Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Truth in Hell

What on earth is going on here? and particularly here? Fr. Alexis Bugnolo, a Franciscan who is developing an internet library of Scholastic Theology and Philosophy (and good luck to him, I say – this material has lain buried and neglected for too long) is incensed by what he calls a sodomitic slur against St. Anselm in an article in the internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia. The original article, now locked down, is here, and the talk page, which gives a full background to the dispute is here.

Bognolo stirs up a number of demons, which I won't discuss here. It is what he says about truth that interests me. He says 'Wikipedia is not much different that the real lower regions, where demons wittle the hours of their impending ultimate damnation on the Day of Judgement, idling wailing and complaining and arguing among themselves against the pittible [sic], little truth that their darkened intellects can still behold. … Suffice it to say, that at Wikipedia, they are obsessed with a false definition of truth. For them truth is something neutral, between the medium of two personal opinions. They wrongly believe that falsehood does not exist. Now of course such a definition of truth only prevails in Hell, and that is why those who accept the Wikipedia system end up with the sensibilities of devils, who cannot endure anything at all being said that is true, lest someone arrive at the truth.'

Now there are some real problems at Wikipedia - mainly because professional researchers and academics have no incentive to contribute to it, whereas cranks have every incentive. But I don’t think they have a 'false definition of the truth'. Truth is not something neutral. Of two contrary opinions, at least one must be false, and of two contradictory opinions at least one must be true. Wikipedians would not claim otherwise.

But, when the truth is difficult to determine, Wikipedians say that different opinions about the truth must be given, and (in controversial cases like this) the opinions supported by evidence (or references to that evidence). What is wrong with that?

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