Social Question

fundevogel's avatar

Is your truth, just as good as my truth just as good as anyone's truth?

Asked by fundevogel (15030 points ) January 9th, 2012

In a question regarding a crisis of faith a jelly was chided for expressing their “truth” (that god was a fiction) rather than respect the “truths” of others (that god is real). Putting aside when it is and isn’t appropriate to challenge someone’s beliefs, is it really correct to designate every strongly held belief as a “truth”? Isn’t that just…truthy?

If everyone gets to determine their own truth does the designation really infer any value or authority to the belief it describes?

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62 Answers

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

That question had nothing to do with expressing a truth, and everything to do with crapping on the OP’s beliefs. The comment in question did not have anything to do with the point of the question. That’s what that jelly was “chided” for. It was a pointless remark made for no other purpose than to make the OP look silly and earn a high five from other like-minded anti-theists.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, there are certain things that apply to me that are my truth and you can’t tell me otherwise – example: if I say I don’t identify as a woman, you can’t tell me that I am, nonetheless, based on whatever dumb things you think identify a woman. If you tell me your mother came to see you after she died, I may not believe you but I get that it is your truth. I know religious people really do think god (s) exist and all that and that’s fine AS LONG AS it doesn’t spill out into harming others or making policy that has nothing to do with religion. I know there are people who believe that evolution is a conspiracy, I know they believe it and I believe otherwise. In Europe, this would be a laughable conversation but here in the U.S., it’s become fashionable to ignore facts and claim they’re liberal conspiracies and to replace facts with mythical explanations. I know, I’m Western in my thinking, I’m biased in favor of science where science is concerned yet I don’t think science is the answer to everything. There are things some people need religion for so these thing aren’t ‘one or the other’ but it just doesn’t apply to my truth. So basically, you can’t believe in god (s) and tell me that I’m wrong because I just don’t think it’s relevant. As much as I think it is a truth that people believe in god (s), they should think my disbelief in god (s) is a truth. But, of course, this is difficult to do and leads to a lot of conflict, as you know. Also, I was answering this not knowing what question you’re talking about and the drama attached but those things (god is real) and (god is fiction) are both true, because they’re just personal beliefs and can’t really be based in anything we measure or not measure. I know there are people who will claim there is evidence in either direction but it just doesn’t really matter to me. I guess that’s something to be criticized for because the topic of god (s) is really everywhere and affects actual things in life when it shouldn’t.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate This question is not about if so-and-so was out of line or being rude or if they deserved to be chided for what they said.

It’s about if anyone can claim their own individual truth irrespective of any evidence or argument and what that does to the value of the word “truth”.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Oh, I’m so sorry. I was merely commenting on the story behind your reason for asking this question. That’s just another truth.

SavoirFaire's avatar

There are no such things as false facts, but people tend to confuse what things are a matter of fact and what things are a matter of convention. The person who made the comment inspiring this question self-identifies as a nihilist, and nihilists of the general sort (that is, people who just call themselves nihilists and aren’t nihilists about particular things in some technical sense) generally don’t believe in truth. This position is self-defeating, however, as it cannot be true that there are no truths.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate The person who made the comment you find rude and the person who made the comment that inspired this question are two different people. Not sure if you realize that. In fact, the person who inspired this question is one of the people on your side regarding the other comment.

wundayatta's avatar

Even people who believe in objective truth usually have some understanding that what they see as objective truth is not universally held to be true. A response to a competing “truth” is usually an escalation into a war of words, if not more, since there can be no compromise on “truth.”

Thus people use this idea of a “personal” truth to keep things at a civil level of discourse. Even though we don’t actually acknowledge there is any truth to someone else’s truth, we do acknowledge (when we speak this way) that someone else has another way of seeing things that they think of as “truth.”

In this way, we try to keep things civil and allow competing and contradictory truths to stand side by side. It is a way of expressing respect for the humanity of someone else, even if you think they are totally wrong.

So in acknowledging another person’s truth, you are not actually acknowledging that truth is true. It is a social fiction that allows us to keep from beating the crap out of each other. We can continue to say that we hold this truth without having to say that the other person’s truth is stupid, ignorant and unbelievably dumb. “Well, that’s your truth.”

Of course, if you are a relativist, then you reject the notion of truth as an objective thing. It is something that is the best interpretation you have of the best evidence you have on hand. You understand that there are other interpretations of the evidence, and that other people have access to different sets of evidence. Therefore it is natural that there may be discrepancies in the way people see the world.

Whether objectivist or subjectivist, this idea of different truths is often used, in my opinion, as a way of smoothing troubled waters and allowing discussion to continue at a slightly less heated level. It is a rhetorical technique, more than some kind of principled philosophical outlook.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I saw that post and could have sworn it was asking people of similar faith to comment. Why did it become a punching bag for asshats?

SavoirFaire's avatar

And why is this question becoming the other question all over again when it was explicitly noted to be about something else?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I think that conversation is over at Jillthetooths’ q about people pissing on things or something. I agree with @SavoirFaire – there are some of us here who (gladly) escaped the bs about god on that other thread and we don’t need it here too.

King_Pariah's avatar

Thanks for calling me out :P

Anyway, I believe when we cannot prove such an existence or fictional nature of God, then we should have to accept the possibility that the other party/one of the other parties may be right and we in fact possibly wrong, no matter how sure we are of it. Because you can’t prove he doesn’t exists, just as much as they can’t prove he does. thus their truth can be held with just as much credibilty as ours or anyone for that matter. Which is very little all around.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@King_Pariah Just because we lack certainty doesn’t mean that one view cannot be more likely than the other. I might not know with absolute certainty that Santa Claus does not exist, but it would be unreasonable to take that as a reason to say that the view that he does exist is equally reasonable as the view that he does not exist.

See also: argument from ignorance.

Blackberry's avatar

Not at all. Not all opinions are on the same level. A homeopath debating a doctor is bound to look like an idiot, regardless.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Oh, for crying out loud…

But that’s coming from an “enlightened” perspective, @SavoirFaire. If you believe it, it’s your “truth”. Up until a few weeks ago, my oldest daughter believed that Santa was real. So until she found out differently, Santa was a “truth” for her. I believe God is real, therefore “God exists” is true to me.

Put all the believers in one room and say, “God is real, true or false?” and they’ll all say “true”. Put all the non-believers in another room and say “God is make-believe, true or false?” and they’ll all say “true”. If you believe it, it’s your truth.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate “So until she found out differently, Santa was a “truth” for her. I believe God is real, therefore “God exists” is true to me.”

So is truth just what someone happens to believe at the moment? Is that…good enough? It’s just seems so fickle.

King_Pariah's avatar

When it comes to the debate of God, both sides could be seen as just believing what they believe at the moment, or being fickle if you will. Yes sure, us atheists/nihilists only believe what is before or eyes. God cannot be presented in such a manner so his existence we say is fictional though in reality, we should keep our minds open and be extremely speculative at best, no matter how sure we are. Until there is hard evidence gathered to prove/disprove his existence, all parties and their beliefs are rather moot.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Well, our truths all depend on where we are in life, and what we believe to be true, yes? If you believe it to be true, then it’s a truth for you.

wundayatta's avatar

@fundevogel People live and learn. We need to allow folks to change and they won’t change if they are shamed for being wrong every time they are wrong. Being shamed makes people stick to points of view that are defenseless much more often than people otherwise would.

If you acknowledge that is someone’s truth and that it is provisional, then people have a way out. They can have an easier time giving up truths they have held tightly to, but no longer want to associate with.

This is not about a meta-analysis of the universe. This is about human relations. If you get stuck on the nature of “truth” then this concept doesn’t work, and you end up with a lot of negative feelings.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate “Well, our truths all depend on where we are in life, and what we believe to be true, yes? If you believe it to be true, then it’s a truth for you.”

But that would mean that every individual is essentially defining their own reality. Certainly we all interpret reality in different ways, but isn’t it going too far to grant that people actually define their own individual realities?

@wundayatta I might be stuck here. I don’t want to go out of my way to kick down people’s convictions, but it does bother me that people are so quick to ascribe “truth” to their and others’ beliefs. Honestly, it’s almost as if “truth” has come to replace the word “sacred”. It’s not that what people describe as truth is unassailable, they just expect to be unchallenged. I don’t think anything deserves that sort of status and consequently I don’t think I have any truths of my own.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

God is real.
God is not real.
Neither of these are “truths,” they are both unknown.

Some atheists get sick of pussyfooting around, trying not to offend believers. Many of us can not say what we really think, because our “truth” is offensive. I’m not saying that it’s okay to go around pissing on things that are sacred to people, but I think that in certain instances, it can seem like the “solution” to the problem is obvious. Especially when looking at a person who is suffering or struggling with their faith. As someone who does not believe in god(s), I sometimes have to suppress the urge to suggest that a person stop begging for help from something that (in my “truth”) isn’t even there. There are such vast, fundamental differences between the two beliefs that what seems obvious to one side, is just as ridiculous to the other, and vice versa.
I think sometimes it is difficult to not voice what may seem obvious to you, because these are the types of beliefs and belief systems that govern a great deal of how we live our lives.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@fundevogel But we all do define our own realities in a sense, on a daily basis. It’s what humans do. Based on what I believe and my life experiences, my reality may be quite different than your reality.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate But is your reality different than mine because of how you define it or are you just creating a framework with which you interpret the same reality I am subject to?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

My reality (or my interpretation of reality) is different than yours because of what is true to me.

wundayatta's avatar

I love these last few comments! They seem civil and acknowledge each other without calling names and truly seem to be seeking for some understanding.

I wish I understood more, though, because they also seem like words without clear distinctions. Some definitions might be necessary.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@fundevogel It isn’t fickle…I mean it is and it isn’t…god and gender and all that are personal matters…and personal matters can be fickle, doesn’t make them any less true.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate “My reality (or my interpretation of reality) is different than yours because of what is true to me.”

But a crazy person could say the same thing! I don’t think either of us believe that telephones are really stealing people’s brains, despite that being some people’s truth.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir You’re the one person with an angle on this I’m more flexible with. Everyone else (I think) is talking about external reality, you’re talking about identity. That is an internal reality that can only be articulated by the individual.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@fundevogel Yes, I am talking about matters…that…well there should be a better word…but, for now, we can say ‘private’...I hesitate because the personal is political and the boundaries are blurred daily…so it is what it is…I think about this kind of stuff often, GQ

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@fundevogel Yes well, we all own our own brand of crazy. Your crazy is probably also quite different than my crazy.

fundevogel's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I could start another question about what constitutes “crazy”. ~

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I assume only my truth is real, and whenever someone agrees with me, I think they are clever.

rockin’ topics!!!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

But, isn’t the point that neither of these claims are reality? We may believe that they are, but the simple fact of the matter is that we really don’t know. No matter how hard you believe it, we don’t know what is “true.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate “Truth” is not the same thing as truth. That’s why you felt the need to put scare quotes around it. “Truths” might also be truths, but what they really are is beliefs. What I believe is what I think is true, but it’s only true if it’s actually true. What I think is true and what is true can be different things. But the comment that inspired this question was about truth, not “truth.”

Ultimately, I am not a fan of this talk about “truth.” It confuses the issue. There are beliefs, truths, suspicions, and so forth. “True to me” is really a nonsense: “God exists” is something you believe and something I do not believe. Whether or not it is true, however, has nothing to do with you or me. It has to do with whether or not God does, in fact, exist.

Truth is a property of statements, and statements have their truth property in virtue of their relation to facts about the world. Everything else is confusion.

@ANef_is_Enuf Of the statements “God is real” and “God is not real,” so long as they are understood as contradictories, one is true and one is not true. That we do not know which is true doesn’t change whether or not it actually is true. Think about counting jellybeans in a jar. If I don’t know how many there are and I guess there are 504 jellybeans in the jar, I am either correct or incorrect. My statement is either true or it is not. We dump out the jar and count the jellybeans not to make my statement true or not, but to discover whether or not it was (already) true or not.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@SavoirFaire I’m picking up what you’re laying down. I think that is actually what I was trying to say, you just did a much better job than I did. My point is that it is unfair to consider either of them to be “truth,” since we don’t know.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@SavoirFaire LMFAO, is that so? I just love it when thuper thmart people tell me why I do things, since I apparently don’t know.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf But go back to my original response to @King_Pariah: just because we lack certainty doesn’t mean that one view cannot be more likely than the other. If we are fallibilists about knowledge, it is fair to say that we know things even when we aren’t certain. This leaves ourselves open to being proven incorrect, of course, but such is life. So long as we are willing to revise our endorsements when shown that we are incorrect or that our grounds are less secure than we thought, I don’t see how we are unjustified in using the words knowledge and truth in the meantime.

@WillWorkForChocolate Even if you object to that one sentence, the rest of the post can be read without it. I would ask that you be respectful and address the actual content of my response rather than focusing on one inconsequential bit of it.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@SavoirFaire “I would ask that you be respectful and address the actual content”... Yes, well, we know how often that happens here, don’t we? I’m just trying to be disrespectful and ignore the actual content, so I can fit in with the other cool kids, including the ones who barfed all over the other question in which a few comments were made that ultimately inspired this question.

And now, I think I’ll go play in the traffic.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I must just not be on the ball today, because I am getting a headache thinking about this.
@SavoirFaire but can things like this be determined? I am having a difficult time looking at this from an unbiased standpoint. Are the possibilities that god exists or does not exist not equiprobable? Am I over/underthinking this? I feel like your point might be going right over my head, and I am just too dense today to get it.

DominicX's avatar

Truth exists independent of perception. All we can do is hope to access truth.

6rant6's avatar

So let me get this straight. If I post a question like, “Do black people or Asians make better slaves?” then you’re an asshat if you say that the question is a reflection of ignorance and prejudice?

Or is that only if __your__ presumptive values are those held in question?
@Neizvestnaya & @WillWorkForChocolate

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate So two wrongs make a right now?

@ANef_is_Enuf I am confident that you are not too dense, so I am probably not explaining it well enough. Allow me to try again.

I think “we don’t know for sure” is a bad reason to be agnostic about something (the existence of God, how many jellybeans are in the jar, et cetera). There is little to nothing that anyone is certain of, but I see no reason to suspend judgment about (virtually) everything. I am a fallibilist about knowledge: I believe we can know things without certainty. Furthermore, it is not possible for the skeptic or the nihilist to deny this position without laying claim to the truth of infallibilism (the view that knowledge requires certainty) without undermining his own argument. This is because to do so would involve endorsing something as true, which is exactly what the skeptic and the nihilist are trying to avoid.

If you really think that the cases for and against the existence of God make the rival theses equally likely, however, then that could be a reason to suspend judgment. It’s not the only reason: one might be able to argue for agnosticism without having to believe that the existence and non-existence of God are equiprobable. Still, it makes sense not to endorse either option if you think the evidence does not cut one way or the other. But so far, you’ve given your case in terms of not knowing rather than in terms of equiprobability.

I think the distinction between “we don’t know” and “the options are equiprobable” is important, and that is why I’ve been pushing back against your argument. Personally, I do not believe the cases are equiprobable. That is another discussion, though, so I will leave it at that for now if you don’t mind.

CaptainHarley's avatar

At the risk of getting flamed, I have to say that, yes, there is such a thing as objective truth. Whether or not you choose to believe it is your business.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@SavoirFaire I don’t, either. But I hesitate to say so, because I suspect I am biased. After all, if I really believed they were equiprobable, I doubt I would call myself an atheist. I follow, now.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@6rant6: the general vibe of people who chose to respond to that OP was of ridicule and meanness.

Blackberry's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Even if the wording was altered to sound as jovial as possible, this question would still be here, in my opinion. There’s no “nice” way to criticise someone’s beliefs, it seems.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think there are different types of truths. There are the truths that we believe with our faith and the truths we know from education/experience. I believe we can have different truths from one another (especially in cases of religion when there are so many religions out there) and that the truths can be equal sometimes, but other times, there is only one truth (such as scientific things that have been proven and no one has been able to disprove so far). Challenging someone’s belief is a touchy situation and one that should be handled in a respectful manner (in my opinion).

Symbeline's avatar

Oh man, this is too complicated for me. Until one single truth out there can break the boundaries that all truths today get stuck by, then I guess all truths are fair game. As long as they’re actually truths to the people holding them, or at least feel like the truth. Truth sucks though. It creates conflicts in the world and fights all over Fluther. Which reminds me, what the hell is truth anyways? I know I have to pay money to live in my apartment. That’s a truth. If I don’t do it, I’ll be homeless. Some alternate truths are created around this in order to turn routine and meeting expectations (ie; depressing and boring shit that makes me want to down Javex) into some kind of ideal pursuit. But no matter how much makeup you put on a dead body; it’s still a fuckin corpse.
Spiritual truths and things like that though, which I believe is what this question is really aiming at. I denno. Again, what’s truth? Say no gods exist at all, how is it truth if you believe they exist? How is it truth if they DO exist, but that I don’t believe it? How is my truth a truth if it’s actually false? I guess as to what makes the most sense to people and what they feel most comfortable and natural with then yeah, any truth is some legit shit. (as in the context thereof, not talking about the actions that some truths make people do) But technically and according to whatever IS true, fucks if I know.

mazingerz88's avatar

I can’t handle the truth! : )

Symbeline's avatar

@mazingerz88…I can’t believe nobody thought of saying that earlier. XD

tinyfaery's avatar

To think that you know the truth about anything (except for one’s sense of self, I suppose, though I might argue against that, too.) is quite egotistical. I’m not sure I know the truth about anything, certainly not enough to claim that my truths are truthier than others truths. I have opinions, and the extent to which other people agree with my opinions, the closer to the truth I am, I suppose. But I’ll never know the truth and neither will you.
any of you.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Selecting one’s own “truth” is like voting on the laws of physics.

King_Pariah's avatar

@CaptainHarley amusing as that is, the more advanced “laws” are still up for debate.

fundevogel's avatar

@King_Pariah I don’t get it. How is continued scientific study and scrutiny amusing? They haven’t sorted it because they don’t have the information yet. There’s a big difference between debate and voting. One is determined by popularity, the other by logical arguments and evidence.

King_Pariah's avatar

@fundevogel human activity all in all amuses me, this strive for advancement when it’s all for naught/when it doesn’t even matter. But that is my opinion. To me, debating, bickering, voting, religion, technology, all equate to the same thing: nothing. It’s all pointless and in the end changes nothing.

fundevogel's avatar

Ah well, that clears things up. You know, you’re my first real live nihilist.

King_Pariah's avatar

@fundevogel ah shit? you’re a “virgin” ?! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!!!!!! lol

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Seaofclouds We can have different beliefs, and thus different things that we call truths, but we can’t have different truths. Just as there are no false facts, there are no false truths. If you say x and I say not-x, one of us is incorrect. One of the statements fails to be true. That we don’t know which is true and which is not changes nothing about which one is true and which one is not true.

@King_Pariah If everything is pointless, then so is your nihilism. As such, there is no reason to accept it over any other view. Since it is also internally inconsistent and obviously false, you will forgive me if I ask you to stop telling me what I cannot do while I’m in the middle of doing it. No, life does not give us meaning. It’s something we create for ourselves. And the fact that one day all this will be gone doesn’t mean that nothing matters in the here and now. Even the heat death of the universe cannot change what once happened. We are stronger than oblivion, which can only hide the past and cannot erase it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I wonder what Schroedinger’s cat would have to say about this discussion.~

SavoirFaire's avatar

I imagine it would be of two minds. ~

6rant6's avatar

@tinyfaery “To think that you know the truth about anything… is quite egotistical.” Apparently you are sure of something.

@King_Pariah Nihilism sucks. ha ha.

King_Pariah's avatar

@SavoirFaire how rude. Lol :)

I never told anyone to stop doing anything. And I totally agree that if everything is pointless then so is my nihilism as well as my every action. I don’t shove my beliefs down other people’s throats, tell people their belief system is false or inconsistent, or even preach nihilism or anti theism. Everyone can believe in what they want, I have never said different or tried to force them to believe otherwise. As you yourself pointed out that in my belief, it all doesn’t matter, believe in what you will. Do what you will, I frankly don’t care unless I find some interest in it.

As for that whole we are stronger than obilivion shpeel, that’s your opinion, your belief, not mine. It’s a terrible train of logic, this whole stating belief as fact, but it is thoroughly amusing. And what’s the point of a past if nothing is left to remember it?

Anyway I have admitted several times on other threads and implied on this thread that I have accepted that my beliefs may be wrong and am fine with whatever consequences there may be.

And please, however inconsistent I may be, understand I am having some fun struggling with a combo of mild MPD and mild schizophrenia. So you might not always be talking to me persay.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“We have to live today by what truth we can get today, and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.”
—William James

@King_Pariah I hope you were genuinely joking about the rudeness as I was not trying to be rude. It was just giving my philosophical response to nihilism. And while it may be that you are not of the opinion that we are stronger than oblivion, that does not mean it is not true. Neither your opinions nor mine are determinate of truth. Also, I am not stating beliefs as facts. I am stating what I take to be facts as facts.

Unless we are to be Pyrrhonian skeptics—and I think there are good reasons not to be—we have little choice but to speak of what we have the best support for in these terms. Fallibilism may open us up to being embarrassed by future evidence, but I am not so afraid of embarrassment as to not be interested in truth. So while I appreciate you criticizing my logic without pointing to any actual logical errors, I’m afraid you have left me quite unconvinced.

And what’s the point of a past if nothing is left to remember it? Well, perhaps nothing. But I never said otherwise. My point was that I am not in the past. I’m in the present. That it will someday be the past is really quite immaterial at the moment. I’d rather be happy than unhappy, and I wish the same for others. That we may all be gone tomorrow changes nothing about how we’re going to get through today.

And by the way, I was accusing nihilism of being inconsistent, not you.

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