1

From Johann Gottfried Herder's "Letters for the Advancement of Humanity (1793-7)"

Free investigation of the truth from all sides is the sole antidote against delusion and error of whatever sort they may be. Let the deluded person defend his delusion, the person who thinks differently his thought; that is their business. Even if both of them fail to be corrected, for the unbiased person there certainly arises out of every criticized error a new reason, a new view of the truth. Let it only not be believed that truth can ever be captured, or even kept fast in jail for eternity, by means of armed delusion! Truth is a spirit and communicates itself to spirits almost without a body. Often its sound may be stirred at a single end of the world, and it resounds in remote lands; but the river current of human cognition always purifies itself through oppositions, through strong contrasts. Here it breaks off, there it starts; and in the end a long- and much-purified delusion is regarded by human beings as truth.

I have a problem understanding this text with regards to the notion of truth. If we say man is free to think at his own will then why is there a threat of armed delusion? Furthermore, I seem to understand that the ultimate truth essentially evolved through opposition governed by communications and then in the long run its said that the supreme truth is finally a much-purified delusion, why is it that the truth is still regarded as a delusion?

7
  • What text? What is the source? May 12 at 13:37
  • "Let it only not be believed that truth can ever be captured, or even kept fast in jail for eternity, by means of armed delusion! Truth is a spirit and communicates itself to spirits almost without a body." sound mystical... May 12 at 13:38
  • If you are not a mystic but more scientific-minded, truth is "real"; it is a value driving scientific endeavor and, more generally, the human desire for knowledge and understanding. May 12 at 14:05
  • 1
    @MauroALLEGRANZA - Found the source and added it to the question.
    – Hypnosifl
    May 12 at 16:11
  • If you are not a mystic but more scientific-minded, truth is "real"; it is a value driving scientific endeavor and, more generally, the human desire for knowledge and understanding. Outside of pure logic and mathematics, truth could be viewed more as a limit which we can only approach "asymptotically", without ever being 100% sure we have arrived at the final version, and with the possibility there are new truths we've not discovered that'd recontextualize truths we already have high confidence in. I don't think this view is incompatible with scientific approaches to understanding nature.
    – Hypnosifl
    May 12 at 16:25
1

If we say man is free to think at his own will then why is there a threat of armed delusion?

In Herder's sense, what one holds as truth should be amenable to correction to a more refined truth. If it resists the logic of an improving rationalisation this is delusional, and done by armed (or armoured) defence, e.g. denial.

its said that the supreme truth is finally a much-purified delusion, why is it that the truth is still regarded as a delusion?

Ultimately, even the much-purified truth is only an approximation. The truth at every stage differs, so cannot really be the truth. It would be a delusion to think of them all as true.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.