A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need.
— Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
In 1961, the philosopher Erich Fromm discussed ‘mobile truth.’ In his Afterward to George Orwell’s 1984, he proposed a fictional employee, who works for a large corporation, which claims that its product is better than any other. This employee comes to believe this claim, whether or not it is justified. It becomes his/her truth. However, if that employee moves to a rival corporation, he/she will accept another truth, which is that this new corporation’s product is the best. Though both beliefs can’t be possible, this new truth will be as true as the old one. So much for cognitive dissonance.
Fromm saw this lack of objective truth as “one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our society” as man “transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interests and functions.”
He was prescient in his concerns. Two generations out, America and much of the Western world no longer operate from an agreed upon set of facts, theories, or understandings. Truth is personal and unmoored: an art form. I paint my reality and you paint yours. Each of us, a potential minority of one. Continue reading