At one point in my life I may have given a simple one sentence answer to what truth is such as to not lie but that doesn’t go far enough.


If we do not have definitions that are deeply thought out and debated we will be laying a bad foundation to every significant area of life. Discussions of morality will be impossible. Comprehending what truth is and how it works has to be firmly established before any claims can be asserted. Everyday when I go onto social media I hear how a claim about how politician is dishonest or lying while their own side is laying everything out exactly the way it is. By being totally enthralled by particular politicians or parties seems like these discussions are missing the forest from the trees. If there was more questioning about if or how ultimate reality can be put into words it would change everything. There needs to be more thought as to how the world was rather than how it seemed to work. The problem to me with founding a country on freedom of speech is that many haven’t thought enough about how speech really works. The Dunning–Kruger effect is in full swing and that compounds the problem.

Some people are intentionally deceitful of course but I would bet more just haven’t had a lengthy time to think about this topic. Some of what I had been taught in high school at the time were quotes like (paraphrasing) “People get into arguments when both sides are right.” However it is possible for one or even both sides to just be wrong. Saying people speak frozen views and not truth would be a bit more accurate. Another teaching was (again paraphrasing) “The smarter you get you realize the dumber you are.” This one might be closer than the last. If someone is acting like a know-it-all it is a quick way to realize they don’t know as much as they thought. I just wish it would have tried to explain the details between frozen views and whole truth.

The book has an interesting dissection of “wholesome” in a way that I have never thought of before.


It showed wholesome as being made up of a root word “whole.” I never thought about it having a root word so it amazed me that I would need to totally rethink something I had learned in elementary school. A dictionary search showed that the Sanskrit use of the word “some” has a very different or almost opposite definition from the way we use it in English. In that language it instead means “any” or “every.” This intrigues me because in English the two part word sounds like a contradiction with the first part of the word meaning all and the second part meaning the opposite of that. The words “any, every” are closer to the word “whole” now. Curiously this mixes an Old English word with a Sanskrit one yet makes more sense than using the two words in English. I am not a linguist but I would love to know why those words go together so well.

I don’t understand way the people would be taught about this has more to do with a person’s geography (given what religions are the most common in that area) than which ideas can be the best justified. Before I read books about Buddhism most of the teachings I had heard were similar to western thought like karma (like the biblical “you will reap what you sow”) and reincarnation (an afterlife belief like heaven.) I don’t think either of those are as important teachings as the truth teachings since that is foundational to everything. It’s not just about one aspect of life.

I like what Scott Adams said - if there was one religion that could get everything right all the others wouldn’t survive. I can’t understand when you have religious leaders say don’t mix religions together. Which religion did not come about by way of mixing with prior religions? I would argue that new religions didn’t always improve on top of the older ones. On the flip side I don’t know of evidence that older religions are purer forms handed from god and then diluted through human proximities of them. When some see failures happen in society many are quick to chalk it up to human nature or sin. I am still not 100% sure what human nature is and what a sin is changes from one religion to another. Neither term can be easily pinned down. When you see wide spread failure I don’t think it is enough to just consider those two loosely defined terms are is where the problem is. You also need to think about the broader ideologies that the big groups of people base their beliefs on.


Are we slaves to evidence? How much freedom is there in belief?

While writing this article on ethics it would be imperative to investigate exactly how we get to positions.

I see little to no evidence that you choose beliefs at all after reading the author's argument in "The Moral Landscape." Similar reasoning has been brought up elsewhere but not with this much explanation as far as I can tell. Sam Harris has since stopped writing books to focus on the Making Sense Podcast and his Waking Up App but those off the cuff back and forth dialog with the guests on those platforms do not allow for him to be as thorough as he is here. When he has the time to reason out an idea without constraint you end up with content like this. He asks did you chose to believe in the proposition that George Washington was the United State's first president? Can you believe that another person was instead?

Excerpt from The Moral Landscape:

“While I may want to believe otherwise, I simply cannot overlook the incessant pairing of the name “George Washington” with the phrase “first president of the United States” in any discussion of American history. If I wanted to be thought an idiot, I could profess some other belief, but I would be lying. Likewise, if the evidence were to suddenly change—if, for instance, compelling evidence of a great hoax emerged and historians reconsidered Washington’s biography, I would be helplessly stripped of my belief—again, through no choice of my own. Choosing beliefs freely is not what rational minds do.”

If you read the argumentation I presented in this article and a belief changes due to the weight of the evidence do you have freedom to not believe it? Or course not, only by coming across a better line of reasoning could you truly change a belief, not before then. What I like about his teachings is that they can lead to fairly high levels of confidence. The Buddha said that you shouldn’t just believe his teachings out of a respect for him. The more you question what he says the more your belief will grow. If it doesn’t then why would you ever want to believe it in the first place? In contrast Jesus said not to test him in Matthew 4:7 and I think this perhaps leads to a non-authentic belief. As soon as you come across something that doesn’t quite jibe and you force yourself to believe it you fall into a state of denial with an ever widening sense of doubt. A big sign on the freeway I drive on says “Jesus is the Answer.” I am not looking for answers so much. In this world I believe we are much better off doing the difficult work of grappling with the questions.

The truth may be puzzling.
It may take some work to grapple with.
It may be counter-intuitive.
It may contradict deeply held prejudices.
It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true.
But our preferences do not determine what's true.

- Carl Sagan

- Carl Sagan