Daily Herald

Our tribalism stops us acknowledging the truth

We look for the group that feels what we feel, and refuse even the partial truths of our opponents

The Athenian Academy began with that Socratic insight that in order to see the Final End, we must purify our lives through a philosophical form of life. This produced some of the greatest intellectual achievements of humanity. Yet the Athenian Academy ended skeptically with dogged disputes in which men eschewed truth to partake of “probabilities.”

About these late Academic Skeptics, St. Augustine asked: Why do they live a life of disputation at all? Why enter into endless dogged disputes if the end result is mere probabilities rather than truth and wisdom leading to happiness? He concluded that the Skeptics were actually so prideful about never falling into error that they end up betraying truth, and did not become wise.

Are our disputes that different?

Our skepticism, unlike ancient skepticism, is charged with more feeling than probability. We look for the tribe that feels what we feel, and will help us secure by power what cannot be secured by reason. Refusing even the partial truths of our opponents in the public squares of Church and World, we shrink from the Socratic call to purification that only finds fulfillment in the answer to that question Pontius Pilate asked with more wonder than skepticism — Quid est Veritas.