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The truth about truth

By Tola Adeniyi


Today I have chosen to go philosophical. And in doing so, I have elected to come up with layman’s approach to philosophy. However in choosing to do so I have sought refuge in Wikipedia to help with the intro to the subject.

According to the internet reservoir of knowledge ‘truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal.

The commonly understood opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning. The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy and religion. Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most (but not all) of the sciences, law, and everyday life.

Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians. Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth. There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truth bearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.’

What actually constitutes truth? It is a very hard question to answer especially when two people hold strongly opposed views as to what constitutes truth. In every day experiences, people keep talking of speaking the truth while accusing others of telling lies or speaking untruth. Human beings generally do not easily accept that they are not telling the truth even when they know in their hearts that they are talking falsehood and the issue in question is quite obvious to every impartial observer.

Politicians and lawyers are about the most adept in presenting untruth as truth and presenting falsehood as reality. And in some cases they bend and twist truth to suit certain circumstances and conditions. It is usually very difficult to know when a lawyer is lying or is telling the truth.

In every day human relationships untruth is laced with truth with a result that there is always a grey line between what is uttered and what is to be believed. In marriages and amongst unfaithful pairs routine lies have become a norm. And practicing it has been raised to the level of an art and act. Husbands in such settings routinely abuse the trust of their wives while wives on the other hand pay back in their husbands’ coins.

It is however in religious faith and history that truth has received the most consistent bashing. All religions lay claim to some piety and to absolutism. And yet on same issues ‘truth’ is one thousand things to one thousand faiths, each faith claiming categorically that its own version is the truth.

Sometimes you read an account of the same event as presented by three or four different faiths and you end up confused without knowing which version of the same story to believe.

It is even worse when it comes to history. We do know that the victor’s account of any historical account is always different from the facts laid out by the loser. When one reads Ancient History and you are confronted with different accounts of supposedly same events, you will be left wondering if the authors had written about the same sequence of events.

Truth therefore has become a matter of conjecture and perception. This ought not to be so. But prejudices and biases have taken a centre stage in all human discourses. On top of that is the fact that traditions, cultures, and faiths have tended to muddle up truths. Religion has overstepped its step and wandered into the realm of tradition, some cultures have overwhelmed religious practices while some superstitious beliefs had assumed the stature of religious dogma.

What actually is true? Somebody wakes up and says he has seen God! He is believed. Another person wakes up in another culture and claims he has seen God, the same people who believe that the ‘seer’ of God in their culture has spoken truth will now say that the other ‘seer’ of God is speaking untruth!

Colonization and imperialism have played a great role in what humanity has been made to accept as truth and untruth. Some cultures have made some other cultures to believe that their own currency is ‘Hard’, while the currency of others is as soft as tissue paper!

While we know, as we can see with our naked eyes that there is no skin colour which is as white as white chalk, the world still believes to be true that there are some pink-skinned people out there that should be called ‘White’.

I look at my skin colour and the nearest colour to it is chocolate brown, and yet my entire African race and other chocolate-brown- skinned people of the world accept to be called ‘Black’. And I am not charcoal!

When I was growing up, marriage meant the union of a man and a woman. That was the truth about marriage. Now if I hear about a marriage taking place, I have to check if the two involved both have flat chests, or with two oranges on their chests or it is the age-old truth of one with two pawpaws and another without.

Truth has been split into three!!

The pen is the tongue of the hand,the silent utterer of words for the eyes…Henry Beecher


Akogun Tola Adeniyi is ex-Managing Director, Daily Times Newspaper

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