Truth is...

I've been asking myself this question all day, what is truth, what is the truth? It's one of the questions you either need to read dozens of books about or you don't have to read anything, because the truth is, in the end you don't know the answer.

We could start by saying that truth is absolute or relative. If there is an absolute truth about something we should know it and accept it, if truth is relative for everyone, then the concept of truth is something only we humans have, in the sense that it is something different for all of us, like musical preferences.

Relative truth

There could be a relative truth when it comes to human interactions and experiences, lets say that two brothers who committed a robbery go to prison for 10 years. After that period it is time for them to get out, one feels that this period was good for him, it helped him be a better man, the other thinks that he lost ten years of his life. We can't say that a general truth about convicts exists in this case.

Let's take this game on a global level. During the Cold War two sides, in some ways different, began to combat one another. Communists knew the truth about capitalism, and capitalists knew the truth about communists, but did they really? The truth about one ideology and another is different in the eyes of different people and if we try to be objective and travel a "middle road" we will find "another" truth.

There is also a spiritual realm which must not be forgotten. We have an easy example of Christians and Muslims and what they know about Jesus. One side believes he is the Son of God, while the other that he is a Prophet. Can you speak against the word of God? If we throw an atheist in the fight the picture is clear, truth is whatever you want to believe.

We can now see how experience, faith and belief can influence what we know to be true. In such cases it is better to show tolerance than to impose your side of the story. The sad thing is that wars are generally started because people lack tolerance and that they tend to want a world that is only black and white, nothing in between.

Absolute (Objective) truth

When I talk about "absolute truth" I refer to things we all know to be true. In this case I would like to concentrate on "consensus theory".

"That which is universal among men carries the weight of truth."
- From antiquity

The funny thing about this theory is that not all people agree with it, thus making it false. But let's say it is true, we can find the example of how Christ is perceived only by Muslims, in this case the theory is true, but if we extend the field to encompass Christians and Jews the theory falls, or no one knows the truth. Let's talk about simple objects, like a chair, when we say "a chair is made for sitting on" we attribute a function to it. Everyone agrees because all of us sit on chairs if we have any. But if we say "a chair is made for hitting someone in the head" people like the two robbers might agree, but some might not. Now we have attributed a function that is not (apparently) part of the original design, but nonetheless it is real.

"Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth."
- Mohandas Gandhi

If an alien for example visits our planet and sees a chair and has no legs because he levitates, what will he think? He has no need for chairs, so he shows tolerance and accepts whatever function we give it. In this situation I wanted to show that we need to know the truth about things, and in some situations, consensus theory can be applied. But if he asks who is Jesus, then we have some explaining to do and eventually he would even use a chair after all the talking is finished.

Humans have the ability to use their senses and make judgments based on those senses. It is like an input-output relation. This is actually a very complex activity and it seems that as complexity rises the risk for errors increase, otherwise it would be impossible for me to explain the vast quantity of truths.

The color red is the color red for everyone, except those who have dichromacy for example. We use our eyes and we do not need to judge whether red is red. Even if we use different languages, the words change, but not their meaning. In a way, simple things that are part of the senses more than the mind, can be considered true by consensus theory, by definition, and other means.

Time to end

My objective was not to write a history of "truth", or a list of philosophical ideas about this concept, I only wanted to turn the wheels in the mind and hope something interesting pops out. I don't believe in the kind of philosophy you learn from books at the University, the real philosophy is inside all of us (well, not quite all), and it is called thinking, reading some Plato and ibn Sina (just examples) along the way should be part of basic education.

So, in the end, our perception of truth is the same, we just added some categories that look good.

I will end by sharing a riddle I came acrosse while doing research for this article:
There was an explorer on his way to a secret city. As he struggled through jungles inhabited by two intermingled tribes - one of whom always lied, while the other always told the truth - he came to a fork in the road. There a native squatted. The explorer was minded to ask his advice but, as the locals all dressed identically, could not tell to which tribe he belonged. The tribes shared a custom: they ate anyone who asked more than one question. How could the explorer formulate an enquiry so as to elicit a useful answer?
Do you know the answer?

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