selves, we cannot be free, either in the trivial sense of social andrnpolitical freedom, or in the deeper moral and spiritual sensernthat Jesus meant: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant ofrnsin.” Every new campus speech code, every new piece of haterncrimes legislation (with the Reagan-Bush Supreme Court’srnseal of approval) is another link in the chain that binds us to thernPrince of Lies.rnFreedom requires truth, but few of us have the slightestrnidea what truth is. At the level of popular culture, truth is anrnadvertising slogan or a fashionable cliche. Poverty causes crime,rnchorus the liberals. No, welfare causes poverty, chirp the conserrnatives. In our personal lives, to tell the truth is to tell mernwhat I think I already know, to convince me of what I believe.rnLiberals and conservatives both have their opinion factories—rnmagazines, newspaper columns, talk shows—to flood the marketrnwith propaganda and drive out the occasional eccentricrntruth. Things are even worse at the heights of our culture—rnthis is like saying the mountains of Iowa—where truth is reducedrnto the Marxist formula of “whatever serves the interestrnof. . .,” the blank to be filled in bv the relevant racial or sexualrnminority.rnAs Francis Bacon realized, St. John’s Gospel is a good placernto begin a consideration of truth. Part of John’s historical significancernlies in his fusion of Greek and Judaic conceptions ofrntruth. The basic notion in Hebrew is of a reality so solid thatrnit is binding. God is truth itself, and so is his Word. In thisrnsense, Jesus could claim to be the truth and to bear witness tornthe truth:rnTo this end was I born, and for this cause came I intornthe world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.rnEveryone that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilaternsaith unto him. What is truth? And when he said this,rnhe went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, Irnfind in him no fault at all. [John 18:37-38]rnFrancis Bacon interpreted Pilate’s irony as a question ofrnmoral cpistemology, something like: What docs it mean whenrnsomeone says he is telling the truth? But for a Roman, truthfulnessrnwas a simple virtue; it meant not telling lies, no matterrnwhat the temptation. The Romans taught their sons more byrnprecept and example than by theory, and in order to impressrnthe ancient virtues upon the rising generation they told storiesrnof virtuous old Romans. Fabricius, for example, was taken prisonerrnby the Carthaginians and sent to Rome to negotiate an exchangernof prisoners. The Roman disappointed his captors byrnadvising the senate against the exchange, and, faithful to hisrnword, he returned to Carthage where he was tortured to death.rnTruthfulness is not a universal virtue, and the Romans—asrntheir culture was transmuted by immigrants from thernMiddle East—accommodated themselves to different standards.rnIt was customary to blame the Greeks, but the Greeksrnin question were really cosmopolitan Syrians and Phoenicians.rnThe early Greeks had some regard for honesty. Achilles hatedrna lie like the gates of hell, but Odvsseus, who had somethingrnlike a genius for deception, may have been closer to the heartsrnof many Greeks.rnThe significance of the Greeks’ conception of truth does notrnlie with the subjective side, that is with honesty, but in the objectivernplane. When Jesus says he came to bear witness to therntruth or that he is the truth, the Greek word aletheia can meanrn(like the Latin Veritas and the Italian veritd) both honesty andrnreality (that is, truth as opposed to mere appearance). We takernit for granted that there is a real and objective world, independentrnof our own perceptions and governed by its own laws, butrnthe opposite assumption—that all we know, that the universernitself, depends on our own perception—is more intuitivelyrnob’ious. Of course, even to pose the question as I have donernrequires an awareness of objectivity that is absent from mostrncultures and from most human beings in every culture.rnObjective reality is a gift of the Greeks. Today, a reader mayrnsmile at Parmenides’ declaration that “what is cannot not be,”rnbut in that smile he will miss an intellectual revolution. For itrnwas in the stubborn and hard head of Parmenides that yvas bornrnthe clear conception of reality. Solid, changeless, timeless, hisrnBeing has the attributes of a god. This conception was the basisrnfor first Plato’s, then Aristotle’s pursuit of truth as objectivernreality, and it is the hidden premise of Aristotle’s rule of noncontradiction,rnthe principle that—more than any other—distinguishesrnthe Western mind.rnStated crudely, the rule is that a thing cannot both be andrnnot be something, e.g., hot and not-hot, true and not-true. Ifrntwo-plus-two is four, then it is not under some circumstancesrnfour and under other conditions not-four. It is four, pure andrnsimple. Our scientific notion of truth-as-reality owes everythingrnto Parmenides and Aristotle, and while medicine may bernpracticed, experiments conducted by men and women who dornnot accept this principle, the progress of scientific knowledgerndepends on this and other fundamental Western ideas.rnFor everyday use, it is enough to consider truth as a bindingrnrelationship between outer reality, the inner world of humanrnperception, and honesty in uttering the impression of reality. Arncomplete truth would, on this account, consist of seeing arnchair and then saying so. But truth is not usually so simple.rnThere is always the possibility that one can be mistakenlyrnwrong—or even mistakenly right. Besides, much of what wernknow or think we know is not derived from direct experience.rnIt is, as William James says, taken on credit. To take an examplernused more than once by James, we have heard of Julius Caesar,rnknow the deeds attributed to him, and may even have hisrnbooks in our library. But what do we really know that wouldrnjustify us in saying we know the truth about Julius? In the casernof the high-school student who parrots what his teacher tellsrnhim, his knowledge of ancient Rome is like his knowledge ofrnscience or morals or politics. He may have received what Platorncalls “true opinion,” but since he cannot prove it, what hernknows is not knowledge and what he says is not fully truth. ForrnPlato (in, for example, the Parmenides), truth can only emergernat the end of a long process of dialectic in which we examinernthe consequences of a proposition and its contradictory. If arngod or gods exist, what then? If not, then what is the result?rnHow far is this from the pragmatist account of truth, at leastrnin the version of William James? For the pragmatists, truth isrn”what works,” or what has cash value, or what has practical consequences.rn”It is astonishing to see how many philosophicalrndisputes collapse into insignificance the moment you subjectrnthem to this simple test of tracing a concrete consequence.rnThere can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a differencernelsewhere—no difference in abstract truth that doesn’trnexpress itself in a difference in concrete fact and in conductrnconsequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow,rnsomewhere, and somewhen.”rnThe difficulty with the pragmatists’ truth lies not in their ad-rnSEPTEMBER 1993/13rnrnrn