Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Epimenides' Paradox, sometimes called "The Cretan Paradox" or "The Liar's Paradox, typically goes as follows: Epimenides, a Cretan, made the statement: "All Cretans are liars." Is his statement true?

A satisfactory solution to this paradox has been put forth by a number of thinkers, so I won't go into it here. However, there is a modern iteration of this paradox, and it has critical implications for our present epistemological dilemma brought about by postmodernism.

The structures of the human mind exist for the purpose of knowing and responding to external reality. It is how we "know" knowledge about the world that happens to exists external to ourselves. With our eyes we "see" that world; with our ears we "hear" that world. By using all our senses we know and respond to that world; and, because of the nature of consciousness, we are aware that we know.

Today's postmodern philosophical system had its origins with Kant and his ideas. Kant's primary objective in this line of thought was to "save" religion from the onslaught of science.
[Note: Interesting how that turned out, isn't it? The ideas of Kant and his intellectual followers now dominate the secular left, who have in reality formed a religion around their anti-religious views ]

Anyway, Kant basically proposed that, rather than responding to external reality, the human mind imposes itself on a "flexible" reality that can become anything that particular mind is capable of creating.

In other words, the mind does not work to "know" knowledge about the external world, the structures of the world depend entirely on the mind that perceives them. Rather than reason (the primary function of our mind) conforming to reality, Kant believed that reality must conform to reason; and by elucidating this concept, he set the philosophical stage for the glorification of subjectivity and relativism, both of which run rampant in today's world.

Yet, the whole purpose of reason--and the human mind--is to access the world of knowledge that exists outside the human skull. It has developed for the precise purpose of allowing us to know truth (that which conforms to reality) and expose that which does not conform to reality as lies.

When our knowledge about what we know becomes corrupted; when reason and logic appear to be inapplicable; when all we are seemingly left with is our emotions or feelings to guide us to "truth"; then "truth" becomes whatever each person or group happens to believe--and thus is not "truth" at all.

Like Epimenides, we are faced with a paradox. Stephen Hicks asks, "Is there not something perverse about making our organs of consciousness obstacles to consciousness?"(page 38).

Human nature being what it is, there is always a powerful temptation to block out the implications of logic and reason when those implications force you to confront something unpleasant about your own beliefs. Any evidence that threatens those beliefs will simply be erased from one's knowledge base in favor of continuing to cling to the belief system.

As the Soviet Union collapsed toward the end of the last century, the beginning of its demise was was pinpointed in a speech that exposed the the oppressive nature of the Communist regime there. True believers were devastated to learn the truth about their utopia:

Khrushchev's speech was an act of great moral bravery and huge political recklessness. Speaking for nearly four hours, he stunned his listeners with a detailed and sweeping account of Stalin's mass arrests, deportations, torture and executions. Though the delegates were sworn to secrecy (and the speech remained unpublished in the USSR until 1988), the details soon leaked out, both in briefings to Soviet and satellite parties and, possibly at Khrushchev's own instigation, to the western media, including via John Rettie of Reuters, later of the Guardian.
The truth caved in on us, is how one person in the audience graphically described the speech....

From that moment on, communism was irrevocably more about oppression than liberation.

Dostoevsky wrote once in a letter that, "If anyone had written to me that the truth was outside of Christ, I would rather remain with Christ than with the truth."

And he basically summarizes the fundamental position of many people committed to secular, as well as traditional belief systems. As more and more sophisticated epistemological strategies for attacking reason, logic, truth and reality, are developed on the political left; we all find ourselves in a never-ending spiral of distortions, lies, betrayals, and escalating emotions.

Gagdad Bob a while back wrote something that relates to this issue:

I remember studying the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg in graduate school, who is an extraordinarily lucid and deep thinker. A woman in class commented that he seemed rather cold, harsh and judgmental in discussing psychopathology. The brilliant Dr. Panajian was somewhat taken aback. How can truth be anything but compassionate? Truth precedes the good. Compassion is "doing the truth."

No, this does not mean that you clobber the patient over the head with it, with “sadistic interpretations.” Nevertheless, one of the enduring lessons I learned from Dr. Panajian is that in therapy you must always ally yourself with the epistemophilic part of the patient that deeply wishes to know the truth. For we have a healthy and uncorrupted part of our soul that yearns for truth, but other nocturnal parts that wish to deny it because they live by night.

A "good" (not in the moral sense) patient is someone who is so hungry for truth that they are able to tolerate its catastrophic impact without taking it out on the messenger. For others, it may take years of spadework to allow the truth to seep in. For them, unvarnished truth is not compassionate. But neither is allowing the Lie to stand, so it's a delicate balance.

As a therapist, I often conceptualize what I do in exactly this way. I see myself as allied with the truth in general; and with the truth-seeking part of each patient in particular. Patients may indeed need validation of their feelings; but even more than that, they need to be able to objectively evaluate reality and see the truth--no matter what they may be feeling. In other words, showing empathy for a patient's plight and acknowledging their feelings about their situation may provide them with transient validation and be helpful in establishing a good short-term relatinship with them; but if you are not also "doing the truth",then you are not going to help their lives improve in the long-run.

Compassion is not sitting around, crying and hugging them as they avoid the truth; it is bringing them to that truth, and standing with them in all their pain as they confront it.

Sometimes all you can do is ally yourself with the truth, and make a committment to uncover it, no matter what unpleasantness it leads to.

There are some serious betrayals of all that this country stands for going on right now. The contradictory discourses that confront the American public daily in the media and from the left has made them confused and uncertain as to who to believe; and what is true. Enemy propaganda is presented as absolute fact. Anything the current administration says or does is angrily disputed and called lies.

The public is being manipulated by those they trusted to bring them the truth; but who instead resort to postmodern rhetoric with its neverending cycle of paradoxical accusations and hysteria.

In order to return to psychological health, the lies and distortions that support and encourage these betrayals need to be confronted and exposed, and a committment to objective reality and truth reaffirmed.

A 21st century postmodernist, who believe that the dictums of postmodernism are absolutely true, makes the statement that "all truth is relative". Why should we bother to listen to anything he says?

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