"It is not the eyes that see, but what we see through the eyes", Plato told us more than two thousand years ago in his "Allegory of the Cave". In this myth, the main characters, accustomed to their reality, only trust in what they already believe to know. Any novelty would leave them perplexed.

We understand that, if a person has surrounded himself with certain information, certain circumstances or certain ideas; these will have a place in his way of conceiving reality. The question here is, should we believe in what we already know? Is it enough to focus on what we can learn through our senses? Plato's allegory portrays prisoners chained in a dark cave, perceiving only shadows as reality, until one of them escapes, discovers the outside world, and returns to enlighten others, symbolizing the journey from ignorance to knowledge and the role of philosophers in guiding society toward truth.

Truth & Relativism

What do we mean by "truth"?

You can find the individualistic perspective on statements such as: this is my truth, where we based our conception of the world on feelings or emotions that our circumstances had caused on us - which tend to lead us to relativism. The Spanish psychiatrist, Enrique Rojas, writes in this regard:

Relativism is like a defense mechanism [...] all judgments are suspended and float without consistency. Relativism is the new ethical code. Endless tolerance that leads to pure indifference. Some go so far as to affirm that all values are equal, there are no values superior to others. This leads to a new absolute: that everything is relative.

From the article "We Live in the Magic of the Ephemeral" published in the digital magazine of the "Spanish Institute of Psychiatric Research" in 2003.

If "relativism" is like a defense mechanism, What are we defending ourselves from?

Let's go back to Plato's myth: the prisoners only trust in what they believe to know. They were refusing to accept uncertainty. They would not have thought that there was something outside their "reality". When everything is true -or, when there is no absolute truth-, where can we place our trust? Where do we go to find answers? Do we even consider accepting the "unknown"?

For centuries human beings have been asking the same questions: "where do we come from?", "what are we here for?" It is fair to say that science has answered some of these questions on a tangible level. Seems like we have enough information to silence all these doubts. We know about the atoms; the "Big Bang"; other galaxies. We know that, inside and outside our planet there is such a lot of world to see. Does this mean that we have answered the existential questions that our ancestors have been questioning for centuries?

Is there any chance that there was something our senses and science can miss?

Francis Crick, the man who discovered the DNA's structure, wrote in the 90's: 'You', your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. We can agree on the idea that this statement gives an answer to the "how". Where is the "why"? This is a clear example of how these studies miss the philosophical - I would even dare to say "spiritual" - part of our existence, and how most of us are easily pleased with what science tells us. If "everything is relative" and what we are is the outcome of "the behavior of nerve cells and molecules", are we only matter? Do we really believe that these answers will satisfy our questioning? We find, in a tale that I consider very close to Plato's allegory, the idea that we -as human beings- are more than relativism and matter.

This is "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", where a determined and daring seagull has as a primary life goal the intention to achieve something meaningful and memorable. On his way to perfection, the main character finds a way to see the world from a wider perspective. Don't believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation, Jonathan says in this book.

This makes me think: if men are limited and science is men trying to make sense of the world, should we accept as a universal truth every conclusion that these researchers have shared with us. Should we see ourselves only as a group of cells and nerves? Should we be like the prisoners and exclusively believe in what we can perceive through our senses? Should we exclude any idea that can't be proved through the scientific method?

Is our point of view enough? Truth & Opinion

In his poem, "On Nature", Parmenides deals with metaphysical questions about the nature of reality and being. We find a goddess that may represent a higher, transcendent reality or a divine source of knowledge that transcends the physical world. Her presence underscores the idea that there may be deeper, hidden truths beyond the appearances of the empirical world.

Parmenides talks about two ways of looking at reality. In "the way of truth", he says that reality is one, can't change, and is always there. It's like a constant and unchanging existence. In "the way of opinion", he talks about how our senses can trick us into thinking things that aren't true, making us believe in false ideas about the world. Our tendency would be to question Parmenides and say: "if reality is one, how can there be so many perspectives?" This idea is the reason behind this short essay. If we look for the definition of "perspective" we find the following: a particular attitude towards - or way of regarding - something; a point of view.

A deeper truth

Plato's, 300 years BC, defended the idea that our reality could not be as reliable as we think it is. This statement, not surprisingly, leads us to this fear of uncertainty that, still nowadays, lives with us. How do we protect ourselves from it? Relativism. Or even more empirical: science. Unfortunately, the answers we have got from it, so far, turn us into just matter, since these studies - as well as human beings - are limited. We find in Parmenides' poem, 500 years BC, the realization of something out of our reach. He tried to make sense of this fact in his poem.

Are we able to see the whole picture?

"The opinions of the mortals" or "our truth", as we like to call them lately, are just points of view of something bigger. Think about it this way: we have 6 individuals facing the different parts of the house we see in the image beside the text (they only know how the house looks from the side they are able to see. What's more, they have never seen what a traditional house looks like). Each person takes the part that they are facing and make them "their own truth about the building" during the year. After this time, if we wanted to put the house together, the individuals would be so attached to their perception that, even sharing with each other how their portion looks like, they won't believe that if you put the pieces together you will form a place to live in. Only us, having the whole picture, would be able to tell what these individuals can't. This, partly, only happened because they made their "own truth" out of what they were able to see. Would this have been different if they would have accepted their limited perception?

I believe that the final idea that Parmenides, Plato and Richard Bach (author of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull") were trying to seed in our minds was: there is only one truth. We need to try to see outside of our "cave", to try to find a "way of perfection" and to accept our limited nature, to be able to, at least, get a glance of it.

Truth, remaining in itself, does not gain anything when we see it, or lose anything when we do not see it"

-St Augustin 

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