Mentor Austin Andrews leads a discussion on objective truth.

Berkeley Connect in Philosophy mentor Austin Andrews began a small-group discussion on objective truth with the question: Are there blergs?

For a moment, I suspected this could be an insider’s jargon, popularized by a famous Aristotle essay I’d never read. I half-expected another student to answer, but from the muttered whats? and furrowed brows, I realized my fellow undergraduates were likely just as blind-sided as I. Philosophers address difficult, often absurd-seeming questions. This, it appeared, was one of them.

A raised hand. What? What are blergs?

Andrews’ response: Yes. His next question: Is there objective truth? I caught onto the pattern immediately.

Before the small group determined whether objective truth existed, they first had to define what objective truth was.

It’s easy to take a question and formulate some kind of cohesive response. Yes, there is objective truth, evidenced by mathematics and science. Or: No, there is no objective truth, evidenced by the varied interpretations of moral laws across cultures.

Andrews brought students one step back from Is there? to What is? His original nonsense question had led us to a serious philosophical inquiry.

The Berkeley Connect students addressed this question by determining what objective truth is not and what it can be. Together, they determined, three possible meanings of objective truth.

They decided that a truth is objective if and only if:

  • Its being a truth is independent from any one individual’s mind.
  • Everyone thinks it’s a truth.
  • It applies to everything.

Leaving Dwinelle Hall, I contemplated the question, not quite resolved in the small group, Is there objective truth? But even further, I wondered at the biases and assumptions I perpetuate in forgetting to pause and ask, What is? We may never reach the perfect definition for objective, or for that matter, blergs, but philosophy teaches us to ask the hard questions and adopt a critical mind in making sense of the world around us.

 

posted by Gloria Choi

 

Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant