There has always been much discussion about the nature of truth and whether anything is actually objectively true. The position that has always made the most sense to me is that in order to establish the truth of something, we always have to have something else (a backdrop or some object of contrast) to compare it to. Truth, then, would always seem to be relative, for it can only be established relative to the guidelines we set for it.

To suggest that there is no such thing as objective truth is not the same as suggesting there is no such thing as objective reality. Regardless of how we perceive reality, it must be granted that we are perceiving something, so an objective reality must exist. We may not be seeing how it really is, whatever that may be, or our perceptions may be fairly close to the mark, but in either case, there is the something to be perceived.

Truth, however, if defined as a conformity to fact or reality, must be subjectively judged to be so. The weight of the argument, therefore, would seem to be against the idea of objective truth that doesn't depend on other elements for comparison. Even if we were to take what seems to be a fundamental truth, such as "everything is exactly what it is," this concept can only exist in comparison to what things are not. Even when we're dealing with the fundamentals, then, we find that objective truth is difficult to support as an acceptable construct. All truth seems to be subjective.

Frances E. W. Harper

A rock, for ages, stern and high,
Stood frowning 'gainst the earth and sky,
And never bowed his haughty crest
When angry storms around him prest.
Morn, springing from the arms of night,
Had often bathed his brow with light.
And kissed the shadows from his face
With tender love and gentle grace.

Day, pausing at the gates of rest,
Smiled on him from the distant West,
And from her throne the dark-browed Night
Threw round his path her softest light.
And yet he stood unmoved and proud,
Nor love, nor wrath, his spirit bowed;
He bared his brow to every blast
And scorned the tempest as it passed.

One day a tiny, humble seed--
The keenest eye would hardly heed--
Fell trembling at that stern rock's base,
And found a lowly hiding-place.
A ray of light, and drop of dew,
Came with a message, kind and true;
They told her of the world so bright,
Its love, its joy, and rosy light,
And lured her from her hiding-place,
To gaze upon earth's glorious face.

So, peeping timid from the ground,
She clasped the ancient rock around,
And climbing up with childish grace,
She held him with a close embrace;

Her clinging was a thing of dread;
Where'er she touched a fissure spread,
And he who'd breasted many a storm
Stood frowning there, a mangled form;
A Truth, dropped in the silent earth,
May seem a thing of little worthless,
Till, spreading round some mighty wrong,
It saps its pillars proud and strong,
And o'er the fallen ruin weaves
The brightest blooms and fairest leaves.

The modern title of a short poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. The poem is extant in 23 manuscript copies, making it Chaucer's single most popular work other than The Canterbury Tales. The fourth stanza (included below) is extant in only one of the 23 manuscripts; all others only have the first three. There are numerous slight but telling variations between the various manuscripts. I have used the version found in The Riverside Chaucer. The footnotes are my own.

Flee fro the prees1 and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thyng2, though it be smal,
For hord hath hate, and climbing tikalnesse3,
Prees hath envye, and wele4 blent5 overal.
Savour no more than thee bihove shal,
Reule wel thyself that other folk canst rede,
And trouth thee shal delivere, it is no drede6.

Tempest thee nought al croked7 to redresse
In trust of hir8 that turneth as a bal;
Gret reste stant in litel besiness.
Bewar therfore to sporne9 ayeyns10 an al11,
Stryve not, as doth the crokke12 with the wal.
Daunte13 thyself, that dauntest otheres dede14,
And trouth thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnesse15;
The wrastling for this world axeth16 a fal.
Her is non hoom, her nis but wildernesse:
Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal!
Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al;
Hold the heye wey and lat thy gost thee lede,
And trouth thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

Therfore, thou Vache, leve thyn old wrecchednesse;
Unto the world leve now to be thral.
Crye him mercy, that of his hy goodnesse
Made thee of noght, and in especial
Draw unto him, and pray in general
For thee, and eek for other, hevenlich mede17;
And trouth thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

1 the prees: the press (perhaps, the crowd at court)
2 thyng: possessions
3 tikalnesse: ticklishness, uncertainty
4 wele: weal
5 blent: blinds
6 drede: doubt
7 croked: crookedness
8 hir: i.e. Lady Fortune (who turns her wheel)
9 sporne: kick
10 ayeyns: against
11 al: awl (which would be painful to kick against)
12 crokke: crock, which would break if thrown against a wall
13 Daunte: conquer
14 dede: deeds
15 buxumnesse: obedience
16 Vache: a pun: either Sir Philip de la Vache, a member of the court, or, a cow
16 axeth: asks
17 mede: reward

This is the last line of text in this writeup.

Truth. Such a cute, innocent word to look at. Such noble word to live by. Yet, possessing the power to drown the strongest, the noblest and the wisest of all men - should one have lost it somewhere along the way - is certainly something to take seriously.

The problem with the word arises from its subjective nature. Take the first sentence in this writeup, for example. At the time of writing it was the truth as it really was the last line of this writeup, but now anyone could call me a liar for writing something such; there's still a lot of text in this writeup after that first line. This leads us to but one conclusion: truth must - in some cases - be time-related. Or belief-related, or physics-related ("the accuracy of our knowledge of the world is limited by the sensitivity of the equipment used to determine and measure", as I stated in my writeup From books people learn to remember, from mistakes to understand), depending on the case.

The subjective nature of the way the word is understood (do keep in mind that words do not have any meanings, whatsoever, by themselves, see my writeup on the subject) is not the problem, it's us people that are the problem, when trying to enforce our own truths on others, who are not willing to give up theirs. The history of Man is full of sad examples of what this can lead up to: Conquistadors, Inquisition, Holocaust, just to name a few.

Creativity is close to madness, they say. Ingenuity is close to madness, they also say. Does this mean that creativity is close to ingenuity, then? If so, why is the creativity of some called just plain creativity, while the creativity of others is called ingenuity? Does creativity or madness or ingenuity even exist? What makes me write something like this? I'll tell you: it's creativity. So, am I lying, then? The one who absolutely positively, without the smallest of room for the slightest doubt, proves it is a genius. Thus, he lies and all I'm writing is true.

And that's about all I have to say about truth right now.

A tragically underappreciated album by Jeff Beck, and one of the most important seminal works of heavy metal and hard rock. Released in 1968. Along with some Led Zeppelin and Cream (all ex-Yardbirds, fancy that!), it represents the increasingly tenuous link between blues and heavy metal. Even if the music on Truth weren't so stunningly good, the album would be notable for the number of rock and roll gods that appear on it. If you're impressed by the credits on the album cover:

wait'll you hear the full list of notables who played: And without further ado, the track list, with Beck's comments from the liner notes:
  1. Shapes of Things (3:17) - Rearranged, but the same Yardbirds hit. This must be played at maximum volume whatever phonograph you use. Makes very appropriate background music if you have the Vicar for tea.
  2. Let Me Love You (4:41) - Heavy number, tambourine played divinely by Micky Waller. Written partly by me and partly by anoter geezer. Multipurpose tune.
  3. Morning Dew (4:38) - Everyone knows Tim does this wonderfully, but so do we.
  4. You Shook Me (2:28) - Probably the rudest sounds ever recorded, intended for listening to whilst angry or stoned. Last note of song is my guitar being sick - well so would you be if I smashed your guts for 2:28
  5. Ol' Man River (3:55) - Arranged by me, but credit must to to all, everyone was super especially Rod Stewart. Again played loudly gives maximum value.
  6. Greensleeves (1:47) - (Aye that's a lovely "toon") Played on Mickie Most's guitar which by the way is the same as Elvis'
  7. Rock my Plimsoul (4:11) - Rerecorded flipside of "Tally Man" much better feel and more spontaneity than the original.
  8. Beck's Bolero (2:51) - Not much to say about this, excuse same track on here as on the "Silver Lining" B side, but we couldn't improve on it.
  9. Blues Deluxe (7:30) - Thanks to Bert and Stan, we were able to give you a perfect example of "live" blues music that we sometimes give forth, and please let's own up about the piano solo.
  10. I Ain't Superstitious (4:51) - Stolen riff from old "Howlin' Wolf" tune, but he doesn't mind because I asked him. This number is more or less an excuse for being flash on guitar.

A few notes I've managed to dredge up: The "geezer" who wrote Let Me Love you was "J. Rod", I dunno who that is. The recording on Led Zeppelin I of You Shook Me was done very shortly after the one on Truth, which Jimmy Page sat in on. Beck's Bolero was written by Jimmy Page, and features all of Beck, Page, Keith Moon, John Paul Jones, and Nicky Hopkins - oh, to be a fly on the wall at THAT recording session! The drum part was inspired by Ravel's Bolero. Blues Deluxe is not live at all - the applause was recorded at a Beatles concert.

In our personal lives, is it better to be diplomatic or to tell the truth?

Deontology and Utilitarianism

There are two major philosophical views on the subject of truth. Deontology states that duty is a key ethical concept that cannot be defined in terms of what is good or beneficial. Hence, deontologists maintain one must do one's duty even if the consequences of this action would be detrimental to oneself or others. On the other hand, utilitarianism expresses the view that the best action is the one that will provide the greatest expected utility, or happiness, to the greatest number of individuals.


In order for our society to function, people must trust each other to a reasonable extent. When people tell the truth, it establishes trust. If no one told the truth, there would be no reason to listen to what anyone had to say. Communication would break down and without communication, society could not function. Therefore, for society to maintain itself, people must tell the truth.

Communication and Altruism

One of the main reasons for telling the truth is in order to establish reliable communication, which enables society to function better. There are, however, other reasons why telling the truth is a moral ideal common to all human societies. Telling the truth will not usually provide any benefit to the individual. Therefore, being truthful will, in general, lead to the avoidance of actions motivated by self-interest, whereas lying is more likely to promote greed and the desire for personal gain. Telling the truth is an easy way to adhere to the deontological principle of doing the right thing for its own sake.

Is telling the truth always justified?

Deontology states that a morally obligatory act is one enjoined by a system of moral duties. There is much variation between the moral codes of different cultures, but nevertheless most of them would agree that it is essential to tell the truth. Although, there are other moral laws shared universally by human cultures, deontologists state that people should tell the truth all the time. However, telling the truth cannot always be morally justified, for instance few would claim that those families who revealed the location of Jews in their village to the Nazis were acting morally. If there is a higher moral law, such as justice, or a higher natural law, such as survival, involved, then it is morally acceptable to lie to uphold that principle.

Lying as a moral choice

Since society can still function as long as most people tell the truth most of the time, lying can be an acceptable moral choice. People do not necessarily have to tell the truth all the time; they just have to be truthful enough so that people can usually accept what they hear as truth when there is no obvious reason for the person to be lying.

Trust can still be maintained if people lie when they have something worthwhile to gain from doing so, but if people lie when they have nothing to gain, a person could depend on reliable information from no one but himself. On the other hand, if people were to tell the truth almost all the time, even when it were inconvenient to them, communication would yield huge amounts of reliable information that could be useful to people in many different ways. If people always told the truth, we would never have any doubts to the validity of information, and could use everything we heard as verified fact.

Detecting deceitfulness

However, this extreme is unnecessary, we can trust one another to tell the truth most of the time. Usually, we can detect deceitfulness by taking into account what we feel about the informant’s propensity to lie. If we think that there is a motive for deceit, we can analyse the information more closely. Otherwise, we can depend on the information enough of the time not to worry about the veracity of the information with which we are presented.

Diplomacy in speech

Diplomacy in speech is a method of lying in order to minimise the level of offence caused to others. Although this cannot be defended using the deontological argument, utilitarianism would determine this action to be morally correct unless as the consequences of this deceit outweighed its benefits. Diplomatic speech is most commonly used in what our society terms “little white lies” which usually entail lying about your personal preferences. There are few people who have never uttered a white lie and even fewer who would consider that to do so would be morally reprehensible. In moderation, lying will not affect how much we trust one another, and through being careful with the truth we can increase the sum total of humanity’s happiness.


Ideally, we would live in a society where lying was unknown but while we do not, it seems better to be diplomatic in speech, which is not the same thing as compulsively lying. By adhereing to the utilitarian ideal of bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people we can do better than to use the hard, inflexible moral logic of deontology to justify telling the truth in all circumstances, regardless of the harm that this may cause to others.

Cletus the Foetus says Isn't it possible that by lying you do more harm than good? What about the greater pleasure of having a friendship that includes hard knocks? I feel the conclusions are a little superficial here.

I agree, however, I feel that while it is certainly true that lying can do more harm than good I was trying to make the point that there is usually little harm in telling ‘white lies’ in order to make others feel better.

I don't myself feel that lying is an acceptable moral choice but am simply trying to argue that society can still function even if people do not tell the truth all the time.

This essay on Truth is supposed to be highly subjective. So you should read and judge it accourdingly. It is not meant to persuade, argue, or explain. Simply, it is. Much like the theory of Truth. In regards to the "arguements" within this essay, they were made to "convince" laypersons; not a highly educated audience such as the kind on e2. I should also mentioned I used an abridged version of the 1995 Webster's, not the 1913 version found here on e2.

Most people define Truth as something that cannot be proven false, as in math. Sometimes religious beliefs are considered true, even though they cannot be proven as such. In some other cases, something that only exists in theory is the Truth, such as what we perceive as reality. But what is Truth? Truth can be true, false, or paradox dependant upon evidence that supports each. At times, this evidence is contradictory to the Truth that it is supposed to support. Simply put, Truth should be defined as what an individual chooses to believe in, and what popular opinion dictates Truth to be.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Truth as “The facts corresponding with actual events or happenings.” When The Matrix was released in 1999 it introduced a radical idea, that this ‘real’ world and its events were not true at all. In The Matrix the concept of our reality was explained as “electrical impulses interpreted by our brain.” These impulses may be interrupted by outside devices and the resulting impulses may be interpreted as a false reality. So how do we know what reality really is? Is it fact? or fiction? The answer is that it can be both and neither. Surreal experiences that we can’t clearly remember, dreams that we think happened, and hallucinations are all examples of ‘realities’ that didn’t really happen, or falsities that are believed to have happened.

Numbers don’t lie.” As much as most people would like it to be nonexistent, math is inarguably the one and constant “truth.” But how does three thirds equal one? As is common knowledge, one third is equal to .333333… if you multiply this number by three; you get three thirds or one. But three times three equals nine, not 10. To put it numerically:

N = .999999…
10N - N = 9N
9.99999… - .99999… = 9
9N= 9
N = 1 = .99999…

This simple math problem shows that an inequality, is, in fact an equality. If an equality is unequal, then what is to become of the equalities that are equal? What about the inequalities that are unequal? Or the inequalities that are equal? The point being that if math can prove itself false, what part of it is true? The answer is that none of it is true. Truth is relative to the individual, and that numbers cannot give light to the question of what Truth is.

On the other side of science is faith. Belief in God is, more or less, universal is one aspect or another. One specific religion, Christianity (although it is actually comprised of numerous forms of moderatly varied religions), is famous for its belief in a book called The Bible. They take this book to be the direct word of God and is thereby the Truth. If The Bible is the word of God, why is it so contradictory? When The Bible was translated from its ancient language Aramaic into the vernaculars of the time, it lost some of its original meaning. As time progressed, The Bible became more of a Monk’s plaything than a Holy Book. Monks altered the wordings and meanings and added and subtracted at their own free will. Over time, The Bible became a conscript of lies, conspiracies, and contradicting views of God’s word. The four Gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were not written by men of the respective names, they were named what they are because different sects of Christians wanted their Gospels to have more legitimacy over the others. One of the Gospels is believed by some scholars to have been written by a woman. Most Christians believe these Gospels to be direct eyewitness accounts of Jesus and his actions, but they weren’t. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four, was written around 50 A.D. some 20 to 30 years after the death of Jesus Christ. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written around 90 A.D. and are believed to have been almost directly copied from the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of John was written around 100 A.D. and is vastly different from the other three.

Despite being unreliable, contradictory, and grossly inaccurate, The Bible still holds as the source for much of the world’s faith and sense of morality. People look to it everyday for answers, they believe that Jesus holds the key to all problems and to salvation after bodily death. But a panel of scholars and professionals in the field of Bible studies took what was known about Jesus and voted on the legitimacy of Jesus’ words within the New Testament. Basing the decisions on the earliest copies of the bible and other original sources, they determined that 82% of Jesus’ words either he didn’t say, or wouldn’t have said. With this in mind, the falsities of another given “truth” are shown, and the Truth can only be seen in what an individual perceives, and not in what dead people wrote down hundreds of years ago.

In the light of traditions hundreds of years old, the sway and corruption of public opinion holds strong. What makes public opinion the Truth? What makes the Queen of England the Queen of England? The answers may seem obvious, the Royal bloodline, hereditary, and the power of her family of generations past. But other than being married to the King what made the very first Queen of England the Queen of England? It was a compact agreement by the general populace of England that made her the Queen of England; it was public opinion. The phrase ‘Elizabeth II is the Queen of England’ is taken as fact because it is given as Truth by the general populous. What if I were to claim to be the Queen of England? And what if I convinced the entire populous of the world that I was? I would be the Queen of England is what would happen. No? Why not? If everyone on this earth believed me to be the Queen of England, what makes it so that I’m not? There isn’t anything that wouldn’t make me the Queen of England, because popular opinion dictates what is generally perceived as the Truth.

Truth is determined by observations of the individual observing them. If something holds true to that individual, what can possibly make it false? Popular opinion has the power to, but in some cases it doesn’t do so successfully. Truth is not and should not ever be “facts corresponding with actual events or happenings” (Webster’s Dictionary). It should be what each individual believes in, and what a collective group of people believes in (popular opinion). The real question behind all this is that, is this essay the Truth? Maybe this essay is a bunch of lies intended to fool you, the reader. The Truth is simply what you want to believe, and nothing more. And on a final note, I am the Queen of England.

Truth, by definition is something that is true, factual, without falsities. But in art, the concept of truth sometimes takes on a slightly different nature. There is a feeling, or an aura, around art, that engulfs the viewer to wonder and think about the nature of the piece.

Most people prove a work true, if they can physically see it, touch it, or back up its existence with factual data. To smell a chef’s freshly prepared dinner or run their hands over a smooth marble sculpture, justifies in their mind, that work is real. They know someone sat down and had to create these wonderful pieces. But with the ever waxing strength of Digital Media, these full proof tests for authenticity of truth are failing more and more against new works.

With traditional art, the truth behind it is that there was, without a shadow of a doubt, a great artist thinking and creating behind the work. Looking at their art piece is almost like holding a one on one conversation with that artist. But today, with digital art, the truth of an artist has faded. Looking at a picture on the Internet doesn’t bring any form of emotion, other than perhaps an apathetic “that’s neat”.

Another truth is the ability to easily believe, that this work is the only one. Artist John Doe didn’t rattle off 20 copies of his famous piece, he created one and only one. Truth is knowing that this is the real and legitimate object that artist touched, painted, sculpted, cut and designed. Again, bringing us present to the realm of digital media, this truth has been lost by the easy replication and anonymous nature of the Internet.

Truth is more than knowing the sky is blue, two plus two is four or gravity will always pull us back down to earth. Truth is being secure and feeling safe in our environment. Truth is knowing that what you are looking at is exactly what the artist meant, saw and felt. Today that truth is ebbing from present generations artwork, leaving the pieces not with a feeling of originality and achievement, but much like an orphan not knowing where they belongs or who they belongs to.

Truth (?), n.; pl. Truths (#). [OE. treuthe, trouthe, treowpe, AS. treow. See True; cf. Troth, Betroth.]


The quality or being true; as: -- (a) Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been; or shall be.


Conformity to rule; exactness; close correspondence with an example, mood, object of imitation, or the like.

Plows, to go true, depend much on the truth of the ironwork. Mortimer.


Fidelity; constancy; steadfastness; faithfulness.

Alas! they had been friends in youth, But whispering tongues can poison truth. Coleridge.


The practice of speaking what is true; freedom from falsehood; veracity.

If this will not suffice, it must appear That malice bears down truth. Shak.


That which is true or certain concerning any matter or subject, or generally on all subjects; real state of things; fact; verity; reality.

Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor. Zech. viii. 16.

I long to know the truth here of at large. Shak.

The truth depends on, or is only arrived at by, a legitimate deduction from all the facts which are truly material. Coleridge.


A true thing; a verified fact; a true statement or proposition; an established principle, fixed law, or the like; as, the great truths of morals.

Even so our boasting . . . is found a truth. 2 Cor. vii. 14.


Righteousness; true religion.

Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John i. 17.

Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. John xvii. 17.

In truth, in reality; in fact. -- Of a truth, in reality; certainly. -- To do truth, to practice what God commands.

He that doeth truth cometh to the light. John iii. 21.


© Webster 1913.

Truth, v. t.

To assert as true; to declare.


Had they [the ancients] dreamt this, they would have truthed it heaven. Ford.


© Webster 1913.

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