The Secularist Critique
a philosophy of religion blog from a catholic perspective

Wednesday, March 05, 2003  

Truth is Beauty and Beauty Truth
If we ponder the way people actually make important, life-changing, existential decisions, embracing a religion for example, it usually comes about in a way much different then certain rationalists would expect, or wish. Deduction, abstract reasoning, and explicit logic rarely have much to do with it. A person doesn't need a geometry like proof to orient his life in a certain direction, nor is his decision necessarily irrational for lack of such a proof. People don't act that way. The reality seems to be connected with the traditional equating of truth, beauty and goodness. If it's true that truth, beauty, and goodness are one, then we have an approach to truth that is not mere 'proof' or deduction. Beauty, and goodness are both legitimate ways to truth.

I believe this is really how people make such important decisions in their life. A person witnesses the beauty of a man sacrificing himself, or the goodness of an act of profound self-giving. These are experiences of the Real, they resonate deep inside the person's heart (the heart has reasons that reason knows not--pascal?). This is a much more real and profound experience of truth, and it's far from the cold impersonal thing we call deduction. A man may have a friend who is a Christian, whom he has a deep respect and trust for. He witnesses this friend sacrifice his life for another, he is hit hard by the goodness, the beauty and the truth of selfless charity. He doesn't deduce anything at all, he isn't performing syllogisms in his head, he is simply struck by an experience of Realness, and he knows that it is connected to Christianity. Thus if he makes any deductions at all, it is simply that there is Realness in Christianity and that there is truth there. What would be irrational about this man now becoming a Christian because of the witness of his friend?

Of course, this isn't limited to Christianity, experiences of Realness can be found in many religions. The point is, that the nature of rationality, of man, is far broader then the crude and narrow definitions of the rationalists. Deduction plays a small role in actually choosing the way we live our lives, persons live for truth, and truth is inseperably connected with beauty and goodness, and all three of these aspects of the Real are directly experienced by the whole man, not by mere abstract thought.

| posted by theist | 6:08:00 PM