Sunday, October 25, 2009

Objective Truth

Unamuno claims that we make objective claims in order to give ourselves purpose. He says that truth is subjective. He claims that people can justify anything. That this fact allows for things like murder and rape to be thought of as something that can possibly be justified.
What basis does he have to say that truth is subjective? There are objective truths out there that we can prove with reason. Like all bachelors are unmarried males. Why can’t there be on objective truth, and someone is just wrong in interpreting that truth. A moron would have trouble understanding objective truths like 2+2=4, however someone who is a little smarter can see that easily. People might not be smart enough yet to see the objective truths in other areas. If I make the statement that Elvis is dead, I am objectively correct, I don’t care what conspiracy theories or beliefs people have, if they don’t think Elvis is dead, they are just wrong. I can also extend the objective reality to ethics. Maybe murder is objectively wrong but as ignorant animals we can’t understand that yet. Perhaps we are not using reason properly to understand the world. Who know, maybe Kant was right and anything that can’t be universalized is wrong. If we make reason the basis of our morality, it is arguable that we can claim objective truths about ethics and the world. I don’t understand what evidence Unamuno has to try to remove the idea of objective truths. It seems like if we look at plain egoism or utilitarianism you might be able to make this claim.
On a different note, Unamuno says that people should live every day with the knowledge that they will die. He argues against the church for restricting people from living a “meaningful life” and putting restrictions on people’s actions. Shouldn’t people be restricted though? If I thought I was going to die tomorrow, and if I thought that I needed to fulfill all my life long wishes before I die, I would be currently flying to Las Vegas to punch Carrot Top in the face. However, I know that such actions would leave me broke, in jail, and I know it is something that I shouldn’t do. Sometimes people do the craziest things on a whim. Having these restrictions in place by the church prevents people from doing destructive things. At least being brought up not to sin, will make people think about their actions before they act. It will make people at least think twice before doing things like getting revenge, or hurting people on a whim.


  1. I don't think Unamuno would necessarily disagree with the objective truths such as 2+2=4. This seems kind of like Kierkegaard, in that some of the truths we believe are in the ethical realm, such as 2+2=4, and so are shared beliefs that are objectively recognized. The tricky part I think is in considering what is true for the individual, outside of the ethical realm. You even showed this problem a bit with your examples. I think that saying "murder is wrong but as ignorant animals we can't understand it" doesn't really mess up Unamuno's claim that spiritual, and ethical, truths must be subjective. Maybe there is an objective truth about murder that is beyond humans' ability to comprehend, but to the extent that humans cannot know for sure one way or another, it is still a subjective belief that individuals must choose for themselves. There can be still doubt about whether it exist, whether it is true, unlike an argument about whether 2+2=4 in which there is no doubt at all.

  2. We can never be certain murder is wrong objectively, because it can't be objectively proven the way a math equation can. One can claim murder is justified in some cases and no one can prove him wrong like you can prove someone wrong when they claim 1 + 2 = 4. In fact our society justifies murder when a criminal has been given capital punishment. There is no formula or proof you can ever come up with to reach a conclusion on the permissibility of murder, thus the uncertainty that remains, no matter how small continues to exist.

  3. Jared, I am going to agree with Brendan and Alin here. Unlike a math problem, which can be proven true a priori and without any reference to experience, murder is so rooted in human action and the operation of the will that in no way can we a priori justify the claim that murder is always wrong. Exceptions could arise, such as a case of self defense or a case of insanity in which case murder (at least in our society) is permissable. However, certian mathematical truths will always be true, regardless of circumstance or situation.

  4. One can't really prove whether or not murder is objectively wrong. What is the actual significance of proving it or disproving objectively though? We all more or less agree that it is subjectively unacceptable.


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