Is Truth Subjective?

Is Truth Subjective? May 8, 2022

“Three things can not be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”-The Buddha

We live in an era where truth is a very flexible word. Everything from commonly known truths to scientific facts are manipulated, denied and ignored to suit any number of socio-political ideologies and agendas. The first and most common way we see truth redefined is to deny the nature of truth as objective reality, but rather to define it as a subjective abstract, morphing into whatever each individual wants it to be at any given moment. In this way, truth has no real meaning other than that which the individual chooses to believe. Even if biology and genetics themselves clearly refute a given ideology, it is disregarded as “cultural myopia”, the product of limited thinking. This is known as Relativism; the doctrine that there are no absolute truths whatsoever, and that truth claims are all relative to time, place, circumstance and individual. Thus, one cannot make any moral or ethical judgments, and cannot make any absolute truth claims. Of this, John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae:

“Freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link to the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion, or indeed, his selfish interest and whim.”

Do we not see this today? How many times have you heard (or even repeated it yourself) that some proposition or other is “your truth” and I have “my truth”. What is frustrating, if not outright absurd, is the insistence of many of the proponents of Relativism that they can, in the same breath in which they deny your ability to assert an objective morality or approach to science, make perceived objective moral statements in favor of their own pet theories. The same Relativist who shouts you down when you claim gender is fixed by nature, as confirmed by the science of biology, will insist that you must embrace their worldview, since to do otherwise is to be a bad person-a moral claim which they want you to accept as an objective truth. Such is the nature of this error. How do we know it is an error? Because we have a definition of truth that has been consistent in all places, at all times, and in every circumstance, and which has served humanity quite well in its.

What is Truth?

Truth is that which is in accordance with fact or reality. This simple definition undermines Relativism, since, if an idea or action must be predicated on fact or reality, then it cannot by definition be subjective. You can sincerely believe when you jump off the top of a skyscraper that gravity will have no effect on you, but the reality is, when you do, you’re going to hit the concrete like a sack of mashed potatoes. Reality, the way things really are, doesn’t conform to feelings, desires, beliefs or delusions. It often stands in stark contrast to these things. By way of demonstrating what truth is, allow me to share a few things that truth is not:

  1. It isn’t pragmatic, since some action that might be effective can still be wrong, or based on a falsehood.
  1. It doesn’t care about your feelings. Truth can be saddening, angering, disconcerting and worrying.
  1. It isn’t your good intentions. Good intentions can, and have been, very wrong and do harm as a result.
  1. It isn’t your sincere belief, because you can be sincerely wrong. (see example above)
  1. It isn’t “yours” or “mine”, it simply is. It is transcendent and impartial while being absolute and objective.

Relativism is, then, self refuting. If indeed truth were relative, then the truth claim that truth is relative would itself be relative, which renders the very claim itself absolute rubbish, and only a fool or the mentally ill would base their life on it. As the philosopher Nicolas Gomez-Davila wrote:

“Man speaks of the relativity of truth because he calls his innumerable errors truth.”

This insistence on “my truth-your truth” is a fatal error and is one of the most powerful ways the mind is clouded over by what the Vedas call maya-illusion. The insistence itself is a means whereby the lesser advanced make excuses for their enjoyment of the purely material according to their own particular lusts. As the Qur’an states:

The life of this world is merely an illusory enjoyment.”-Surah 3:185

Destroy the Idols

It is the first trial of any spiritual seeker to confront his/her false notions of truth, as most are merely idols we erect to justify our illusions. Burn those idols in the fires of submission to Absolute Truth, undoing their crippling influence these errors have on body, mind and soul. Be constantly vigilant to guard yourself from all that would keep you from realization of truth, and remember that when someone says truth is relative (your truth-my truth), that person is essentially asking you not to believe any of the claims they make. I suggest you comply with that request. Truth will always conquer.

“Truth alone wins, not untruth.”-Mundaka Upanishad 3.6

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must go to India, Jerusalem, Mecca or Nepal, or any other place to find truth. Truth is available at all times and in all places. It is at the core of your life and all your experiences precisely because it isn’t the possession of any culture, nation, people or religion and acts upon you regardless of your recognition of that reality. You simply need to open your mind, clear it of your illusions, and be receptive when it comes to you.

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”-Dogen

I hope to challenge you, present perennial truths to you that you’ve never known, and perhaps even inspire you to take spiritual life so seriously that you embody truth in all your ways.

Jake Davila (Nur ibn Yaqub) is a Theologian and Philosopher, holds a degree in Theology, and has contributed to programming seen on CNN, National Geographic and the Travel Channel. He is of the Traditionalist School of the Philosophia Prennis and is firm in his belief that we can gain knowledge of God, and that all revelations, despite their differences, share a common Source. His approach to spiritual life is that shared by Ananda Coomaraswamy, Rene Guenon, Ibn Arabi, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Isa Nur ad-Din. You can read more about the author here.

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