On Truth

16Jul08
I’m afraid I’ve succumbed a bit to that inner hater that keeps Jay Smooth from ever getting his work out. But, today I’m going to push past it and put out some things that have been kicking around my head for a while.
 
First, I’ve been thinking a lot about truth. What is it? How do you know you have it? Etc.
 
To be more specific, the biggest weight on my mind hasn’t been the nature of “objective truth” or truth in any other philosophical sense, but rather the nature of a truth that we need and can use in day to day life.
 
You know, good enough truth.
 
So I got to thinking, what are the component pieces of good enough truth? After mulling it over for a few days, I came up with a few main categories:
  1. Perspective
  2. Context
  3. Proof
Allow me to elaborate.
 
Perspective
 
It seems to me that any opinion, any experience, and nearly any idea can be observed from multiple perspectives. Sometimes these perspective fall along ideological lines, like left and right wing. At other times these perspectives can come from different life experiences, such as the outlook of someone who grow up in the suburbs compared to someone who grew up in the inner city. Regardless of how the variance is distributed, it seems clear to me that truth is the thing that ties these views together. Thus, having more perspectives on a given idea or issue, gives you more angles to view an issue from, and thus is likely to yield a fuller understanding of the topic at hand.
 
Context
 
Every idea is connected to a web of other ideas, who are connected to others. Questions asked about an issue often delve into its context: Who supports this idea? Have any claims that it rests on been proven false? Have any claims derived from this idea proven false? When did this occur? What else was going on at that time? Etc. In my opinion, context is another vital aspect of understanding truth.
 
Proof
 
Perhaps the easiest to brainstorm and hardest to define of my categories, I’ve done a good deal of reading trying to understand “proof” and “fact.” Though I’ve been unable to lock down a solid definition that I’m satisfied with, I do have a number of characteristics that I believe one should be looking for when looking for proof:
  • Scientifically verifiable
  • Generally agreed upon without argument
  • Very narrow in scope
  • Viewpoint-neutral
None of these criteria alone constitute proof, but in combination they begin to serve as increasingly solid foundations upon which to build an argument or idea.
 
While not a perfect definition of truth, I thought I would share with you what I have so far anyway. If you’ve got anything to say about it, let’s here it in the comments.
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