Truth though it should be binary in reality is not – there are shades of veracity that we manage every day.

David Aaronovitch has a good piece on lies and truth in The Times today. Prompted, no doubt, by our daily struggle to believe a word some of our ruling elite tell us.

Truth has many faces. People presumably lie to advantage themselves in some way. But the use of selective truths can achieve the same outcome. The idea of the “Whole Truth” is established in our dialectic, as is the “White lie”. Some of us are sometimes accused of being blunt or insensitive when we tell a “home truth” – that is to say when we eschew the lie to tell the “uncomfortable truth”.

Should we always peel it back ?

So truth though it should be binary in reality is not – there are shades of veracity that we manage every day. Your child sings you an excruciatingly untuneful rendition of “Away in a manger” – do you tell her it was terrible ?

But for some lying becomes a habit. And these are the people about whom we say “You cannot believe a word he says”. You get to know them and then you discount their stories. But again it’s quite subtle. The liar who tells the truth occasionally can confound us as much as the honest man who under duress tells a lie.

Accidental lying through ignorance is another variation. As is the telling of lies that all religious promotion requires. Not least the promulgation of the idea of the “life hereafter”. You lose a parent and someone tells you that they have been reunited in heaven with your other parent who died earlier. It may be comforting to hear this, but it’s untrue. It’s a lie.

The great cathedrals were built on a lie and great men did great things driven by a belief and “Faith” in fairy tales. And kindnesses are shown by sometimes withholding hard truths. Many faced indeed.

One thought on “Truth though it should be binary in reality is not – there are shades of veracity that we manage every day.

  1. Gustave Flaubert wrote that “there is no such thing as truth only perception”. I once drove myself half-mad trying to identify an example of absolute truth for an essay. I was studying philosophy at the time. I came, in the end, to decide that truth is undefinable.
    Any binary subject is open to interpretation, debate. We may witness something take place and decide the truth of it but that is only one opinion. Flaubert was right.
    Was there a party in Downing Street? Well, it depends on what you define as a party. I saw the staff drinking wine and eating cheese but is the truth a party occurred or were they just eating cheese? No rules were broken. Is that a truism or an interpretation?
    Perception again.


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