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The Philosophy of Search For Truth

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The Philosophy of Search For Truth

Philosophy, as it is understood and practised, is and has been generally considered to be the search for truth. 

Man has always been on a never-ending pursuit for the truth. Religious, philosophical, and scientific schools of thought have attempted to explain the nature of reality throughout human history in a variety of cultures and civilizations. Humans have frequently become embroiled in conflicts between religious, philosophical, and scientific views, in a true labyrinth of theories and conceptions, rather than discovering it.

People cannot really be careless about whether or not what they know is true. If they find it to be false, they reject it; yet, if they can prove it to be true, they feel rewarded.

All human beings desire to know and truth is the proper object of this desire. Everyday life shows how concerned each of us is to discover for ourselves, beyond mere opinions, how things really are.

In this blog, I invite you to see yourself as a truth seeker and let yourself open to truth. 

Everyone Here Is A Truth Seeker

In one of his writings Saint Augustine says: “I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived”.

Every everyone in this world is a seeker of truth, regardless of their situation in life. Each of us tries to view things as they really are in every context on a daily basis, whether it be historians diving into the past, scientists trying to understand the universe, the atom, or the butterfly, or neighbours chatting over the backyard fence.

Things as they are, is a strong statement. We might use it as a working definition of truth: things-as-they-are, not what our senses and limited minds tell us they are.

Why this insistent urge for the truth? 

The quest for truth comes initially to the human being as a question: Does life have a meaning? Where is it going? 

Personal existence may appear meaningless at first look. As a result, we seek guidance from philosophers of the absurd or challenging questions found in self-help books to ponder the significance of our lives.

It appears to be a part of who we are, a craving in the heart, a yearning for a deeper understanding, a hunger that can be satisfied only by the truth. What are the ramifications of this? That we want to know what’s going on in our community, our country, and the world. We are also worried with our own mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

What causes one to get sick? What factors lead to illness? What are the many types of microorganisms that might cause disease? Is the rest of the world suffering in the same way? Can we, as human viruses, contaminate our planet? Many individuals are concerned about this. What if the Earth gets sick? If this is the case, it can’t simply be a blob of matter.

We all have a deep-seated longing to know the truth, and our ability to comprehend it is a direct result of this desire.

No one, not even the most enlightened thinker, can avoid being confronted with these questions. As a result of our responses, we will be able to assess whether or not we believe in the existence of universal and ultimate truth.

Even if it isn’t the complete truth, every truth, if it’s true, presents itself as universal. All people and all generations must agree that something is true. Beyond this, though, there is a longing for the absolute, something that may provide a foundation for everything and bring meaning and purpose to all the seeking. In other words, they’re looking for a final answer, a supreme value that doesn’t refer to anything else and ends all dispute.

Philosophers have searched for and expressed such a truth throughout time, giving rise to several philosophical systems and schools of thought. But beyond philosophical frameworks, people seek in diverse ways to build a “philosophy” of their own—through personal convictions and experiences, traditions of family and culture, or journeys in quest of life’s meaning under the tutelage of a master.

What inspires all of these is the desire to seek the certitude of truth, making everyone a truth seeker.

Philosophy As A Medium To Seek Truth

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” -Galileo

Properly speaking, the subject of philosophy is concerned with the nature of Truth, or Reality. It is quite obvious that we are not after unrealities, phantoms or things that pass away, we are not in search of these things. We require something substantial, permanent. And what is this? What do you mean by the thing that is permanent, which is the same as what you call real? The search for Reality is the subject of philosophy.

Throughout the long history of the discipline some of its most celebrated practitioners have explicitly described philosophy this way, e.g. Aristotle (1984, II, 1570), Spinoza (2007, 184) and Berkeley (2008, 68), while others have elected to characterise it as the search for knowledge or wisdom, where both ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ are synonyms for ‘truth,’ or certain kinds of truth at least, e.g. Hobbes (1839, I, 3) and Descartes (1985, I, 186).

There have been, of course, other conceptions of philosophy throughout its long history, though arguably most of these amount to little more than variations on the truth-seeking theme. 

For example:  Various ancient thinkers such as Plato, the Stoics, and the Epicureans, inter alia, saw philosophy as first and foremost a practical discipline, as a way of life,  but in doing so all ultimately thought of it as truth-seeking, in that they believed that philosophy discloses the truths by which one should orientate one’s life. 

Under this conception, it seems more correct to say that philosophy uncovers truths rather than discovers them. & Similarly, John Locke’s notion of philosophy as the under-labourer to the sciences (2008, 6) sees philosophy’s role as assisting scientists by sweeping away the problematic notions, conceptual confusions and false hypotheses that might otherwise impede their progress in amassing knowledge. 

Common to all such conceptions of philosophy is the view that philosophy is ultimately truth-seeking. It is certainly the case that each conception differs in terms of what it holds to be the kind of truths one can attain through philosophy (e.g. truths about how one should live, about God, about our conceptual scheme(s) etc.) 

But this takes nothing away from the fact that whether philosophy is conceived as handmaiden, under-labourer or plumber, it remains the case that its practitioners hold that it is through philosophy and by means of philosophy that truths are sought out (and, it is hoped, ultimately disclosed, uncovered or discovered), and as such each conception takes philosophy to be a truth-seeking discipline. 

In words of Katherine Tingley—

“For we do not live by philosophic or theological speculations about life, but by the knowledge of life we ourselves have acquired. Truth is not intricate and remote, a thing to be led to by much discussion. It is the reality behind all these outward aspects of life, the eternal purpose ever pressing towards manifestation, that which keeps the stars in place and mankind from self-destruction.” 

Seeing Through The Illusions Of Reality

Everyone has a kind of longing to know how things really are.

But our preconceived ideas stand in our way. We see only what we are prepared to see. We approach reality with glasses already tinted. Each era and each culture tints its glasses differently. We demand that reality show itself to us as we think it should be, instead of the way it is. Our human natures are not open and flexible enough; our minds are not free of preconceptions, nor our intuitions sufficiently alive to penetrate to the heart of things. As yet we are only partly evolved or awakened.

Still, I am a part of this world, and you are a part of this world, and every atom is a part of this same world. So it must be that the urge to know springs from the essential oneness of all things; from the fact that all beings and things contribute to all other beings and things. 

This is a thought full of wonder and meaning for those whose daily round seems so circumscribed. It implies that all parts of this world, no matter how minute, are essential to the whole. That what we do within ourselves affects all else, not only in the human sphere, but throughout nature. The way we conduct ourselves inwardly and outwardly either assists the cosmic process or hinders it.

How Can We Discover Truth For Ourselves

As we are mysteries, so we can be revelations to ourselves. 

Were a man to seek truth so earnestly as to find his way into his own soul, and discover its mysterious faculties and what armies wait there at his command, he would hold in hand the key to all situations and understand every need of humanity. Every secret of human nature would be clear to him.

The Bhagavad-Gita suggests: “Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error.”

Whether we immerse ourselves in one particular stream of knowledge, compare a variety of approaches, or simply look within, putting into practice whatever we discover is truth. 

As James Long writes:

Our greatest hope lies in the fact that Truth does exist. Through the millennia it has come down to us like a river whose source is in the Unknown. At times its current flows strong and clear over the surface of the earth, enriching human hearts. At other times, not finding a channel of receptive minds, it disappears and moves quietly underground, and the soil it once made fertile lies fallow. But always the river flows.

There is no greater or more important truth ever taught than “Man, know thyself”.

Without such perception, man will remain ever blind to even many a relative, let alone absolute truth. Man has to know himself, i.e., acquire the inner perceptions which never deceive, before he can master any absolute truth.

Leave Yourself Open To Truth 

What I am trying to say is that we should leave ourselves as open, as susceptible to the inside truth as we are alert to observe and classify visible phenomena. To get the feel of things is often more important than to analyse them, to measure and to weigh them. 

The quest for truth is not an intellectual game. It is a looking within and a looking without. Nothing we see outside would mean anything unless it sparked something in us. How may we know beauty, grandeur, courage, unless these qualities are within us to respond? 

In this sense, truth lives in us as a divine potential or, as Browning phrased it: “There is an inmost centre in us all,/Where truth abides in fullness.” From this quiet centre come gleams and insights. The mystic or sage, artist or poet, expresses these glimpses, and these have the power to awaken us.

We can only conclude that truth resides in the heart of all beings, great and small. Some have unfolded more understanding of this truth. We are at the human stage of comprehension and self-expression. 

Hence truth-seeking has throughout the ages been linked with the idea of the path, the path of unfolding latent capacities. We are on this path leading to our flowering as human beings, whether or not we realize it. And when we extend our view to encompass many lives or reincarnations we realize we have the time scale needed for everyone to develop his higher potential. 

Truth needs no outside force, for it persuades by its innate veracity. 

What kind of truth are you looking for? Religious, philosophic, or scientific? It is sometimes believed that these three are incompatible. This is not the case, however, for they are facets of the one truth — in man, in nature, in the cosmos. One may approach reality from the spiritual point of view, another from the intellectual, a third from observing the physical world with all its marvels and beauty. They could no more contradict one another than the fact that I am a soul contradicts that I also have a body. 

Properly understood, the wisdom of each branch of learning can only augment and extend the others, for each approaches the same reality from a different angle.

There is no reason we must have unanimity of opinion. Truth is one, it cannot be otherwise, but the paths to it are as numerous as are the searchers.

There can be no final statement of truth.

The way to keep truth alive and growing in our hearts is to reexpress it constantly.

Truth is out there and in here. It is the way things are in us and in our world. We are urged to search for it by forces within ourselves.

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