Like everyone, you will assume you know all about what truth is. But there are many traps to fall into that you may not be aware of.
In the same way that a soldier must be fully prepared for battle, so must you be fully equipped and ‘clued in’ before you start.
If truth were a tangible commodity, it would be the most precious substance that you would ever deal with or possess. In fact, truth is a conceptual idea that enables us to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Being able to discern truth is literally a matter of life or death! Which foods nourish you and which foods poison you? Will this structure stand or will it collapse? Should you, or should you not, have an “emergency use authorized” new experimental medical treatment?
Truth is crucially important, yet, these days, it is increasingly hard to identify buried under a tsunami of false information. Truth is increasingly discounted in our present culture and the skill and art of discerning it has largely been lost. We live in a “post truth” era, in which the mainstream narrative is full of myths taken as true by the vast majority of people.
YOU NEED to know the truth on every issue in our life to survive and thrive. So necessarily, you need a clear and accurate understanding of the concept. You need to know what it is you are looking for, as this sheds some light on the methods required to discern it. The truth is that ‘truth’ is a simple concept that is often dressed up to appear complicated and unknowable.
Propaganda and Truth
It is essential to approach answers to the question “what is truth?” with caution. Remember that truth is the first causality of war. There is a propaganda war going on in which the control of your mind and consequently your actions is the goal. There is a political agenda being inflicted on the people of the world that is huge part of the context of our search for truth. This must be born in mind as we appraise the views offered in the mainstream and their implicit conclusion that truth cannot be discerned. We must use our rationality, our common sense, our full contextual knowledge, to arrive at independent conclusions, and intellectually stand sovereign with our own understanding.
Just as the political class has long been hijacked so has the intellectual class has been hijacked. To dismiss this through lack of contextual knowledge is naive. The intellectuals and the philosophers of the establishment cannot be trusted with the final word on anything, especially the nature of truth itself! The bottom line is you must think for yourself and not defer to their alleged authority. Intellectual sovereignty is the goal.
What is the point of truth? Why do we need it?
We are familiar with truth in the context of ‘true’ or ‘false’ answers in school tests, or of information being either correct or incorrect. We associate this with right and wrong in reference to the answers we may hear about issues in life. We understand information to be true or false.
The ultimate purpose of truth in each of these contexts is to inform us of how to act in a way that is commensurate with reality. In considering the reason that we need truth we gain insight as to its nature.
It is reality we must know in order to live a life.
- Is this plant or animal edible or poisonous? True or false?
- Are EMF’s from phones and wi-fi and Bluetooth safe? True or false?
- Is there a published political agenda towards global governance? True or false?
- Do humans need to be free in order to live a fully human life? True or false?
In the same way that you must look to reality to learn the truth about where the bathroom is… or how to make a cup of coffee… So you MUST look to reality to discern the truth on any issue, as opposed to looking to see what everyone else believes, or what the government says is true.
What is Truth?
Truth is a conceptual idea, like a label, that identifies which ideas correlate with reality and which do not.
Truth is that which corresponds to an understanding of reality. Truth is a conceptual recognition of reality expressed in language. And this is very important to understand… that truth is always discussed, claimed or debated about in language, with its associated limitations. The standard of truth is all that exists, both the metaphysically given, and the man made. That means man made tangible things as well as intellectual things such as ideas, policies, etc.
So if you are asking the question “Is it true that fat makes you fat?” We must remember that we are asking “what is the reality?” not “what is the story that you’ve heard all your life?” What are the facts of reality pertaining to this issue?
Truth is NOT subjective
If truth is that which corresponds to reality then this means the truth refers to everything that is real and that exists. But this doesn’t mean that truth is subjective. This is very important to understand.
Yes there are truths that are necessarily subjective. If you are hungry, obviously only you know it in the first hand sense, and it is true. You also know your favourite colour and your choice is true to the extent that you can make a decision. But truth in the broader sense is NOT subjective. Reality is real, it exists, along with all the experiences of people and their subjective perspectives. But their subjective perspectives are not what determines truth on matters outside their experience.
If I wanted to know if you were cold or not, or if you understood something I was telling you, I would accept the answer you give me as true because there is no other existent answer anywhere else in reality. And there would be no way to verify if you were lying to me. But I would not accept your claims about events, theories or ideas outside of your personal experience soley on the basis that YOU were telling me them!
If you consider truth to be subjective, something many people do implicitly with their behaviour, you have compromised the concept of truth with respect to your ability to discern it. And here’s why. If everybody’s truth were true, contradictions would have to exist in reality. But they can’t and they don’t. Contradictions can’t exist. If everyone’s truth were true, then nobody’s truth would be true. There is only one reality out there, and therefore only one truth pertaining to each separate issue.
What about perspective?
Similarly, truth is not about perspective. the truth seeker has to do the intellectual work of examining all perspectives. This is the beauty of listening to peers and others who can share their perspective in the discussion to find the truth. We all readily appreciate that it would be silly if a group of people all sat around an object and each claimed that their visual image of the object was true, and theirs alone.
All perspectives need to be assimilated, and for all practical purposes they can be. In a genuine free market of ideas among thinking men whose ideas are genuinely peer reviewed, the finest points of truth can be arrived at. The focus of many minds is always greater than fewer minds, or just one mind. In many issues the truth is simple and this is not necessary. But sometimes the sharing of perspectives can be essential with respect to scientific discoveries that are more conceptual and remote from direct perception – such as the way the human body works at the level of microbiology.
Theories on Truth
There are several theories about the nature of truth. Most of them contain errors and are false.
The Correspondence Theory of Truth
The Correspondence Theory of truth is probably the most common way of understanding truth and falsehood. It argues that an idea is held as “true” because it corresponds to facts about the world. For example, the idea that water always runs downhill is true because water does, in fact, always run downhill.
Ancient idea – Aristotle
“To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”.
Eubulides, a student of the Megara school of philosophy, claimed the Correspondence Theory of Truth leaves us in the lurch when we are confronted with the so-called “liars paradox”, with statements such as “I am lying” or “What I am saying here is false.”
“As statements they are capable of being true or false. However, if they are true because they correspond with reality, then they are false and if they are false because they fail to correspond with reality, then they must be true. Thus, no matter what we say about the truth or falsehood of these statements, we immediately contradict ourselves.”
But this is sophistry of the first order. Such ridiculous claims don’t take into account the nature or the limitations of language. Language is the conceptual tool we use to categorise all that exists out there in the human mind. Existence comes first, then we find ways to map it conceptually and express our conceptual map to others.
Just because some people can devise ways to tie us up in clever linguistic knots and come up with meaningless sentences doesn’t mean that reality is confused or contradictory. And it doesn’t mean that the correspondence theory is flawed. It simply means that the speaker must try harder to clearly express his observations of reality in a non-contradictory way. Contradictions do not exist in reality, and so they should not be permitted to exist in a mental map of reality or in any ideas pertaining to its expression.
The Coherence Theory of Truth:
The Coherence Theory of truth holds that an idea is true when its fits in with all our other beliefs without contradiction. It then coheres with all our other knowledge.
This idea has some limited merit. After all, truth does fit nicely with every other piece of truth without contradiction. But a truth would not cohere with other pieces of information that were not true.
The problem with this interpretation of truth is that if you hold many ideas as true that are in fact false this definition would not help you to discern the true from the false.
No, your knowledge must ALL correlate with reality. Yes, your entire mental map of reality must be consistent with itself but most importantly and more fundamentally it must be consistent with reality first. If in doubt look to reality to find out what is true.
The law of non-contradiction is the basic principle of all rational thinking and the number one ally of the truth seeker. But this doesn’t mean that coherence is the standard of truth! Reality is the ultimate standard of truth. When we want to know what’s true, we look to reality. There is nowhere else to look.
So, in conclusion the coherence theory of truth is an incorrect way of using the law of non-contradiction by inverting it. The correct approach is to use the LONC to spot falseness and seek to irradicate the contradiction. It is reality we are aiming to map conceptually in our minds. And since reality coheres with itself (because contradictions don’t exist) we know that all of our ideas should cohere with the sum of our knowledge if they are all true. But most importantly and most fundamentally all of our ideas must not contradict reality – the evidence of it presented by our senses.
The Pragmatic Theory of Truth:
The Pragmatic Theory of truth holds that a belief is true or not based on whether it has a useful (pragmatic) application in the world. If it doesn’t, then it’s not true.
“As with Coherence Theory, truth in this sense is nothing to do with the way the world ‘really is’ but is just a function of whether an idea can be used as a model to make useful predictions about what is going to happen in the world. As a result, pragmatic truths can only be learnt through interaction with the world: we don’t discover truth by sitting alone in a room and thinking about it.”
There are a number of obvious problems with the Pragmatic Theory of Truth yet there is just enough of a tiny grain of something valid in it to build another incorrect and misleading theory on.
OBVIOUSLY, THE TRUTH WORKS. The berries that are nutritious work at nourishing us, and the correct way to build an electric generator (the one that correlates with reality) does work at generating electricity. The pragmatism arises out of the correlation with reality.
But again, this is a back to front way of conceiving of the idea of truth. True ideas tend to work but that doesn’t mean that ideas that work is the standard for knowing what is true. How can you know what works before you know what is real and what corresponds to reality? Remember, our lives happen in reality, and its therefore reality that we must seek to know in order to live our lives. First know reality by having your mental map correlate with the actual terrain, then you will have a massive head start in figuring out what will be pragmatic.
A metaphor about horses and carts springs to mind!
LIARS THINK LIES ARE PRAGMATIC
Also bear in mind the slippery disingenuousness of those deceivers who may consider a lie to be very pragmatic. Those wanting to control other people and influence them to act against their own rational self-interest would naturally consider it pragmatic to lie. Where does this leave the pragmatic theory of truth?
Consensus theory of truth
Sadly, yet unsurprisingly in the current post truth era there is even a ‘consensus theory of truth’. This is an idea based on the assumption that truth is a matter of social agreements about reality, including the agreements reached by the scientific community.
This is clearly more sophistry at work. It’s another example of a theory of truth purposely created by philosophers who prostitute themselves to those calling the agenda. IT’S A THEORY OF TRUTH THAT LENDS ITSELF PERFECTLY TO SUPPORTING A POLITICAL AGENDA, SO THAT AN ALLEGED SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS ON A GIVEN IDEA CAN BE HELD AS TRUTH SOLELY ON ACCOUNT OF NUMBERS.
It should be obvious to any retaining some semblance of a rational faculty that the number of people believing an idea has no bearing at all on its truth. As if water would flow uphill if enough people believed it would, or as if the berries would change from being poisonous to nutritious if only sufficient people held it to be so.
Opinions have nothing to do with the discernment of truth. Facts, evidence, reason, proof and logic have everything to do with the discernment of truth.
Inflationary theories of truth
A discussion about the nature of truth would not be complete without mentioning…
These hold that TRUTH IS A PROPERTY OF PROPOSITIONS. Furthermore, some philosophical contortionists will say that inflationary theories hold that TRUTH REFERS TO A RELATIONAL PROPERTY THAT BELONGS TO PROPOSITIONS.
The Semantic Theory of Tarski and Davidson
These play around with linguistics to try and get around the liar’s paradox. Instead of simply acknowledging that A is A, things are what they are, and that we must use language to best present ideas that match reality. These philosophical contortionists prefer to try and tie us all up in linguistic knots towards no practical goal other than the creation of confusion about the nature of truth – that most important of concepts!
Deflationary theories of truth
Let me give you a quote from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Deflationary theories of truth. Quite shockingly these theories actually divorce the concept of truth from reality entirely.
“One long-standing trend in the discussion of truth is to insist that TRUTH REALLY DOES NOT CARRY METAPHYSICAL SIGNIFICANCE AT ALL. It does not, as it has no significance on its own. A number of different ideas have been advanced along these lines, under the general heading of deflationism.”
A notable example would be the Deflationary Theory of Frege and Ramsey.
In conclusion referencing all the theories of truth that get lost in errors of language, or discconnect it from reality altogether it must be pointed out that according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, there are also
- Are axiomatic theories of truth…
- Pluralist theories of truth…
- An Identity theory of truth…
- A Revision theory of truth…
What Truth is NOT
Truth is NOT “Jesus”. Truth is NOT “the Lord”. Truth is not any mystical revelation. Imagine how useless it would be if you were trying to determine a specific course of action on which your life and health depend. Should you get vaccinated or not? If you hold in mind that “truth is Jesus” (as some fools advocate), is that likely to help you in knowing what to do? Of course not!
Truth is also NOT unity, love, or oneness. All of these are mystical and meaningless notions of truth. Some say that truth is “all that is”. This is getting closer to something meaningful. But I warn against any understanding of truth that comes from a source that is at all mystical. Mysticism invokes faith – which is to believe in things without reasons. So by definition, mysticism must NOT be trusted with defining such a crucial concept.
Now you know what truth is you must understand the philosophical foundations on which you must stand in order to be able to form the concept and to be able to discern it from falsehood.
To learn more follow this link.
Hi Nigel, Just found this book which is explains how the truth can be obfuscated through the use of language. I discovered the book’s existence from this interview with the author.
Nigel Howitt says
Thank you for that man.It looks like a very valuable resource for understanding the limitations of language and its misuse. Perhaps a companion book to Edward Bernays “Propaganda” published in 1928.