This assumption is critical to our conceptualisation of knowledge, as it is fundamentally this objectivity of truth that heightens the pursuit of knowledge; we can only acknowledge certain truths under the pretext that they conform to various prescribed standards. With one wall set up firmly, we move on to the next reading of the topic: ‘there are no absolute distinctions between what is true and what is false’. Though this may not be as extreme as the previous reading, it still fails to delineate a way to distinguish between true and false.
However, despite all its drawbacks, this topic is more appreciative of the possible implications of an objective truth.
These eternal truths have not been chanced upon but rather have been settled upon after millennia of debate and reconsideration. In this scenario, we are comforted with the assurance that we may dispel fears long enough to act in a particular response by virtue of the ‘universality’ of the truth and knowledge being pursued.
Moreover, the existence of an objective truth gives credence to the fact that some truths are preferred because they are the cumulative result of many generations of learning and experience.
Now with the walls raised, I will go on to the roofing. I will try and evaluate this disjoint between objective and subjective truths using the various areas of knowledge and ways of knowing. The topic as mentioned earlier is written in a chauvinistic sense such that it is unappreciative of an objective truth. Considering this idea of predominance of subjective truths it is worthy of mention that all areas of knowledge are human constructs and carry the same innate flaws that man possesses that destroy independent truth.
In reference to the various ways of knowing such as reasoning and perception, there is a large degree of relativity. Moreover, the view of the absolute changes from person to person. Since all ‘knowers’ have their own opinion and are by principle culturally and historically diverse, no two people can view an objects identically- ideas change in a social, artistic and cultural setting. Basic human principles like morality as well rely on this relativity in the world. This can be substantiated by the quote ‘since there is no God to will what is good.
And since there is no eternal value, we must will the eternal value of the same state of affairs’. Given this frame of thought, man is capable of abstract thought, perception and manipulation of thought and time. This has enormous implications on the pursuit and understanding of truth and knowledge in society. However, it may be said here that not all knowledge is true- the community may settle on some untruths in the short run and may be blinded by myopia in knowledge concerns and dogma and basic reluctance to question the core beliefs- thus resulting in inertia.
In the various areas of knowledge such as literature and arts there is a distinct blur in the distinction between the true and false. This disjunction between appearance and reality is exploited to a large degree by various authors. These works of art in a larger view partially reveal and partially hide the truth. Art, by function, operates with variables that are subject to change. The arts communicate the idea of creator indirectly from person to person- it is this identification that makes it artistic – through perception.
It is through this identification and personal association of the subject (the viewer) with the object (work of art) that the subjectivity of truth in art is made manifest. In literature, although the effect and catharsis evoked in each reader may be profound, this doesn’t mean that the dramatic effects such as epiphany are identical. Each person is impacted in a different manner. Thus the truth sought by each person is very different. Readers see something of themselves in protagonists.
The best literature is about old universal truths such as love, honour, pride, compassion and sacrifice without which the entire work seems drab and lacklustre. Truth, in these circumstances is brought about in one of two ways: direct presentation (conflict) or otherwise through other media and aspects like character building. This discourse on subjectivity of truth is prominent in the subject area of history. History is a subject where a ‘knower’ is believed to do largely with fact (objectivity); however, there are valid claims that a historian actually combines the ‘rigour of a scientist with the imagination of an artist’.
Subjective and objective truth in history
While both are legitimate forms of knowledge (science and arts), they contain certain aspects which weaken each other when they are cross bred as seen in history. Thus, there is a compromise between subjective and objective truth. Historians, rather than reporting actually ‘speculate’, ‘interpret’ and ‘construct’ opinion and context about events in the past. These various prejudices make it different to gauge the validity of historical conclusions. Man has been guilty on many counts for superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data.
In light of these facts can we call historical data undisputable? Most truths influenced by biases, limitations and subjection to external influences. Subjective influences undermine the objective interpretation of these historical conclusions. A historian always chooses sources that echo his personal prejudices. Although he may try to cast away personal biases an element of chauvinism is still prominent in most reports of history. We are also stuck in the dilemma such that it is nearly impossible to have all the evidence- there are always gaps that are irrecoverable or open to several opinions.
History is not just about the facts but also the historian’s interpretation, argument, evaluation- biases: assumptions rooted in personal, background, moral standards. History also has its political connotations and denotations. The victor and the downtrodden have a very varied account of historical events. Tactics such as censorship show political expediency and distortion of fact- the reluctance of mankind to get a grip on the truth but rather to tow the line. In such circumstances, knowledge and consent is not groomed rather it is manufactured through indoctrination.
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