SEARCHING FOR TRUTH 101–AGAIN?

“I, TomDickHarryJoeMaryJaneAnnDorothy, do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

WHAT IS TRUTH?

TRUTH

Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of “truth to self,” or authenticity, we can find in Wikipedia.

More?  Truth is usually held to be opposite to falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning.  The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy, art, religion, and science. 

Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life.  Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. 

Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians.  Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another, and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth.  There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truth-bearers capable of being true or false; how to define, identify, and distinguish truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

So, “Tell the truth now.”

the truth 2

“I repeat.  Are you 100% certain, sure, absolutely positive?”  “100%!”  “Well, I looked him in the eye, and I could tell he was telling the truth, by God!”

The search for truth, write Richard Marius and Melvin Page in a popular textbook A Short Guide to Writing about History (2014) is based on three processes: the search for evidence or SOURCES; the evaluation and ANALYSIS of the evidence; and the PRESENTATION of one’s findings.

PRIMARY sources are NEAREST to any subject or topic of investigation: all kinds of materials written or other communications–including, even, sculpture and architecture, interviews, statistics, geography, military history, videos,

SECONDARY sources are ABOUT sources: books and articles by scholars–or even book reviews, documentaries, biographies. 

THEN: ASSEMBLE sources; EVALUATE sources (who, what, when, where, why); DETERMINE reliability (bias, prejudice, incompleteness). 

Good historians, the authors write, do not implicitly trust their sources, nor do they trust their own first impressions.  They do not either simply ask random questions: they systematically use questioning and make inferences. 

THEN: Historians fit together the evidence to create a story, an explanation, or an argumentation (p.20): the PRESENTATION.  The results of the findings–the “truth of the matter”–come in the form of DESCRIPTION, NARRATION, EXPOSITION, or ARGUMENTATION–the four common modes of communication or expression. 

In the search for the truth, they write (p. 48), “Skepticism is one of the historian’s finest qualities.”

A note about ARGUMENTATION: [Classical definition: “A mode of communication which attempts to convince or persuade by using ethos, logos, or pathos.”]  They state that argument is “a principle of organization that unites facts and observations to present a proposition to the writer” (58); arguments arise “because the evidence can be interpreted in different ways according to the assumptions of the historians themselves” (78).  

© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2018

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2 comments
  1. Susanne said:

    Do I remember correctly that you were once a teacher? Regardless, this is a useful reminder about how to think critically as well as write critically. Coincidentally, I just read an essay called “A Brief Guide To Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral
    Sense by Wes Alwan”. If you want to give your brain a workout, have a read. It dovetails nicely with your post.

    • Are my teacher hems showing? I guess. Thanks for the reading suggestion. Love that Nietzsche fella. Look at all the wonderful things about truth in Wiki. Brought me back into memories of my times in philosophy classes. I tried to distance myself from the recent Senate hearings. So difficult.

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