Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Subjectivity in truth

What's yours?

Through an ironic twist, truth is subjective. This may seem counter intuitive to the word itself. Truth is what we seek, it's what we want. But all that matters is the truth that we believe. It doesn't matter what objectively occurred; what matters is what we believe occurred.

We don't base our actions on facts. We base them on truths.

I was once talking to a friend of mine who had recently gotten married. She was talking about how she and her recently acquired husband had attended a marriage workshop, not because they were having difficulties but because they wanted to avoid as may pitfalls as they could. It was a very logical approach and I heartily applauded their choice. She mentioned that something they taught was that there are three perspectives that occur in every marriage situation -- three truths: what the husband perceives and believes, what the wife perceives and believes, and what objectively happens. Most often the objective happening isn't the problem, it's one of the perceptions and beliefs of what happened. If a husband is working late and hasn't called he may be working late, but if the wife is convinced it's because he's having an affair then she'll react as such and the marriage will be hurt. It doesn't matter what the husband says because she'll just think he's lying or has an alibi. If it turns out she's wrong it will help but it won't erase the doubt and damage; studies have shown that ideology trumps fact. If we believe something to be true we'll still cling to parts of it even when faced with or told factual contradictory information.

It seems almost paradoxical that truth can be subjective. Truth is supposed to be true. That doesn't change that everyone acts based on what they believe is true, regardless of what may be objectively true. There's little else we can do. No matter how hard we may strive we cannot ever pull ourselves out of our own perceptions and view things with complete objectivity. Everything is based on what we believe to be the truth. Our truth is the only one we believe. Our truth is the only one we know.

Truth is subjective. Next time you're convinced of something or believe in something -- particularly something pertaining to another's actions -- try and understand their truth. That is, after all, what they're going off of, and that's all anyone can expect.

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