One of the most commonly used, or shall I say, abused words in the history of humanity is “truth.” Many, if not all, understood truth (solely) in the context of verifiability. In other words, if I am stating something - a claim maybe; and if this [claim] is supported by evidences, then, I possessed the truth – done. In a colloquial definition, it is more associated to persona – a concrete human, by saying, “[truth] is someone who is a conveyor [bearer] of reality.” The notion of truth is universally recognized as one of the three precepts of natural law provided by Thomas Aquinas. These are: a.) Preservation of life and family b.) Maintaining Peace and Order of the society c.) Search for truth. Hence, to have a deeper knowledge of this concept [of truth] gives us an idea of the vastness of human nature. It is really saddening that most people of this [modern] generation have a myopic understanding of truth. For most of them, truth is only limited to uttered [words] that can be proved. Or, in the context of logic – a branch of Philosophy - considered as the art [science] of correct reasoning, truth is merely determinable based on the arrangement [formation] of syllogisms; whether it is valid or invalid propositions.
As the age advances, truth has become more complicated and diverse; every nation and individual has its own definition of it. Truth is no longer seen as something separated from humans – or merely by association, but it is already part or within human and social norms. In other words, the body – humans, are the concrete manifestation of truth - it is no longer just idea.
Let’s talk about some of the common (and the most important) ones. Actually, there are numerous criteria of truths – and one book is not even enough to discuss all of them - but I will only dwell on the five [common criteria], which I think helpful in our day–to-day living. Traditionally, truth is defined as “a correspondence between concepts and objects.” The said definition is known as “the correspondence theory,” it is popularized by “The Rationalists,” one of the schools of thought in Philosophy. Thinkers who ascribed themselves to rationalism believed [assert] that the power of mind; reason particularly, is enough to understand reality. One prominent [French] rationalist, Rene Descartes, would assert that “there is such thing as a priori [knowledge] - information beforehand, this kind of [knowledge] is certain than those that we have experienced.” In the words of other [rationalist] philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz – “innate ideas.” Those [two] personalities aforementioned (Descartes and Leibniz) believed that from the very moment we were born into this world, our minds have already possessed knowledge. In other words, they are individuals who [deemed] dismiss any arguments, suppositions, that cannot be proven by reason alone. Hence, for them, our idea (the concept) of a thing should conform with what is perceived in reality. For example, each one of us have an idea of what a cat looks alike, it has sharp fangs and claws, it has fluffy [fur] hair; and if your idea of that cat conforms to reality and of others [views], then, you are considered as possessor of truth.
Secondly, we have the “pragmatic notion of truth,” it is defined as “whatever that works must be true, anything that is workable and feasible is true.” In other words, it is the practical notion of truth. It is seen as “utility.” One American and known pragmatist philosopher, William James, would say, “anything that is useful is true.” This is a kind of truth embraced by people who are engaged into business, as long as you are benefitting from it, it is true, when time comes that you are no longer gaining from what you believe in; then the value ascribed to it ceases. Thirdly, we have the “empirical truth,” technically, the word “empirical” means “experiential.” It [empirical truth] defined as “anything that my senses can be perceived.” When we say senses, it has something to do with the five common senses that humans have; sense of sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing. In other words, the empiricists (those individuals who subscribed to this belief) argue that truth is only considered as true once perceived, if you are claiming something; and that something cannot be proven [by senses], then, there is no value of truth in it. A prominent empiricist philosopher, George Berkeley, would say in Latin words, “Esse est percipi,” translated as “To be is to be perceived.”
Then we have the “coherence criterion of truth,” it is defined as “it is ideas or knowledge, bit of information that are consistent and harmonious with other knowledge.” Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher, adhered to coherence theory when he developed his “dialectic philosophy” by considering the history [evolution] of ideas as something constantly moving from - thesis – anti-thesis – synthesis.” The main argument of the proponents of coherence theory is “consistency of belief.” For as long as your belief is intact and keeps holding on from one generation to another; from culture to culture, it is confirmed and constantly promoted by people, then, you have the truth. Lastly, we have the “language theory of truth.” It is defined as “it is a construction [property] of propositions forwarded [asserted] in a discourse.” Meaning, truth, in this context [language theory] is highly dependent on how an individual use the power of language to influence. Truth in language theory is [always] binding on how the person uttering the words is able to convey the meaning of what he/she is communicating – the message is clearly understood.
As a reminder, we have to always bear in mind that the idea of truth cannot be reduced to only one perspective; subscribing into just one school of thought may lead to a form of extremism – single mindedness – linearity of thinking. Truth must be seen in a diverse points of view, and all those criteria mentioned are just parts and parcel of what really reality is. Truth is continually evolving in time and history. Having discussed that, what is [now] your own definition of truth? To end this, let me give you a spoiler, this [article] serves as a backdrop to the next topic that I am going to write. It is about the nature of lie – its ethical definition; the conditions that constitute it. So, my fellow wisdom seekers, I am inviting you [again] to read and anticipate my next article that will explore the philosophy behind lying.