Owning Truth: 7 Views

The Truth Gem

Some people speak of “Truth” as if it has a capital “T”.  Below are diagrams of the common seven ways these people envision owning/seeing/participating in that capital “T” Truth.   The orange-yellow gem represents their imagined “Truth”.  The circles represent different belief systems or different groups of people.

These are the fundamental ways to view Truth when it is understood in a unitary fashion.  Note that #2 and #7 are possible two ways of saying the same thing.  Finally, those these are the fundamental views, most people have an amalgamated view using these components.  For the last image I give an example of such a composite  view which combines #1, #2 & #5.  There are many more composites, of course.

Many religions discuss “Truth” in one of the ways below. I think the whole adventure is problematic in several ways both in terms of understanding “Truth” and in terms of owning “Truth”.  But I will explore those future posts. But for now:

Questions to Readers:

  1. Can you think of another visual model that I left out?
  2. Tell us which religion/group comes to mind to match each model.

The Seven Views of Truth:

An Amalgam View:


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

22 responses to “Owning Truth: 7 Views

  1. Yes, I would add a kinetic animated visual model where the rings and the “truth” slide around and change dynamically. For our view of truth—and our ability to grasp it—changes with time.

  2. @ Dan
    I am glad I don’t have animating capacity on WordPress or I’d be blogging all the time.
    But to your first point:
    These are still shots at any given time for an individual.

    to your secondly point:
    I think most Buddhists have certain of these views but they may not want to admit it (or don’t realize it). Also, for many, it is not politically-correct to admit their stances or an opinion because of fantasies about themselves being non-dualistic and not confusing the finger pointing and the moon. Kind of like when some Christians, when asked who they think will go to hell, say, “I can’t judge, God judges” but you know that is not what they really think.

  3. Boz

    What is your definition of “Truth”? What do you mean by “have the whole truth”, “have some truth”, “have part of truth”?

    If your definition is “Facts”, then some of these diagrams cannot possibly represent reality.

    diagram 1: our group knows every fact. Other groups do not know any facts.
    2: every group knows some facts
    3: our group knows every fact. Other groups know some facts.
    4: there are no facts
    5: everyone knows every fact
    6: nobody knows any fact.

    only diagram 2 reflects reality – the rest are incorrect, Under this definition.

    maybe you mean something different?

  4. Stuey

    There is a truth but no one can ever know it?

  5. @ Boz
    Good questions — that is coming up in the next post.
    These views are held, in some ways, by several religions. I think the whole adventure is problematic and I hope to use these diagrams to illustrate that. (I will add this to my post).
    But your transformation of the question gets to the heart of some of the issue.

    @ Stuey :
    Thanx for stopping in. Yeah, that one is odd, eh? But it seems a possibility given the diagrams logic. But I could stretch my mind to put a group in there.

  6. If I could represent my own it would be something like: there may not be any truth, but maybe there is, and some people might have part of it but maybe no one has any of it, and almost definitely no one has all of it.

    Not sure how to map that visually. 🙂

  7. @ Will
    Your example, using my simple components, would be an amalgam of: #2 OR #4
    Can you give me a list of religions you feel match some of these models?

  8. Tad

    I think your example makes the implicit assumption that there is ultimately only one “Truth”. Many people would agree with this stance, “Even if we have a cloudy understanding of ‘Reality’, things are the way the are.” However, that’s certainly not the only possibility.

    It might just be that the “Truth” (the whole truth and nothing but the Truth) cannot fit into our human logic system as a singularity. We now know that measurements of space and time are not consistent for all viewers but, although contradictory, each measurement is valid for each viewer.

    I guess what I’m trying to point out is that something as inifinte as the “Truth” may not fit into venn diagrams — or any logic system we can come up with. My personal belief is that the “Truth” can only be seen as paradoxical; the more we think we know what the “Truth” is, the more wrong we are.

  9. Tom Ramsay

    Truth is usually relative

  10. i’m looking forward to where this is going… and i have nothing else to add.

  11. @ Tad & Tom Ramsay
    It seems like you all may be saying the similar things which
    I think is an amalgam of :
    #2 –> All of us only partial perceive Truth.
    #4 –> Since all truth is relative, there is no real truth.

    Let me know if I am wrong.
    My wager (Tad), if you can say it in words, I can probably say it in a diagram. Why not, they are both have natural limits. Yeah, I’d probably have to supplement the Venness of them though. 🙂

    Tad, you did make me think of a 7th model that I will add when I get home:

    “Truth is everything. We all participate in it with different degrees of clarity.”

    or maybe #8

    “There are lots of different Truths. We all participate in different ways.

    What do you think?

  12. Working with this model feels a lot like looking at a map instead of the territory. Still maps are interesting…

    I like what Tad up there had to say about your model, especially what he said about his personal belief in the final sentence. It’s close to my personal view, as well.

    In regard to Buddhism, I suppose your view of what Buddhists believe/deny/delude themselves with/admit would be shaped by the Buddhists you’ve met and the meaning you saw there.

    In the Nikaya texts, Buddha himself often refused to engage in speculative discussions similar to the one you’re raising here because he viewed speculations as distractions from the more immediate and practical work of teaching ways to reduce needless suffering—suffering that arises from common but unskillful views of permanence and of self.

    That said, about your model:

    I’m suspicious of your model, frankly. Can “groups” be meaningfully represented by rings? Can “truth” be meaningfully reduced to a two dimensional yellow-orange diamond? What do you mean by “has”?

    Consider this addition to it:

    How about a model where “Truth” would be represented by a jeweled-shimmering-morphing shape bigger than the screen of the computer. The little rings meant to represent “groups” would slide around on this shimmering display of “Truth” on the computer. “Groups” would not be unbroken rings, but little composites of blobs of color, varying in hue, shape, and allegiance to the group they’re hanging with. They’d be among the “Buddhists” in for one second, and among the “Christians” in the next, and among the “Atheists” in the following, etc.

    Geez. Maybe I’ve lived in Northern California too long.

    My model is beginning to look like a lava lamp.

  13. @ Dan
    (1) I think lots of religious folks think in terms similar to these. That is the reason I created all these models. It is not the way I think, but my next post will show that. Zero1Ghost (above) understood that in my post.

    (2) I am not surprised that you agree with Tad in thinking, “Truth is paradoxical and can’t fit in Venn diagrams or any logic system.” Yet Buddhism texts abound in logic — unless one embraces Zen which shuns Pali scriptures and prefer paradoxes. Nonetheless, I hope to show my hesitations in the coming post. My hesitation will undermine this adventure in a unique way, I hope.

    (3) I try to be careful and not talk about “Buddhism” (or Christianity) as a whole. I try not to generalize. There are a huge variety of Buddhists who contradict each other and treat their Buddhism all differently. And not being from California, I don’t think that “they are all really just saying the same beautiful paradoxical mystical truth”. 🙂

    (4) I agree, groups can not be simple represented by nice, defined rings by any means. But my point is that some people think like this — whether they admit it or not. We tend to think in simple metaphors — for better or for worse.

    (5) Sorry, can’t draw a diagram bigger than the computer. Maybe I need to write a bunch of poems.

    Hang in there for the next post to see what I am really saying. Again, these pictures are actually to show the simple (mistaken) models many religious folks hold.

  14. @ Zero1Ghost
    Thank you for realizing that it is going somewhere. I think you may enjoy the ride.

  15. I would add one more. 2b: “Most people have part of the truth. Some are completely crazy”

  16. @ everyone: The second post is up. And I modified the text in this post to make more clear my direction. And I add #7 as a view to better match some folks preferences.

    @ JS Allen: That is good!

  17. #4 made me think of the Bright Eyes lyric “if you say that there’s no truth, and who cares, how come you say it, like your right?”

  18. @ Zero :
    Yeah, # 4 is the “Nihilist” position. I am surprised no one has played along and given theological positions to each of these. I will be doing that in an up-coming post. Can you see any theology positions you feel match these views?
    Heck, even song lyrics for a view would be fun!!

  19. i think theologies use all of these with abandon. the more rigid conservative types stick to #1 and then progress out from there. when one gets burnt out or is too lazy or whatever reason #4 kicks in… yet it’s also in theology with the existentialists and Ecclesiastes and Job. so it’s in the bible too for the Judeo-Christian parts, can’t speak for the others though.

  20. I think a reason that we can often establish scientific truths is because we can conduct experiments in which we believe that we are controlling all of the variables that could effect the results of the experiment.
    Yet some parts of this experience that we call life do not lend themselves to easily controlling the variables. I have the study of economics in mind in particular. I remember many years ago while at a fest in Bad Durkheim that I told someone that it may several hundred hungry years before it becomes apparent whether a relatively socialist economy like the USSR or relatively capitalist economy like the US or some level of a mixed ecoomy like Sweden or Germany was actually the best way for human to maximize thier happiness.
    I was young and folish then. Because human society has so many variables always interacting with each other I now suspect that humans will never be able to reach a conscenus about this subject. Even if it could it might be a very short lived conscenus. Such optimism does not take in to considreration that there are always people trying to muddy the waters becasue they have an economic stake in pulling the wool over the eyes of some people so that they can not see what is really happening in an economy. It does not do much good to point fingers at such people because they will just throw such an accusation back at anyone who hurls one in their direction.
    Ayn E. Ways if you ask me the whole point of trying to understand what is True is to ultimately answer one question. HOW SHOULD WE LIVE? This question has both individual and collective (politcal) compontents. Those who believe in an all powerful and all knowing God that will pass judgement on us upon our death and might send us to a Hell will certianly have a different outlook than those who do not have such a belief.
    I guess that I rambled on there a little more than I intitially intended. My initial purpose was just to point out that Truth may at least in some cases be unknowable. I guess that would be a variation of number 4. Then perhaps someone could add, well if you can not know what is true can it exist. So it would not be a variation of number 4 it would be number 4.
    I still see it as a variation of number 4 however.

  21. A number of years ago, 2006 I believe it was, I came to a conclusion that humans would be better off if they committed mass suicide. Not that I endorse the idea as a practical matter just theoretically. Practically most people have not come to that conclusion, especially those who are young and full of optimisim about the future and about thier future. Furthermore we have a responsibilties to our family members to help them pass through this space time dimension without needless suffering.
    It is only today that I explicitly realize what in the past had only been implicitly understood. I could perhaps have an outlook that is not common in this world.
    What I am writing about is that for me my losses, defeats and embarrasements weigh on me much more than my victories, aquisiotions, and accomplishments.
    My losses, defeats, and embarassments torment me over decades never to be forgotten. The thrill of victory, or the happiness of aquisition, or the pride of accomplishment is however fleeting, something soon forgotten, or not really effective in raising ones morale.
    When one views life through this prisim the idea that non conscienceness is a better alternative than conscienceness is easy to make. From there it is not hard to conclude that the universe is in the end meaningless. Seeing the world as meaningless is a close companion of nihlism.

  22. Lorena’s comments on the thread about types of truths also made me realize that I could have also mentioned that hedonism is also a natural tendancy if a persons psyche feels the pain of loss and defeat and embarrassment much more keenly than the joy of victory or aquistion. Is it any wonder that people engage in all sorts of destructive behavior if it will only help them erase their memories if only for a few fleeting momemts. The anwser to the question of how one should live when one is a spectator (a god?) in the colliseum will be much different than when a person and their family is in the arena of time and space.

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