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January 12, 2022

Is Truth Knowable?

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Is Truth Knowable?

After acknowledging that there is truth, one question is whether truth is knowable?  If so, is all truth knowable, or is some truth hidden from a person’s understanding? While these are metaphysical or philosophical questions, it may help to give a few physical examples to establish that truth—at least some truths—are readily knowable. The twentieth century saw many new technological advances, but the truths of science were always there. It was only through research and experimentation that the laws of gravitation, lift, aerodynamics, optics, thermodynamics, and other scientific breakthroughs were discovered.

Yet, these laws or truths were always present and existed since the creation of the world. These physical truths do not change over time; they are predictable, and reliable. If they were not, we would not trust going on an airplane, driving a car, or using a computer. While there may be different applications of these fixed physical laws as we understand them more completely, understanding physical laws does not mean they did not exist before they were discovered. It only means that revelation or the uncovering of something previously unknown has occurred.

Order, certainty, and sound future planning are dependent upon the existence of truth in the realm of the physical sciences.  Since this is true in the physical realm, it follows that there are also unchangeable truths in the realm of social sciences, law, and government. Just as the violation of physical truths or laws has serious consequences, the violation or rejection of truths relating to the nature of mankind and human relationships also has negative and destructive effects. As in the physical realm, some truths related to government and law are readily knowable by all; other truths require wisdom and discernment. 

Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence stated that some truths are “self-evident.”  This means that they are obvious to all and require no proof. No intellectually honest person who is seeking to know truth can deny self-evident truth. Our founders knew that a government and laws for a people needed to be established upon truths that were self-evident to all — not just to those who had special training, wisdom, or status.  It needed to be a government that could be understood by all and that was based upon truth knowable by all.

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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