Saturday, May 22, 2010

From Facts to Truth

The Zeitgeist is changing! the Zeitgeist is changing! You heard of its first glimmer here.

For more than 200 years North American culture (you too, Canadians, thanks to David Hume) was a beacon of ... (wait for it) ... facts. We've loved empirically quantifiable and observable reality, from RBIs to GDPs, from the census to tallies of the most Valentine cards received.

Our policymakers talk about facts that can be pressed to serve any party, any master, any point of view. None care that the unemployment rate is a ratio so approximate that it misses changes involving as many as 260,000 U.S. workers.

Taught that foundational philosophy is the mother of all scientia (Latin for knowledge), I've run for decades against the stubbornly empiricist Zeitgeist (German Zeit, time, and Geist, spirit, meaning "the spirit of the age"), even though my occupation worships it.

Truth came in observable and measurable bites; reason was king. Gods, witches, intuitions and feelings were for hippies, existentialists and (of course!) women. Damn the yang, up with the ying!

That's all about to change.

A growing panel of hostile inquisitors is asking why we can invent the Internet but still can't get Johnny to read, Janey out of the slum, let alone protect either from the bad guys? Something is wrong with the tyranny of facts.

We forgot about truth, the elusive heart's desire of Aristotle, Spinoza, Maritain and others. The bureaucrats and policymakers may not realize it, the better newspapers are just beginning to sniff it, but I've known it was coming (now you do); indeed, it's long overdue.
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