Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Three Self-Evident Truths

In our consideration of Argument - indeed, in our consideration of Reason - we must accept what are called the Three Self-Evident Truths. These are not debatable, and are not provable. Like the axioms of Geometry, they are "Given" - they are starting points without which one cannot proceed. We need to know them - and know them well.

1. The First Fact is "the existence of the thinking subject". I (who am presently thinking about something) exist.

2. The First Principle is "the principle of contradiction": A thing cannot both BE and NOT BE in the same way at the same time.

3. The First Condition of Certain Knowledge is "the natural capacity of our reason to know the truth". Our brains, minds, reasoning powers are ABLE to know the truth of things. Truth in the general sense is NOT a "mystery" which cannot be attained.

Perhaps the tightest statement which summarizes all this as a basis for thought is this famous little fragment from one of Chesterton's letters:

A cosmos one day being rebuked by a pessimist replied, "How can you who revile me consent to speak by my machinery? Permit me to reduce you to nothingness and then we will discuss the matter."
Moral. You should not look a gift universe in the mouth.
[quoted in Ward's Gilbert Keith Chesterton 49-50]

GKC's Favourite
"The object of my school is to is to show how many extraordinary things even a lazy and ordinary man may see if he can spur himself to the single activity of seeing."
-- G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

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