Big Questions

This is the third talk in a series given by Os Guinness at Cambridge University, in which he considers whether there is any truth and if so, how we can come to know it.

A few quotes from the talk:

"…the most common motto in all the universities of the world is 'the truth shall set you free'. But while that adorns the walls, it no longer animates the minds of many people in the West. Truth is highly controversial."

"Nobody lives without truth at some point. Nobody can."

"If there's no truth and everything is only power, ours is a world of brutal manipulation in which the strong will win and the weak will always go to the wall – and that's a horrendous world."

"Without truth there's no freedom."

"Freedom is not the permission to do what you like. It's the power to do what you ought."

"The French philosopher Helvetius says: 'It's not lack of freedom for us humans not to be able to fly like eagles' – because we're not eagles. But the question is: what are we? Freedom assumes Truth…."

"What about the radical sceptic? … Peter Berger puts it very simply: the way to talk to a radical sceptic who says everything's relative and there's no such thing as truth, is to relativise the relativiser. Relativists cheat. They're not consistent. They apply their relativism to everybody else, not to themselves…. And when they're pushed to be true to what it is they believe, you always see the point at which they don't like it and they re-think."

"No-one can live with total relativism. … fancy sceptics – just push them to be relative everywhere and you'll see where they come up short and something is not relative to them, and they're cheating."

"Point people to the signals of transcendence."

"You either relativise the relativisers or point them to the signals of transcendence. Things in their own experience that point beyond what they say they believe."

"We all have to face up to the moral challenge of truth."

"The fact is the higher the education, the more brilliant the mind, often the slipperyer the rationalisations. In other words, humans are not only truth seekers we're also, let's be honest, truth twisters. And there's two ways you can always handle truth. We can try and make the truth conform to our desires of reality or make our desires conform to the truth of reality."

© 2013 Os Guinness
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