Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Is The Truth?

You would think everybody knew what the truth was. Surely it is simple to find. Yet, for some reason, truth is something that people do not agree upon.

The story of five blind men encountering an elephant for the first time demonstrates how difficult it can be for us humans to grasp truth.

The first blind man puts his hands around the trunk of the elephant and declares he has found a python. The second blind man found the elephant's tail and said he had found a rope. The third blind man felt the elephant's leg and concluded he had found a tree. The fourth blind man felt the elephant's tusk and was convinced it was a spear. The fifth blind man had his body against the elephant’s side and declared he had discovered a wall.

This story is used to illustrate how we interpret our discoveries in life. Because we are not omniscient, we can only see in part.

Scientists often declare some new discovery as the absolute truth based on an observation under clinical conditions, or a snapshot of what is happening in a much more complex world. Just like the blind men in the above parable, scientists interpret what they find on the basis of their own limited understanding at the time. The bigger picture is still a mystery, which is evidenced as astrophysicists and cosmologists attempt to explain the universe and its origins.

When we talk of truth, I suppose we mean that which is real, reliable and unchangeable. Yet, we hear of such things as true lies and paradoxical truths.

How can a lie be the truth? The paradox is that it is true that when a lie is told it has to be truly a lie, because a lie that is false ceases to be a lie.

I know this is a play on words, but this is the problem when it comes to determining what is truth. There are so many paradoxes we find ourselves in a world of confusion. What appears to be true at first often is proven untrue at another time, and what does not appear to be true can oftentimes be truth in disguise.

Truth is about knowledge.
Knowledge is best understood as "knowing the edge". This is not a dictionary definition, rather it is the best way I can think of explaining what is truth or what knowledge is.

Because of the limitations of mankind, even when it comes to understanding what it means simply "to know" something, dictionary definitions are limited and cannot tell you as much as you might expect to find. The Merriam Websters definition of the word "know" is evidence of this, as you can see from what I have copied from their online dictionary below:

Definition of KNOW

transitive verb
a (1) : to perceive directly : have direct cognition of (2) : to have understanding of (3) : to recognize the nature of : discern
b (1) : to recognize as being the same as something previously known (2) : to be acquainted or familiar with (3) : to have experience of
a : to be aware of the truth or factuality of : be convinced or certain of
b : to have a practical understanding of
archaic : to have sexual intercourse with
intransitive verb
: to have knowledge

Look up the meaning of what it means "to know" and essentially what you are given is a definition that says "to have knowledge". Look up the word "knowledge" and you will be none the wiser because it originates from "know".

This is why people are lost, confused and have difficulty arriving at what is really true.

However, when it comes to the word "true" this word has at its roots the meaning of "faithful", which is to mean unalterable, reliable, unchangeable.

The answer to "what is truth" has to be "that which is unchangeable".

To know something and to interpret what it might mean based on experience is not necessarily truth; as we saw with the blind men and the elephant.

To determine truth you need to "know the edge" where one thing stops and another thing begins. The edge is where differences are determined and the truth is the distinction that exists because of those differences. This is the key to knowing the truth.

Hence, the definition of knowledge that best explains what it means to have knowledge “to know the edge” also is the best explanation for me when it comes to know what truth is. For to know the edge is to know the truth, there is no deception.

Truth is like the edge of a knife in some respects. Come to think of it, somewhere it is said that the word of God is like a two-edged sword, capable of cutting the edge of where thoughts end and intentions begin.

Knowing the edge then is knowing what is the truth.


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