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Truth

刊登日期: 2013.09.29
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

This year, the subject for my 11th grade students is on the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. 

We begin with Truth. 

I try to keep it simple, to lay a foundation for training in rational and philosophical thinking, certainly not thorough enough for in-depth study of philosophy. 

Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, “Truth? What is it?”

To philosophers throughout history, that is the most basic question. Is there a Truth that is above and beyond our own experience that we want to discover? 

In class, I begin with two terms: 

Objective Truth. Truth as it is, regardless of our thinking about it. 

Subjective truth. Truth as I come to know it. 

Are they the same? Is it possible that what I learn is actually different from what it really is? 

One example I use is n0. Everyone knows that it is 1 except when n = 0. Well, not everyone. Even though it is merely the mathematical way of writing a number divided by itself (n/n), some do not know it. It does not look right. It looks funny. What could it be? For those who do not know the answer, most would guess 0. 

But can anyone prove it mathematically? Not everyone. 

And if you cannot show it mathematically, is it still true? Of course. 

So in our lives, many things we have learned subjectively to be true need to be verified to be objectively true. But not everything can be verified. That is where faith comes in. And we will look at that later. It suffices to say that in our day and age many people make the mistake of thinking that truth is only those ideas we can prove. And those things we cannot prove, like God, they must not be true or real. That is really very arrogant. 

Once I was flying to Chicago and seated next to me was a lady who claimed to be an atheist and an existentialist. (Funny conversations go on when a priest travels in his clerics, uniform.) She told me that she could not believe what she had not experienced herself. So I asked her whether there were any Chinese on the other side of the world. She looked me in the eye and told me that for all she cares, on the other side of the world no Chinese, not 1 billion of them, exists. I then asked her if it made any difference that I came from there. She had no answer. So for all of you who live in Hong Kong and have never left, the United States does not exist and neither do I. 

All you who live in Hong Kong exist regardless of this lady’s thinking or experience. 

I try to tell my students, all teenagers, that they are at a stage in life that they begin to question everything. It is normal. They are just beginning to learn to ask the more difficult questions. Many adults think that it is because they are of the age of rebellion. I disagree with them. It is important that young people learn to verify what is true. It is not about mistrusting. This stage of maturity may seem confusing and argumentative. It begins with questioning about everything and learning how to find answers. This is a difficult process, but a most necessary one. And there are no short cuts. Each person goes about it at his or her own pace. There is no time frame, either. The adults in their lives cannot be impatient or suspicious. 

 

Do not be afraid. It is the beginning of a beautiful journey. 

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