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Epistemology

How True is the Truth? – Ashley

How do we know that what we know is true? Who determines what is true? How true can the truth be?

These questions can create endless conversation and debate between almost everybody of an enormous range of intellect around the world. We endlessly strive to answer these questions and come closer to the truth, but we have never been able to reach it. This poses the question: Is the truth absolute, or is it relative? Can it be both, and if so how?  Before getting into the details of these big questions, the first step is to define the “guidelines” of Absolute and Relative truth.

Qualities of Absolute Truth

  • Truth is unchanging: it can be conveyed across time.
  • Beliefs cannot change a truth statement no matter how sincere one may be
  • All Truths are absolute
  • Truth is knowable

Qualities of Relative Truth

  • Truth is a matter of perspective and each culture or individual defines for themselves what is truth.
  • The truth changes as individuals and cultures change and progress
  • One’s beliefs can change a truth statement
  • Absolute truth cannot be known

Many argue that since we are subjective beings with relative minds, absolute truth is something that we are not able to witness. Because the knowledge we have gained throughout our lives has been passed on by so many different people through many eras and cultures, it’s safe to assume that a lot of this knowledge is put through a biased “filter” every time it is passed down. Because of this, it is not possible to say that the knowledge we have is absolute because what we perceive as the truth is constantly changing. On the other side of the argument, many rebuttal that “perception” and “truth” are two completely different things. Perspectives are in fact relative, but when they correspond to reality, it becomes an absolute truth. Many of the things that we learn in our lifespans will be true to us, however they do not correspond to reality, thus they are not the truth. The fact that we believe something untrue to be true doesn’t verify that the truth is relative, it just verifies that there is an immense difference between perception, belief, and truth.

To break it down more, here are some examples of absolute truth and personal truths (perception and belief):

The school we attend, Gleneagle Secondary School, opened in 1997. 

This would be classified as an absolute truth, as it fits all of the criteria for an absolute truth. Different beliefs and cultures cannot change that the school opened in 1997, and the fact that the school opened in 1997 will never change over time.

Many people have been robbed in Mexico, therefore Mexico is an unsafe country.

On the other side of the spectrum, this statement would be classified as a personal truth, belief, and/or perception. A person’s experiences and biases can hinder the statement, meaning this “truth” can and will change over time by different people. Some people may believe that Mexico is a very safe country because of the experiences they have had in the country, and although this is truth to them, it is still very much a belief.

Even though that *I* believe that there is such thing as absolute truth, there is no evidence that this corresponds with reality. As long as we have subjective minds, there will never be a way we can know how true the truth is. In conclusion, we will always be left with questions that are unanswered, however there is no harm in thinking creatively to make sense of these questions.

 

If you would like to read two intelligent debates on this topic, click here and here.

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