What is truth?

It’s an old question. What is truth? How do we know it when we see it?

This might be news to some of you, but there’s a whole field that studies what exactly is truth? It’s called Knowledge Theory and they break it down like this … theories of truth:

Depending on what we’re personally going for, we’ll want to pick some definition of truth that matches our goals.

If we’re looking for truth in an engineering or scientific way, we’ll want to figure out whether an idea, theory, conjecture or other thing corresponds to reality in a way that we can detect. This is the kind of truth we can use science and engineering to assess. We can devise experiments, we can measure, we can repeat results and re-derive other people’s findings about reality and there by figure out what is true.

That’s the kind of truth that shows like the amazing Cosmos series are after. But, what if I told you there were other kinds of true?

If we’re looking for the truth in something more philosophical like how we live our lives we may be looking for a version of the truth that has coherence with what we already assume. In this version of truth we need to be able to tell what we already believe and how some new idea fits with those beliefs.

If we’re looking for the social truth then we’re after what’s the consensus of the crowd. This is a very specific and very useful type of true but it only applies to certain things. “What is a good movie?” … for example. Or “Who won?” … since the truth values of good and bad or winning and losing can be nailed down mostly by what people who arbitrate such things believe.

The pragmatic approach is one where it doesn’t really matter what’s true as long as it works. Is it useful? Can it produce a desired outcome?

What’s the most appropriate version how to tell “what is true” for your current question?

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