Truth and Words

Objective truth is likely impossible.  If one states something as an absolute truth (that will remain true into the indefinite future and was so back to the indeterminate past), doubt him.  Wise words hold a truth, but it is only a relative one.  It can be approached in the hard sciences and mathematics, but considering that we are still viewing numbers and measurements though the filter of thoughts, judgments, opinions, not to mention limited physical senses,  to declare something to be the “truth” can lead one on a road to disappointment.


In addition, words make imperfect symbols for reality.  A word can mean any number of things, and sometimes in wildly different directions.  The word “buffalo” seems to be an ox from one angle, a fish from another, or maybe it is just intimidating.  Of course, this is not true with all words, but individual should realize that the word might mean something else to another, yet both are correct.


The sentence “I ran over the stairs” has at least 5 different meanings (more than that actually) depending on what word is stressed.  This is why transcripts, or quotes in news stories, can be so deceptive.  You don’t have the luxury of hearing sarcasm, or disbelief, or surprise.


Not only that, but a sentence depicts only one relationship among an infinite number in the world.  Stanley Fish, in How to Write a Sentence, covers this in wonderful detail, writing, ” What is it that we add to those words that causes them to form something we recognize as a sentence?  The answer can be given in a single word, an that work is ‘relationships.'”  One is choosing some relationships, some “truth” over others.  When a sentence is strung together, it is interesting to wonder about what has been left unsaid.


Of course, I see the irony of saying all this with a sentence, not to mention in the written form.


What then is truth?  To put it briefly, it is simply “what is” or “what was” or “what will be.”  This can change, as our judgement, knowledge, observations and so forth develop, but in short, truth is what we deem to exist and what we deem not to exist.  People used to paint the truth of unicorns, and today we paint different pictures.  Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with the impossible quest of finding an objective truth.  For every relative truth is a stepping stone to a greater truth.  But a truth is only truth to a relative degree, influenced by its time, location and the people/things involved.


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