What is truth? “That which is in accordance with fact or reality” (free dictionary.com). The problem with truth is that, just like reality, we don’t really know that we know it. We experience truth just as we do any other experience in life. Experientially. When we know a thing through our sensory input, and it is not contradicted by another one of our senses, we consider it to be true. However, scientists and doctors know that there are conditions, which can cause the senses to completely misinterpret or mistake a thing we are sure we know from experience. For example, certain nerve conditions cause a person to feel pain at a soft touch, or heat when there is none.
Whenever I broach this subject, I always think of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Aristotelian philosophy on the true nature of a thing is based on a few principles, and this is only a very simplified version of his massive theory: There is the Law of Non-Contradiction, which means that a thing cannot ‘be’ and ‘not be’ at the same time. That makes sense to me. He also posited that there are three types of things: “changeable and perishable,” “changeable and eternal,” and “immutable” (Metaphysics IV, 3-6). But even if we accept that, what about the fact that two people can experience the same event or stimuli and interpret it differently? Obviously, this is due to a number of factors, including but not limited to, the background, previous experiences, mental capacity, personality, beliefs, and possibly even genetics of the people interpreting the information. How then, can anyone know truth if it must be filtered through these varying and uncontrolled factors?
This is the problem with truth. We think we can know truth, but we cannot. Therefore, the meaning of truth becomes that which we think corresponds to reality, as we understand it. —Christina Knowles
- Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Trans. Joe Sachs. 2nd ed. Santa Fe, N.M.: Green Lion, 2002.
- “Truth.” Free Dictionary by Farlex. http://www.freedictionary.com/truth. Accessed: September 12, 2014.