Origins of the "double-truth"

Ferenc Ruzsa f_ruzsa at LUDENS.ELTE.HU
Thu Dec 28 08:26:00 UTC 2000


On pre-buddhist veritas duplex in Greece:
Parmenides himself uses some theory of double truth. His terminology (aletheia
versus doxa, i.e. [absolute] truth vs. [general] opinion) resembles closely
the early buddhist opposition of paramattha - sammuti [paramArtha - sammati,
the latter wrongly interpreted as saMvRti]. He lived probably half a century
before the Buddha.
Of course Parmenides might have got some of his ideas from India; in fact in
my M.A. thesis I tried to prove his indebtedness to the sadvidyA (chAndogya
upaniSad VI). There the relevant opposition is satya - nAmadheya.

On the independent origin of theories of double truth:
In the exegesis of conflicting religious texts usually there are, I think,
other possibilities: different peoples, classes, areas or ages might be meant
by the different texts. On the other hand, as soon as we start talking about
philosophy the contrast of appearance - deeper reality seems difficult to
avoid. What is not necessary, however, is to call this a theory of double
*truth*, a rather shocking way of putting it.

On Einstein and Newton:
This is no case of double truth; if the theory of relativity is true, then
Newtonian mechanics is not - it is only a good approximation. As the statement
"pi = 3.14" is not true, although it is an often useful approximation.

Ferenc Ruzsa, PhD
associate professor of philosophy
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
e-mail: f_ruzsa at

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