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The Philosopher's Trap -- The Delusion of the Universal

Updated: Mar 15

A gentle man.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's synopsis:

Objectivity is hard to grasp. Widely accepted subjectivity is often incorrectly accepted as objectivity. A way to understand objectivity is to search for a truth that exists logically regardless of its post-truth. 
Since the reality is in constant change, it’s difficult to determine an objective truth. It exists regardless the present knowledge, technology and cultural norms. The Philosopher’s Trap is the delusion of finding eternal, unchangeable truth. The most philosophical insigns are limited in time and to societal circumstances. Only a few philosophers created “immortal” ideas which remained relevant and actual throughout centuries. 

The Subjective Facade of Objectivity

Much of what we see as objective is actually widely accepted subjectivity. From norms to rules to tradition to laws -- a large part of what we consider truth or falsehood is the product of very wide agreement on things. This happens because true objectivity is very hard to grasp, when anything you or others claim can quickly be labeled as their own subjective opinion. Such are "truths" in the absence of logic nor evidence. And even then, they could be disproven at any time.

Additionally, the fact that an opinion is transcended into a wider agreement doesn't erase its original subjectivity. With or without research, the universe is too dynamic and uncertain to actually reach any universal, eternal truths about anyone or anything. At the very least, at least frequently. One could take time to think of such a possibility, but actually reaching it, and frequently, is far harder to do.

When we believe that we, by default, exist to reproduce, that is also a subjective belief. That's even though many believe it to be the truth. When we believe that food must be eaten with a fork and a knife, that too is a subjective belief made out of tradition, along with its association to being civilized in some countries.

In other words, there is no "one" way of doing things; no "one", higher truth that is true about anyone or anything. There will always be, at least for the most part, an exception to that rule, and that is, if anything, the only way to understand objectivity. A truth that exists logically regardless of its post truth. Reaching that elusive post-truth-independent truth is the basic purpose of philosophical research.

Existence is so diverse, so wide, and so uncertain, exceptions can easily disprove any common belief of ours, once been seen as an objective truth. AKA, a truth that is wider than your own opinion.

And even if something is your own individual opinion, that doesn't make it any less true or false than an opinion that is commonly held as truth. That is because both are subjective either way, and are therefore equal in their lack of objectivity. The validity of an opinion isn't something that is based on the number of people who hold it as truth; that is a logical fallacy called ad-populum. '

The eccentric, the exception, might always be there, somewhere in the world -- in the universe, even - that might as well show your universalized belief to be but a local thing. How objective can we be about reality when our knowledge of the universe remains far from absolute? This is not a rhetorical question.

The Elusive Quest for Eternal Truths

Since reality is ever-changing, even beyond the realm of humanity, it is difficult to come up with a universal statement that is true regardless of the age and state of being people are currently in. As such, an objective truth, or an independent truth, would exist regardless of these specific scales (other than opinion):

The first scale can be surpassed by adapting a mindset of lifelong learning. The second scale could be solved through theorizing about fictional technology. Lastly, the barrier of culture and norms could be solved by becoming a social critic, which is one of the roles of the philosopher -- to take social risks.

By questioning these aspects, and understanding that universal truths exist outside specific, local frameorks, we would conclude that logic is the primary tool to find such types of truths. After all, logic is universal as well, and in fact, similar to numbers, is the building stone of the universe itself.

Even if something becomes a habit, from belief to activity, that alone does not mean that it is correct, or be based or aligned to the truth. The truth does not care if you're comfortable with it or not, and habits may be based on falsehood as well, not being the truth itself.

Truth is but a trait of things and beings, and truths can be prone to change at any time under any circumstance. An election based on falsehood that convinces can change the way things truly are, for example. That could apply to universal truths as well because nothing is indestructible, only change form through re-arrangement.

Even if you reach the truth, something that is hard to do as written, after a while it might as well no longer be relevant! It will no longer be relevant because very few things are actually certain. Even in this world of infinite information, many things remain undiscovered; unknown; unseen; unanswered. You might for example make up a complex theory about the recent future of a nation, only to find out that the theory has been entirely collapsed by that exact future.

This is the Philosopher's Trap: As a truth seeker, once you believe that you are able to reach truths that are eternal and too powerful to be altered by reality, you WILL delude yourself at a high possibility. Reality is not like a monotonous stream of water; it is an ever-changing landscape, an infinite struggle of chaos, where tiny fractions of order are made, like on Earth, like the Solar System, and like modern life.

For a truth as high as a universal truth, something that could reasonably apply to anything and anyone, you would require a careful examination of reality. You'll need to be able to doubt what you regard as the truth, by either thinking of exceptions, or experimenting with situations likely to be exceptions. You must climb atop your biases to overcome their limiting presence, capable of misleading you further away from the truth.

The fact that we have embedded ourselves so deeply in our own orderly systems does not indicate that the whole universe works that way, or that any other place on earth is independent of such systems. As such, you might realize that cooperation is objectively far better than competition. And that's regardless of any specific social or personal ways of life.

Also, as the cliche says: the only thing you can be sure of, is that existence is uncertain. That is also a universal truth because we could never perfectly tell the future, thus resulting in some degree of uncertainty.

One day, the office building you work in might be reduced to stardust that'll build a new planet after billions of years. your beloved cat may desert you, never to be seen again. The search for higher truths often lead to either religious conclusions, which are faith-based, or to nihilism, which is defined by the absence of such truth and their value, thus becoming a "higher truth" itself if there are indeed no gods to determine their existence.

The philosophers are therefore often left with bringing insights into the world that are limited in time and are prone to specific contexts. These could be useful until something happens to cancel their usefulness, deeming them irrelevant. To be a philosopher is simply to see from within the mind on a more-universal, large-range scale.

The philosopher becomes an "immortal" in terms of relevance once their ideas can be discussed throughout the centuries, and still matter to people and to present situations. Thus, reaching such a truth could leave your mark in history.

Why We See the World Differently

Our truths, from religion to law, are ultimately subjective beliefs with varying degrees of acceptance. An acceptance that might disregard the truth just like the truth might disregard it, leading to more-unhealthy lifestyles in the name of validation. This inherent human subjectivity makes us susceptible to bias. We see the acceptable as the correct, making it easy to convert others to our views or interpret information according to our existing beliefs.

Imagine viewing the world objectively, like an from a flying eagle's point of view, free from the distorting filters of our biases. This ideal, however, can only be reached once subjectivity is to be purged as much as possible, leaving little to no room to unnecessary remarks and expressions of post-truth.

Sacrifice of our subjective qualities might be a bad option that could change who we are in accordance. However, just like democracy it's the least bad option we have for navigating a world colored by our individually-misleading, confidence-based perspectives.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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