Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Changing Truth

By Julie Rahm   
     My husband John’s favorite saying is, “I didn’t lie. The truth changed.” He normally uses the phrase when he’s in a pickle and has some explaining to do. My initial reaction is to dismiss these words as a common excuse. However, upon further review, can a truth change? What is truth and how do you decide?
Truth, commonly defined, means in accord with fact or reality; or fidelity to an original standard or ideal. The question of how words, symbols, ideas and beliefs may properly be considered true is dealt with by five major theories. Each theory presents perspectives that are widely shared by published scholars.
Correspondence theory is the foremost philosophical theory on truth. Correspondence theories state that true beliefs and true statements correspond to the actual state of affairs. This type of theory posits a relationship between thoughts or statements on one hand, and things or objects on the other. It is a traditional model which goes back to the classical Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas, a nineteenth century philosopher, stated the theory as: "A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality”. Correspondence theory is the most popular of the truth theories. According to a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views which was carried out in November 2009 (taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students) 44.9% of respondents accept or lean towards correspondence theories.
The second most popular theory on truth is Coherence Theory.  Coherence Theory requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system. A pervasive tenet of coherence theories is the idea that truth is primarily a property of whole systems of propositions. Things are true according to their coherence with the whole. (Are you with me so far?)
The third philosophy on truth is Social Constructivism. Constructivism holds that truth is constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific. Constructionists believe that history and culture are man-made and therefore “truth is constructed”. I think most politicians are constructionists because they believe the truth can be manufactured!
The Pragmatic Theory of Truth is the fourth major philosophy. Although there are wide differences in viewpoint among these and other proponents of pragmatic theory, they hold in common that truth is verified and confirmed by the results of putting one's concepts into practice. In short, if it works, it’s true!
Lastly, Consensus Theory holds that truth is whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group. So, now you know!
I learned early in my relationship with John what “the truth changed” really meant. Typically, the situation changed. Or, priorities changed. So when a friend, spouse, or boss “changes the truth”, understand they meant what they said at the time. Shake off the disappointment. Your kindness may make your relationship stronger! For more tips about handling “truth changes” visit    

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