TRUTH

I’ve got a lot of ground to cover since I’ve been so delinquent posting lately. A lot has happened in the last few weeks. The unemployment rate decreased. But it’s like the old “that’s good, not so good” joke. Unemployment decreased. That’s good. Not so good, they modified the number of available jobs to make it look better. That’s bad. Not so bad, housing starts increased. That’s good. Not so good, forfeitures increased also. That’s bad. Not so bad, GDP increased. And on and on we go.

I’m pretty excited because I attracted the attention of my new pal, Monica. That’s good. Not so good, she’s critical. That’s bad. Not so bad, it keeps me on my toes. That’s good. Not so good, I may not be up to the task. That’s bad. Not so bad, I have reinforcements. That’s good. Not so good, they can be obtuse or sarcastic. That’s bad. Not so bad, they amuse me. And on and on.

I’ll address some of Monica’s objections another time. What I want to focus on now is something I need to clairify so I can use it later — one, overused word: TRUTH.

To me, “truth” is a simple concept. It means that a sentence or a statement accurately reflects reality. So if I say, “The grass is green” and, indeed the grass IS green. Then the statement is “true.” This is pretty simple. But there are a lot of people who find this idea a challenge. They point out that the grass isn’t really green but different shades of green and even brown. So they want to say that nothing is absolutely true, except, of course, this sentence. Others point out that where I may see green others see yellow. So what’s true for me isn’t true for you.

All of those critics of TRUTH are very, very smart, having learned their ideas at Ivy League schools and graduate-level classes. But there are other individuals, those people whose feet are made of clay, such as engineers or  business people, who don’t have the luxury of vague, foggy uncertainty. For them a design either meets the requirement or it does not. The marketing plan succeeds as expected or it does not. The medicine either has a positive effect or it does not.

To be sure, finding truth, making statements that accurately reflect reality is difficult. But honest people work at it for years.

There is another school of thought that accepts the concept of “truth” but believes  that reality is subjective and truth is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, this is “true” in certain cases, such as determining what art is beautiful or appealing. But I’ve never understood this line of non-reasoning. If you tell me that reality is subjective and that what is “true” varies from person to person and that perception is reality, are you not telling me something you think is universally “true?” So you must believe in universal truths.

I suspect that if you hold to the notion that reality is subjective, especially if you try to convince me of that, you are just being intellectually lazy. In fact, what you really believe is that truth is so elusive and hard to find that you would rather save yourself the effort by declaring that there is no such thing as truth. Really? Is that true?

Then there are those of you who dismiss all this as just “semantics.” I proclaim you also too lazy to make the effort of figuring out what’s real and what is not.

Here is the late, Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman‘s take on the subject. He does a little slam of social science but his real point is that “truth” is possible (reality is objective not subjective) but that finding truth is really, really, really difficult:

A very, very key point is that if you do not accept the notion that truth is objective rather than subjective, there is no point in us having a debate. Debate assumes a common reality. If you don’t accept that, what are you trying to prove by engaging in a debate? I think I know and I’ll explain that next time.

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