Namesake.com answer Is there absolute truth? If there is not, then how can knowledge exist? If there is, then how is it determined?
[My answers are always way too long for this format. So I have decided to do something different, which is to post my answer to my blog and direct you there, rather than cluttering up the conversation with long answers that everyone might not be interested in, and which seems to kill the conversation anyway.]
So the question is whether there is absolute truth. So first we need to know what absolute means and what truth means, and that will give us a bit of philosophical context in which to which to situation the question so we can see if it is answerable.
As my philosophy teacher Alfonso Verdu always said, there is only one absolute, that is why it is called absolute. But I add to that there is only one absolute at a time and what is absolute changes in different eras of our worldview. The absolute is the ultimate transcendent, which for Kant means God, one of the three transcendentals. The other two are transcendental subject and transcendental object or noumena. For Kant the role of the absolute transcendental, i.e. God was to maintain coherence between the T. Subject and the T. Object which we never experience but he thought had to be operating behind the scenes to keep the world functioning. The T. Subject is the source of all the a prior projections like spacetime and categories and schemas, and the T. Object or Noumena is the source of all our experience of the world in which we live. Absolute is basically a way of talking about God without mentioning God because it posits a unique ultimate which is in line with the monotheistic idea that there is really only one God, but if you think of God as absolute then that puts certain limitations on God which is what led to natural theology, i.e. it is in conflict with biblical ideas that sees God as having idiosyncratic attributes. Spinoza was the first of those who questioned this conflict between God and Reason, and decided ultimately that God had to be equivalent with nature ultimately, i.e. of the same substance. This merges God as a Transcendental with the Noumena, but then it has the problem of understanding the place of the T. subject, and so that is what the Ethics is about. Deleuze interprets Spinoza as having the position that the subject really is pure immanence which is the opposite of the Transcendentals.
As for Truth, as I have said in some of my Quora answers, there is an unfolding of the Meta-levels of Being, and at each of these meta-levels the Aspects which are Reality, Truth, Identity, Presence are essentially different at each meta-level. [See my other works for details at http://archonic.net or http://emergetdesign.net or http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer.] Thus it depends on what meta-level of Being one is on what truth means. Heidegger in Being and Time concentrates on the first two meta-levels which are Pure Being where truth is verification, and Process Being where truth is Aletheia or Uncovering (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletheia). So there are various kinds of truth that get ever deeper as we go up the meta-levels of Being, there is Pure Truth, Process Truth, Hyper Truth, Wild Truth, and Ultra Truth. And thus we see that if we ask if there is Absolute Truth, then we have to specify what kind of Truth would be absolute, i.e. unique and transcendental.
But here an idea that I have had which I call the Pleroma comes into play. Pleroma needs fullness, and is a term used in Gnosticism, but I do not mean it in that way, but it indicates the ultimate ground, and so I mean by it the ultimate ground of the worldview. It is composed of Striated and Unstriated pairs. An example is Emptiness and Void. Emptiness is striated, yet void is unstriated. And what you notice about this question is that the Absolute is unstriated yet truth, and all the other aspects of Being are striated, i.e. differentiated. So what we can say about this question is that it is pointed at the Pleroma, but in an odd way by taking two different pairs and crossing them. So we have Absolute which is Transcendent which is compared to the Immanent, and on the other hand we have the striations of the aspects each of which has an opposite like Truth and Falsehood, or Lie. The complete structure is as follows:
- Transcendental Truth, Reality, Identity, or Presence
- Transcendental Lie, Illusion, Difference, or Absence
- Immanent Truth, Reality, Identity, or Presence
- Immanent Lie, Illusion, Difference, or Absence
Notice that unlike the pairs I have identified in the Pleroma which are simple pairs that are striated and unstriated, like Being and Beyng for instance from Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: From Ereignis, we have in this question a fourfold interaction between elements describing the Absolute Being, and one of the aspects of Being. Heidegger called this “Ontotheological Metaphysics” which he critiqued. Notice that we can identify the elements as follows
- Transcendental Aspect = Nietzsche’s idea that truth must affirm Life, and thus have evolutionary benefit
- Transcendental Anti-aspect = Nietzsche’s truth as lies we tell ourselves in order to support our lives in impossible situations
- Immanent Aspect = Truth is relative and has no external criteria, and is thus socially constructed. Nietzsche’s question of the value of Values. Truth is a value that has a certain value in our lives.
- Immanent Anti-Aspect = The fact that the truth is continuously distinguished from lies, as in the court systems, which in turn rely on our faulty memories and thus really has no foundation.
So now with this background in mind let us return to the question at hand. Is there absolute truth. Is refers to Being, the absolute refers to the ultimate being, or Supreme Being, which is singular and unique. Truth is an aspect of Being, which along with other aspects have anti-aspects which describe the various characteristics of Being within Indo-European languages. Being is an idea that is unique to Indo-European languages, and thus it is something that makes our dominant worldview unique and perhaps is the basis on which our world’s technological infrastructure is based. But what we notice is that this question is ontological not ontic because it never gets outside of Being. It asks if THERE IS, which refers to Heidegger’s dasein (there being), i.e. if there is an ecstatic projection of Being which has the characteristics of absoluteness, and truth which is an aspect. But truth as aspect brings along its anti-aspect which is falsehood or lie. So if there is absolute truth there needs to be the absolute lie, like the betrayal of Jesus by Judas (which is a betrayal of mankind), or in Gnosticism the idea that the creator god lies and tells us there is no absolute god, etc. So what we see is that this question actually has the structure of Dasein that Heidegger talks about in Being and Time. Dasein is the ecstasy of projecting the world as a priori as Kant said, but it is also being-within-the-world, and as such it has a place in its own projection. This is just like in the Mahabharata where the poet enters his own story and is the progenitor of his own characters, or in the Odyssey where Odysseus becomes a teller of his own epic tale in Scheria. In other words it points to an ultimate paradox like the idea that Jesus as the son of God, “is” God the father who created the world that Jesus became immanent within. Jesus is the avatar of the Supreme Being but also is the Supreme Being as well like Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu, i.e. comes to immanence within the dream that Vishnu is dreaming. And this of course is what makes Being the ultimate paradox (contradictory contradiction) or absurdity (paradoxical paradox). It is prior to the Supreme Being or absolute because it is ultimate substance, but it has to be given rise to by the Absolute which is outside or beyond Being. How can the Supreme Being be both inside and outside of Being?
This brings us to the realization that this question (because it has the structure of dasein) actually is questioning whether existence is paradoxical in some fundamental sense, as suggested by Ontotheology. And thus we get into the critique of Heidegger of ontotheological metaphysics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontotheology), and how it is in fact self-contradictory, even paradoxical or absurd. Worst of all it takes snapshots of the history of the epochs of Being and pretends that this is all there is of Being, when in fact there have been many absolutes in our history during different epochs, because Being itself transforms. If Being transforms then it is not unique and singular outside of spacetime but is within spacetime, and that means it cannot be absolute. See God Without Being by Jean-Luc Marion (http://amzn.to/iS48ku).
Now I think the answer to this question for the Western worldview is yes, but the answer in general is no. In other words the Western worldview has this unique idea of Being built into its grammar of its languages, that does not exist elsewhere in other languages. And so our worldview necessarily has to grapple with the fact that our highest concept is at least contradictory, could be paradoxical, and at worse is absurd, as Kierkegaard thought. But Being is not the only standing, there is also existence and probably others. However, for our tradition Existence is the primary other to Being. Parmenides called it Non-Being, the impossible path. Hegel called it nothing and contrasted it with Being, and thought about it as Buddhist emptiness. The fusion of the two in a synthesis gives Heraclitus’ Flux, or Becoming, i.e. Process Being. The jump to a new level beyond that flux gives us Dasein, i.e. determinate being, that Heidegger took at the basis of his use of the term dasein. Existence came into the language from the reading of the Arabic interpreters of Aristotle, who distinguished their own Wajud from what went beyond that to comprise Being which they called with a technical term Kun (to make). When this was translated into Latin there was no term for existence so a technical term was made up called Exi-stance, i.e. to stand outside of Being, which also has the meaning of ecstasy in Arabic. So Heidegger uses that to distinguish between the projection of the world which is an ecstasy as Process Being, and the presentation of the world to us from within it which is Pure Being. If you take the view that there are other standings toward the world and the self than Being then this does not have to be absurd. There is a completely different interpretation which says that existence is empty as in Buddhism which is a non-dual standing toward existence. Non-duality suggests the opposite of absurdity or paradox which is called Supra-rational way of approaching things which see them as interpenetrated without interfering with each other as in Hua Yen Buddhism of Fa Tsang. You can see in my other writings I talk about Plato’s divided line and the fact that the limit of the side of doxa is paradox, and the limit of the side of ratio as the supra-rational. These are in fact opposites that are inscribed into the structure of our worldview, but instances of supra-rationality as appears in Zen Koans are rare in our tradition, while Paradox and Absurdity are rife as being represented as the limit of what is possible to handle within our world. So if we were to take the approach to ourselves and the world as that is supra-rational and allow for the standing toward things which describes them as existing without Being, i.e. having no value like the rock at the side of the road, or considering money to be worthless, which it actually is, it is a mere exchange token manufactured by banks that print it, then we can say that the world is not necessarily paradoxical or absurd, but only appear to be so within the ontotheological metaphysics of our Western worldview.