We are confronted daily with multiple opinions on what we need to do to survive the Coronavirus. Faced with conflicting information, how do we decide what to believe? What is the truth?

We’ve heard that a decision based on science is more true than a decision based on an opinion. The question then becomes what is science? I am not a scientist and though I live with a scientist, I don’t feel qualified to define science other than it has to do with controlled studies that can be replicated.

Let’s look at two other types of truth: narrative truth and historical truth.

Narrative truth is the truth of literary art. We all know when we read a story that feels true, how satisfying it is.

Historical truth is the truth of actuality, of what really happened.

Sigmund Freud proposed a metaphor of the analyst as an archaeologist who unearths traumatic events of the analysand’s past. This suggests that the truth found in analysis is historical truth.

But others have pointed out that the analyst and the analysand, when creating their true story, use narrative truth to pull the facts together.

As is becoming apparent, finding truth isn’t easy. Figuring out what is science or what is true story or discovering facts of what actually happened, requires the the skill of analyzing. The analytical attitude, discussed last week, may guide us towards truth.

The take home lesson: Slow down and observe what is being presented to you as truth. Question. Analyze. Keep an open mind. And consider this: Truth is not something we attain, it is something we realize with a start, as if we had always known it.

I would love to hear how you determine what is true in this day of fake news and false advertising.

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CLUE: We’ve never needed this bit of wisdom so desperately as we do now: Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points. (Kevin Kelly – find on Twitter.)

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IMAGE: Envelopes containing truth for my memoir.

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2 Responses

  1. Truth – what a huge topic to take on. I’d go with there being layers of it.

    The personal truth of me, the ‘know thyself’ of Socrates, Jesus and so many more. Therapies useful here.

    Observed truth – sunny? raining? This is the truth shared with others nearby. Did we see the car speeding before it hit the…? How many people did I see there?

    Communal truth – killing people is bad, so there is a law that holds killers to account. This is the arena where democracy is supposed to work, and Judaeo-Christian ethics, values and principles mostly prevail.

    Recorded communal truth, where ethical media are crucial. Evidence-based and willingness to apologize if mistakes are made.

    I get that you meant personal ‘historical truth’. To me historical truth – the ‘truth’ of relayed and recorded ‘history’ must listen to all the voices. History is usually presented by the victors/ colonizers, and here, we are trying hard to hear and incorporate truths of Maori stories of their outcomes of being invaded and colonized.
    Then there’s the truth of expert evidence – like science, where it’s a matter of choosing your experts and deciding which ones to trust.

    Every time I get on a plane, I’m trusting the experts in the cabin that we will truly arrive, because they have the skills and equipment to get us there. Hence my trust in our Government’s strategy of total lock-down – they listened to medical experts. Yes, we have to rebuild the economy, but we have a healthy population to do it with. Yes, it’s cost billions – but what are lives worth?

    Values (see above) will guided prioritizing where there’s a conflict eg health and the economy. Truth itself is a value and listens to all available evidence!

    And there’s taught truth – if you do this, and keep at it, you will achieve this result. It’s taken on faith, but we can discover its truth for ourselves by following a program. I guess spiritual practices, religions are in this category, in so far as they promise results in this life.
    Thank you for the Sunday challenge!

    • Hi Trish – what a plethora of Truth (s) you gifted us with! Thanks for your comment that
      challenges me! I especially like your thought that history needs to have all voices present.

      Thanks for reading!

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