The Absolute Truth: How to Find Your Pathway to Truth in a Morally Relativistic World
People prefer to recognize truths in ways that reflect their dominant personality style. But if they use additional methods that aren’t as instinctive but still valid, they are more likely to discern absolute truths.
Each of the four personality temperaments has a preference for discovering what is true and correct. They trust different sources and different mediums to arrive at these conclusions. But solely relying on personal preferences can lead to divisive moral relativism, where “your truth” differs from “my truth” and “my experience” is more valid than “your experience.”
As a thought experiment, imagine what would happen to our society if you had two “truths” that were in opposition to each other. Suppose someone values their personal authority over collective authority and they decide for themselves which rules to follow or not follow. If you selfishly decide to take something that is not yours because you believe you deserve it more than the person who earned money and bought it, where does this lead? If we decide we are starving and can’t find any food, then are we justified in breaking into the local grocery store and taking what we want? What if someone values freedom over conformity, the heart over the head, progressivism over conservatism, schedules over spontaneity, or acquiring wealth and power at any price? What happens if someone decides to redefine the vocabulary of our shared language to mean something entirely different than the norm?
If you follow the paths established by flexible, situational, and relative truths to their ultimate conclusion, they are likely to lead to an unquestionably unsavory place, where confusion, conflict, and chaos reign supreme. If good becomes evil to some, and evil becomes good to others, then how can the notions of good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, positive and negative, or any other opposite pairing actually exist? If we can’t agree on what is genuinely true, and true across nearly all circumstances and conditions, then we will inevitably experience tremendous angst, anger, and animosity which, historically speaking, are the volatile ingredients that combine together to annihilate individuals, relationships, families, communities, organizations, cultures, and nations. Without fixed anchors, relativism always leads to anarchy and nihilism.
On the other hand, I believe many people believe there are certain fixed, eternal, and genuine truths that permeate reality. I share this belief because I have examined the evidence offered by a variety of disparate sources which all point to the same conclusions, therefore I believe them to be true. I don’t know for certain they are perfectly true, but I have more confidence in them than other ideas based on my own perceptions and experiences. To me, they are far more true than false, and that’s sufficient for me. I don’t need to know with 100% certainty the truth of anything to benefit from its adoption.
How do we accommodate and validate different perspectives and different mediums of identifying truth? How do we identify genuine truth, truth that is fixed and unmovable, truth that transcends our native personality preferences? In this article, we will first explore how each temperament prefers to acquire truth. Next, we’ll perform an experiment and see if we can expand our set of truth detectors to accommodate those of our secondary or tertiary colors. Finally, we will evaluate the results and see if they align with each other and bear the same testimony of the truth of a thing. If it does, we can have greater confidence that it is genuine truth.
Sources of Truth
Blues value their intuition, their instincts, and their feelings. When authentic emotions and personalized stories are attached to a message, they pay more attention to it and give it more weight. When something promises an enhanced or strengthened relationship, or moves them closer to a cherished dream or ideal, or gives them a sense of mission or purpose in life, then they are more likely to trust it and accept it as true. When a supposed truth appeals to their cherished virtues of accessibility, compassion, friendliness, gentleness, humility, gratitude, nurturance, sincerity, thoughtfulness, tolerance, and unity, it strikes a harmonic chord and sinks deep into their heart. When these are accompanied by things that trigger emotional or spiritual experiences, such as great music, art, or writing, they give it more weight. A true Blue is looking for truths that make life better for everyone, that harms no one, that promotes peace and good will, that enhances interactions, and that tolerates individual differences while embracing attitudes and behaviors that are intrinsically lovely and praiseworthy.
Golds are likely to respond to appeals to authority because that authority has obviously passed some previous test that warrants or certifies their credibility according to some socially-acceptable benchmark or standard. For example, for the religious, it may be an appeal to their sacred texts or leadership. For the secularists, it may be an appeal to honored traditions and reputable organizations. When trying to find the truth of something, Golds often defer to historical sources because if something worked in the past it is likely to work in the present. When trying to persuade a Gold to accept a truth, appeal to their inclinations for order, structure, affiliation, discipline, honor, justice, obedience, persistence, prudence, and reliability. If a truth makes something more stable, more predictable, more respectable, and more rewarding to those who consistently follow established and venerated rules, then is should appeal to a Gold.
Greens are natural inquisitors, and find it difficult to trust a new truth until they have reasoned or tested it for themselves, or at least performed their due diligence to investigate its claims. Some subscribe to the rationalist philosophy of Rene Descartes who famously postulated that the only thing you can prove with absolute certainty to be real and truthful is: if you can reason and perceive things with your mind, then you exist. Everything else can’t be proven to be true. Others believe in empiricism, that knowledge and truth is revealed through your experiences and observations, and not solely through abstract thought. These two philosophies, among others, influence Greens to feel compelled to accept appeals to logic, exploration, investigation, in order to reveal hidden insights and wisdom. Greens are also drawn to truths that promote their innate virtues, such as accuracy, autonomy, composure, concentration, confidence, curiosity, efficiency, expertise, foresight, ingenuity, and pragmatism. They are constantly in the pursuit of truthful knowledge and are more likely to accept the word of bonafide experts who use the scientific method to arrive at their conclusions.
Oranges are more broad-minded and unconventional than most people and aren’t afraid to look for truth in unusual places. More than the other temperaments, they prefer to live in the physical rather than theoretical world, and any truth they discover is immediately put to work to further their ambitions. If it has a practical application, it is moved to the top of the heap, where it can be found and used immediately. To Oranges, truth is more flexible than stable, and can be adjusted to meet the demands of the moment—the ends often justify the means. Results matter, and if it doesn’t make their life better in the short-run, an idea, whether or not it is true, is likely to discounted or ignored. When trying to convince an Orange of the truth of something, appeal to their need to touch, taste, smell, feel, hear, and see things before they can believe in it. Explain how adopting a truth can accommodate their values, such as the need to be adaptable, courageous, immediate, free, impactful, optimistic, persuasive, and playful. If something helps them experience more of what life has to offer, involves a bit of risk and skill to obtain, and pays handsome dividends, then they are likely to adopt it into their value system.
For the sake of brevity, let’s oversimplify and say that Blues primarily use their faculty of intuition and emotion to establish the truth of things, Golds listen to an appeal to authority and historicity, Greens respond to appeals to reason and experimentation, and Oranges respond to practical outcomes and sensory data. All of these are valid sources and can help uncover the truth. So why not use more than one?
Using Alternative Sources
Most people find it easier to start off with the truth detectors of their own primary color. But if they need an additional witness or testimony, rather than finding another witness of the same type as they used before, they may want to use one that reflects their second color.
For example, suppose you are Gold gardener and rely on an appeal to authority to establish the truth of when, where, and how to plant a crop of tomatoes. You may rely on a canonized, authorized farmer’s almanac that you believe contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. To be on the safe side, you turn to a highly successful tomato farmer and ask for their opinion. However, this is the same type of witness—it is another appeal to authority. While it certainly increases your confidence if multiple experts tell you the exact same thing, you may want to consider finding a witness of a different type. And to do that, I would recommend shifting down to your secondary color, the personality type that is next most like you.
Let’s assume your secondary color is Green, which means you may want to perform an experiment to see if what the experts said is actually true. So you follow their instructions carefully and see if your crop produces tasty tomatoes. If it doesn’t you may tweak something here or there, like changing the soil composition or switching from daily drip watering to weekly irrigation. You continue to make incremental changes until you arrive at a conclusion. If the experiment is successful, and it aligns with what the experts said, then you have a second witness of a different type, one borne out of experimentation.
This process of finding additional witnesses of truth can continue forever if needed. But, like judges, you’re only looking for a preponderance of evidence. Most people don’t need to know with absolute certainty that something is true, but a simply majority may suffice. If the scales consistently tip in one direction over the other, then you can be confident it is true. In the future a new fact may arise that may tilt the scales in a different direction, but for right now, in this moment, you know something is truthy.
Why would we want to have witnesses of different types? Here is a metaphor that may help. If you want to hang a picture on your wall, you can grab a nail and hammer it anywhere you desire, and the picture should hang in place nicely. Of course, if you accidentally bump it or you experience an earthquake that shakes the foundation of your home, the picture is likely to move off center and become skewed. If you grab another nail, and nail it nearby on the same level plane as the first, the picture will be less likely to move after bumpage. A third nail would make it even more stable. Similarly, when looking for truth, we are more likely to find and establish the level truth by using two or three different types of truth detectors that appeal to different personalities. If each type comes up with the same conclusion, then you can be increasingly confident in its truthfulness.
As we have discovered, each of the four personality temperaments has a preference on how to acquire truth. We need to expand our set of truth detectors to accommodate those of our secondary or tertiary colors in order to find genuine truth. Furthermore, we need to be careful not to confuse genuine truth with personal truth. Personal truth is what we believe to be true based on our own experiences and our own understanding of the world. Genuine truth, on the other hand, is what is actually true, regardless of what we believe or think. When we see multiple types of sources agreeing to the truthfulness of something, we can have more confidence that it is genuinely true.