A reader of this site and listener to Reconquest named Erik sent me an email question, the answer to which I think may be of general interest, so I post the correspondence here:
Dear Brother Andre Marie,
I recently encountered a person who believes that individual perception defines truth and reality. Is this an actual philosophy? If so, who developed it and why? What was the intent? It seems like an attempt to avoid responsibility and accountability.
How can something be true for one person and false for another? Doesn’t that defy the definition of truth? How can a society function and survive without a universal truth to bind it together?
To which I replied:
Pax Christi. The philosophical pedigree of these kinds of claims go back hundreds of years, and begin with Descartes (1596-1650), who never would have been so delusional himself. But slowly, the “turn the the subjective” that he introduced into philosophical thought became accepted and expanded upon. Not long after, an Anglican “Bishop” named George Berkeley (1685-1753) coined the expression esse est percepi, which means “to be is to be perceived.” For him, perception determines reality, whereas the truth is that our senses and our intellect are knowing faculties which perceive the objective realities outside us, which are independent of us.
Much more recently, we have the existentialists, who denied essense and nature and rooted everying in “existnce,” meaning (for them) that, because I have no objective nature, I can constantly redefine myself. I explain this somewhat here: https://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-272.html
While I cannot comment on the intent of all these people with certitude, I can generalize by saying that their reality-denying positions are an effort to justify their moral problems — their running away from God, the ultimate REALITY.
Briefly, let me reply to your other questions:
How can something be true for one person and false for another?
Doesn’t that defy the definition of truth?
How can a society function and survive without a universal truth to bind it together?
IT CAN’T! NOT FOR LONG, ANYWAY.
Brother Francis deals with this a lot, especially in Epistemology, which is the philosophical study of knowledge.
I hope this helps. God bless and Mary keep you.