Friday, June 22, 2007

A Slight Digression On Truth

Humans are absolutely terrible at dealing with uncertainty. We always want to know why; even if we have to substitute in our own guesswork. In ancient times this meant inventing elaborate explanations for physical phenomenon that could not otherwise be explained. These explanations then became the truth and were questioned at one's own peril.

In modern times we have a voracious appetite for the smallest details of every new scandal that hits the news. But rare is the person who will not venture an opinion on what they believe happened; no matter how little or how much information they currently have. A person's opinion may occasionally change as they gain new information, but seldom will change the degree of certainty with which that person presents their beliefs about the situation. You see the same thing in action everyday in mundane situations like someone stealing food from the fridge or trying to trace the start of a rumor.

The search for the truth is important. The tendency to substitute one's own best guess when the actual truth is undeterminable is fine, as long as you don't then insist that that guess must in fact actually be true. That's essentially going to be the basis for my theory of Panagnosticism. The idea that's it's alright to accept that you don't know as the basis for a general philosophy of life instead of applied just to the question of the existence of a god. But, more on that topic in a future blog entry.

First though, I have a more personal reason for ruminating on the topic of truth. You see, there's another aspect of truth that is extremely problematic for me. As paradoxical as it seems there are times when the whole truth can be more misleading than a partial truth. This is due mainly to the fact that "the whole truth" is essentially an impossible ideal.

As a practical example, I know that telling my co-workers about my time in the state hospital would be a bad idea. Everyone has pre-established assumptions about what a mental patient is like. Since none of those assumptions accurately describe me, I can give people a much more accurate picture of what I'm really like by whitewashing those years and just describing my self as a college student.

And, the more information I give, the more questions people are going to have. Just accepting that there are things they don't need to know and moving on is next to impossible for most people to do. I've thought long and hard about how much to reveal in this blog. Even were I to try to answer all possible questions there would always be more asked. I know that I can't simply mention the hospital without addressing the question of how I could possibly have spent almost ten years there without a mental illness. So, in my next post I will address that subject; but, I will be doing so only because not doing so would open up too much speculation.

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