Friday, November 11, 2011


Perhaps we can divide humankind into two categories with regards to truth, viz., those who use the upper case form of the word, i.e., Truth and those who utilize the lower case form, i.e., truth. Those who use the former belong to the religious camp while those who prefer the latter are more likely to be more flexible minds with a more scientific bent. Religionists and believers of all hues believe that truth exists in a pure metaphysical sense in some heavenly vault presided over by a heavenly banker called God.

Then there are other ways in which we use the word “truth,” viz., in the singular or in the plural number. Once again those who use the singular number are more likely to be religionists or believers, insofar as they assume that there is one homogeneous form of the truth – a Platonic Idea of the Truth somewhere out there. They readily equate that with God – the Ultimate Idea. In their metaphysical world, capital letters abound. Also, those who use the singular number are more likely to use the upper case form of the word, while those who use the plural number are more likely to be those of a scientific bent who see the world in a more plural sense.

In Western cultures we are called on to swear upon the Bible in court, which in itself is a naked declaration of a Christian take on what truth means. Leaving this aside, let’s say that such a swearing is a metaphorical action rather than any religious declaration per se. One could swear on a constitution of a country or on the UN Declaration of Human Rights for that matter. That sometimes our law courts get it wrong, and that historically innocent people have been executed, testifies to how hard it is to arrive at what the real truth of a situation actually is.

Then, there is the psychological nature of truth. In this respect we recall Polonius’ advice to his departing son Laertes to be true to himself. Those of us with an existentialist bent will call this our desire for authenticity. Freud and Jung and their followers, taking inspiration from Kant, have taught us that truth has a very personal shape and that we can see things more as we are than as such things are in themselves. Then the fictional, if eccentric, Dr House reminds us in a most timely and contemporary manner that we all lie for various personal purposes. Objectivity, it would seem, like truth is not as easily defined as we might at first superficially and naively think.

No comments: