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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 10. June 14, 1939

Discourse on Truth

Discourse on Truth

Superficially, truth is definite and final. Something is said to be true—to be an actual statement of facts. It is a truth. Examining. The statement cannot be divorced from the facts. The facts are such and such—until they have been perceived and conceived they cannot form the basis of a statement of truth. Now, a statement is personal. It originates through the senses of an individual. Therefore truth is not universal—it is personal.

"What happens must be realised anew by each man."

I may say—Socialism is the best organisation of the community. You may say—Capitalism is the best organisation of the community. To one the statement is a truth, to the other an untruth—and vice versa. It is the summation of similar, preponderant truths that leads to the political, economic, and cultural basis of which form a civilisation will take.

To the capitalist it is a truth that freedom to make profits is essential for the maintenance of society—to the worker it is a truth that capitalism is the system by which he earns enough to exist while the shareholder, and, or employer takes the profits. If the worker thought that by his labour he created the profits instead of the employer or shareholders there would probably be a radical change in our economic order. Developing this latter statement Tawney says:

"Few tricks of the unsophisticated intellect are more envious than the naive psychology of the businessman who ascribes his achievements to his own unaided efforts, in bland unconsciousness of a social order without whose continuous support and vigilant protection he would be as a lamb bleating in the desert."'

Thus "achievements by his own unaided efforts" is a truth to the businessman but also it is a truth to a large majority of workers simply because the former has surrounded his existence with a complexity of jargon that overwhelms and disallows the worker to realise the real truth about himself.

Thus there comes a need to distinguish between real and abstract truths. A truth may be said to be abstract when it is not applied to reality and real when applied to reality. When it is abstract there is a tendency for it to be absolute—that is universally accepted. Hence we have universal religious beliefs, universal economic theories, and so on.

Abstract truth and reality cannot co-exist for once a truth is applied to reality it becomes a variable (being personal) and therefore cannot be universal. Mathematical hypotheses are examples of absolute truths. They are complete within themselves. On them are built superstructures that are not variable even though used by the individual. The economic tag of "other things being equal" is indicative of a "limiting factor" in the science of economics—an apartness from reality. Bartlett says "Scientific laws require more than the description of phenomena. They require the elucidation of the totality of conditions in which phenomena are produced . . . instead of being firmly set in a real social context; the individual has been placed in an erroneous philosophical construction."2

We have the anthropological conceptions of national socialism as a living example of this state of affairs. And again it has been said that "History works in the form of Myth, not of truth."3 This statement would indicate a need for the revaluation of history. Scientists should aim at the description of facts but so often do these become mixed with abstractions that the real truth is absorbed, and society may lose vital data.

It may be argued from the forgoing that all that is not real is untrue—for the popular conception is that truth is universal. And it would also imply that we are living in a world of lies and deceptions and consequently chaos. Can it be that this is the actual state of affairs, and that man has not yet perceived the simple truths in reality? Is he still floundering in the mists of "fictions?" Henry Miller puts it: "It is the utter simplicity of life which defeats man."' Perhaps he has been frustrated from finding the simple truths in reality by the very makeup of capitalism which demands that "What is must be denied; what is evil must be made to appear in a good light; what is trivial must be elevated to importance; what is tawdry and vicious must be glorified; what is irrational must be rationalised; and what threatens must be called the work of the devil. For those miseries which cannot be concealed, glossed over or eradicated, consolations must be offered in the form of illusory religious beliefs and practices. And this entire mass of obsfusation, confusion, lies, fraud, high morality and crocodile tears must be accepted as sober reality!"5 Is it thus that man deceives himself?"


1Religion and the Rise of [unclear: Capllalism],—Tauncy;
2and 5 Sigmund Frrud.—[unclear: Rartltt].
3War Against The West—Kolnai.
4"The Absolute Collectire."—Outhind. ([unclear: Criterion]).