What is true and truth? Class notes

Today we got into groups (I was in a group with Jonathan, Becca and Jared) and we discussed some very in-depth questions about what we think truth and reality is.

The point of this exercise (in addition to getting us thinking about what ‘true’ is) was to see how everyone has different answers to these intellectually challenging questions, in some groups peoples answers were totally different to those of their team mates.

In my groups case we quickly worked through the answers writing our individual ideas into a Google Doc. We all seemed to have fairly consistent opinions on the answers to the questions and so there was not a lot of verbal debate.

Whereas David and Harry’s group had a lot of discussion and debate when answering every question.

But why did the members of David group all have different answers?

Well each persons answer to the question ‘what is true?’ is based on their personal bias. A personal bias is basically our worldview based on our experiences. Because my group had very few disagreements in the writing of our answers (which I tried testing occasionally by asking the others about what they thought of the answers written for some of the questions) it could be hypothesized that we all have relatively similar personal biases in relation to the topic of truth.

Here are the answers my group agreed on:

  1.  Is there a  difference between ‘knowing’ something and ‘having knowledge’ of something? Explain

Knowing something is to have a light or little understanding of the thing or simply the knowledge of its existence. I.E you heard something from one source

Having knowledge is having an in depth understanding of the thing I.E you heard something from one source but then backed up that from several other sources.


  1. What is ‘truth’?

“The quality or state of being true”

“That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.”

“A fact or belief that is accepted as true.”

The most popularly believed and backed up belief of the populace


  1. What do we really mean when we say something is ‘true’?

It’s our belief and bias that we believe said thing is true. Whereas it may not be proven to be true.


  1. Is there a difference between knowing something is ‘true’ and believing that something is ‘true’?

Can you know something is true? If you can, knowing something is true means that it is true, whereas believing something is true is more a matter of a personal feeling or belief and may not be true to someone else.


  1. What is the difference between subjective and objective ‘truth’?

Subjective truth is something that is believed by person based on how they see the world through their personal bias.

Objective truth is not determined by a personal bias but proven by independent, observable or unobservable facts.


  1. What is a ‘fact’ and  can ‘facts’ change ?

A fact is a piece of information that proves a theory, or truth. Facts can change as technology and scientific inquiry proves a truth incorrect. Many related facts can back up a theory, however science like evolution changes as one theory is proven to fit the facts more closely than another so the current theory is proven untrue.


  1. How do we discover if something is ‘true’ or not ?

To a point we can determine that something is true based on which answer has the most raw data backing it up. However this does not necessarily ensure the that answer is 100% correct. Only that is it is true at the time.

Its should also be noted that this true can often be skewed by what the general populace believes and religious, cultural, etc influence


  1. “We do not see things as they are but as we are” Anais Nin. What does this mean?

We view the world through a worldview based on our upbringing and personal biases, this means that everything that we see is based on ourselves rather than the thing itself.


  1.  “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”  Einstein. What does this mean?

“Life is a presentation of choices. Wherever you are now exactly represents the sum of your previous decisions, actions and in-actions. At any given time the number of choices available to us is limited not by our capabilities but by our assumptions and awareness. The greater our awareness the greater the possibilities our lives can entertain. A limited awareness puts limits on the possibilities and futures we could hope to achieve”


I can’t remember who said it, but one philosopher said that reality is 2D and that we exist on a painting. Every decision has already been decided for us as it is already painted onto the campus.

Stephen Hawking said, that he believes the universe we live in has a predetermined destination and path, but that the path and destination is unknown to us, so we may as well live our lives as if the universe was not pre-determined.

  1. Is there a difference between ‘true’ and ‘valid’? Explain!

When something is true it is an absolute, whereas when something is valid it has the possibility of being true but may not be. I.E if you look up a phone number in the phone book then it is a true number, however if you just type numbers in the phone, the number is (probably) valid but may not have a number attached to it.


Class discussion

After answering the questions as groups, we had a class discussion to investigate the different viewpoints of the different groups, and here’s what we came up with:

What is the difference between knowledge and having knowledge?

Knowledge is tacit knowledge. It is information that you have due to having experienced, or made observations. This information is in your mind rather than being external to you (written down) (“What is tacit knowledge? definition and meaning – BusinessDictionary.com,” 2017).

For example you can drive a car because you have had the experience of learning to drive, after driving for long enough you can get to the unconscious competence stage of the four stages of competence (discussed below), in other words you can drive without even having to consciously think about what to do.

Whereas having knowledge is an example of explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is “Articulated knowledge, expressed and recorded as words, numbers, codes, mathematical and scientific formulae, and musical notations” (“What is explicit knowledge? definition and meaning – BusinessDictionary.com,” 2017). I understand it to be knowledge that is outside of your mind; it is written down or stored externally. e.g. A car manual describing how the car pedals work.

A relevant book that Clare recommended was: To have and to be – Erich Fromm

What is truth?

Truth is often a emotional concept rather than an intellectual concept. In other words we often have a different emotional feeling reacting to something we think is true as opposed to something we think is untrue.

We correspond truth with morality – if something is true it is good.

When we as individuals say something is true it is often based on our beliefs and experiences. Our belief is based on our biases and life experiences.

Something is more likely to actually be valid if it is both observed and believed by a large group of people. I would say this is because there is a reduced personal bias due to a greater sample group, meaning if they concur then an objective truth is more likely to have been discovered.

An example is if you put enough car-denying people in front of cars traveling at speed towards them, and they get flattened then not only are they likely to revise their opinion of cars existence (if they survive) but also they would have observed that cars definitely do exist because they have been flattened by one, and so the objective truth of cars existence has been discovered by a large sample group believing and observing it.


What is a fact?

A fact can be defined differently based on the field it is in.

In scientific research (which is both systematic and has repeatable results) facts are the results of the scientific research and this research can be repeated many times to give the same results meaning that the results are less likely to be based on human bias but instead be objective truths. Of course the interpretation of the scientific facts can be influenced by human bias.

Whereas in social sciences research, like history, it is very subjective and based on the bias of the history writers and the society in which they live. This is because history is written by the winners.

Whilst alternative facts are different interpretations of the same thing.

How do we discover if something is ‘true’ or not?

As I discussed above for scientific inquiry it is relatively easy to prove if something is true or not. Whereas in social sciences it is harder to validate.

4 stages of Competence: This is the belief that whenever we learn anything we go through the following stages as we slowly understand the concept:

  1. Unconscious incompetence (we don’t know what we don’t know)
  2. Conscious incompetence ( we have enough understanding to realize that we don’t understand the subject)
  3. Conscious competence (we understand the subject but have to think exactly what we’re doing when applying what we know)
  4. Unconscious competence (we can do something without having to think).

4 stages.jpg

(Csabai, n.d.)

Relating this to the concept of truth I believe that steps 3 and 4 fall heavily under the concept of subjective truth because we are basing our understanding on the knowledge we have internalized through our personal bias.

In other words I see our personal bias as the window that we see the world through.

As we learn a subject, for example I am trying to learn python at the moment, even though the syntax of the language will be the same in everyone’s understanding (i.e. it is an objective truth that is observed and believed by many people) the way I  understand, internalize and memorize it is based on my ‘window’.

I can hook a piece of syntax onto something that is significant to me e.g. some Python syntax might be similar to another language I already know and so this is a way for me to memorize the syntax which is unique to me. Meaning I am in stage 2-3 and I am gaining a subjective truth of the subject which is tested whenever I run my code, if my code fails then after troubleshooting the error my subjective truth is revised.

This was a fascinating topic and now I am going to investigate what ontology and epistemology are in the next journal entry.


What is tacit knowledge? definition and meaning – BusinessDictionary.com. (2017). Retrieved March 8, 2017, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/tacit-knowledge.html

Csabai, M. (n.d.). 4 Stages of Learning any new skill. Retrieved March 8, 2017, from http://mindinmotion.co.za/4-stages-of-learning-anything/



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