As with all things in life, we seldom see the truth. It is not normally, what is right in front of our eyes and we must search for truth. Take for example this illustration of billiard balls. How many balls are there? Most people will simply count the balls in order to come up with the correct answer. However, the majority of people will usually come to an incorrect conclusion of sixteen balls. Did you?
Truth is one of the central subjects in philosophy. In addition, because mankind has had so much trouble defining truth, it is one of the largest areas of philosophy. Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for millennia. Moreover, a huge variety of issues in philosophy relate to truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying theses about truth.
The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. However, this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy. Whether there is a metaphysical problem of truth at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it, are all standing issues in the theory of truth. We will see a number of distinct ways of answering these questions.
Unfortunately, mankind has always created their own version of truth to allow them some measure of lead-way around those uncomfortable moments when they must decide whether to tell the truth or lie to some degree. In addition, of course, this is not being truthful. It is only an excuse for being dishonest. Most people believe themselves to be honest. They use phrases such as, "I am basically an honest person," which is to say that that in reality they are not. They may state, "I feel uncomfortable telling the truth when it would hurt another," but the reality is that being dishonest only harms the reputation between the person being dishonest and the person who might be hurt. It is impossible to shield others from harm by being dishonest.
Truth is the expression of what exists in reality. It is quite simply that which exists and what exists encompasses the truth. Ultimately, truth is comprised of all known factual information, in all space, time, frequency and dimension of existence.
Truth must be relentless and it must be always simple to understand and state. It is mankind's perception of truth that fluctuates between truth and the non-truth. It is often easy to understand what is and what is not, but the truth is always that which is and cannot be disputed by learned individuals. Truth is knowable in that it is quite simple to understand what actually exists and what does not exists. If there is a question in the mind as to whether a thing exists it is possible that the perception of the thing cannot be understood or it is not the truth. It then becomes a matter of intuition or ignorance of a thing. As well, our intuition is only capable of making decisions on what is known to be the truth as we are capable of understanding. Moreover, since no one is all knowing and incapable of total perception it is often difficult to discern truth.
Even what we interpret using the five traditionally recognized senses of humans; of sight (ophathalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception) are incapable of determining the truth as others might interpret it. While our senses can send signals to our brain such as loud or quiet, rough or smooth, sweet or sour, it is our own perception that we experience and certainly not that of others.
The Mind - A Sixth Sense
During a stay in South India a few years ago, I became aware of Tolkāppiyam, a work on the grammar of the Tamil language, which is said to be the first in the world to describe six senses. While the exact date of the Tolkāppiyam is not known, based on linguistic and other evidence, it has been dated variously between the third century BCE and the 10th century CE. Within the Tolkāppiyam, we find a verse, which states...
"Beings with one sense are those that have the sense of touch. Beings with two senses are those that have the sense of taste along with the above. Beings with three senses have sense of smell in addition. Beings with four senses have sense of sight, along with the above. Beings with five senses have sense of hearing, in addition. The beings with six senses have a mind, along with the above."
While our sensory organs are capable of perceiving information only within the very narrow bandwidth of the particular sense, the mind is where the various perceptions come together to form a consensus of the truth. The individual senses of a person are incapable of knowing the absolute truth. It is impossible to simply touch a surface and know what it is made of. We can perceive, by touch, it is surface irregularities, whether it is soft or hard, and a relative indication of its temperature. We can tap on it, and in hearing the sound, determine that perhaps it is metal or glass if it is thin enough to send a true indication, but a sheet of glass that is 2-inches thick cannot be perceived as glass without sight. We need multiple sensory perceptions to be fed to the mind to assist in determining the truth.
There are those who have attempted to unsuccessfully compare the mind and intuition as one. They cannot be the same as the information of the mind is fed by the senses, while intuition is little more than a guess and a guess cannot distinguish without some uncertainty between what is real and what is imagined. When we hear what is proposed as the truth, there is only one sense involved - audioception - which alone cannot determine truth. We hear a sound that may be lightening, a gunshot, or something hitting another thing. In most cases is it extremely difficult to ascertain the truth from a single instance of sensory perception. Our intuition could make us believe almost anything if we allow it, or want a certain thing to be true, but with intuition we are incapable of knowing the truth of the matter. Thus when we act on our intuitions we can only be correct a percentage of the time. It is always a gamble - a roll of the dice - and we must use our other senses and are mind to better discern the truth.
In 1975, the mathematician S. L. Berensky in a study of primate language reached a conclusion that creates many concerns over truth:
"There can be no doubt that primates are far superior in intelligence to man. The salient question - which every human visitor t the zoo intuitively asks - is, “Who is behind the bars? Who is caged, and who is free?” On both sides of the bars primates can be observed making faces at each other. It is too facile to say that man is superior because he has made the zoo. We impose our special horror of barred captivity - a form of punishment among our species - and assume that other primates feels as we do.
"Apes have for centuries managed to get along with human beings, as ambassadors from their species. In recent years, they have even learned to communicate with human beings using sign language. However, it is a one-sided diplomatic exchange; no human being has attempted to live in ape society, to master their language and customs, to eat their food, to live as they do. The apes have learned to talk to us, but we have never learned to talk to them. Who, then, should be judged the greater intellect?"
Is it true, as most people might believe that we are superior to the apes, with which we share a DNA? We cannot be sure so it is not truthful to say that man is superior to apes. We can hold our own beliefs, but our belief is not the truth. The belief is only our perception of the truth.
There is the belief, held by some who are ill-informed, that there is no truth, as that which is true can never be known, or that it is only our perceptions of the truth that comprise reality. They will attempt to explain that was the truth at one time would change, as when mankind discovered that the world was indeed round. However, it was only the perception of those who lived before the true was known as to the shape of the earth and not the truth in reality. Therefore, yes, perceptions can become reality or truth, but until they are proven they are only guesses based on assumptions.
As humans, we are incapable of receiving information that exists outside of our perceptual limitations. Today, we use science and technology as an extension of our senses to better understand that which our senses cannot ascertain. As humans, we are only capable of knowing the truth that has been manifested by our senses, science and technology. In addition, as our senses evolve and we see, increase in both science and technology, the truth becomes known on many of those perceptions that we believed and thus we are constantly learning and evolving.
Unfortunately, the perceptions or beliefs that we hold as humans are often misconstrued as the truth. If we believe strongly enough in our perceptions we create scenarios in our mind that prove to us that our thoughts are real but those are - only thoughts, perceptions and beliefs - never the truth.
While, we may be capable of discerning that which is happening within ourselves, much of it is only a belief or perception. We must still go to the doctor and have tests performed to ascertain the truth. We cannot possibly know the truth of whether our body contains cancers that may be killing us with being tested using science and technology.
Likewise, we may belief we know what is happening in the world around us, but again it only a belief or perception and not the truth. We have come to know that some or most of what we have been told by others and led to believe as the truth was in fact incorrect - misinformation as it were. Most recently, it has become known that the much of the media in the USA is controlled by the government and that television and radio corporations are being paid huge sums of revenue to distort the truth in only reporting what the government wants the public to know. A recent study on the truth in news conducted in Canada, resulted in Fox News losing it's license to broadcast in Canada when it was proved that the great majority of what was reported was not true and that Fox knew beforehand that is was reported a distorted view.
As we continue to discover through science and technology that the cosmos in which we live, we have learned that the world was not created some 4,000 or 5,000 years ago as many believe but millions of years previous to what was believed.
We now know that hominids (members of the human lineage) existed at least 2.1 million years ago. At the Olduvai Gorge paleoanthropological site in the eastern Serengeti Plain, within the boundaries of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania, excavations have yielded the fossilized remains of 60 people, providing the most continuous known record of human evolution, as well as oldest known archaeological find of stone tools and man-made structures described as a house. Even two million years ago, man was not satisfied with caves and other natural shelters and created his own accommodations. Mankind has always altered the natural world to suit their purposes.
Hopefully, you will recognize the difference between beliefs, perceptions and truth and that you understand that truth is ultimately the most powerful tool that mankind can use. Be honest with yourself and others in all that you think, say and do. It is the best way!
So, how many balls are in the illustration at the top of this article? There are at least 30, as that is how many it would take to create the pyramid that is shown. We can never know the absolute truth, as there could be many more balls hidden behind the pyramid, but we do know that without the minimum of 30 balls we could not have created the pyramid. Truth is relative to what we know to be fact.