How do we know whether our truths are the real truths, or is the truth simply an illusion?
What Is the Difference Between Objective and Subjective Truth?
Truth is a continuous concept in all places, all situations, and at all times. However, what one person believes to be the truth may not be agreed on by someone else. On the other hand, there are other truths, which everyone believes to be true.
For example, I doubt you would disagree with me that the year has 365 days, or that the internet exists. How else would you be reading this article? This gives us two different species of truth: objective and subjective truth.
However, there is a famous saying that in any situation, there are three truths: your truth, my truth, and the real truth. This saying exemplifies what we are talking about when we ask the question of what the difference between objective and subjective truth is.
So, let us explore these different kinds of truth and the illusions they can lead us to believe.
What Is the Objective Truth?
Objective truth is something that is true for all people, no matter what their culture or religious beliefs. These truths are fundamental truths. I don’t need to tell you the exact temperature of the fire to tell you that fire is hot. In the same way, I don’t need to tell you that you need food to survive.
Objective truths are, therefore, recognized by all people, whether or not they realize they are recognizing them.
What Is the Subjective Truth?
Subjective truth is similarly based on a person’s beliefs but not all people may agree with it. This kind of truth is present in things like religion. One person may believe that the existence of God is the truth, where another person may not.
People also form their own judgments of the truth of a situation based on the information they have. However, this judgment may change should this person receive some new information.
For example, I may believe that my friend has not invited me to their party and be mad at them. Yet, when I find out that they simply forgot to send the invitation, I am no longer mad at them as it was a simple mistake.
Subjective truth is, therefore, my truth.
How Do Objective and Subjective Truths Interact?
Situations such as this exemplify the saying that there are three versions of the truth. When having a conversation with a friend, they may take something I say the wrong way.
- My version of the truth containing the meaning of what I said (subjective truth).
- My friend’s version of the truth that I meant it differently (subjective truth).
- The third version of the truth is inclusive of what I said, how it was meant, but also the way in which I said it which led to my friend’s misinterpretation. This third version of the truth is the objective truth.
The more information I have about a situation or the facts relevant to it bring me closer to the objective truth. Until I know everything there is to know about a situation, I cannot say I know the objective truth about it.
Therefore, the only objective truths we really have are those fundamental truths on which everyone can agree at all times, which do not require further inquiry.
The Illusion of Truth
The truth is important to us because we never want to be wrong about something. However, the downside of this is that we are constantly looking for truth. This can lead us to a truth fallacy, where we believe something to be true that really isn’t.
Repetition Is Truth
Our brains are susceptible to believing something to be true if we hear it several times. Many people believe that the Great Wall of China is visible from space because they’ve heard it so many times. However, this is not true.
Other examples of this are that bulls hate the color red, or that we only have five senses. Neither of these is true, but we have heard them so many times that we believe them to be.
Scientists have regularly found that subjects are much more likely to believe something to be true if they hear it repeatedly. This repetition gives us cognitive ease which plays an important role in daily life. It allows us to feel more secure in what we know and in our interactions with the world.
It is important to understand how the illusion of truth works. Understanding this phenomenon allows us to be more critical of the ‘facts’ we hear constantly. With this critical thinking comes the power to seek out actual truths and get closer to the objective truths of the world.
The world is a complex, sometimes confusing place to live. The constantly changing manner of science and nature makes it almost impossible to know the objective truth of our circumstances. Subjective truth allows us to maintain a level of security, but it is not infallible.
The only truth which can be really trusted is objective truths, but these take a lot of work to find. We are constantly learning, and the pursuit of knowledge is vital to understanding the line between what we believe to be true and what is fundamentally true.
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