Dimensions of Truth// 1 What is Truth?
This series outlines a framework to approach truth. We first define what truth is not, and provide 3 lenses to identify what truth is.
Read time: ~8m
"The battle for your mind can be summarized by the difference between truth and lies." - Dr. Del Tackett, The Truth Project
If we regularly distance ourselves from the ability to discern & recognize the basis for truth, either as a religious person or an atheist, this cognitive dissonance can disrupt our ability to trust anything at all.
Do you really believe, what you believe is real?
If you do, how do you know? More specifically, how can you trust the conclusions you come to? We all have some way of processing, but how many of us have slowed down enough to see if our sources were even legitimate? Or if you've felt lost and couldn't tell up from down, how do you find your footing?
I don't mean to suggest everything we say needs to be constantly cited with explicit references, or even that we need to be right. Simply to reflect on why we identify a statement or belief as reliable or unreliable. If something is good or bad. Where we can turn to clear the confusion between what is truth, what is a lie, and what is a partial story?
Depending on the topic, some people turn to an authority figure, to scripture, or their own life. Other people say it's a very subjective or personal matter, and it can be. As they say in construction, "the bigger the building the deeper the foundation." If we want to become people of skyscraper character, we need to dig out our basements.
It's so easy to get tripped up around truth, especially in a world of fake news and identity politics. So is there a framework we can all apply to all people? Maybe, I would suggest we approach these in layers for you to consider, and you can let me know what you think.
Naturally this is a large topic, so I can only go so deep today. If you have any thoughts as you go through this, please drop a comment below!
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First question: Is there truth at all?
We need a common language
But before we get all fancy or disagreeable, what even is truth?
If we ever hope to clarify our thoughts with ourselves, let alone each other, we need to work from the same materials and share a common language. In this way, we can work together on solutions rather than fighting just to cause disruption.
So let's recognize the most common types of truth we tend to refer to. You may know them by different names, but it's the concepts that hold the value.
What is Not Truth?
Probably the most obvious one, but truth is not a lie. A lie is incongruent with reality. In ignorance, someone may call apples a kangaroo, but if the function isn't affected it hardly matters.
I'm more concerned about the lies we want to believe or get wrapped in truth. It can come in the form of a partial story for manipulation, or slander against someone's character. We can lie to ourselves to boost our ego or hide a flaw. The relevance here, is we're offered cheap pleasure, but it isn't sustainable and will lead to harm.
If a person believes a lie to be true, they proportionally unravel. If it's at the core of their belief, it ultimately leads a person to self-destruction.
When we accept a claim about reality, or make it personal, it becomes a belief. Some have called this by the misnomer "personal truths." In this regard, our beliefs are either based on a truth consistent with reality, or on a lie leading to destruction. Our beliefs can be true, but sometimes they are wrong.
The collection of individual beliefs craft an internal filter by which we process reality. We call these filters our worldview - often a blend of religion, irreligion, and/or philosophy. Our worldview holds our personal views and understanding of the world. It is our view of reality.
We may take on many roles in life, and even identify with many different things or experiences - but these are like clothes to our core identity.
Our core identity is the primary story we align ourselves to. This story often re-writes our view of the world, even when in opposition to our preferred thoughts, feelings, or actions. Because who we believe we are - how we see ourselves - impacts the world we see. Even when we’ve been conditioned to believe a certain narrative.
So we encounter a situation or truth claim, it goes through our worldview, then we come to some sort of a conclusion.
We have thoughts and feelings. They develop into our own stances or remarks, and these perspectives are our opinions. Everyone has one, it's subjective. It's ok if they are completely at odds with each other, incongruent with reality, or flat out wrong.
A classic Ben Shapiro line is "Facts don't care about your feelings." Why? Because they're just data points following the flow of reality. How we feel about them doesn't change what they are. But how we respond to them can make a difference.
We can all be looking at the same data, but without context it's meaningless. Facts must have a story to communicate insight. Without a true story though, people can manipulate facts and stats as weapons to fit their agenda. This is why we need to compare conflicting stories to sort out the facts and opinions from the story.
Facts can be changed. Stories can be altered. Yet Truth is timeless and unchanging. But still, what is it?
👤 If you have someone come to mind as you’re reading this, use it as an opportunity to reconnect! You can share this post with them as an excuse to start the conversation.
So... What is Truth?
As outlined above, the reason for making lines between words is because how we use them change over time. The functional meaning is most important, but it comes through the form of a particular word.
Here's a fun example:
Literally 1) the sense or manner — e.g. used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description.
1a) reproduced word for word: exact, verbatim.
1b) uses the ordinary or primary meaning of a term.
2) in effect : VIRTUALLY —used in anexaggerated way to emphasize a statement or description that is not literally true or possible.
Yes, it's official. "Literally" now also means "figuratively." The same word means "true" and "not true" at the same time, depending on the use.
In 1826 Noah Webster defined Truth as such:
"Truth is that which conforms to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be… We rely upon the truth of the scriptural prophecies."
Our culture today doesn't hold the Bible at this same level as truth. So the question becomes how can we dimensionalize truth in a way that would be more meaningful?
We see objective reality through the scientific method.
We can start with a good guess about something. Then if we can run an experiment, observe the results with our physical senses, and reliably repeat the process, we call this Scientific Truth.
One form this can take is with universal constants like math. The numbers don't lie and that's why we like them.
It's incredibly valuable, but Scientific Truth is only one piece of reality. If we only have one tool at our disposal, that makes us a pretty limited scientist.
"We have a narrative sense of the world, for me it’s been the world of morality, the world that tells us how to act. It’s real, we treat it like it’s real." - Jordan Peterson, S4E8
An example of something science can't measure is love. We make attempts by collecting data on relational longevity, or tracking actions of love language.
But come now, can any paper report fully capture everything we know and feel towards the person we love? Sometimes we feel it, sometimes we don't, but love isn't just an emotion either. It's multi-layered. There's also a decision to act in love.
A classic area where we can find poetic truth is in Story. This might come through music, poetry, Netflix, or legends around the campfire.
We see the Poetic Truth in a myth or work of fiction when the story speaks to our soul. This isn't always tangible, and sometimes it's very personal, yet we can each know it in our gut. The narrative transcends the medium and creatively reveals something about reality.
"Truth is the same across history and science, but once it shifts to religion or morality it tends to be perceived differently." - Sean McDowell, Doing the Right Thing
Scientifically, we see and measure truth. Poetically, we feel and experience truth. When we bring these two worlds together, we call it Absolute Truth. What happens when these worlds touch? We'll have to address that later.
Absolute Truth governs the nature of reality. It applies to all people at all time, even if we don't interact with it directly, or we experience it in unique ways. It often (but not always) comes through a function of principles.
These principles inform our beliefs and challenge us at the core if we're out of alignment. With so many layers of interference from our core beliefs to our expression, it's no wonder we don't express truth very well. This may be why some people wonder if it even exists at all.
Does Absolute Truth Exist?
To approach this question, I'd first ask "Is this the type of question that has an answer? If so, what are my options?"
A separate question would be "Can we can actually know the answer?" Some answers will always be out of reach.
In this case, our question has an answer and the only possible options are either "Yes" or "No," so let's explore them. To state the obvious, "Sometimes," means we're no longer speaking across the board.
If the answer is "No, Absolute Truth does not exist," we actually find ourselves in a bit of trouble. For this to be consistent across the board, it would be an absolute statement. That would make this our first absolute truth and we'd find ourselves in a paradox.
So then either way, to resolve the paradox or choose the other option, the answer in some capacity is, "Yes, Absolute Truth does exist." But say we follow up and say, "Ok, but this is the only absolute truth." For this to be the case across the board, we find ourselves in the same logic as the previous, with another paradox.
So we now know of at least 2 absolute truths, but how many are there? This is the type of question that would have an answer, but not an answer we can know.
A more helpful question might be how can we recognize absolute truth, if and when it's revealed to us?
💬👇 Questions, Comments, Compliments? I’d love to hear from your experience!
Remind me, Why is this important?
Truth is the foundation for our trust. It shapes our beliefs, and takes the form of what we think and feel towards others, but it starts with ourselves. To grow our character, we must be able to identify our foundations.
Truth can be scientific, poetic, or absolute - but it conforms to reality across all time, and doesn't change. It's beyond us, providing a natural order to the cosmos, and it's wisdom to align ourselves with it.
A common language helps us connect, so we don't trip over misunderstandings. We can sort through the facts of reality and the filters of our worldview, but they still base in our beliefs.
Because truth underlines everything, it's a powerful change agent. Especially if we desire to realign our beliefs toward a worldview and way of life more congruent with reality. We'll keep the story going, and in the next post, we'll discover how we can know Truth when we encounter it.
💬👇 What do you think Hero?
🙏 Reflection: If a topic or event comes up that makes you feel uncomfortable, or you find yourself a bit too eager to accept, consider slowing down a moment.
Then as close to the moment as possible, take some time to reflect. It can be in the conversation where you encounter the message, or even the end of the day if it's your soonest moment.
Here's a few questions I've found helpful in these moments, and would encourage you to ask yourself:
Where is this thought or feeling come from?
What does it say about "who I am?"
What does "who I am" say about my beliefs?
Where might this belief come from?
Is it a useful or shaky foundation?
What might be a more solid foundation?
What are the implications of this new foundation on my thoughts or feelings?
PS. I can't see your face, but would love to hear your voice!
❤️ If this post resonated with you, let me know with a ❤️
🙏 Reflection: We each have biases in our approach to truth. While I hope my aim is more often toward the absolute, I know I have a tendency to lean more scientific than poetic.
💬👇 Where do you think your truth biases land?
💬👇 Was there a particular description of truth that stood out to you? Maybe there's another quote on this topic that's resonated with you? I'd love to hear from your experiences in the comments below!
👤 If you had someone come to mind as you were reading this, use it as an opportunity to reconnect. You can share this post with them as an excuse to start the conversation.
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