Philosophy 101-What is Truth?
In formal discussion groups with students, I've asked them to define "truth" as a group. I approach the whiteboard with marker in hand, ready to scribble down their profound answers.
"What," I ask, "is truth?"
"When you think that...um, when..." This student's thought trails off, and he looks at the ceiling with a sigh.
"What you like."
"What you believe."
Then I turn to the adults in the group and ask the same question.
One leader remarks, "When what you think is true?"
Oops. We can't use the word we're defining as part of the definition. That's like defining sailing as, er, "to sail."
I've had adult leaders approach me and admit that students don't know how to define truth because their teachers don't know much about it, either.
I hope you feel a bit relieved by that. It's hard to believe in something if you don't even know what it is. It may not be your fault.
But you're still responsible to know what it is.
I'm confident that most teachers affirm truth, even though they can't define it. They have a sense of what it is; however, that sense is not often clear enough to pass on to the next generation--your generation.
Is there any wonder why students today don't know how to answer the question of whether or not there is absolute truth? We simply don't know what it is.
The definition of truth is quite simple, but it takes some thinking. Like the rules of tennis, truth is simple to understand.
But you have to pay attention to start getting it. And no matter who you are, whether you're an A student or a D student, you can understand this and use it in your everyday world:
"Truth is an idea or a belief about something that shows up in the real world."
Or to put it another way, "truth is when an idea reflects the way the world really is."
Or to put it another way, "truth is an idea or a belief that is a fact."
Or more philosophically speaking--"truth is a proposition that corresponds to reality."
Whew, there's the definition! All of these say pretty much the same thing, just in different ways. Now reread these definitions to make sure you've got it in your head.
Because the word Truth is more of a term and represents something abstract, it seems so confusing and/or complex. As Dale said, almost all definitions attempting to define it involve circular reasoning and become redundant. [I like his "proposition corresponding to reality".]
The best definition I have been able to come up with is: "The actual narrative or composition of a field of focus; independent of and not determined by, what we think, feel or believe." Yet, this too, seems almost too abstract to all but a few who meander in a philosophical wonderland.
Does the definition of "Truth" involve the words, validity, proof or comprehension? Validity and proof are legal terms and comprehension involves Science.
Do they address the same questions? Legal questions involve plot and science focuses on composition and dynamics; yet they are all elements of truth. The narrative of truth and the composition of truth never conflict, Confused?
Years ago, I helped my sister remove a large tree that had been cut down and into pieces, from her backyard. I had to take down her side fence to load my truck.
When I put the fence back up, two employees of the next door neighbor, who was a contractor, said I moved the side fence over by two feet.
The evidence they used came in two parts. First, there used to be a grassy island between my sister's fence and the neighbor's driveway; it was now gone.
Second, the top rail of the fence separating the backyard from the frontyard was continuous, now it had a two foot extension, therefore it proved I moved the side fence over by two feet. I now had a dilemma of cordially disputing their contention.
The data was not in question. It was true or factual. But they chose a narrative to interpret the data as evidence for their narrative. Circular reasoning to validate a chosen narrative.
The only way to refute their narrative was to inject more composition and see if their narrative correctly interpreted the observations or if the observations invalidated their narrative.
I pointed out the two corner posts-one in the frontyard and one in the backyard. They were still cemented in, they had never been moved. The fence had been re-stretched from post to post.
So the actual composition of the field of focus disproved the narrative they had chosen to interpret the field of focus.
The actual narrative was the contractor took the opportunity to widen his driveway with the fence down and I used the original top rail, which I cut in sections as truck bed rails, so I could load more logs.
The validity of their truth ended with the observable, uninterpreted facts. Once they interpreted the data through a chosen narrative lens, it became their narrative we were contending with, not the observations.
Their narrow Window of observation appeared to support their narrative.
The the only way to cross-examine their narrative was with more actual composition of the field of focus to see if they agreed.
Truth shines brighter under cross-examination and all other narratives collapse as their circular reasoning props are exposed by the actual composition and/or dynamics.
Which brings us to the question that all questions about Truth lead to: Evolution or Creation?
What one can prove or disprove will not determine what another chooses to believe, but the rewards and consequences of Truth are independent of and not determined by what we think, feel or choose to believe...
The irony of Truth is the narrative we choose will determine our ability to comprehend the actual composition, but it is the actual composition that will validate or invalidate the narrative.
The Natural World is not linear sequence, it is an integrated Whole. It is Scientifically impossible to randomly integrate, because an integration has to come online at the same time or it can't come online at all.
The paper is now about 24 pages and it is on page 233 of this Website...
Have a great day!