Is it necessary to prove what's 'self-evident'?

I am a fan of Dr. Peter McCullough.  He has much to offer, and his recent thoughtful and informed newsletter, entitled "Academic Medicine Covering Up COVID-19 Vaccine Cardiac Arrests?," especially deserves your thoughtful attention.  You can follow this link to read it for yourself.  As you will see, his subject is a conspiracy to suppress the truth.

Because I am keen for you to read it, I am obliged to point out a problem with the way in which one term is used.  That term is "self-evident."  It occurs in the subtitle: "Dr. Jane Orient Reviews Perfidious Conspiracy to Suppress the Self-Evident."

As Dr. McCullough makes clear in his newsletter, the problem is "the suppression of data on vaccine-induced sudden death" (emphasis added).  You see the problem, yes?  Here is my dictionary's complete definition of self-evident: "Requiring no proof or explanation."  And here is its definition of evidence: "The data on which a judgment or conclusion may be based."

Evident truths and self-evident truths are different kinds of truth.  The evidence for the truth of a statement can be overwhelming, but no accumulation of evidence makes it become a self-evident truth.  A self-evident truth does not depend on evidence.  For example, DNA analysis can provide overwhelming evidence that the woman who raised me is my biological mother, but that evidence does not make it self-evident.  Here is a self-evident truth involving me and my mother: if my mother had never been born, neither would I have been born.

Why do I not simply pass over this matter of terminology without comment? you may ask.  It is not because I am keen to criticize the newsletter — on the contrary, I encourage you to read it and even to consider subscribing to Dr. McCullough's newsletter — but because a proper understanding of self-evident truth is essential to understanding the American Idea.  Its proper use must be defended.

When Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," and when the Founders everywhere in their writings and speeches made the same declaration, they meant for us and for the world to understand that those truths require no proof.  Departing somewhat from an imperfection in my dictionary's definition, the Founders dedicated themselves to explaining those truths.  Their declaration that it is self-evidently true that you and I have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness astonished the world and laid the foundation for America's greatness.

The Founders' confidence that these truths are self-evident is deeply rooted in the profound yet easily understood philosophy of a great philosopher who was their contemporary.  All it takes to join the Founders in that understanding is common sense.  In the chapter on the Declaration of Independence in my book Common Sense Nation, I wrote:

"[I]n order to understand the Declaration's use of "self-evident" we first need to turn to the thought of a philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment

—Thomas Reid   

Reid made self-evident truths the foundation of his philosophy, the philosophy of common sense realism[.] ... [C]ommon sense is the human faculty by means of which we can grasp self-evident truths[.] ... [Consequently,] common sense is the power that makes human understanding possible.

The Founders declared that by our common sense, we can know these truths for ourselves, that we do not need to depend on evidence, tradition, the pronouncements of religious authorities, or any other source from outside.  Once we understand them, we know that they are true.

And understanding self-evident truths and unalienable rights makes virtually everything about the American Idea perfectly clear.

Robert Curry is a director of the Claremont Institute.  He is the author of Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World and Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea.  Both are published by Encounter Books.

Image: JSMed via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

If you experience technical problems, please write to