What Is Truth? Essay Example | essays.io (2022)

The ideal of truth is relevant to the individual. Truth is based on a number of factors that are usually derived from absolute knowledge. However, when finding the relationship between knowledge and truth, one questions their own competence and confidence in establishing what is actually true. There are several debates among philosophers and research that try to derive the nature of truth. Defining the nature of truth is routed in technical analysis, a morass of arcane jargon, subtle distinctions from competing theories, and precise definition. Rene Desecrates famously wrote, “I am therefore I exist.” In stating this he holds that only truth that is certain is what the individuals own cognition of their existence. The principle question among the long time debate is to answer, what is truth? This questions have plagued the minds of philosophers since the time of Plato and Socrates. It has been a never ending debate trying to draw the relationship of knowledge, truth, and understanding what is relevant to their own assessment. From the readings of Martin Luther, Descartes, and others, this paper will explore the philosophical questions of knowledge and truth. Drawing on these reasons to come to a consensus on what can be the individual be assured of what they believe is the absolute truth, and what prevents individuals from the truth.

The notion of truth is developed through the ideas, belief, and opinion of what is and what is not. Truth is an object of relativism of an individual’s ideas, the agreement and disagreement of reality. In understanding truth, there are three principal interpretations that are used, truth as absolute, truth as relative, and truth as an unattainable reality. According to definition, absolute truth is, “is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts.” (All About Philosophy, n.d) Essentially it is a truth understood universally that cannot be altered. Plato was a staunch believer in this interpretation, as the truth found on earth was a shadow of the truth that existed within the universe. This is the hardest interpretation of truth because there can be no indefinite argument with those that try to negate the existence of absolute truth. In arguing against the interpretation, the arguer themselves tries to search for validation in their statement that absolute truth doesn’t exist. In a matter of contradiction in understanding what is truth is to establish that truth exists. In a better interpretation seeing the truth as relative is explaining that facts and realities vary dependent on their circumstances.

Relativism is in the matter of where no objectivity exists and is subjective which the validity of truth doesn’t exist. According to philosophy, “Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else.” (Swoyer, 2014) The last interpretation of truth is that truth is an unattainable reality where no truth exists. Truth is a universal fact in which corresponds with evidence, reality, and experience. Since an individual’s reality and experience constantly change, it is impossible to reach an absolute truth. This interpretation is relative to one’s own knowledge because it is present in their person’s mind. Using this interpretation many philosophers have carved out several theories of truth.

The pragmatic approach to defining truth is by seeing that truth is the objects and ideas that the individual can validate, assimilate, verify, and corroborate. In understanding what is not true it is essentially what the individual cannot. In establishing the absolute truth, it is what happens and becomes true events that are verified through a process of verification. In the view of this paper, is that truth is dependent on the individual’s fact and reality, as Aristotle stated, “to say of what is that is it not, or what is not that is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and what is not that it is not, is true.” As confusing as the statement may be to some, the concept of truth is based on a person’s confidence in their own reality as the basis of truth. Not only is the general consensus now, but in also philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas in the 9th century in which, truth is the equation of things and intellect, more importantly the basis of truth as true is up to the individuals’ knowledge.

In Rene Descartes search for truth, he begins with the method of doubt. Written Descartes, Meditation, “I seem to be able to lay it down as a general rule that whatever I perceive, very clearly and distinctly is true.” (Descartes, 7.35) Descartes add to the questions of what is truth is by the confidence and certainty in knowing that what is true is from the natural experiences and own personal truths. The individuals’ definition of truth is what the person understands in life through logic and reason. The individual establishes their idea of reality from their senses, what they see, and true perceptions. Descartes wrote in his, Letter to Mersenne, any doubts about truth is perpetuated by the notion that no one can be ignorant of truth because it symbolizes the conformity of thought with its object. (Smith, 2014) Drawing from Descartes works we will answer what prevents us from the truth.

In his Method of Doubt from his First Meditation, his purpose was to negate skepticism by doubting the truth of everything including what we know in our minds. The reasons in which people doubt their truth is based on people second guessing their own subsequent beliefs. People claim to know the truth beyond their own realms of justification. People senses and experiences that have been taught are largely provided from prejudices past down. (Descartes, 1639) People are disappointed that what they believe to be true is often not. Descartes stated, “Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.” (Descartes, 1639) From these understandings people then began to doubt what they know to be true because they have reasonable doubt.

In order for a person to understand truth, they must first doubt all things around them in a hypothetical doubt, in order to provide a pretense of what we know is the truth and what we cannot know. By determining our own knowledge of what is true, such as the snow is white, because we know there is no other color in existence, we can have a foundation of unshakeable truths. While the senses can sometimes present falsehood, it is subjective to suggest that all senses are wrong. In determining using one’s experience to determine truth, it is important to note that everyone’s experience is not the same. The way one person sees an event can be different from someone that sees the same event. Take for example the group of five blind men that felt the tusk of an elephant. One men said it was like a snake, while another suggested that was the neck of a giraffe. Who is to tell who is correct and not? From their own experiences, knowledge, and senses what they believe is to be true. By limiting knowledge on what we know is absolute certain is limiting one’s own perception of reality. This is how doubt is raised, and takes away from the confidence of the individuals’ own knowledge of the truth.

Martin Luther takes on the quest for truth through his thesis, which he wrote to the church. In his appendage for reformation of the Catholic Church, he questioned the authority of the Pope, and what their interpretation of the Bible. In his belief that the word of God is the truth, his stance is that followers of the religion must have faith. In believing what is true and what is not, Luther’s is bound by his idea of faith which correspond with God is the absolute truth. His justification of God being true is based on the works of God, but more importantly the understanding of truth is by faith alone. His unshakeable foundation of what he believes to be true is routed in his on senses, ideas, and experiences derived from his faith. Just like knowing what is true and not, Descartes share that while we cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, we can prove that he doesn’t exist. While we can see the things around us does exist, if that has indubitable truth in believing that something exists, it is impossible to prove it isn’t true.

From drawing on the works on how a person can assure that they know is true is using Descartes Method of Doubt to provide a foundation in which what we know is true, and what we know is not. Luther bases his justifications of truth on faith and knowledge, while drawing from logic and reasoning to know what is true. A person is able to draw from their own cognitive knowledge in determining what is true. While knowledge all things is limited, one cannot be limited to suggesting to know the truth of things beyond our resonance. Until proven otherwise, what we say is the truth and everything else is subjective. In the relationship between truth and knowledge, Plato and Charles Peirce had their own separate perceptions. Plato believed that truth is derived from a person’s knowledge, while Pierce believed absolute knowledge to determine absolute truth can never be obtained. Plato’s belief of knowledge and the truth is more correct in providing reasoning that knowledge is based on past experiences, where universal knowledge is a factor in determining truth.

The definition of truth and search for knowledge will continue to be an ongoing debate in which many great philosophers in past, present, and the future will offer philosophies to help guide the debate. While truth will continue to be a matter of one’s own perception, in order to assure that what people believe is the truth is to base their knowledge on their own perceptions. Based what they know on their own absolute truth in their senses, knowledge, ideas, and beliefs that help form their own realities. Truth is relative to only that individual, as people will experience events differently from other individuals. Descartes said it best that what he knows to be true is based on his own existence. Since he knows that he exists, he knows that the reality around him exists, therefore, his own perception of what is true.


Absolute Truth. (n.d). All About Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/absolute-truth.htm

Bennett, Jonathan. (1990). Truth and Stability. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. Vo. 16. Pg. 75-108. Retrieved from http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/jfb/trustab.pdf

Descartes, Rene. (1639). Meditations on First Philosophy. Marxists. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/descartes/1639/meditations.htm

James, William. (1909). The Meaning of Truth. Authorama. Retrieved from http://www.authorama.com/meaning-of-truth-1.html

Luther, Martin. (1520). The Freedom of a Christian. Lutheran Online. Retrieved from https://www.lutheransonline.com/lo/894/FSLO-1328308894-111894.pdf

Smith, Kurt. (2014). Descartes’ Life and Works. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/descartes-works

Swoyer, Chris. (2014). Relativism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/relativism

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