-deception, or are we usually in similar situations without the requisite visibility to even be aware?

And.. why am I thinking about all this on a Friday afternoon when I could be outside, sneezing?

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