Absolute Truth vs Relative Truth
This seems to be a topic that came up, and had a big cultural discussion for a while, but never really got settled in peoples minds. For a while, there was a question of whether truth was absolute, or relative. This was mostly discussed when it came to morals, though I will only lightly touch on that today. See, how can we say that what is true for me is true also for you? Is there such a thing as absolute truth, or is all truth relative to the individual? I think it’s much tougher to start with moral perspectives, so let’s come back to that.
First, let’s talk about exercise. I mean physical exertion on the body. Our bodies (whether we like to agree or not) are all pretty much the same. And when it comes to physical exercise and nutrition, we’re all in the same boat. I might start to lose you for a moment with nutrition, but bear with me. Let’s say you want to “get in shape”. Well, this can mean several things. Are you wanting to lose weight? Get healthy? Tone your body? Be more able to do certain activities? Each of these will take different approaches (relative truth) to achieve your individual goal. BUT, just because you might custom tailor an exercise plan to meet your needs, doesn’t mean that muscles don’t grow the same way, or that our bodies don’t process foods the same way (absolute truth). You might like tuna over chicken or almonds over steak (relative), but protein is still protein (absolute). And healing muscles requires protein. Nutrition and exercise have about as many varieties of plans as there are flavors of coffee out there. Though each of these differ in their approach towards your individual goal (relative), they each follow a basic premise of how the body works, and why (absolute). No matter which plan you follow, there is an underlying premise of truth that can’t be strayed from without consequence; having no carbs is a great way to tone your body… but carbs are needed for the body to function properly. It’s a short-term solution at best. Ignoring the foundations of how are bodies are designed will lead to major problems down the road. In the case of this particular diet formula, heart disease is a much bigger risk.
Obviously, exercise and nutrition isn’t what I’m getting at though. I had a discussion recently on the Universal Laws with a friend, who said that they were great, but a relevant truth. How do we distinguish between the two? What defines an absolute truth, and what defines a relative truth? We must first conclude that both exist in our world. To say that there is weather outside is an absolute truth. There has never been a time without weather, and neither will there be a time in the future without weather. This is an absolute truth to say that there is weather outside. But to say that it is 72 degrees and sunny is also true. Yet this is a relative truth. It might be true, but it doesn’t mean it is true for you, nor that it will even continue to be true for me. Yet it is still true.
With psychology, how do we claim that methods are universally true? Well, we can first start with what we understand about the brain and its function, and then see if principles apply to all people, or are just helpful in certain instances. Like other forms of science, psychology has definitive answers that help us understand how the brain works, and how we can alter the outcomes of our thoughts. Whether you follow the teachings of Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud, both still teach on the basis of how the brain receives information and processes it through our reality. I wrote an article about the Universal Laws here if you want to look at it. These laws are not merely subjective to some, but are universally true for all people (hence the name). How you apply these absolute truths will be relevant to your world. This is often the problem with interpretation of scripture too. A wise man once said it best: “There is one interpretation of scripture, but many applications.” It’s one of the reasons we seem to be constantly divided amongst ourselves as Christians (and non-christians), because people seem to confuse the idea of interpretation vs application. Then there goes a massive debate on the “true meaning” of a verse (or passage). Context always helps, fyi.
In our moral lives, we see a much more pressing need to understand this dilemma though. Are we morally obligated by a set of absolute truths, or are all morals inherited by our environment, and thus only relative to what we believe about ourselves? The simple answer to this comes from an understanding of where morals come from. When looking at indigenous people, and those disconnected from the rest of society, we find that there are still moral premises in which they live. Things like “don’t kill” or “don’t steal” come to mind. This is not a law within governments which dictates this to be true, but rather an awareness within ourselves to abstain from this type of behavior. The Bible says it this way: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another:” – Romans 2:14-15.
We live in a world where certain truths are undeniable. If you don’t believe in gravity, feel free to jump off a high building, and see how well your “relative truths” hold up. We must acknowledge that there are absolute truths in this life, and that those also include matters of the mind, the body, and the spirit.
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