The Truman Show

Truman Burbank and The Virtue of Pursuing Truth

R. Douglas Geivett

[Excerpted from R. Douglas Geivett, “Escaping into Reality: What We Can Learn from The Truman Show About the Knowledge Enterprise,” Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen, ed. R. Douglas Geivett and James S. Spiegel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVariety Press, 2007), pp. 117–118.  The present title was not Geivett’s, but was rather applied to the excerpt by Alexander S. Peak.]

Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank

What are Truman’s intellectual virtues?  He’s interested in truth.  He also desires to be reasonable.  He trusts those around him to be reliable in their testimony, unless there is some special reason why he should not.  He tests his own ideas against the ideas of others.  He appears to be open-minded but not gullible.  He’s a careful observer and pays attention to detail when this will improve his chances of acquiring true belief.  His curiosity is itself a virtue.  He doesn’t allow the apathy of others to infect him with indifference.  He is not only proactive but also persistent in his quest for truth.  And he’s intentional about developing strategies for acquiring truth.  He’s thoughtful in his collection and assessment of evidence and also in his formulation and testing of possible explanations when he’s puzzled.

Above all, Truman is intellectually courageous.  He’s able to resist the blandishments of his community when it seems that they’re mistaken, and he’s willing to take personal risks to discover the truth.