On Truth

What is Truth?

The objective residue of reality. That which, hidden or seen, is in accord with fact or fidelity to an original or standard. The criterion of truth depends on authenticity and mirroring exactitude of certainty. Perceiving truth and exposing moral relativism should be human duties. Alas, the fallible nature of mankind inevitably leads to lying, to obfuscation, metaphor and pastiche.

Truth is not always good and often makes for a hard message to deliver. Telling one’s wife that she looks beautiful is good even if her new line in make-up renders her a Marcel Marceau. Telling the mother of the fallen soldier that he perished because of a friendly fire stray bullet from one’s weapon is hard when she was deriving comfort from being told by others that he died a hero. The best marriages are replete with white lies. The hardest truths tend to reveal themselves when the reality of history cannot be smothered any longer, when truth overcomes all opportunity of fiction.

Somewhere along the line of subjectivity and objectivity is where we think truth lies. In reality what we think to be truth is most often a lie – so caught up in our own internal subjective dissimulations and deceptions. People change just in the blink of an eye and transform unconditionally, leading us to misconception and error like those tempted by mirage. Suppositions become erroneous presuppositions. Habit leads to miscalculation. There are those who have died on their cross of truth for others to see later on that they died in vain, while others died as martyrs for truths more important than their continued existence on the planet.

Adequation is so unsatisfactory but what is satisfactory? The patina of a polished car may seem perfect to the man with twenty-twenty vision but inadequate to machine vision. Abstract art is too often an enigma – its truth explained by experts who say they know the truth but have never met the artist. Dozens of exam marking instruction manuals exist for marking English Literature papers, which text authors were never consulted on. Too often in the modern world a tick box is seen as the only necessary backcloth against which to determine truth – the reality is more nuanced and depends on deeper, perhaps unattainable, understanding.

Are humans naturally predisposed to seeking truth?

Yes, societies have spontaneously developed across most of the world where truth holds an association with law and a positive image of integrity. For authentic communication and genuine interaction between people to occur, telling the truth is generally vital. If truth were not expected, it would not be long before communication would entirely break down. How many times can a boy cry wolf? On what basis could a person make important decisions if there was no expectation of the truth? Life would be chaotic without the norm of honesty. Those societies who have developed permitted lying as a weapon of linguistics tend to be those societies who need to impose their wills on others to expand underhandedly, or to escape persecution. The subterfuge of taqiyya, for example, is an Islamic juridical term whose shifting meaning relates to when a Muslim is allowed, under Sharia law, to lie.

Truth seems straightforward to sense. Bad liars’ ears go red. Subconscious body language tends to help inquisitors discover the truth when liars lie. Carrot or stick implemented in combination most often draw out the truth. In fact there are obstacles to truth which are less discernible. Take the labyrinth of linguistics. While language plays a key role in attaining and exposing truth, language also tends to obfuscate or misdirect the path to truth. All languages have words to represent concepts that are virtually undefined in other languages. Abstract words, especially those derived from agglutinative languages, throw a spanner in the works – someone’s perception of zeitgeist may be so abstract as to be meaningless and mystifying to another. What is found at the end of one’s chosen linguistic path? The angel of truth or a minotaur?   

It is fair to say that every human being has lied. Therefore all humans are liars. It is unreasonable to say that humans lie all the time. Even habitual liars occasionally come up with truthful statements. So, what of the liar paradox, whereby a liar explains truthfully that he or she is lying? If the liar is indeed lying, then the liar is telling the truth, which means the liar just lied. That the liar’s statement can be shown to be true if it is false and false if it is true has led some to conclude that it is “neither true nor false”. This response to the paradox is, in effect, the rejection of the claim that every statement has to be either true or false. The paradox can be reduced to the mental act of assuming that the very idea of fallacy bears a truth value, namely that the very idea of fallacy is false: an act of misrepresentation. This paradox of linguistics is as pointless as a broken pencil – a logical absurdity like Freud’s cake joke. Every human being starts out life as an arsehole – not only is it the first part of the human body to form in the womb, the truth is that liars can always reform their behaviour and improve, despite the inherent multiple meanings and ambivalences of linguistics. Surely truth exists aside from mere words.

The reality is that simple truths are unquestionably true. The ball is round. The car is fast. The socialist is wrong. More complex truths are trickier to determine and merit more questioning. The conclusions of even the best reasoning can be no better than its premises. In the abstract, as in mathematics, this is of little concern because mathematicians care more where premises lead than where they come from. In real life reality, few complex propositions are perfectly trustworthy. Accepted facts turns out false. We never know anything for certain. To get to the grains of complex truth erase all assumptions from beliefs – erase all that has ever been deduced from them. Apply first principles. Each human must find his own way to examine the data that somewhere contains truth.

What is truth?

Truth is light. Truth is purest data. Truth is soul.   

As Gandhi mentioned:

‘Even if You are a minority of one, the Truth is the Truth’

Published by Dominic Wightman

Businessperson, Editor & Father, Dominic Wightman spends his time between the UK and Venezuela.

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