A matter of truth

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

So starts Jane Austin’s ‘Pride and prejudice’. But, does being ‘Universally acknowledged’ make something a fact or is it just true.

The word ‘truth’ is bandied around quite a bit as if it were a solid ‘thing’, something final, something that ends an argument: except that it isn’t and it doesn’t.

‘Truth’ (and its opposite, ‘Falsehood’) is not interchangeable with ‘Fact’. Truth is the product of what people believe, and manifests itself as an assertive statement.

There are no ‘universal’ truths (beliefs), that is truths existing independently of people, but there are widely shared truths. However, the fact that many people believe something to be true does not, of necessity, make it true.

In short, if there were no people in the world there would be no truths or falsehoods but things would still exist or happen – ‘things’ that could also be described as ‘As it is’.

Seeing that we do have people in the world, we can apply empirical, plus rational, assessment to verify that these ‘As it is’ things exist or have happened, in which case they will then become established ‘facts’: points that we can then use as a foundation upon which to establish other facts. And, contrary to Kellyanne Conway’s assertion, there are no ‘Alternative facts‘ regarding an ‘As it is’ : various ‘truths’ but only one version of the facts!

So, for Jane Austen, it might be a universal truth but that doesn’t make it a fact.

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