Verdict: TRUTH EVOLVES opens a new pathway for thinking about what we know and how that can affect what we do.
A philosopher offers innovative theories about the nature of knowledge: it is individual; it changes over time; and it can be used to create a rational community.
Dividing his work into two major sections, author Dustin Arand first asks, “What Can We Know?” He examines the mutability of what we each believe to be true, showing how even a simple concept such as “lion” will be perceived differently in different eras by different observers: “If we could see the evolution of lions compressed into a few minutes, we could see those outward forms that seem so essential to ‘lionhood’ taking shape gradually, almost insensibly.” This concrete example helps us focus on the undeniable changeability of ideas, through filters of culture, history and language.
In the second portion of the book—”How Should We Live?”—Arand takes up the question of “personhood,” using as one significant model the issue of abortion. As a product of a strict Catholic upbringing, he was taught that the abortion procedure is relatively new to civilized society, and an absolute wrong. Yet his closer investigation revealed to him that abortion is an ancient practice that can be supported by a number of moral principles. He invites us to reach a definition of personhood by imagining a long line of apes gradually becoming more humanoid: at what stage could we point to one creature in the line and say definitively, here is a human? Again, by this compelling example, Arand helps us thoroughly consider the generally propounded (by religions, by political groups) assumption that there are absolute moral laws we all must follow.
Arand, a legal professional accustomed to carefully building and supporting his arguments, is in control of his subject matter at all times. At several junctures, he reiterates the significant point that his theories do not imply a surrender to relativism, and has coined two important terms that provide backing for this assertion: “telism” is the proposition that everything that exists has purpose; and “corrigibility” embodies his belief that as humans have evolved, they have tended to construct social systems that move slowly in the direction of doing less harm and protecting others from potential harm. Throughout TRUTH EVOLVES, Arand skillfully blends his rational ideas with illustrations taken from recognized philosophical pundits, both modern and classical.
With wisdom drawn from many wells both scientific and humanist and some fresh concepts, TRUTH EVOLVES opens a new pathway for thinking about what we know and how that can affect what we do.