Truth Objective or Subjective?
morality of mankind (choosing right from wrong), is based on the concept
of our truth. When we examine the Holocaust and question the
“wrongness” and the “rightness” of the event we are confronted with the
basis for what makes wrong and what makes right. What makes Hitler’s
Nazi Germany wrong in wanting to conquer the world and kill innocent
people in the process? After WWII, this is one of the questions faced at
the Nuremberg trials. What basis can the Nazi’s be prosecuted for the
acts in the Second World War.
basis of truth used by
was the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. The leaders of
Germany saw their nation as a superior group a “Stronger People” and the
rest of the world as an inferior people, a “Weaker People”. The source
of truth derived from the Friedrich Nietzsche taught that man is the
source for good and evil.
there is no God to will what is good, we must will our own good. And
since there is no eternal value, we must will the eternal recurrence of
the same state of affairs.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche view of truth and incorporated this in his own view of what is
truth. The Holocaust and the death of millions was the result of this
stronger must dominate and
with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher
nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel,
and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and
narrower mind; for if such a law did not direct the process of evolution
then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at
all...If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with
stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle
with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout
hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher
stage of being, may thus be rendered futile. Adolph Hitler,
The questions faced
by Nuremburg trials, is the same question we face today. What truth is
the basis of our Moral Law and is truth subjective or objective?
3 a : characteristic
of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of
mind : phenomenal
of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the
realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and
perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind
Jesus claimed to be
said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through Me. John 14:6
possible to know what Truth is? To find truth we can begin at the most
basic premise, it is undeniable. In fact, if you are reading or hearing
this you have proved this first basic premise of truth. “Being”, the
mere fact you can question truth or yourself means you exist.
is an “Axiom” or “First Principle” according to Aristotle. First
principles are self-evident points, demonstrating their existence
without proof. For example Rene Descartes famous, “I Think therefore I
am”, proves you exist even if someone told you did not exist, you would
still have to think about your existence, therefore proving the one who
told you did not exist is wrong.
proves two points in the search for truth.
Existence (To be
aware of yourself proves existence)
think about yourself proves reason)
logically conclude we exist and we can have reasoned thought about our
Aristotle notes that these first principles are necessary if there is to
be any rational thought. In fact, he listed several laws in order to
have rational, logical thought.
of Non-Contradiction: (A is not non-A)
Opposite truth claims cannot both be true. For example if an
atheist believes God does not exist and a theist believes God
does exit, it is impossible for both to be right. Another
example of how the LNC works,
someone were to say, “There is no such thing as truth, and the
meaningless” he has done two things. First, he has assumed that his view
is true as opposed to false, and thus he uses the
(which of course, implies that the
has meaning, because his view is assumed to be meaningful). Second, he
has violated the LNC by suggesting that there is no such thing as truth
while at the same time and in the same sense insisting there is such a
thing as truth—The truth of his own view by doing so , he automatically
of Excluded Middle: (Either A or non-A)
that it is either A or non-A but not both. God cannot exist and
not exist. In other words, there is no middle ground, opposites
cannot be the same, nothing can hide in the “cracks” between
being and not being.
of Identity: (A is A)
simply states that something is what we say it is: A is A. When
someone says, “I loved the book” it is understood to mean
“Book”. Without the law of identity, there would be chaos and
language would be incoherent.
these basic laws of rational thought, we can examine the logic of
certain truth claims, such as, is Truth objective or subjective? Can we
true that we exist? To think about the answer proves we exist.
Existence proves the state of reality. And to think about yourself,
proves reason. These are two axioms or undeniable facts; I exist, and I
is an expression, symbol or statement that matches or corresponds to its
object or referent. Truth must correspond to reality in order to be
“Something true for all people, at all times and in all places”
Can Truth be
The question of
morality being relative is directly linked to its source. If truth is
relative then morality can be relative. “Relative Truth” means that
truth is subject to the holder of truth.
A great test for
relative or subjective truth is the “Gravity Test”. To administer this
test one climbs to a high tower such as the
If the holder of subjective truth, believes he/she can fly, and since
truth is subject to our beliefs then the person should be able to fly.
Once the person jumps away from the tower the test begins. They will
fly or fall. If they fly without aid then subjective truth is true if
they fall and connect with the ground then objective truth is true.
Those on the ground will witnesses “Correspondece”. If the person flies
then subjective truth will correspond to reality (The flight being
real). If the person falls objective truth will correspond to reality.
(Gravity being real)
Subjective truth is
a popular view held by many people, could all these people be wrong?
What are the main
reasons people give for holding the subjective view.
to be true only at some times and not at others.
At one time people
believed the earth was flat but today we know it’s a sphere. Someone
might say you see truth has changed.
The world was a
sphere even when people believed it was flat. Truth did not change,
rather we changed from holding a false belief to a true one. Our belief
now corresponds with the facts.
to be true only for some people but not for others.
Janice Smith lives
in New York
City and she
feels cold at 9:00 AM Eastern Time on
October 1, 2003.
Oliver Jones lives in
at the same time and day but he feels hot. Isn’t this an example of
No, the fact is,
“Janice Smith is cold on 10/1/2003 at 9:00 AM” is true for Oliver Jones
and for the rest of the universe. The fact stands on it’s own it is
“absolute”. One hundred years from now that fact will still be absolute
for everybody who has ever lived. Oliver feelings of heat have nothing
to do with the fact regarding Janice. They are two separate facts.
1. Relativism is
believes that subjective truth is true for everyone, not just from them.
This is the one thing they cannot believe, if they are relativist.
Therefore, if a relativist thinks it is true for everyone, then he
believes it is an absolute truth. Therefore, he is no longer a
2. Relativism is
full of contradictions.
If Billy Graham
believed God exists and an Atheist believes God did not exist both would
be right. God would have to exist and not exist. If the Christian
believes Jesus died on the Cross and Muslim believes Jesus did not die
on the Cross, both would be right.
3. Relativism means
no has ever been wrong.
truth, no one could ever be wrong since there is no standard for right
and wrong. As long as something is true to holder of truth, it is true
even if it is wrong for someone else.
Some reject the idea
that “Truth” is absolute because of the following arguments.
Some things are
relative to others:
Joe is 5’10 and is
short compared to Shaquille O’Neal and tall compared to Willie Shoemaker
a horse jockey. Therefore, the relativist would say truth is not
The fact is that Joe
is short, compared to O’Neal. Joe is tall, compared to Shoemaker.
Those are two absolute facts.
No new truths or
progress is possible.
If truth were
absolute then no new truth would be possible.
mistake discovery with truth. The earth was a sphere even when people
believed it was flat. All we did is discover the absolute fact. We are
merely discovering an “Old” Truth.
New truth is
constantly happening. Every second new Truth is coming into existence
all over the world as the past meets the future in the present. Once it
is true, it is always for every one everywhere.
with our growth in knowledge.
Our understanding of
truth changes not Truth.
is too narrow.
with facts. 4+3=7 is narrow because its not 1,2,3,4,5,6, but its fact.
Any “Truth” claim is narrow because truth by it nature means the other
option is non-truth (LNC).
If that were not the case then no one could claim to have truth,
including those believe relativism is true.
Everyone who claims
something is true is dogmatic. The claim of truth excludes non-truth.
How can you know
something is true?
Most people who
believe in “Absolute Truth” would admit they do not have a complete
grasp on Absolute truth, but knowledge is in degrees. There are things
we can be absolute sure; I exist and I can reason. We might logically
conclude God’s existence but apart from his revelation, our knowledge of
God is limited to what we can observe.
“Absolute Truth” is true regardless of what we believe and think.
Absolute truth stands on its own. Absolute truth is absolutely true no
matter what evidence there is for it. Truth is what corresponds to the
facts. Truth does not change just because we learn something about it.
This word comes from
two Greek words meaning, “A” No and “gnosis” meaning knowledge. This
word was coined by T.H. Huxley and means “no knowledge”. An agnostic is
someone who claims not to know. There two types of Agnostics “Hard”
The hard could be
labeled Agnostic and the soft skeptic.
The Agnostic says,
“I can’t know” while the skeptic says, “I doubt if I can know”.
David Hume The
Hume conceived of
philosophy as the inductive, experimental science of human nature.
Taking the scientific method of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton
as his model and building on the epistemology of the English philosopher
John Locke, Hume tried to describe how the mind works in acquiring what
is called knowledge. He concluded that no theory of reality is possible;
there can be no knowledge of anything beyond experience.
David Hume wrote,
If we take in our
hands any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let
us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or
number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter
of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can
contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
He believed any
statement, which is not mathematical or factual is meaningless. All
statements by God would fall outside these categories. All one
experiences is just a series of separate sensations. Hume acknowledged
the logic of cause and effect. He said,
never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise
without a cause”
Hume believed there
wasn’t any way to establish the principle of the cause.
The Agnostic (1724-1804)
was based on the understanding that there was no way to get outside
one’s own being and know what reality is, therefore since we cannot know
we must be agnostic.
He believed there
was an unbridgeable gulf between knowing and being, between our
understanding and the nature of reality. What was the cause of the
cause? If everything had a cause.
There are different
forms of Agnosticism the weak form admits it is possible to know God,
and that some might know God. The strong form claims God is unknowable,
God cannot be known.
This leaves us with
We can know
nothing about God…… (Agnosticism)
We can know
everything about God…. (Dogmatism)
We can know
something about God…..(Realism)
If one knows enough
about reality in order to affirm that nothing can be known about
reality, then one knows something about reality, he cannot affirm in the
same breath that all of reality is unknowable. So if one knows nothing
about reality then he can’t make a statement about reality. Total
agnosticism is self-defeating because it assumes some knowledge about
reality in order to deny any knowledge of reality.
argued that categories of thought do not apply to reality, because we
can’t know what reality is. This argument is also self-defeating for
categories of reality corresponded to those of the mind, no
statements could be made about reality, including the very statement
To say that one
cannot know any more than the limits of the phenomena or appearance
is to draw an unsurpassable line for those limits. But you cannot
draw such firm limits without surpassing them. It is not possible to
contend that appearance ends here and reality beings there unless
one can see at least some distance on the other side. In other
words, how can one know the difference between appearance and
reality unless he already knows both so as to make the comparison.
In conclusion, it is
possible to find partial “Absolute Truth” by using reason and logic.
However, to find the ultimate source for truth is beyond Man’s finite
ability. If Truth is to be found it must be revealed.
As Christians how
can we respond to those believe, truth is subjective and God is
In discussing truth,
absolute and relative, (Objective and Subjective) we first need to
define the terms of what “Truth” is. Many people often repeat
statements they have heard without really thinking about the
implications. The belief in relative or subjective truth is accepted as
fact because it so often repeated. By asking questions, we can help
those who are seeking the truth, find the truth.
example using the gravity test of truth is good way to establish the
fallacy of relative truth. If truth were relative people, who believed
they could fly would fly. Since this is not the case, Truth cannot be
understand that Truth is not subjective, the next question often asked
is, “How can we know what truth really is?” Most people will not deny
they exist or they can reason. So since we know exist, and we are aware
of our existence, is there a logical to find out what truth is? Truth
corresponds to facts, we are aware of some facts such as matter and
reality. Is there a way to know the source of this reality? Since,
even the most hardened agnostic admits to the, “logic of cause and
effect” this is a logical place to start. What was the First Cause? How
did the Universe begin? Is God a logical concept? Without God where did
matter come from? These are good questions to start with in
communicating the truth.
Bible claims to be, God’s (The First Cause) communication with his
creation. When we examine the evidence of the scriptures do the facts
“Correspond” with reality?
Dialogue: Between a Christian and Subjective Truth
Mike Skeptic and Joe
Christian meet again after the party to follow up on their conversation
about Morality and its source.
Mike, have you had a chance to think about our conversation?
Joe, I thought about it and I just don’t think there is anyway anybody
can know what the truth really is. There is no way; we can possibly
know who God is.
How do you know we cannot know who God is?
Joe, just look at all the religions of the world, Islam, Jewish, Hindu,
Buddhist, Atheism, Christian and a hundred more are you telling me you
can possibly know which one is true?
Mike, can they all be true?
Why not, each may have a part of truth?
Mike for example, Atheists believe there is no God and Christian’s,
Muslims and Jews believe there is God. It is not logical or possible for
both groups to be right. Would you agree?
Ok Joe, for the argument’s sake lets say there is a God out there and
the Atheists are wrong. Don’t all religions believe the same thing,
isn’t it just the matter of loving and accepting those around you,
that’s what God wants us to do.
God does want us to love people, but even if we for arguments sake admit
God exists, not all these different religions can be true. For example,
Muslims believe Jesus did not die on the cross, Christians believe he
did die on the cross. Muslims believe Jesus is just a prophet and only a
man, Christians believes Jesus is not only a man but also the Son of
God. Just looking at Islam, and Christianity we see contradictory
Jesus could not be
Die and Not Die on the Cross-, both Islam and Christianity and Islam
cannot be true.
Jesus could not be
the Son of God and Not the Son of God. It’s just not logical. With
Jesus, we have two options: He was the Son of God or He was not the Son
of God. He died on the cross or did not die on the cross. Can both
Islam and Christianity be true?
Joe, truth is subjective, to the Muslim’s Jesus did not die on the cross
and to the Christian’s he did die on the cross.
if truth was subjective, and you believed you could fly and you climbed
to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and really believed you could fly and
jumped, what would happen?
I would fly for about 5 seconds and probably hit the ground.
You mean you would fall for about 5 seconds, but if truth were
subjective that would mean you should fly. Truth was not subject to your
belief but you were subject to the objective truth of gravity. It did
not matter what you believed you still fell. Mike the truth is what the
facts are, if Jesus is not who he said he was he would be a liar,
wouldn’t you agree?
I would, and some people think Jesus was a liar and some do not, it is
not possible to know what the truth is until after we die.
I do not think we have to wait until death to find the truth; all we
really have to do is examine the evidence. Jesus said, “I am the way the
truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” If
Jesus is not the Son of God, then don’t worry about it, but if He is
then he is saying he is the only way. Don’t you think eternity is worth
spending the time investigating?
Sure, I would love to know what the truth is, but How can anyone find