Social Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Whose truth is it?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (33465points) November 5th, 2013

I have noticed that people sometimes say something similar to “I am living my truth,” or “You have to own your truth.”

Now, I recognize that personal experience can lead people to many divergent opinions about life, but truth? It seems to me that truth is more objective rather than subjective.

Am I missing something when I think that truth is evident in things that are verifiable?

Is this just a way of defending one’s personal beliefs? Does declaring something as a personal truth mark it as sacrosanct? Does it place an idea or belief above debate?

What’s hard about recognizing one’s ideas and beliefs might simply be opinion?

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36 Answers

marinelife's avatar

People see things differently. They view them through their own paradigm. Thus, they can see the “truth” of what happened in the same room at the same time differently.

tom_g's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake: “Now, I recognize that personal experience can lead people to many divergent opinions about life, but truth? It seems to me that truth is more objective rather than subjective.”

I agree. Some people make the leap that since we experience reality through our subjective, limited senses that there is no value in trying to identify an objective reality. There is very little to discuss with these people, and they generally also adhere to a strict moral relativism as well, which I find completely disgusting.

In my experience, however, I find that most people do believe in an objective reality that is out there for us to discover. But when the going gets tough in a debate, it’s easier to bow out on “well that’s my reality”.

ibstubro's avatar

Great question.

I think a lot of the whole “truth” thing comes from religion. “Truth”, in truth, can never be defined, as every human has at least a microscopically different understanding from everyone else. When a religion declares “I Am The Truth” it does mark itself as sacred and sacrosanct.

In effect someone saying “I’m living my truth” is saying that they are living their religion and you can pretty much bugger off.

I think, as my 3rd grade teacher used to say, “I might have gotten my tongue a bit twisted around my eye tooth.

Jaxk's avatar

I can’t say I ever heard either one of those statements but I wouldn’t read them as objective but rather subjective. I think Shakespeare said it best, “To thine own self be true”. I believe it is referring to your own beliefs that you believe to be true. Your code of conduct, how you should treat others. I believe we should treat each other with respect and that is my truth. I should own that and act accordingly. It is not an objective fact but rather a subjective goal. Whether or not I am able to meet that goal is also subjective.

Aethelwine's avatar

Good question. It really bothers me when people say “I’m just speaking the truth”. This is usually said after a hurtful comment. It’s their truth, not mine. Their truth is just their opinion.

talljasperman's avatar

Truth and honesty…fact and faith.

LornaLove's avatar

I think people live their truth when they live regardless of what other’s may think of them. Perhaps they feel they have to state that in order to halt judgement or recrimination. Some females of 40 or 50 for example start to live their truth this late in life since they had other obligations and expectations placed on them.

Another meaning in my mind could be that people lived misplaced from their true character in order to please others or to gain something. Coming into ones own authenticity is rewarding. I personally have found this to happen during midlife and it is interesting.

Kropotkin's avatar

“Am I missing something when I think that truth is evident in things that are verifiable?”

This is more or less a pragmatic view of truth, but you would be missing something if you think it necessarily equates to some sort of objectivity or objective reality.

Layman usage of “truth” seems to be mostly for rhetorical effect, to give a statement a more authoritative force— a form of intellectual dishonesty.

In philosophy, “truth” is a very nuanced and much debated concept with a variety of perspectives. Despite some scant study on the topic, I really don’t know what to say about it. I’m not sure I know what “truth” means, but I am sure that most of everyone doesn’t know what it means.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Truth/reality, falsehood/fantasy, are pretty much black and white to me.

thorninmud's avatar

I haven’t found anything I’m completely comfortable calling “truth”. Whatever THIS is (I’m going to use this silly typographical affectation because I can’t think of a better way to mention it; others have used “thusness”, but THIS feels more to the point) would be the best candidate for Truth, but as soon as I try to identify what THIS is, then I enter into the realm of concepts, where the simple manifest quality of THIS gets parsed and mangled in an attempt to make it graspable to the mind. What emerges is no more than a pitiable mockery of truth.

As the saying goes, this is like dissecting the lark to find its song. The song emerges from the intact, living whole that is the lark. More than that, really—the lark, too, can’t be separated from the countless other forces that sustain it (and that it, in turn, sustains). The song emerges, in other words, from THIS, and is THIS.

While we can’t conceptually grasp what THIS is, we too are THIS, and our every movement and word and thought are the “song” of THIS. I couldn’t even begin to say what it is without losing the truen-ess of it., but never for an instant am I not living it.

THIS is something in which we all equally participate. We all tell different stories about it, but those are only stories.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@thorninmud I think the key to what you are saying is the participation. It’s the act that somehow defines it.

I particularly like the idea that we tell different stories about it.

Nicely put.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Right. I’s like the relationship between a symphonic score and an actual performance of the symphony. The score is a lifeless thing, at best a suggestion or a germ of truth. The truth is in the performance.

John Cage deliberately made this very point with his piece, 4’ 33”. Here is the score of the piece. It has been called “4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence”, but of course it isn’t. There’s subtle sound everywhere all through the performance, and that is in fact the performance. Everyone participates in it. But the score really has nothing to say about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m trying to think. It sounds like the kind of argument one would use to avoid facing the actual truth. I guess I don’t see how the actual truth could be subjective.

janbb's avatar


Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@thorninmud I heard John Cage perform live once many years ago when I lived in San Francisco. He did not do 4’ 33”, but I am familiar with the piece. It is indeed not silence, and it should not take a genius to realize that. However, many people seem deaf to the radiant sounds around them at all times.

@janbb Exactly.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The house of truth covers many rooms of opinion.

flutherother's avatar

The truth doesn’t make the man great, the man makes the truth great.

glacial's avatar

Some people see truth as being distinct from fact. I don’t, so I don’t think that truth can have ownership or be subjective.

kritiper's avatar

Truth is in the eye of the beholder, for sure.

ETpro's avatar

Even the people who claim to believe in truth being entirely subjective rarely will try to walk off a cliff and tread on thin air the way Wile E. Coyote does in cartoons. There may be a few who actually believe that strongly that truth is subjective, but they are dead because they already tried to walk on air, and gravity didn’t give a shit what they believed to be true.

Judi's avatar

We have a small plane. As we were flying from Southern California to Oregon I saw a snow capped mountain and asked my husband what mountain it was. He said it was Mount Shasta. I had a hard time believing it at first. I had driven between California and Oregon hundreds of times and this didn’t look anything like the mount Shasta I knew.
You see normally I saw mount Shasta from the west side. We were flying on the east side.
I realized that truth was sort of like amount Shasta. It IS absolute but what you see can change depending on your perspective.

glacial's avatar

@Judi Yes, what you can see changes depending on your perspective, but having experienced these separate views, and having had them explained, you do now recognize that they were all views of Mount Shasta. You don’t literally believe that each view was of a different mountain.

How would it sound to your husband for you to tell him that of course, it was not Mount Shasta at all, but a mountain you’d never seen before? I doubt that his response would be, “That’s Judi’s truth.”

I realize that you were building a metaphor there… but I just can’t imagine a literal situation in which I would be able to recognize multiple, conflicting truths. It’s the sort of thing that sounds very correct and diplomatic, but isn’t practicable in reality.

Nimis's avatar

There are singular facts. Those are objective and can’t really be argued.

But truth is absolute, all-encompassing. How can we pinpoint something that we cannot even begin to grasp?

I think when people say “my truth”, they are referring to their working assumptions about life—but, you know, with fluffier semantics.

Judi's avatar

@glacial, I see it all the time. I think it was a story in Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People about a man on a bus with wild children. The story teller was so annoyed that she finally says something. He responds by apologizing and explaining that they were on their way home from the hospital and his wife had just died. We’re the kids still out of control? (Truth) The woman’s perspective was changed and her judgment of the children changed just like I saw a bigger truth of Mount Shasta when I saw it from a different perspective. I would bet if I were trying to climb those ice capped peaks my “truth” of the mountain would be changed even more.

glacial's avatar

@Judi Yes, but I think you may be missing my point. In each of these examples, the person’s knowledge of the truth improves as new information is taken in. But the truth itself doesn’t change.

Jaxk's avatar

Bernie LaPlant on truth.

” You remember when I said how I was gonna explain about life, buddy? Well the thing about life is, it gets weird. People are always talking ya about truth. Everybody always knows what the truth is, like it was toilet paper or somethin’, and they got a supply in the closet. But what you learn, as you get older, is there ain’t no truth. All there is is bullshit, pardon my vulgarity here. Layers of it. One layer of bullshit on top of another. And what you do in life like when you get older is, you pick the layer of bullshit that you prefer and that’s your bullshit, so to speak.”

Jaxk's avatar

I found the video clip for Bernie.

Judi's avatar

@glacial I think you missed that I was making that exact point!

glacial's avatar

@Judi Wow, I did miss that! It sounded to me like you were arguing that truth is subjective.

Judi's avatar

No. I was saying that truth is real but two people can see the same truth from different perspectives and come to completely different conclusions.

Skylight's avatar

One’s personal truth is that which they perceive to be reality. It is what they have garnered from life as being true, because that is their capacity of understanding at the time.

“Truth” can build a personal prison if a person, having drawn conclusions, considers their self to be a finished product with nothing else to learn, only live their ‘truth’. They then position this conclusion as a measuring stick by which they measure the validity of all else in life, leading them to become biased and judgmental.

I have found the healthiest frame of mind is the one in which one sees all concepts of truth as living, electrical, expanding energetic paradigms, leading incrementally to greater and greater paradigms. They are stepping stones.

There is no end point. This requires a perpetually open mind and the courage to embrace a limitless aspect to oneself. This aspect is virtually programmed out of children in our society at a very young age. It is the first form of serious child abuse, in my personal opinion. Teaching convictions of limitation is like taking away their breath.

Our challenge is to dare to claim back our self authority. The ability to empty oneself of what they have been told, be receptive, and listen to life, and promptings within oneself over the clamoring echoes of the world, is an initiatory step towards enlightenment which must be achieved before one can go any further. It is walking one’s own path in the wilderness.

That which we hold onto, which resonates within the energetic of one’s being, is always a transition point, never the final scene of the play. It is meant to be a step, not a weapon to use against further knowledge.

That is why belief systems can be so debilitating. When one spends their precious life moments defending what they think they know, they have closed a door.

Why not feel “A” truth in what one adheres to now, and listen for it to speak of truth to come? That is what makes life fresh, vital, an ever present portal into one’s astounding potential.

We are each a living oracle that no book ever written can come close to describing, judging or limiting.

Those who think they have THE answer, or THE truth have made a choice to stall by the side of the road.

kritiper's avatar

@Skylight – A good answer, but I don’t agree with your last sentence. I think those “who think they have THE answer, or THE truth” haven’t chosen “to stall by the side of the road” but have (more accurately) found their place ON the road.

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