Clara and Socrates: On Truth

1. Clara’s mind has slowly drifted out of the classroom, and she is starting to dream…
2. Socrates, are you there?
3. Yes. I am here. What’s going on Clara?
4. Oh, Socrates, I am so glad you are here, because I have come upon an interesting question, and after having read different opinions on the subject, I am still not satisfied with the answer. I was hoping that you could help me…
5. Certainly Clara. Well, to start with you would have to tell me what the question is, and I’ll tell you if I can help you.
6. Great! So, the question is: what is truth?
7. Haha!!
8. Why do you laugh Socrates?
9. I’m just happy to see that you haven’t stopped asking yourselves questions. It is a great question, that is so simply stated, yet that few men dare to answer. You are more courageous than a lot of adults I know, who would not dare think about this question, much less ask it. I will help you, and I hope that by the end of our conversation you will have seen the simplicity of the answer.
10. I hope too! So, Socrates, where do we start?
11. Let’s find out what it is not, and maybe from there we will be able to find what it is.
12. Ok.
13. So, is truth a person?
14. Haha, no of course not!
15. Is it a material object?
16. No, neither.
17. Does it exist?
18. …wow, to tell you the truth Socrates, I don’t know!!!!
19. Haha!! Well, it would be helpful if we knew whether it exists or not, it could save us a lot of time! So, we have two possible answers: either “truth exists” or “truth doesn’t exist”. Which is the correct answer do you think Clara?
20. Like I told you, I don’t know, but according to what I’ve read and the conversations I had, I would say that people tend to say that truth doesn’t exist. But it’s debatable, right?
21. Let’s make a little experiment: tell me that truth doesn’t exist please.
22. Ok…truth does not exist, Socrates!
23. Ok. Is it true?
24. …
25. What is it, Clara?
26. …I don’t know what to say!!! If I say yes, then I would have contradicted myself, but if I say no, I contradict myself too!!! I don’t know!
27. All right. Your reaction was excellent Clara, you got it right immediately: the statement “truth doesn’t exist” is self-contradictory and therefore it is impossible. But, when we say “truth exists”, we are not contradicting ourselves, therefore truth does exist. Do you follow?
28. Oh, yes! This is amazing, simply by showing a contradiction in a statement we are able to prove that it’s false!!!
29. Exactly. It is very important that we both agree that truth exists before going further, that is why I started with this question. Now, we have to know what we mean by “truth”.
30. Yes.
31. You already told me that it was not material and I totally agree with you. Now, let me ask you this question: where does “truth” exist?
32. What?
33. Where does it exist? You told me that truth existed, you should be able to tell me where!
34. Socrates, please, this is torture!!!! I don’t know!!
35. Well, do you agree that it must exist in some place, because if it existed “nowhere” it would not exist at all?
36. Well, yes, of course.
37. Would you agree with me if I said that truth was an idea?
38. What do you mean by an idea, Socrates?
39. To answer that question, let me simply repeat something Einstein said: if I give you a dollar, you will be one dollar richer and I’ll be one dollar poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.
40. What do you make of that, Clara?
41. I love that quote! So if I understand, an idea is something that can exist in several places at the same time. It can exist inside my mind, and inside your mind too.
42. Exactly. Now, we must find where this thing we call truth exists.
43. Ok.
44. Would you agree with me in saying that there is or has existed at least one man that “had” the idea of truth inside him? One man who understood what it was?
45. Well, yes I would so say, there must have been at least one man out of all the people that have existed on Earth.
46. Great, and we saw that since truth is an idea, it has the potential to exist in other minds too.
47. Yes.
48. Now, tell me Clara, this man who had understood what truth was, how did he come to know that? Was it innate to his mind, or was it acquired?
49. How should we know, we would have to ask him wouldn’t we?
50. Not necessarily.
51. Then how?
52. First we have to acknowledge the fact that we are all made of the same essence, which we call the mind. Then, we have to devise an experiment to prove if an idea is innate or is acquired.
53. Ok. What kind of experiment do you suggest?
54. Let’s look at both cases applied to the idea of truth. Let’s say that truth is not innate, and is actually learned. Let’s say that I knew what truth is and not you, or in other words, truth was inside me but not inside you. And let’s say I was to teach you what truth is.
55. Ok…
56. But, because you didn’t know what truth is, you would believe anything I told you! I could tell you anything I wanted, if truth was not innate to everyone of us, and you had no way of finding out whether I was lying to you or not!
57. You’re right…
58. But of course, this is not the case. You might be naïve and believe some things I told you, but let’s say I where to tell you that you liked green apples when in fact you only liked red ones, you would know that I was not telling the truth: you would not believe me, you would know that I was lying.
59. Very interesting, Socrates…so you’re actually saying that truth is inside me??
60. Well, yes. I don’t have to tell you where it is: it’s inside you!!! It’s innate to everyone of us! Otherwise, there would be absolutely no way of learning anything, or we would not have the ability to lie.
61. But still, that’s a little too easy to conclude… There might be other things innate to me, and still it doesn’t really tell me what truth is…
62. You’re right, but at least we’ve gone through that crucial part: truth is inside everyone of us, so there’s no need to look outside to find it, it’s just a case of remembering that it’s there. Obviously, like you have proved me Clara, it is possible to forget what truth is. Just as it is possible to forget what it is, it must also be possible to remember it. To find out, we would have to know when truth manifests its existence. What is necessary for this inward manifestation to occur? In other words, what do we need to be doing in order to experience the existence of truth inside us?
63. I don’t know… think maybe?
64. Haha!! Yes, that seems pretty obvious, but it’s true. We must think about something in order to experience truth. But how do we call the class of things that we are able to think about?
65. You mean ideas?
66. Yes, exactly. Therefore truth can only manifest itself when we reflect about an idea.
67. Yes! That’s when we ask ourselves, in our mind: “is it true?” Just like when you are talking to me and sharing your ideas with me, I think about what you say and I constantly ask myself whether what you say is true or not.
68. Exactly. Well concluded. And how does truth feel Clara?
69. Haha!!! It feels great, thank you!!!!
70. So truth is inside everyone of us, and it manifests itself when we ponder upon an idea. We could say then that truth is a qualitative perception of an idea, it is the highest understanding we can have of things. Now, I think your teacher is about to ask you a question, you better come back to earth and pretend that you’re listening to him!
71. Oh, yes, thanks Socrates. I’ll talk to you later, ok?
72. Yes, Clara, take care.
73. Bye Socrates!


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