Objective Truth vs. Subjective Truth
Soren Kierkegaard, a brilliant nineteenth century philosopher, distinguishes between objective truth and subjective truth.
Objective truth, such as the statement “cats often meow”, merely requires correspondence with an independent reality such as a sensory observation. I watch a cat and hear a meow.
Subjective truth arises from a meeting of our personal experience and our reason with what is often called intuition, the sense of knowing that comes from inside us or from outside of our “objective” reality.
For Kierkegaard, subjective truth is truer, because it doesn’t restrict what can influence our choice of belief to the constraints of sensory perception or the limited spheres of logic and reason. What’s more, subjective truth engenders a passion that can deliver us from anxiety and dread.
Dread, a primary subject of Kierkegaard’s spiritual and psychological writing, results from recognizing our condition of abject solitude in an unfathomably enormous and complex cosmos. But dread is not so much a hazard as a potential guide. If we respond to dread correctly, it can lead us toward enlightenment. So, we should consider dread as akin to holy fear, the proper response to something far greater than we can possibly overcome or even comprehend. From this perspective, the well-ordered mind will recognize that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10
Noting that subjective truth engenders passion rather than detached conviction, which is the most objective truth can arouse, helps us understand the admonition given by Christ in John’s Revelation: “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:14-16
Another of Kierkegaard’s themes can also apply to the question: what is truth? He appears to consider the truth and the good as synonyms. Often he refers to God simply as “the good”. Rather than approaching God as a super-person, as preachers and other believers typically do, he gives God a name or title that best describes his character. By implication, we see God as the source from which all we can rightfully consider good arises.
Robert Pirsig takes a similar approach in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He argues that all creation is held together by something he can only define as Quality, which comes to light through our subjective appraisals of what is true and what is beautiful.
Now, the point of all this speculation about beauty and truth, at least as it relates to those of us who attempt to create, is to arrive at a method by which we can make our work beautiful and therefore true; true and therefore beautiful.
Since beauty and truth are measures of quality; and since quality can be a synonym for the good, and the good is an expression of God; and since we believers are convinced that God is love, then love should be the path to the creation of truth and beauty.
Next time, I’ll tackle the question “What is Love?”
Meanwhile, find me and my books at www.kenkuhlken.net