For such a complex topic, this post may seem overly simplistic. Philosophers, theologians, intellectuals, academics, theorists, politicians, poets, and many other categories of people have discussed and debated this subject for far longer than I’ve been alive.
In fact, this post will be relatively short in comparison to my other blog entries which address weighty topics. Mostly, this entry is intended as a referential statement to which I may direct clients who inquire about my perspective on truth.
The unpolished definition of truth relates to that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. Incidentally, “true” is defined as accurate or exact information in accordance with fact or reality.
Following these standards, “reality” may be described as the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. Likewise, “fact” is detailed as a thing that is known or proved to be true, as opposed to interpretation.
These defining standards follow a pattern of circular reasoning—a logical fallacy whereby the premises require proof or evidence to support a conclusion, and consequently the argument fails to persuade a person. To demonstrate how this fallacy works, consider the following:
If A, then B. If B, then A = Person X is a trustworthy individual, because person X never lies.
This is a fallacy, because it purports to prove validity of a topic by using the topic to prove its validity. Sound confusing?
Though not a formal logical fallacy, circular reasoning serves more as a pragmatic defect in an argument. Such imperfection may be exploited by those who attempt to persuade an audience regarding one stance over another.
For instance, acolytes of postmodernist principles may claim we live in a post-truth era—relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
These people may posit that reality is constructed by labels. One can then deconstruct reality by removing the labels and applying new terms.
To demonstrate this, in the English language, a “cup” is described as an open-top container it is used to hold liquids for pouring or drinking. However, the Turkish word for this container is “bardak.”
Therefore, “cup” is a social construction and isn’t objectively true, because “bardak” is also a term that may be applied. As such, one can deconstruct the English label and reconstruct it with a Turkish one.
Still, even the Turkish word can be eliminated and substituted for an absurd term such as “binstevoplapity.” Who’s to say the reconstructed word isn’t “real” if enough people begin to use and identify with the term?
As a practical example concerning alteration of what is true, in a 60 Minutes interview, United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) once stated, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”
Here, specific emphasis on moral correctness apparently exceeds consideration of objective truth. Regarding morally correct, I’m referring to beliefs about what is right or wrong.
Morals are subjective and considered to be based on what is perceivably true. Subjectivity relates to that which is based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
Conversely, objectivity addresses that which is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in consideration of or representing facts. AOC’s claim of moral correctness isn’t based in facts or truth, though personal perspective, group agreement, and assumptions about what is acceptable.
Quite often, I hear people claiming to possess truth. They say things such as, “My truth,” or, “Personal truth,” as though an individual can claim ownership over what is true and what is not. Here’s how such logic is represented:
Premise 1: What I believe is true.
Premise 2: I believe unicorns are real.
Conclusion: Therefore, my belief about unicorns is true.
Unequivocally, I reject this flawed premise. While faulty assumptions may present as though they follow a reasonable standard, the given example illustrates how an incorrect major premise can lead to an equally inaccurate conclusion.
Truthfully speaking, I don’t possess THE truth. I suspect that truth is something outside of an individual and a person may aspire to perceive it, though I doubt one can actually lay claim to it.
Imagine being in a dark room, blindfolded while wearing hearing protection, your nostrils are plugged, and white noise plays loudly over a public address system. Truth is somewhere in the room, perhaps behind you.
You may spend a significant amount of time trying to discover truth, all while your senses are besieged with distracting interruption of regular detecting capability. Maybe you find truth, maybe not.
Consider the following image. It’s a bird’s-eye view of person X being subject to the aforementioned circumstances. Truth is outside of the individual and person X can try to discover it or give up.
It may take a long time to find truth, depending on the size of the room. On that, the room represents life. Though relatively a short time, it can seem much larger than it actually is.
It’s an onerous affair to search for truth. We may spend our lifetimes never coming close to touching it. All the while, we stumble around in darkness and bewilderment while trying to discover what is factual and what is not.
Let us add complexity to this scenario. Suppose you aren’t alone in the room—which you most certainly are not—as you share life with billions of other people on this planet. Moreover, the staggering number of people who preceded you in time also once occupied the room.
Each person is searching for that which they may never discover. It seems like an impossible undertaking, if not merely implausible.
Accordingly, I can understand how and why so many people would abandon the search for truth and opt rather to assert their own knockoff version of what is factually correct. In this way, these people can keep their backs turned on truth and claim ownership of moral righteousness.
“I believe it; therefore, it’s true” is not a standard I will abide. This is largely due to the fact that belief—much like faith—does not require evidence in order to function.
Reflect back to the aforementioned unicorn. Simply because one believes something does not make that something a factual, truthful, or real thing.
Arguably, such conviction relates less to truth and more to delusion—belief or altered reality that is persistently held despite evidence or agreement to the contrary. I understand that many religiously, spiritually, and ideologically-driven people may disagree.
All the same, when I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), my intention is not to validate irrational assumptions one maintains about oneself, others, or life in general. Rather, I dispute these unhelpful beliefs which often lead to unpleasant consequences.
Just as there is a warning label on hand-held hair dryers that advises, “A person using a hand-held dryer while bathing risks electrocution,” the current blog entry is posted for a reason. Truth is outside of us and someone, somewhere likely used a hair dryer while bathing.
Likewise, people sometimes express displeasure when attending treatment with an REBT psychotherapist who doesn’t subscribe to belief-based misrepresentations of truth. Thus, this post serves as expressed careful consideration of the matter.
If you’re looking for a practitioner who will validate your moral convictions, endorse your irrational assumptions, advocate self-disturbing narratives, keep his back turned on truth and without attempting to discover what is factual and real, or collude with you in delusion, I encourage you to look elsewhere and for other services that better fit your requirements.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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