True or Not

In the post-truth world (a word which became so popular recently), it is interesting to see how we find out whether something is true or not. It is not easy in the extremely varied situations of life and as far I think, no one theory can help in it. The objectivity of truth (it should be same for everyone and all time) is a myth in many cases.

In the Indian philosophy, there is a famous example of snake and rope. I saw a rope at night and I thought it was snake. It was an illusion. By more careful observation or by flashing more light, the confusion was removed. So in many cases, truth is corresponding to a substance. By observing it, we can correct it as and when required. This is probably the way of science too. A certain degree of objectivity is possible here.

But our truth is also affected by our belief systems/culture. I am waiting to go for a very important meeting and a black cat crosses the road. For some it is an inauspicious signs (others call it superstitious beliefs), for some it is a thing which doesn’t have any positive or negative relevance. It is impossible to give an objective answer that satisfies all.

Today we know that sun is the center of solar system and the earth revolves around it. That is what science teaches. We believe it. But our normal perception shows that sun is moving around us. (we know why it is so). But should we believe eyes or science?  A clean substance for eye may show a lot of dirt under microscope.

We try to write history. History is supposed to be a narration of facts. But who has the facts? How will we know which are facts and which are opinions. A perfectly scientific method to distinguish is not so easy.  Many a times, even the researchers are biased towards the interests of their sponsors.

There are issues of beef ban in India, demand for pork ban in Muslim countries. These are based on religious beliefs, not any scientific logic. For one group of people, ban is the right thing; whereas freedom to eat is the right thing for the other group.

We have many myths and symbols being used in our religious and cultural traditions. A myth (in a positive way) is defined a medium which conveys a truth in a way that is understandable to the group. It is not 100% facts. A myth and facts can’t be equated. How will you find out what is true in a myth? Though the church accepts the creation stories in Genesis as myths (this understanding of myth; not myth as fake stories) and not scientific descriptions of creation, there are several issues in identifying the truth conveyed through it.

Slave trade, caste based suppression, patriarchy, racism was accepted at one point of time. The situation has changed. They are being challenged. What is acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow.

Which are the cases in which truth is objective? Which are the cases in which it is subjective? Which are the cases in which it is inter-subjective. Can we have a consensus in that? I don’t think, it will ever happen and we need to live with the struggle of understanding and appropriating and modifying truth. Science thought they could capture it; today nobody except some extreme fundamentalists make such claims. But anything can go is also not right.

 

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