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Context

Lynn's picture

 In my discussion group last Thursday, we were encouraged to think about the necessity of context if we are to be able to reach any conclusions in our course.  Or, rather, we were to consider whether a conclusion – a “truth” – can exist without the context of society to defend it. I confess that I don’t recall every response given, but I came away from the meeting with the impression that the general consensus was that, yes, commonality breeds “truth”.

I find myself disagreeing, however. I recognize that the agreement of most people on a single “fact” does help to establish it in our society, but I don’t think that holding an unpopular – even unique – view will cause a person to doubt his or her own “truth”.

(I’m thinking as I type; my sentences are unclear, I know.)

I think that oftentimes people over-estimate their own influence on those around them. I’m not convinced that every single person on this planet needs the approval of other people to be confident in their own thoughts - I remember reading, in a seminar course last semester, Descartes’s assertion that, if he could only strip away the influence of society, he would be left with a core self that was purely Descartes. I am not saying that I hold with anything Descartes claimed, but I am saying that his insistence on a unique, independent self implies that he, at least, did not need the acceptance of the populace to develop “truths” about his world. Popular psychology may say that all people need people, but I don’t think that that necessarily means that all people need people to validate their own inner beliefs.

In short: Popular “truth” may be accepted by most individuals, purely because it is so pervasive in a culture, but individual “truth” can occasionally be reached without the input of anyone else.

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