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What is truth?

This question stemmed from a discussion on the subjectivity with religious doctrines in religion. How do we know what 'truth' is? Is truth true because an individual believes it, is it relative or definite? This question can be extended past religion to let's say, academia, politics, law and morality.

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    Nov 6 2012: From my point of view, all of us, we are relative, so we cannot know absolute truth.

    And no one lies, because each one tells its truth from itself. Therefore, all of us are right.
    • Nov 8 2012: Yes,I also think truth is a subjective thing.
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    Nov 4 2012: The truth is the real state of things and being that does not depend on opinions or feelings for validity.
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      Dec 4 2012: I have trouble accepting this definition of truth.

      It seems that you have paralleled what would be considered 'rational' with what the truth may be. Although I cannot dismiss, the fact, I feel rationality is of the most importance to achieve the truth...

      Regardless of how I feel I do know for a fact (by claims of empirical science) that the mind-brain does not mutually exclude thought from feeling, or reason from emotion - especially in memory. They are in fact involved in the same processes of cognition, consistently. This claim is supported by emotional intelligence theory/paradigm, being among the fastest moving developments of modern psychology and like fields.

      Beyond science, the above* is a Buddhist idea. Remarkable. To consider that thoughts and feelings are heavily intoned long before modern science; that emotions can make us delusional.

      With these statements in mind, allow me to revise your definition as would both accommodate your thoughts and mine on the manner of truth:

      "The truth is the real state of things and being, for which requires conscious reflection of opinions or feelings for validity."

      Why I feel this accommodates:
      Your original definition suggest an objective viewpoint - which is the goal of truth but cannot be the process in which to achieve truth as we are limited to our subjective thoughts, emotions, feelings, opinions, etc. and can never really escape them, but control them.

      The new definition takes into mind 1. the goal and 2. the means for which the process of achieving the goal, the subjective individual, must push and pull with one another (1v2) in order for validity to be insight.

      I do not know how you will respond to such a critique, but I thank you anyways for creating conflict in my thinking - it was joyfully strenuous. I only hope you can provide a rebuttal!
  • Nov 8 2012: Truth is not something that is hidden or untold , it can't be told; it is meant to be experienced and the final call should be aesthetic. You see the beauty, you are in love with it, time for a moment stops and somehow you know what truth is,maybe not the Truth, but what you've experienced has something to do with it.
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      Nov 8 2012: So truth is like a 'spiritual insight' granted by luck, meditation or reasoning? And does it has to be hardwired with aesthetic, beauty and love or could it also be in opposite to those features?
      • Nov 8 2012: Plato said that we should be directed by " the good, the true , the beautiful " . Actually all those come as one as ' spiritual insight ' and you know what insights are , they are not languagable . Rationally, the truest truth we could possibly get is ' true enough '; not at all bad :)
        But neither ' true ' nor 'true enough " can be in opposite to beauty and love.
        The physicist Paul Dirac once said, " a theory with mathematical beauty is more likely to be correct than an ugly one that fits experiments "
        And how can you see 'mathematical beauty ' not being in love with math ?
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          Nov 8 2012: Natasha, everything what you and Plato said I fully agree on and partially with Dirac, but still it is to me just one side of the coin of 'truth'. And as much as I wish this to be different and that only aesthetic, beauty and love would be its only side, I do not see it this way against better knowledge.

          My first insight of what war really means and what people are capable of doing, struck me with numbness. And the history of my very nation is more then enough on its own to understand that nothing positive can be intrinsic within the nature of truth.

          I can understand that we wish for 'the good, the true and the beautiful' and for sure we should keep on striving for it. But this is a selective choice only and not a description of the essence of 'truth' itself.

          The 'truth' about a cheating spouse is bare of any aesthetic for the one in love, yet deceived. And even though this bitter 'insight' may prevent further damage and blindness, it hardly ever turn into delight.

          Also I think 'truth' can be just neutral in its perception by an individual. If you would tell me your favourite color, in case you have one, this truth would not be of any use for me in the given situation. Nevertheless it was a 'truth' it does not really affect me. The same 'truth' however could change its 'value' in a different context. If we were friends and I choose for some warm mitten for you for christmas, your 'truth' would be useful to know to improve the chances that you would like this present more and to better match your sense of 'aesthetic'.

          So this would even add the 'edge' to the coin of 'truth' which may have even more dimensions to it as it appears to us in plain sight...

          :o)

          Do you have a favourite color?

          ;o)
      • Nov 9 2012: Hi, Lejan !
        As it was mentioned in the comments bellow, truth can be relative and absolute.
        Absolute truth is not a dual thing and can't be grasped by mind, relative or ' true enough ' is always balanced by untrue. What enters into dual world as one, becomes two and multiply into many. So, you are right ,it's not an easy subject, but still truth can be ' recognized ' , otherwise how could we possibly entertain the idea of truth ?

        All wars without exception were/are caused by Ego, individual or collective. Ego is untrue by it's nature, it's always insecure always threatened. Fear is its intrinsic quality, out of fear it is aggressive.

        Plato's ' the good , the true, and the beautiful " is selective choice for many who want to awake before death and have life on planet Earth, hopefully it is not that rare.

        Those who are in love can't be deceived. The only way out from love tragedies is to love more.

        Is it true ? I don't know, but for me , it's certainly true enough :)

        Can truth be neutral ?
        In a way, it should, it's a 'glow' ; when we become emotionally attached to what we think is true we are under the risk to miss the point. You are right, relative truth is like a coin of two sides; and the trick is to feel comfortable between ' yes' and 'no', true and not true. It's difficult to shape an opinion under the circumstances, and human verbal communication is all about sharing opinions, so it' a kind of tricky. I can assure you i can challenge all my above points.
        (I know, you've meant something different by ' neutral ' , I've just hijacked your idea to promote my point, it's true : )
        Do i have a favourite color ? Maybe not , or too many. Combination of colors and shapes and textures... and what not make everything beautiful in it's own unique way. We are in the end of fall, so brownish-greenish-yellowish-redish transparent blue is maybe my favourite color for the day :)
        Thanks for asking !
      • Nov 9 2012: Welcome ! :)
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    Nov 8 2012: Cosmic Function defines the TRUTH for the Universe.
    The attribute is a dimensional Knowledge base- This is Nature's function.
    At the base level: Unity is the truth. Achieve it through Science, Philosophy and Religious dialogues
    For many, the spirit of Truth is bitter to digest. Psychology to accept the truth comes prominence.
    • Nov 9 2012: 'Uni-verse' sounds like 'One song' , song of songs ; sure, it must be one being.
      "Unity is the truth".
      Sound true for me :)
      Thanks !
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    Lejan .

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    Nov 7 2012: For certain: The absence of untruth.

    Which is as relative and subjective as truth is, but there is no absolute answer out of this question... :o)
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    Nov 5 2012: The truth is what God says is true.

    John 14:6 (KJV)
    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    :-)
    • Nov 5 2012: Then nothing would be true.

      True is what is, false is what is not. Simple.
  • Nov 5 2012: Truth and real are our human parameters. in fact the subject which do not need witness/proof id perennial.
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    Dec 4 2012: As humans, we cannot exist/think outside of subjectivity, so for the process of seeking truth there must exist anticipation of both the desired truth and our limits - then - through [group] consensus there exist what is most likely always true, objectively.

    There are different types of truth and there exist degrees of truth, so truth seems relative.

    Therefore, whatever 'truth' is, is still limited by the human mind's ability to understand the absolute goal (whatever that particular truth may be) and the relative measures to reach such a goal - there may exist truth, there may not... but what does exist is the real metaphysical desire to want to know the truth.
  • Nov 29 2012: A response I had made to the debate, "Telling the truth: are there limits?"

    There is no utter truth. There are only things that exist to our senses as being more probable or less probable. If we concentrate on those things that exemplify a certain "reality" to our senses then our most probable situation (i.e. our truth) will be different than that of someone with dissimilar sense stimulation.

    This is why it is wise for people to gain insight into as many experiences and perspectives as possible, albeit with open minds, in order to derive what is the most probable for one's self. This relates directly to telling the truth or telling a lie in that what may seem absolute for one person may be far-fetched or seem lacking in any validity at all. This is not to say that all is relative, for if that is the case then there is no cause for order- if murder is relatively acceptable for someone and that perspective must be respected by society, then expect a chaotic society. The rule of law inhibits those perspectives with good cause, as doe’s society with certain norms. It is with the evolution of these laws and norms that a sensible society can sort through what rules should exist as being more probably acceptable and therefore more "true."

    Lying is all about perspective, and carries an undue negative connotation. If deception is used for a cause that is deemed by the enlightened mind to be of worth (more probably good than bad) then, perhaps it is simply a tool in the tool belt of the good willed. Regardless of your personal perspective of Jesus Christ, it can be said that he was quite benevolent- having said that we must remember that, even he deceived the Romans. Perhaps, we would be better to call it being savvy or witty or able to paint a good narrative. Just like anything else, lying is not a bad thing unless used by bad people toward mal ends.
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    Nov 20 2012: Truth is what is real or a description of how things in reality function; it can be obtained through many methods (the sciences) or threw ways of thought. Truth is outside of perspective, so it is there even if some choose not to see or paint over it with their minds (consciously or unconsciously).
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    Nov 9 2012: Truth is simply the state of energy at any particular instant.

    We sense some of this energy, but our senses are selective and full of signal noise.
    We then take the data of our senses and run it through an adaptive matrix to convert sense data into cognitive "information" ( static and causal maps) - this process is called "perception" or "belief" (both words mean the same thing).
    The perceptive mechanism is also prone to noise, but it is adaptive enough to sustain the survival of the organism.
    There will always be a gap between truth and perception because of the time-lag in the mechanics of constructing and updating information maps.
    However, causal maps have the ability to predict the energy state. This compensates for the time-lag gap.
    Predictive causality is very noisy, however it is self-noise-reducing through continual prediction-->observation-->map-update.
    Any method that refines the process of observation results in better noise-reduction in our causal maps. Hence the scientific method.
    Regardless of all this, the causal maps must remain adaptive, and will only approach truth on a statistical basis - there will always be some margin of error.
    In other words, we will never know the absolute truth, but we must always move towards it.

    In this way, for humans, truth is a journey - not a destination.
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      Dec 4 2012: Energy, and time (a particular instant) are two parameters that are subject to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Which means that we can never measure both exactly - regardless of the accuracy our equipment.

      Another consequence of quantum mechanics is that we can never be the neutral observer. As soon as we start observing a system, we interact with it and therefore alter it.

      My point being that absolute truth is not just something we can never know, but something that doesn't exist.
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        Dec 4 2012: I believe so.

        I think what we see in the Heisenburg uncertainty is a fractal reflection of what happens in levels above the quantum limit.
        These days, I am seeing things as entropy waves. That any pattern is a "self" - and that every self is a negentropic wave standing positive of the universal entropic gradient.
        I propose that the positive nengentropic envelopes defining a self produce a spacial and temporal field of super-entropy which stands negative of the universal entropic graident.
        I believe that the universal entropic gradient is conserved - just as Newton observed in energy - the super-entropic balances the negentropic - and that the field is a potential created by a self.
        That the greater slope of the super-entropic field is conducive to formation of more selves by virtue of the greater potential of entropic gradient in the super-entropic field.
        This causes a fractal occupation of these fields culminating in the quantum particle - which presents a potential gradient that is near-vertical and cannot be occupied by smaller selves without the gradient becoming absolute-vertical(singularity).
        That a field cannot be measured without placing a self in it - and then the self becomes the measurement.
        So .. electrons might very well be no more than potential fields - and the particles we see being smashed out of them are created at the occupation caused by the collision.
        Fields attract things because of the entropic slope in them - and things get stuck there because teh trailing half of the super-entropic field is negentropic when compared to the at-rest gradient.
        I also note that the zero-point crossing from teh negentropic self to the super-entropic field is occupied by the boundary of the self - often indicated by a porous membrane. In animals we call it "skin".
        The trailing edge of the negentropic envelope also contains part of teh increased gradient - this promotes the action of symbiosis.
        It's not constrained by the arrow of time. The fields go both ways.
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          Dec 4 2012: I am sorry, but this doesn't make much sense and I don't see how it this should bypass uncertainty and reveal an absolute truth.
  • Nov 8 2012: Pat has the right idea.

    Philosophers have written many books about this. It is all mind games until you try it out for yourself. Some things are universal, like gravity. Some things are individual and what works for one person might not work for another. Socialism might work for one group and not another group. People are hard wired to learn by trial and error, for a good reason.
  • Nov 8 2012: It is something that doesn't always apply, but when it does it matters. In some of these cases it isn't of much consequence, but often it is vital to our sense of honesty and/or justice. Time and location can be a factor in what is true. Also the description of the truth can be incomplete and therefore shy of important details necessary to answer all relevant questions about what is claimed.

    For my sense of sanity I need the truth to be definite and is most comfortable when tied to physical reality. Obviously the truth has application beyond this limitation, which can be just as exacting such as the rules of a game.

    The truth can be subject to perception. It is this situation that makes TED so engaging or perhaps at times enraging. This is when the more subjective explanations and creative thought and skills can come into play. Even though I might be able to agree truth is subject to perception that does not imply the truth is not confined to what it is by definition. For example a color blind person may not see a green light as green, but that doesn't mean it isn't green.

    Anyway, for me the truth deserves and demands to be definite and why it is central to making us more accountable and better human beings.
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    Nov 6 2012: Truth is subjective and sensitive to time and place. One person's truth is never another's. A truth is a social construction. A truth has a purpose in social bonding for the better achievement of a shared goal. The confusion of truth with light may be something to do with distortions of vocabulary as much as anything else and the human mind's determination to be associated with and to make links to, what it already knows. Look at the huge legal team that supports the election of a US president. Truth becomes whatever is arguable in a court of law rather than a representation of the free will of the people. Still can't get past the fact such a huge percentage of the US population illiterate. George Orwell demonstrated what happens when a vocabulary is limited in his book '1984'. Looking for creativity in people whilst denying them an appropriate language is just cruel. A society where the population has chances for mobility is always going to be more productive than a rigid pyramid structure and that applies to people and products. When the young people migrate half way round the world to find a way to feed their children then that is big. big trouble. Economic policy needs to be circumspect and trading patterns usually eventually supercede and then swamp any society.
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    Nov 6 2012: That would depend on whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute. Keep in mind what is true to you may not be true to me.

    All the best. Bob.
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    Nov 6 2012: absolutely ıf you are sure what to do and if results are beneficial for you EVERYTHING is true
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    Nov 5 2012: If Truth is relative, is it absolutely true? If Truth is subjective, are you absolutely sure? I came to discover that: "The Truth IS what IT IS and IT IS not what IT IS not.

    “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” ― C.S. Lewis

    Search and You will Find...
  • Nov 5 2012: Not telling the truth is not the same as lying. Such concepts get very coomplicated.
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    Nov 4 2012: It is true if it works.