just because a particular group or a particular person may not know the truth, that doesn’t mean it’s not out there to be known. It most definitely can be known. Furthermore, if truth can’t ever be known, it is somewhat futile to try and approach it.
If truth existed, then I would have to believe, by the very nature of truth and how we define it, that EVERYONE would know this supposed truth. But because everyone doesn’t know it, because everyone has varying opinions rooted in the same facts, that leads me to believe that some things do not have a truth value, that sometimes, there is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes both answers are “right,” sometimes both answers have easily discerned positive and negative consequences. The reason we pick one is because we make a value judgment, and a value judgment isn’t quantitative, or even qualitative really. It’s like Mill’s greatest good for the greatest number, although defining good and how much of it is always sticky. That’s why truth isn’t “knowable” in an absolute sense.
It’s not futile to approach truth, because great philosophers have said that they know nothing. The one that comes to mind immediately is Socrates. But they also caveat this by saying that even though they know nothing with absolute certainty, that kind of thinking will stifle them, freeze them really, and prevent them from taking action. And so, while truth is not knowable, we must profess “truth” for the purposes of taking action lest we all become frozen in place by our own indecisiveness.
If one doesn’t believe in the things they belong to or claim to adhere to, then one shouldn’t belong to that denomination or political party or political magazine, etc. He should be quiet. If a person advocates things that he does not believe to be true, then he is denying the existence of truth and is thus a relativist. And relativism is a belief that we are all here on earth to get the house with a two car garage and nothing else. It denies the existence of virtue or the need to pursue virtue. That is not the world I want to live in. No, I will continue to be bold and posit that truth exists, is knowable, and is attainable.
First of all, you don’t think I’d rather live in a world where truth is knowable and attainable? I know it isn’t because if truth existed, and if truth was what we really all think of it as, then EVERYONE would acknowledge this “universal truth” (because truth has a certain amount of universality built into its definition that we simply dont find in the real world). But because not everyone acknowledges certain truths leads me to believe they. do. not. exist.
You raise an interesting question with virtue. Going back to the classics once again, this time Plato, Plato makes an interesting analogy with regards to a hammer. He says that the virtue of a hammer is how well it hammers (drives in nails) just as the virtue of an eye is how well it sees. And so, the virtue of human beings is in how well we are humans.
Overall, I think we do a pretty bang-up job at being humans. Look at the people rioting over cartoons. Look at the genocides in Darfur and Rwanda. Look at the holocaust, the Trail of Tears, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, and all the other times in history where people have irrationally allowed sentiments of feeling (hatred, distrust, etc…) to dictate actions that had REAL NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES.
But, at the same time, there are shared qualities of human beings that I recognize that lead me to believe there is some virtue. The times where men and women sit down at tables and set aside petty differences, foolish pride, and wills to power in order to make the changes necessary for this world to become a better place. It’s rarer that we see this at the highest level, but I see it every day in real life, which leads me to believe it does exist.
Now, if this is virtue, like the hammer and the eye, it implies that humans have a purpose. Like the hammer and eye, that humans were designed with an intent. I think Madison was the first to make this argument in one of the federalist papers, that if virtue exists, then it implies a Creator. I do believe in God. But I also believe God is ineffable. There is virtue in human beings, but this virtue is not in any way related to truth. You made too big of an argumentative jump to say that no truth implies no virtue.
I also believe that if there is a God, then that God would have to leave no trace of His/Her existence for this world to make any sense. Truth in the sense that I’ve been talking about it refers to some kind of Absolute Justice. I don’t think that’s for us to know. God is Truth, and because I also believe in free will, you can’t know truth in this world. Because if you could know Truth, if you could know God, then free will falls apart. How can you have free will in the presence of God? How can you have Truth in a world of free will? You can’t.
Furthremore, even though I believe virtue exists, I don’t think anyone can be a “perfect human” here on earth. To quote scripture, somewhere in Romans it says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (I can already hear the grimmacing as the accusations of being a “cafeteria Christian” or “only taking passages as it pertains to what I believe” are on their way)
But back to virtue. None of us are “virtuous” humans in the sense that we fulfill our purpose or intent here on earth. However, that doesn’t and shouldn’t keep us from trying to be good people. None of us can “know” truth, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t keep us from seeking out the answers to solve our problems.