What is Truth?

Last week’s post about worshiping religion and this week’s post about the nature of truth are leading up to a series of posts that have been on my heart for a long time. Stay tuned!


Google defines truth as

1. the quality or state of being true

2. that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

Wikipedia asserts that truth can have a “logical, factual, or ethical meaning.”

American Views of Truth (“Just the Facts, Please”)

Most of the people I know think of truth as facts and data. Truth can be found through research and recording details. Children lie unless they tell us exactly what happened. In court, we take an oath to tell the truth, and then are expected to relate a course of events, and substantiate our claims with documents and data. Educating children is being pushed to what can be measured and quantified, as if all that I child needs to learn and the quality of his or her learning can be summed up in a few numbers gleaned from a system of tests — a “true measure” of the intelligence of the child and the quality of the teacher.  It all feels true, because it can be measured and compared. This is what leads to the love affair we have with science, the subject of last week’s post.

Logical Truth

The problem of relying too heavily on facts can be seen as we move toward the idea of logical truth. This is the realm of analyzing and “arguing” truth. (It is called arguing, even though we’re not really supposed to raise our voices or call names.)

Turning again to Wikipedia, logical truth is “a statement which is true and remains true under all reinterpretations of its components other than its logical constants.” In other words, it can’t be picked apart: all of the components stand up to scrutiny.

Interestingly, the limitations of facts and data become glaringly obvious when we take a look at logical fallacies, one of which is called “lying with statistics,” or using true figures and numbers to prove unrelated claims. If you would like to look into fallacies further, try these links:

Ethical Truth

To me, this is where truth gets interesting: the concept of ethical fact and ethical reality. I see the suggestion that there are real, guiding principles which, when exercised, will lead to happier, fuller life. These truths are often referred to as virtues.

The crazy part of ethical truth, is that it can be taught and expressed in non-factual ways: allegories, fables, exaggeration, and understatement. In my study of the scriptures, I am learning that these tools may have been used by ancient scribes, because their understanding of truth was ethical truth — not the factual truth of the modern western (or American) culture.

So What?

Good question!

Last week’s post about our American love affair with science and this week’s post on the many facets of truth are the introduction to a hot-button topic that I have wanted to write about for a long time. It won’t be easy for me, but it’s time.

See you next week!

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