Thursday, April 20, 2017

Truth Excludes



Downtown Monroe

USC philosopher Dallas Willard writes:

"There is a certain logical exclusiveness built into knowledge as such, and it must be respected... This is due to the fact that knowledge (not mere belief, commitment, sentiment, or tradition) involves truth. Truth by its very nature is exclusive in the following sense. If any belief is true, that by itself excludes the truth of any belief contrary or contradictory to it. And this “exclusion” is not a matter of what anyone wants or hopes to be true or false. For example, if “Sue’s dress is red” is true, then “Sue’s dress is white” and “Sue’s dress is not red” are false. It does not matter what anyone may think or want. It is simply a matter of the objective logical relations between the beliefs (or statements or “propositions”) involved."
- Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, pp. 170-171

Truth necessarily marginalizes. Truth excludes.

You have a worldview, a set of beliefs through which you interpret reality and experience. Your worldview excludes masses of people. 

Here is an example. When I was speaking in India, the hotel I stayed in had an altar in the lobby. Every morning a young Hindu priest, dressed in a white skirt, lit incense sticks on the altar and offered prayers to the god of the hotel. This scene can be captured in the following statements or propositions:

1. There is a god who watches over the hotel.
2. Appeasing this god with the burning of incense and other sacrifices helps ensure that the hotel will succeed financially.
3. Uttering prayers of worship to this god increases the probability that the god will show favor towards the hotel.
4. To not perform #s 1 and 2 may cause the god of the hotel to be angry and bring harm or disaster to it.

Take statement 1. If it is true, then I, who think it is false, am wrong. Such is the nature of truth. The Hindu priest knows something I do not and, as such, I am logically excluded from such knowledge.

I think statement 1 is false. If I am right, then statements 2-4 are necessarily false, since there exists no "god of the hotel" to be appeased.

It is not rude or impolite to talk like this. It is not disrespectful. Marginalization is epistemically unavoidable. Willard writes: "It is not arrogant and unloving merely to believe that you are right about something and that others are wrong... There have, after all, been many people who were strongly convinced of the rightness of their beliefs, in religious and other matters, without being arrogant and unloving." (Ib., 170)

"Tolerance" implies disagreement. Every person, in affirming their worldview (no matter what it is), is calling many people "wrong."