The True Question

This post marks the beginning of a blog I am hoping to write to weekly. If no one reads the posts, it is still worth it for me to be thinking about some important topics and to have a future reference to look to. I am going to attempt to write this first post using two assumptions: that we have the ability to use logic and have the ability to draw reasonable conclusions using that logic.

What is truth? This question is very important to consider. To show why, I am going to explain the two “extreme” viewpoints of what truth is and then describe the implications of these two views.

1. Relative truth – truth is what you want/think it to be. It depends on the individual and can change from person to person. It comes solely from the “inside” or “heart” of an individual. 

Basic example: I find it true that the temperature was 45 degrees in Green Bay, WI at 3 PM CST on 1/5/12. You find it true that the temperature was 65 degrees in Green Bay, WI at 3 PM CST on 1/5/12. We are both correct about the temperature since our statement is true to us individually.

2. Objective truth –  Truth is universal and timeless, no matter what an individual thinks or feels about a particular topic. Truth is “outside” of an individual and does not change based on one’s viewpoint. A particular truth is true for everyone, everywhere. A good definition of truth would be the correspondence to the way the world actually is.

Basic example: The temperature was actually 45 degrees in Green Bay, WI at 3 PM CST on 1/5/12. I am correct about the temperature (45 degrees) since my statement reflects an objective reality in the world. You are incorrect that the temperature was 65 degrees no matter how much you believed it was true; your statement did not correspond to reality. This situation holds no matter where you are in the world or when you lived after that date. In the year 3000 the temperature will still have been 45 degrees at that time and at that location.

There is a flaw in the relative truth example above. The two statements on the temperatures contradict each other; in other words, they reflect two different potential realities. Using logic, we can determine that two contradictory statements about the same reality cannot both be true (i.e. the temperature could not have been 45 AND 65 degrees at the exact same moment in the exact same location). Therefore, one or both statements must be false.

How does that example relate to relative truth as a whole? First of all, the relative truth viewpoint leads to the possibility of two contradictory claims to be true. In fact, a strict relative truth view allows an individual’s statement to ALWAYS be true (at least to that person)! Also, the statement “all truth is relative” is contradictory in itself because that statement claim refers to a reality that is true for everyone (more could be said about this, but I want to limit space).

What are the implications of a person with one of these views about truth? If you hold the relative truth view, then what you find to be true for yourself is in fact true. So, little is needed to challenge what you believe is true if you KNOW that you are always correct. There would also be no motivation to tell others what you think is true; whatever you believe (even if it’s different than what they believe) is true to you.

If you hold the objective truth view, you think your view does not necessarily correspond to reality/truth. So, there is much more reason to “search” for what is true and to discuss views with others, especially on topics that are important.

This truth question is important because it could affect many things you do in life, and would especially affect the way you view the world.

A person can still claim “what I believe is true for me”, but based on some of the issues above, it is more reasonable that there is objective truth outside of an individual’s belief in a statement.

That is all for now! I will end with a few side comments:

This point may not hold for everything. For example, a person has emotions that only he can know, so there may be some “relativeness” there (i.e. I believe I am happy so I am happy). However, I am mainly referring to a statement about reality that is outside of a person’s thoughts and feelings. For example, the statement “I believe the temperature was 65 degrees” may be true (referring to a person’s thoughts), but saying “the temperature was 65 degrees” would be false (referring to an “outside” reality).

There are also degrees of belief within these two extreme viewpoints (i.e. certain topics like religion and morals being relative) and other views about truth (agnosticism). I will likely talk about these views if I post again.

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