What is “The Truth”?

Truth has been a big topic of conversation lately all-over social media, amongst friends and family, and on TV. No, I am not going to be writing about the SCOTUS confirmation hearing and all that has gone on surrounding that situation, but I am going to write about truth and how it is different from fact and is different for each of us.

As you may know, I am in the middle of working on my Ph.D. in research psychology. While studying different types of research designs and how to conduct a research study, I’ve realized that my belief system and worldview has a great impact on the type of research I do This is true for all researchers.  And, it is applicable when trying to figure out what’s “truth” in life. One approach to uncovering what is true is the positivist perspective which depends on scientific evidence to reveal the “true nature” of something.  Another approach or view is the constructivist perspective which suggests that experiences are shaped by personal beliefs and perspectives; hence, there is the opportunity for many truths and realities based on individual experiences and perceptions.  If you approach life from the positivist perspective, chances are you need scientific evidence and proof to uncover the truth about something. If your approach is more constructivist, “the truth” is not something that can be “proven” because it differs for each of us.

There is no right or wrong – this is about preference.  And, you don’t have to be all one way or all the other. You can shift your approach based on shifts in your life.

However, I am all about the constructivist view; that is, I do not think “truth” can be the same for everyone. We are shaped by our life experiences, history, and belief system. Therefore, what is true for me may not be true for you. For example, I have strong beliefs about the treatment of animals and what is right and wrong. When I see pigs in slaughterhouses being used as food for humans, I see unnecessary harm and torture to innocent creatures. That is my truth and chances are you won’t be able to change my view. Someone who believes that certain animals are on earth to feed humans will have a completely different perspective and truth about this topic. And, chances are I won’t be able to change their feelings. Nor, do I want to because their right is to believe what they want and to identify it as true for them.

I believe that truth is different for each of us because we are each unique and come with history and experience that shapes our truths. Despite this, I also believe that there is a need for scientific evidence and factual data to be revealed and used as part of our justice system and in determining “right and wrong” as defined by societal laws. However, in my perspective, this is different from the truth.  Truth can be disputed. Two people witness the same crime and see drastically different things because they’re paying attention to different things. Different information filters in and out of their brains based on their history and life experience.  Which is the truth?  Both.  Scientific data can certainly provide facts that dispute one or both persons truth; however, you might still never be able to convince either of them that what they witnessed was not true, in spite of the facts presented.

If it seems complicated, that’s because it is. We, humans, are complicated creatures with as many opinions and perspectives as there are individuals on this earth.  I know many of you will disagree with me, and that is completely fine. Part of what makes life beautiful is that we are all so different.  And, to me, those differences also mean that there are innumerable truths about what we experience in life, both collectively and as individuals.

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