Virtue of the Week: Truth

Truth, like milk, arrives in the dark
But even so, wise dogs don’t bark.
Only mongrels make it hard
For the milkman to come up the yard.

~Christopher Morley

  • Truth is true – even if no one knows what it is.
  • Truth is true – even if no one knows why it is true
  • Truth is true – even if no one likes it
  • Truth is true – even if people cannot agree on what it is
  • Truth is true – even if it is painful
  • Truth is true – even if it is not personally beneficial

Truth and a Jar Full of Beans

By Tim Stafford

A teacher I know, Stephey Belynskyj, starts each philosophy class with a jar full of beans. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. Belynskyj then turns to the list of favorite songs. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” he asks. The students protest that there is no “right answer”; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste.

Belynskyj, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame then asks, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your spirituality, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, Belynskyj says, he gets the same answer: Making decisions in regards to one’s spirituality is more like choosing a favorite song.

What a shame. In today’s world now more than ever, we need to know exactly how many beans are in the jar.

We need absolute truth, not a milk toast selection from a juke box.

So how do we know what is the truth?

  • Does it magnify virtue?
  • Does it put a virtue(s) at the center of attention?
  • Is it in keeping with my guiding theology?
  • Does it humble me?
  • Does it deepen my love for fellow man?
  • Is it diametrically opposed to vice? Non-compromising.
  • Does it make virtue more attractive and vice intolerable?