Is truth universal!

Truth is universal, but the human ability to discern truth is limited and provisional. What we understand as the foundations of truth might be flawed. Therefore, we need to exercise care and humility before we pronounce what the truth is, getting as many perspectives as possible and being open to the idea of being wrong.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Truth is by definition universal, but the human ability to comprehend truth is limited and provisional. Therefore, humans need to approach what they think of as truth with humility.

More than fifty years ago, Jaques Derrida rocked the foundations of academe when he gave a talk called "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences." In it, he argued that the structures or truths we use to understand the universe are provisional. He called them "bricolages;" we might use the term "kluges." What he meant was that, as with building a house, you use the materials you have on hand. You might not have the ideal materials, say, to build a beam to hold up the roof, so you use what is there. If it works, fine. If the roof, however, starts to crumble, you make adjustments. Likewise, if you find a better support beam, you use that.

Truth is like building a support beam: we do the best with what is at hand. For example, he pointed to the way western truth is built around binary oppositions, such as nature versus culture. These binary oppositions fall apart when anthropology, for instance, tries to place the incest taboo either in the "nature" or the "culture" category: it fits both. Therefore, the "truth" that something must be either natural or cultural, but not both, is a bricolage or kluge. We need to be willing, he argued, to critique the foundations on which we build knowledge and to question "truth," because sometimes what we think are truths really aren't.

This has led to idea that there is no truth or that truth is relative. There is a truth, but we have to be very careful about thinking we know what it is. It is important to get as many perspectives on truth as possible and be aware that we might be wrong.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team