A question for thokolosi:
In your last response to my response to somebody else’s response to my response to another person’s response, you said this:
“That aside, you posed a very interesting question about the independence of words from the speaker. In other words, "can a statement stand on its own outside the context of its speaker?"
If I were asked that question, my short answer would be "yes;" My long answer would be "yes, but..." Especially when the topic is politics, by which I am equally compelled and repulsed.
In politics and punditry, the speaker does color how I hear a message. Even in casual conversation, I think many people speak on multiple levels at the same time. So, I think it is reasonable to be more skeptical of a message from a source whose past statements you find disreputable.”
You are right! This is a good question. And I would like to address that in a post, if only in an attempt to move away from the ugliness in the last one.
So what is truth? Or, rather, do our words become less true when our character is lacking? I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why. I believe that truth exists separate from us. It is a standard against which our words, and even our very natures, are judged.
A popular theory among postmodernists is the idea that we make our own truth, that we can be polar opposites in all things and yet be equally true. The idea that we make our own truth is ludicrous, because if this were so then we have no standing by which to claim that historical atrocities are wrong. For instance, we could never say that Hitler was wrong to murder six million Jews (and countless others) because his truth was his truth and who are we to call it wrong? Right?
To put it another way, if one person claims that each person makes his own truth, then it is equally truthful for me to say that this person is always wrong. If he says that I am right and I say that he is always wrong, nothing makes sense.
Or, to put it a third way, two plus two equals four and it doesn’t equal anything else. If a person tries to tell you differently, they are either trying to be funny or they are hopelessly stupid.
There is such a thing as truth; otherwise we have no basis for thought and no means by which to improve ourselves as a race. If two scientists who differ in their opinions about the nature of physics are both right in their claims about a particular subject, then they are likely to share a hug and go home happy in the knowledge that they are each correct in their interpretation rather than argue with each other and work the problem through to the end. What is the point in innovation if there is no standard, no point at which you shout “eureka!” and claim the problem solved?
Truth exists. We see it all around us. It’s deciding what that truth is that causes all the problems. If each of us makes our own truth, then we will have none of it.
What you are talking about is, I think, our tendency towards miscommunication. I might speak the truth, but there are a million things that could make you interpret it differently than what I had intended. My past tendencies to lie or not take things seriously could result in skepticism in my audience. My inflections of voice could lead you to believe that I stated a question as opposed to a declaration. I could speak in long, complex sentences and you could be an idiot; in which case you’d have no idea what I was saying.
This is often the case when I listen to others speak. They use big words and I get confused. Because, when you get right down to it, I’m a complete moron.
If, however, my statements stand up to the rigors of investigation and critical analysis, then they must be accepted as truth regardless of my character. Because, as I believe I have shown, truth is not created by the person who speaks it. It can be sought after. It can be misinterpreted. It can even be approximated. But once it has been proven, it exists, and no amount of baseless character attacks is going to make this not so.