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Truth 31 March 2006

Posted by Todd in Ethics, History, Philosophy & Social Theory, Religion.

As some of you know, I participate in what's called "small group ministries" at the Unitarian church accross the street from my house. It's more or less a small group of people who get together a couple times a month to discuss spiritual, ethical, or personal issues. In some ways, i find it meditative, because it requires you to listen to others attentively and take their experiences and points-of-view seriously; on the other hand, I just find it a welcome social-spiritual outlet for me, as my life has become increasingly isolated over the past few years. I got this quote from our group's meeting last night. [A brief google search reveals that this quote is quite commonly known; I must not have paid attention to that day in my early-modern English lit course in college.]

Our faith and knowledge thrive by exercise, as well as our limbs and complexion. If the waters of truth flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition. The light which we have gained was given us not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions. Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to consciences, above all liberties. And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field we do injuriously to misdoubt her strength. For who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty, she needs no policies, no stratagems, to make her victorious. Let her and falsehood grapple; whoever knew truth [to be] put to th worse in a free and open encounter?
—John Milton

With all the beating the Enlightenment has taken over the past 35 years, I find myself increasingly drawn to the values and ethics of enlightened inquiry, even though I take the critiques seriously. Post-post-modernism, I find that I still hold dear this idea of free interchange of ideas, active seeking of truth, the ongoing flow of truth as humans work to find it. I would add to Milton only that truth is an event horizon, a calculus limit, a mirage in the distance, which dissipates as we move toward it. Truth is, nonetheless, the best possible end-in-view of our intellectual activity; we may never arrive, but an ethical search for truth is a good way to live out one's life.



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