Archana’s World: Discovering Ultimate Truth



The Matrix sparks much discussion when it comes to ultimate truth.

The definition of “ultimate truth” is, for the purposes of this piece, “a fact universal in nature, undoubtedly true across spacetime and individual interpretation(s).” For example, an ultimate truth could be, “It rained 22 inches on October 4th, AD 2004 in New York City, NY, USA, Planet Earth.” Such a fact is indisputable, if we take the human conventions with which the fact is measured (such as numbers and the metric system and language) to not affect the fact itself but merely our understanding of that fact.  The above example is ultimate truth since the fact is true despite human measurements of it. Mathematics and science also seek ultimate truth and also measure themselves via human conventions.

Taken from another standpoint however, ultimate truth is impossible since humans are inherently subjective beings. Anything created by subjective beings cannot be truly objective, and therefore humans can never achieve ultimate truth.  The notion of ultimate truth itself cannot exist in the objective format humans would like because humans invented it. The idea of ultimate truth is thus impossible and very peculiar.

But does the idea of impossible ultimate truth really matter if it’s impossible for humans to achieve? It sounds like The Matrix or the existence of God: impossible to disprove since it’s an all-encompassing theory that doesn’t matter until you escape it. And unlike the movie, according to the above ultimate relativity idea, humans can never escape their subjective reality, tainting everything with dumb human views only if viewed from a truly objective standpoint–otherwise the human views are as objective as we can get.

So how is the idea of impossible ultimate truth useful if we can never escape it? It doesn’t seem very useful. (It’s also the reason debates between atheists and theists will never end.)

According to the impossible truth idea, science and math are fruitless human inventions disguising themselves as objective truth, so humans can declare we’ve found something objectively true. A simple understanding of science and math, however, seems to declare this false: the notion of 2 + 2 = 4 is true regardless of whether humans or Martians figure it, and Newton built his theories from an objective reality, which is why science is always indisputably true.

Ultimate truth must be real. So obviously humans are subjective beings at least capable of handling objective truths; this fact does not disprove the notion of impossible ultimate truth (nothing can), but it does offer assurance that we can find stability in a seemingly forever shifting universe.

What, then, is subjectivity? defines “subjective” as “relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself” or “belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of the thought.” If we ignore the impossible ultimate truth idea, subjectivity is “from the viewpoint of the personal self (as opposed to the objective self).” A subjective example would be “that rain in New York City sucked;” an objective statement could be “the rain ruined our picnic.”

Obviously, subjectivity seems dependent on the idea of objectivity. Is the reverse true? This is a bit of an impossible question similar to the whole “without the dark you cannot see the light” thing since we again could say either objectivity exists independent of subjectivity ,or it needs subjectivity to exist since it’s defined by not being subjective. The jury’s out.

At any rate, know science and math are beautiful because they’re objective and thus any theory proposed is ultimately true or false. The humanities deal with, well, humans, who as we all know are subjective, and thus are a never-ending storm of arguments and art pieces about ever-fickle, apparently measurable “human nature.” Social sciences (and possibly neuroscience) are objective but aren’t based on something as ultimately true as non-human-involved sciences, perhaps compromising their total objectiveness, and contributing to the skepticism of some scientists of the “integrity” of social sciences as science: see “Is ‘Social Science’ An Oxymoron? Will That Ever Change?” in Scientific American.

The end results of this piece: ultimate truth is real. So is subjective truth.  In other words, The Matrix is useless until you can see outside of it.