What it means to discover truth

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth

This seems like one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy. Lots of people, including me, when they enter the world of philosophy, do so to try and find truth. They want to understand what is going on in the world they inhabit and how they should act. They also want to be sure about it.

A snake enters the garden

But, there are problems with this. One of the most famous of these is the Munchausen Trilemma. This leaves many wannabe philosophers in despair. Perhaps they’ll be able to find some superficially convincing argument, but they won’t be sure that they’ve found truth. What’s more, many philosophers claim to have found truth and some of them presumably aren’t lying about how they feel, yet they disagree. They can’t all be right. So, some people who are convinced they found truth must be wrong! How can you be sure you are not in that category?

Yet, there might be some hope. One of the routes to this lies in considering what it means to find truth. When we use the words ‘find truth’ we are using language. We are referring to and interweaving a huge network of past experience of what these words mean and how they interact and how they have been used in the past. If your goal is simply to ‘find truth’, then what you are doing is trying to fulfil these words. Yet, when these words are used, they are used to describe an experience. The finding of truth is a subjective experience (even if it exists externally). So, to some extent it lives within you. If you feel you have found truth, there is a limit to how wrong you can be.

So, in order to work out what truth we must first work out whether there is some difference between the feeling of truth and knowing truth. I did not find it immediately obvious that there is a difference.

The snake doesn’t quite leave

Furthermore, you must also find out whether you want to find truth or want to experience the feeling of finding truth. I find that, while I am very sure I want to find truth, I am not very sure why or whether I prefer truth or the feeling of truth. Perhaps, I have conflated and mixed the two, or even replaced one with the other. If you base your goals at least largely on how you feel, perhaps you should be a little slower to question those things which you are sure are true.

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