Truth, Trust, Trend and Trump

Time magazine has lost most of the influence it once had, but not its flair for striking covers. A spring one asked, in bold red lettering on a black background, “Is Truth Dead?”. They used the same cover format as they had once in 1966, then asking “Is God Dead?”. But that had been a late popular reflection on Nietzsche’s philosophical assertion that this was the case. The cover and content this time were current and narrow, and better replaced by “Has Trump Killed Truth?”.

Either choice recalls G. K. Chesterton’s wise priest, Father Brown, explaining we should worry less about wrong answers, more whether we are asking the right question. Perhaps Nietzsche was doing so, as was the cooler but epistemologically similar David Hume, but maybe should not have published their obituaries. Both of them were revolutionary philosopher-theologians and historians of ideas, ever afterwards misunderstood and misapplied as destructive gravediggers. All “searches for Truth with a capital T” can be defined as “searches for God with a capital G,” including those made by atheists, despite some insisting otherwise. It has been, and likely will continue to be, an eternal and worldwide search. For Western European civilization, it can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophers, Jewish prophets, Roman statesmen, and Christian synthesizers; then only partially recast by Enlightenment philosophers. Later philosophers, in the English-speaking world, after Bertrand Russell, have largely scaled down Truth-seeking to analyses of the language we use when turning to “ultimate questions.”

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