Truth and the Foundations of a Free Republic

By Paul E. Scates

The philosophy of relativism claims that all truth is relative, and that there is no such thing as absolute truth.  (Of course, if relativism is true, then based on its own principle it can be dismissed as merely “relative truth,” and is therefore meaningless.  If, however, it’s posited as an absolute truth that applies to all things, people, time and places… then it’s an absolute truth, and gives the lie to the idea that truth is relative!  Yes, parents, such is the “education” you’re paying for your children to receive in the hallowed halls of academia.)

Adherents to the philosophy of pluralism (which posits that all humans are of equal value) have extrapolated that idea of tolerance into the absurd idea that, like people, all truths are equally valid.  Given the very definition of truth, that is clearly impossible.  For example, if I’m Caucasian — which is a fact clearly visible, since various attributes like my skin color, hair and eye color, DNA, etc., correspond to Caucasian ancestry — but I claim to be Native American, it’s immediately clear that both those “truths” cannot be true.  Yet the relativist/pluralist camp would direct you to disbelieve your lying eyes and accept my claim to being a member of a Native American tribe.

Before political correctness infected all modes of communication, we’d have said that people who hold to such a view are simply crazy.  However, in the “more tolerant” society that has developed today, we cannot simply state the obvious for fear of hurting someone’s tender psyche or bruising their feelings.  In other words, we have to accept the lie.

Okay, what’s my point?  Why is it important to acknowledge that objective truth exists?  Because in this life there are real-world consequences to being wrong.  You may believe that gravity is not “your truth,” but step out of a seventh-floor window and you’ll quickly learn how wrong your belief was!  (Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan that “hell is truth seen too late.”). Well, duh-huh… everybody knows that, right?

Not according to a recent poll ( October, 2022), which shows that a majority (55%) of young Americans aged 18 to 29 believe that each person determines their own version of truth (i.e., the relativist position).  Almost half (46%) of those aged 30 to 40 agree, as do over a third (35%) in the 41 to 55 age group.  Sadly, even 32% of those 56 to 65 believe that each person can pick the truth they like.  So much for “there’s no such thing as an old fool.”

One of the darlings of the political Left is Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretations,” a pure expression of the relativist philosophy.  His adherents claim that absolute, objective truth is narrow-minded and exclusionary… and they’re right!  Truth excludes lies and forces us to confront reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.  Again, there are consequences for acting in opposition to reality, regardless of our noble intentions.

Honesty is behaving in a manner that acknowledges and respects the truth.  For example, if your old car is on its last legs and you want to sell it in order to buy a new one, you could place an ad that reads, “like-new, excellent condition 2013 sedan only driven to church on Sunday,” etc.  While that might generate a lot of interest, sensible people would recognize that it’s a piece of crap (i.e., that you have not been honest) and either walk away or offer less than you’re asking.  Because you did not act in accordance with the truth about that car.

That leads us to trust, which is foundation of all human interactions not based on force.  For example, trust is the foundation of a capitalist economy, for all the interactions from the farmer or manufacturer to the laborer to the transporter to the retail merchant to the customer require each to trust that the other participant in the transaction will be honest (i.e., act in accordance with the truth).  By trusting that orders will be filled, that goods will be delivered, that products will be bought, etc., the “invisible hand” of capitalism enables the market to determine the types and quantities of goods to be produced, transported and made available, and at what prices, so that everyone in the chain profits from their labor and investment and customers get the goods they need or want.

Without truth, however, there is no foundation for honesty, and therefore no foundation for trust.  Capitalism cannot function without trust that each person in the exchange cycle will act according to the truth, that they will behave honestly.  Perhaps that’s the real motive behind such “philosophies” as relativism, to help destroy the designated evil of the political Left, capitalism.  It’s hard to fathom, really, that the Left would be so vehemently and aggressively opposed to a system that has lifted so many out of poverty and into prosperity (certainly far more than all government programs combined).

Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”  By increasingly accepting the denial of the very concept of truth, Americans are being duped out of their legacy of freedom and prosperity.  It is being done by false ideas and pretty lies masquerading as philosophies.  Like what I call ABC Christianity (Anything But Christ), Americans increasingly believe in anything but our Founding principles of individual liberty, free and open markets and limited government.  Such is the nature of some humans, who would kill the golden goose not for the money, but for the satisfaction that others would have less, in order to soothe their own dark and bitter resentments.

One who experienced such lies up close and personal, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, acknowledged such people, and that they will always be with us.  But we don’t have to believe them, especially when we live in a nation that is evidence that their philosophies of death are false.  He wrote, “You can resolve to live your life with integrity.  Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph… but not through me.”

His fellow Russian, writer Leo Tolstoy, further cautioned, “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”  We have seen in just two short years the inevitable result of believing in such spurious lies.  Regardless of how many relativists bray to you that there is no truth, recognize that they are actually telling you not to believe them… so don’t.