Quid Est Veritas?


First line: John 8:32. Second line: John 18:38.

I am never a religious person, and always a skeptic one. So when I read the line, “Veritas vos liberabit” (“The truth shall set you free”), I instantly agreed with the reply, “Quid est veritas?” (“What is truth?”)

What is truth? How do we know that the truth is the truth?

There is a professor of mine—every time we make a statement, he will simply ask, “Who do you think you are? Why did you dare make such statement? Is there any proof of it? Why do you think people should believe what you said?” thus we have to back up our every statement with solid evidence. That’s how being in forensic medicine is like, and it has changed the way I see things.

I remember once when he taught us about one of the basic moral principles of being a doctor: beneficence, a.k.a. doing the best for your patients (the others are: patient’s autonomy, non-maleficence [do no further harm], justice, and honesty), he said, “It is true that we all want to do the best for our patients, but how do we know what is the best for the patients? We won’t know what the best is if we only know a little. Hence, we have to keep learning, keep studying, keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date, because good deed alone isn’t enough. We must have the knowledge and the skills needed to provide the best for our patients.”

“So is democracy. Democracy, which means ‘one man, one vote’—is it a good thing? It depends. The ideal version of democracy is when everyone knows what they vote for. If all of the voters are mentally capable and provided with knowledge, then the vote will result in good decisions, but when a group of ignorant people are given the chance to vote, then democracy will only lead to disaster.”

That was one of the best lessons I’ve ever had in my life. To know what the best is, we must learn every possibilities/options, and then conclude which the best is among all. The same goes for truth. Quid est veritas? What is truth? How do we know that the truth is the truth?

To know what the truth is, we must learn as much as we can, see everything from various perspectives, understand everything using various approach, compare things to another, find the similarities and differences, keep our mind open and our judgment objective, and admit when we make mistakes. To know what the truth is, we have to develop critical thinking and stop being ignorant.

We won’t be able to know the truth if we stop learning new things. Learning new things means keep asking questions and looking for answers, provided by factual evidence. By asking questions, we expand our horizons and open our mind to new things and possibilities. Stop questioning means making no progress, because some answers will only be relevant for a certain period of time. We shall not be satisfied with “easy answers” or jumping into conclusions. The key to finding the truth is to keep looking for it, and to have our knowledge updated and our mind open. Along the journey, we will learn a lot of things that will make us grow and become wise, for no one owns the truth—the truth is free and universal, and it shall come to anyone who seeks for it. (Also read: Weekend Wisdom)

The truth is one. Find the truth, and provide the evidence.

I teach the truth. I teach my students how to find the truth. I, Gatot, teach all my students the truth, so that if someday I violate the truth, my students will know that I have violated the truth.


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