Why Truth, Love and Justice?

When we judge the value of any educational reform, we should use the standards of truth, justice and love. Is it based upon facts? Is it motivated by genuine concern for others? Is it fair to all? Simply, does it meet the three-way test: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it loving? 3. Is it just? (See Figure 1). These questions are not easy to answer, and it is not likely that everyone will agree upon the same answer, but decisions should be made based on as full and as frank of a consideration of these principles as is practical. All three principles should be weighed in making a decision. When used together they result in wisdom, prosperity and unity.

Figure 1. The Three-Way Test. (See Book under Books and Papers for figure.

True education involves valid knowledge, sincere love, and moral choices. Each requires power: “the ability, strength, and capacity to do something” (Encarta Dictionary). Paul Tillich, says that love, power and justice

appear in decisive places in the doctrine of man, in psychology and sociology, they are central in ethics and jurisprudence, they determine political theory and educational method, they cannot be avoided even in mental and bodily medicine. Each of the three concepts in itself and three in their relation to each other are universally significant.  (1954, p. 1)

 Imbuing our choices, feelings and thoughts with truth, love and justice is the greatest power we can have.

As we build unity in the diversity of expressions of truth, love and justice, our communities and institutions, as well as the individuals within them, will flourish. Combining truth, love and justice can be one of the most powerful methods of informing and transforming our educational systems.

All individual and collective development can be explained and understood as the interaction and realization of three basic systems of mind, heart and will that possess the thinking, feeling and doing powers or capacities for developing human potential. Our thinking capacity is directed toward knowing truth, our feeling toward valuing love and our doing toward choosing justice. They are influenced by our inner beliefs, stories or models as we strive for higher constructs of truth, love and justice in our interactions with our reality.

We can effectively interact with our world to the degree our inner subjective models of what we think and feel accurately reflect reality and causality. If our paradigms are inadequate or faulty, we will suffer (Hatcher, 1998). When our knowing, loving and willing faculties are misdirected, perverted, frustrated or harmed in any way, healthy growth and development are impeded, so that mental, emotional and motivational imbalances and disorders occur. When well developed, they manifest the virtues of truth, love and justice.

These three faculties, capacities and principles can be found in most of the wisdom traditions, world religions and great philosophies of the past. For example, the three elements of mental, emotional and moral can be found in Aristotle’s habits for realizing human potential: 1. mental activity, such as knowledge, which leads to the highest human activity, contemplation; and 2. practical action (moral virtues conforming to the golden mean) and emotion, such as courage (Nicomachean Ethics). They are also seen in Aurobindo’s threefold path of knowledge, love and action, in Steiner’s integration of thinking/head (knowledge), feelings/heart (love), and the will/hands (action), as well as Plato’s ideals of Truth, Beauty and Good (Gidley, 2007, p. 111). Many more examples are given in the table below of correlations of these three guiding principles of truth, love and justice in various aspects of our language and life that may be helpful in thinking about and applying them.


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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