RESEARCH PAPER: The question of truth

The question of truth can be found in documents as old as the written language.

The ancient Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, all dealt with questions about truth.

A simple definition of “truth” is “the quality or state of being true” or “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality”.

Britannica gives a much more comprehensive definition, too long to repeat here, but you should look it up.

There is nothing simple about truth.  Truth, in its simplest form, is a complex matter, and we must understand it as such. 

We can slice and dice truth in many different ways. 

We have two types of truth; empirical truth and convenient truth.

The three types of truth are personal truth, political truth, and objective truth.

Then there are the three theories of truth; the Correspondence Theory, the Semantic Theory, and Deflationary Theory.

There are also four types of truth; objective, normative, subjective, and complex truth.

Finally, someone has the five types of truth; correspondence, coherence, pragmatic, redundancy, and semantic. 

So, you see, just from this list, and there is more, truth is complex, or as Oscar Wild put it, “Truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

The truth is, we can easily define truth in a generic or broad sense, while at the same time, we may have no idea what truth is in specific terms, or in relation to a specific subject.

This complexity, mixed with uncertainty, has provoked thinkers, writers, speakers, and even politicians to express themselves on the question of truth through the ages.

Countless papers, books, and movies have been made addressing truth or its antonym, falsity.

Some writers have been more preoccupied with truth, than others.

George Orwell, one of my favorite authors, was obsessed with the truth. 

His two most famous works, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, both deal with the concept of truth. 

Additionally, he wrote numerous articles on war, politics, and social issues, directly addressing the question of truth.

Orwell was concerned about how easy it is to manipulate the truth, and how falsity can be changed into truth if we do not stand guard around it and support it at all times.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry of Truth had the task of adjusting truth to reality at every moment, or adjusting reality to the truth, depending on what was more convenient at each given time. 

In politics today we see scenes from Nineteen Eighty-Four frequently play out in plain view.

Ex-President Trump told his supporters not to believe what they saw with their own eyes, he, his press secretary, several of the conservative media repeated over and over that no one had ever had such a big inaugural crowed, even while showing photos of the same crowd contradicting everything coming out of their mouth. 

In courts, when a witness is being sworn to the stand, the bailiff will ask the witness, “do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth…”

Then the witness will receive the first question from either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer requesting the witness to only answer with “Yes” or “No”, while either “Yes” or “No” will not tell the whole truth.

In short, we can divide the questions about truth into two categories.

A. Does absolute truth exist?  B. What is truth?

A. Does absolute truth exist?

Since the time of Phyrro about 360 -270 BCE, skeptics have questioned our most common understating of life and maintained that no such thing as absolute truth can exist. 

Despite their doubts, others have painstakingly constructed various systems to prove the contrary.

So, for over 2,300 years, humans have been arguing about this, back and forth, while our solar system continues its course through space without any concerns for the matter.

In science and logic, absolute truth may be important, we would, for example, like that 2+2=4 is an absolute truth. 

It would be bad for business, and other things as well, if it weren’t, is it not? 

However, when it comes to morals and other political questions, an absolute truth may be a bit more elusive and harder to come by. 

If we take an example of morals, we as humans have concluded that one person buying another person, is highly immoral and should not be tolerated in any society, in any of its forms, whether slavery, sex trafficking, or in any other way, however, this conclusion was only formulated relatively short time ago.

If we go back 200 years, much of what we consider absolute truth on morality was viewed in a very different way.

Even if we only go back 50 years, we will find significant differences in what is being deemed acceptable behavior.

Maybe then, absolute truth is not so important in all aspects of our life.

We go through life with, what I’d like to call, truth approximation.

For example, we use Pi=3.14159 instead of 22/7 which gives us 3.14159265358979323846…. ad infinitum.

We give and take directions based on approximation, we raise our children based on approximation, and to be truthful, it has proven useful.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.

If, on the other hand, the truth did not exist and all our effort to claim it is futile, then I guess this does not matter. 

We are living in a delusion so everything goes.

Free will does not exist and we are all finger-puppets without any control, simple figments of imagination.

B. What is truth?

Here I’m not referring to the general definition we can see at the top of this paper.

I’m referring to the specific truth to every question we confront in our daily lives. 

Of course, the questions and answers are infinite and therefore impossible to detail here, but we do have a general approach or framework on how to handle it.

In our daily lives, we do not always have the answers to specific questions.

Our reply may vary from certainty of absolute truth to a fairly secure answer, to having some idea, an approximate answer, or simply not having a clue.

No matter what degree of certainty we may have about an answer to a specific question, there are two things we must keep in mind. 

First, we must be looking for the truth.

The true and correct answer to the question. 

And second, we cannot be afraid of admitting that we do not know the truth when that is the case.

Before TRUTH, there is another important concept, HONESTY.

Honesty does not deal with facts but with our inner qualities. 

To be honest is to have the courage to admit you do not know, to qualify your answers. 

Then, how can we guard the truth?

Well, by starting with ourselves.

We must be truthful and honest to ourselves.

We should not be afraid to admit when we do not know. 

Socrates said the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. 

That is a far cry from many politicians that shamelessly state they know everything and they know everything better than anyone else. 

If we can accomplish this, we can also be so with others.

We should have our own personal journalist’s creed, where we strive for clear thinking and clear statements in everything we say or write. 

We must ensure that we never suppress the truth and that we qualify our statements in terms of our certainty about them. 

We must clarify if the statement is a known fact, an educated guess, an informed idea, a hypothesis, or just a rumor.

Qualifying our statement not only gives our listeners or readers a better idea about the truthfulness of our comments but also makes us more trustworthy. 

If we cannot hold ourselves to the high standards of truth, how are we going to hold others to that same standard?

It starts with us, then our children, our family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and then everyone else.

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Mr. Thorgeirsson, a Columnist with The scholar Media Africa is based in Puerto Rico, USA. He is a coach in Personal Finance, with an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Inter Americana University, Puerto Rico. His contact:


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