Grappling with distinguishing truth from opinion, and how opinions or judgements need to be open to change will require way more analysis than this space allows. However, here is one example, as provided by Mr. Adler that can help us in this effort:
A portion of the human race some centuries ago held it to be true that the earth is flat. That false opinion has now been generally repudiated. This should not be interpreted to mean that the objective truth has changed – that what once was true is no longer true. If it is now objectively true that this planet is spherical, it never was true that it is flat. What has changed is not the truth of the matter but the prevalence of an opinion that ceased to be popular.
What does seem essential is to recognize that there are objective truths, such as that the earth is spherical. Yet, we may carry judgments or opinions of what is true, and that we must be open to examining with effort and critical thinking so as to pursue and get at the truth.
While the commentary above seems to point to ongoing uncertainty, there is also the concept of self-evident truths, where, as described by Adler, “Our affirmation of them does not depend on evidence marshaled in support of them nor upon reasoning designed to show that they are conclusions validly reached by inference. We recognize their truth immediately or directly from our understanding of what they assert. We are convinced–convinced, not persuaded—of their truth because we find it impossible to think the opposite of what they assert.”
On July 4th we celebrated America’s Declaration of Independence. The second paragraph of the Declaration begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With our Constitution and its Amendments, we can say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal…” and know that no human being is more or less than any other human being. Having this truth at hand is invaluable in pursuing achievement of all that is called for in our own Constitution and our role in furthering the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We are facing many challenges locally and globally, including upholding our right to vote and support of our democratic governance structure, as well as our very existence as the earth gets increasingly hotter. And, there are movements afoot to control what we learn about the objective truths of our history, impacting our work to repair what is broken and move toward equality, liberty, justice and dignity for all. I am hopeful that we can address these challenges, and strongly believe that as part of this endeavor we must grasp and continually pursue the truth.
See the references and resources below for more perspectives on Truth and how to evaluate the information that impacts what we know. Also, consider these questions:
- How would you use what you’ve read here to differentiate between statements of opinion and truths?
- How would you use what you’ve read here to communicate with others who claim their truth is different than yours?
To close, here is Billy Joel’s plaintive Honesty.
With appreciation and best regards,
Sandy Sohcot, Director
🎶 Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you 🎶
“Honesty” by Billy Joel