Home > The definition of ''truth'' > What Does ”Truth” Mean? – How Can Truth Be Defined?

What Does ”Truth” Mean? – How Can Truth Be Defined?

UPDATE 10/16/2011: I realized about two days ago that truth could in fact be defined (and that I might not have understood Tarski’s work on truth correctly). I realized it when talking with my dad about the definition of truth, and that like the word “red” an example needed to be given, as in visual, to show what “red” actually was (as opposed to simply say, “a color”). And I finally realized, that many other things need to be shown to be understood, and that you don’t need endless examples for a reference like “red” or “soft” to be understood.

So then truth can be defined as
1) All that which is true.
2) A truth, example: 2 + 2 = 2.
3) A quality, trustworthy, example: The Bible is “trustworthy” because many archeological and scientific discoveries have been made which verify its historical accuracy.

Update 2/12/2011: I’m too tired to read what exactly I said below concerning my personal attempt to define truth as that which is real, but I realized this a few minutes ago: that which exists can’t be the definition of truth, because lies exist, but that doesn’t make lies true. So, perhaps it is true that truth can’t be defined in our language.)

While working on a short and somewhat simple refutation of atheism, I came across an old problem for me, that is, defining what ”truth” and “lie” means. I looked up various definitions and tried to find out what its characteristics were, and also looked into the Bible and the meanings of the original Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as either of those words in English Bibles. I noticed that when I try to define them simply, it goes around in a circle, like this:

“The truth is that which is not a lie” and “A lie is that which is not a truth”.

What seemed like an hour later, I came up on my own to a degree, with this definition:

Truth: An exact or reproduction or true description of some part of existing information which was sensed by the one reproducing the information. Example: A man named Zor saw the color red at 12 P.M. and remembered this, and when he was asked what he saw at 12 P.M. he said that he saw the color red.

The problem with this definition is it defines itself with a similar version of the word “truth”, and that word is “true”. In short its basically saying, “Truth is what is true”, which is little better than saying, “Truth is what is truth.” Interesting to me, in Proverbs 12:17 it says, “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.”, which is true, but notice it says “truth gives honest” which is basically saying, “truth gives truthful”. Trying to define truth as “that which has evidence to show it is true” is also circular. The strange and interesting thing though, and ironic, is that we humans have the ability to sense various truths and also lies even though we have great trouble defining either, which makes it evident that we have been programmed to automatically detect truth from lies but that our ability to detect them is not perfect. According to the Bible this is because of our rebellious attitude towards God (the source of truth). This causes us to become forgetful of what is morally true and false and forgetful of various truths God has spoken, and we also become deluded, meaning, we believe lies.

A delusion is a fixed belief that is either false, fanciful, or derived from deception. The psychiatric definition of delusion is similarly, a belief that is pathological (the result of an illness or illness process) and is held despite evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, dogma, stupidity, apperception, illusion, or other effects of perception, as pointed out by the psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers, who was the first to define the three main criteria for a belief to be considered a delusion in his 1917 book General Psychopathology. The characteristics of a delusion according to him (in my simplified language), are:

1) having complete belief without doubt, and
2) not being able to be persuaded to believe differently,
3) despite being shown obvious evidence (including in the form of logical arguments) which show the belief to be clearly false, and
4) the belief being clearly (evidently wrong or easily able to be understood as to why it is) wrong (except to the one who has the delusion).

Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and spiritual, or more specifically “mental”).

It’s about 7:03 A.M. and I intend to work on this post later as I am worn out.

4:02 P.M.:

You can define truth as “That which matches reality” but then you have the “problem” of defining what is real, a problem because if you are dreaming and see and feel an object, does that make it anymore real than what you see and feel when awake? Real can be defined as “that which is made of matter, energy or spirit”. What is spirit? It’s not made of matter or energy, but is it seems to me information in its pure form whether living or non-living. For example non-living information is data, like a concept, a thought, a piece of information like some letter or number, some quantity which can represented by “1” or “2” or other numbers or a representation of no quantity like the phrase “no quantity” or the number “0”.

Related Post:

The Definition of Reality

8/19/2010:

About an hour ago, I think, I found this page: The Man Who Defined Truth, which after pasting that here realized a sort of irony, being that the article says that truth cannot be defined in the language you are using it in, as was supposedly proven by Alfred Tarski.

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  1. August 20, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    This is my definition of the word truth as you asked me to post it here on your blog. Truth is anything that is real or factual.

    • August 20, 2010 at 4:02 PM

      I read on some website recently that a truth is not the same as fact, or truth is not the same as fact, but when reading the rest, saw that the person was saying or implying that truth is based on a person’s perspective, which to me was automatically wrong because the Bible says it is not subjective/relative, that Jesus is the truth, and likewise God. Besides that, even many atheists don’t believe, or at least say, that truth is objective, and many of them do I suspect, because if it isn’t, then science is relative, and science is like a sacred cow to them, at least an arbitrary sacred cow, or some narrow scientific field, sacred at least in that it must be separate from religion and must be held above religion.

      I also can’t imagine that in the places where the Bible says, “truth” that it really means “fact” if God was meaning to say that he is not a relative thing, but objective. It sounds odd to translate Jesus as saying, “I am the fact” or “I am factual”. Here is the website:

      http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-fact-and-truth/

      It’s also interesting that this person’s “fact”, has been rated very low. I haven’t rated their explanation though. I wonder if it was theists or atheists and how many of each who rated this person a low rating.

      I also remember that this person did not cite any sources, let alone scholarly-seeming ones. So it’s just there mere claim that truth and fact are not the same, as far as I know.

      After writing that sentence I immediately looked up the word fact at dictionary.com, and as I suspected, it can also mean truth, according to the first definition listed:

      –noun
      1. something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.

      It should also be noted that lexicographers are known for taking great care to get a definition correct, at least certain lexicographers. So, if they believe that fact is a synonym for truth, then that’s evidence to me. Hmmm, after typing “evidence” I just realized that evidence is basically truths that support other truths. Strange.

      So, back to square one, for me at least.

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