Truth and reasonable way of thinking
One of the signs of a wise person is when he has a reasonable mind. A person can only have a reasonable mind when he can think in a clear, harmonious way so that there is no contradiction in understanding the information that he gathered.
Since reasoning deals with the systematic way of the mind to arrive at knowledge, only information or premises which are properly organised by human reason that can convey proper meanings to a person and can ultimately be called wisdom.
In this age of information explosion, we are being surrounded by huge volume of data that can be easily accessed at the touch of a finger, yet not necessarily conveying wisdom to us. American biologist and writer E.O Wilson used to say, “we are drowning with information while starving for wisdom.”
Time and again, conflicting information causes dilemma and confusion in one’s thinking. Take for example the case of a lay voter who is bombarded by conflicting views and informations of various politicians from different competing political parties especially during election days. Through persuasive arguments or rhetorics, one issue can be argued as something good by a party yet proved as bad by the other.
Although it can be argued that human beings are given the intellect to verify what is true from what is false, yet to the ears of lay men, the conflicting arguments can be so persuasive that they cannot decide which one is true.
For students who are being ideally educated in schools and universities concerning knowledge and truth about realities, they will go out to the society only to find out that the reality outside is not as ideal and ‘true’ as it was projected to them. In many instances, their experiences in facing contradicting truth claims within the society deteriorate the idealism of these young graduates in comprehending truth. The truth that they used to believe is now becoming more relative.
This situation will lead to a basic question; can someone attain certain and absolute knowledge about the true reality of things? It is becoming more difficult to answer this question in positive knowing the fact that in a post-truth era, objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
While the answer of this question is not easy to find, history and knowledge tradition in the past can at least share us some lights over the issue.
Scholars as early as Greek classical thinkers had identified different kinds of arguments that will lead to different level of certainty about truth. Aristotle one of the greatest philosophers the Greek has produced, listed a few kinds of arguments or proof which are also arranged based on the levels of certainty.
The highest one is demonstrative argument which is presented based on empirical evidence and strong syllogistic premises. Second, is the dialectical arguments mainly used by debaters based on well accepted premises especially by the confronting parties.
The third one is rhetorical arguments which are based on persuasive proof. The fourth one is poetical arguments which is using metaphors in appealing more to the emotion of human beings. There is also the fifth one which is called sophistical arguments which uses false premises to come to a seemingly true conclusions.
As far as rhetorics is concerned, Aristotle’s teacher, Plato reported that rhetorics is commonly used by certain groups to deceit people rather than to find the truth. The classical case is how Socrates, the earlier Greek thinker, was being sentenced to death through the punishment of drinking poisonous beverage of hemlock due to the rhetorics of the Sophists in accusing the former as a traitor to Athens and corrupting the mind of the Athenian youth.
From the above case, it is clear that true knowledge can still be obtained through proper proof and arguments. On the contrary, weak and invalid methods of proof will definitely cause confusion and dilemma.
Only that, the society need to be properly educated on the appropriate way of thinking and proper methodology in understanding arguments and proofs. This can be done first, by inculcating proper way of analysis on any peace of information that we receive. Secondly by having a proper understanding of a concept under scrutiny through proper definition and explanation. Thirdly by employing proper demonstrative logical method in any argument in order to come to a valid conclusion.