Repost — Facts Versus Truth

My blogging friend, James, started a comment he posted on one of my rants yesterday about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “he said/she said” hearing yesterday, with this quote:

Archaeology is the search for fact … not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.” -Dr. Henry (Indiana) Jones Jr.

Of course, my post and James’ comment were in the context of the testimonies yesterday of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. What James said was, “What we’re looking for is (or should be) facts. What we might have to settle for is truth, but I don’t see how we’re going to get it.”

The Indiana Jones quote and what Jim wrote reminded me of my fourth or fifth post when I started this blog. And so, since it basically went unread when I posted it, I thought it might be a good time to shed some light on it.


Facts and TruthWhen I first read Faulkner’s quote (above), I was perplexed. I had always considered “facts” and “truth” to be synonyms. Even the definitions of the two words cross-reference one another:

Fact: something that actually exists; reality; truth.
Truth: conformity with fact or reality; a verified or indisputable fact.

Facts are used as proof of what is undeniably “the truth,” but are these words truly interchangeable or do they actually have different meanings and usage?

I was curious enough about the similarities and differences between these two words to do some Google research. And I learned that not everyone believes that they are synonymous. Some folks actually differentiate between the them using diametrically opposed logic.

One site argued that facts can be fleeting, enduring for but a moment. For example, the “fact” of someone’s location on a fast-moving train changes every instant. Truth, on the other hand is a more enduring type of fact, this source claimed.

Another site argued that if it’s a fact now, it will be a fact in the future, whereas truth is more temporal. Facts indicate a universal truth, while truth depends upon temporal circumstances. For example, that the sun appears to always rise in the east and set in the west is a fact. It will never change.

I found an interesting site, differencebetween.net, which provided four facts (or truths?) about facts and truths:

  • Facts are more objective when compared to the more subjective truths.
  • Facts are more permanent when compared to the more temporary truths.
  • Facts exist in reality, whereas truths are usually the things that one believes to be true, or the things that are true in the current situation.
  • Facts can also answer the ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ questions, whereas truths answer the ‘why’ question.

Truthiness

And then there is “truthiness,” a word first coined by Stephen Colbert a dozen years ago. Like when Bill Maher says, “I don’t know it for a fact…I just know it’s true,” truthiness is the quality of seeming to be true based upon one’s intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic or factual evidence. It’s when someone feels, believes, or wishes that something is true even when it is not supported by the facts.

So with both facts and truth under siege by Donald Trump and his surrogates, and with “alternative facts” and “false truths” being promulgated, I  have to wonder if Faulkner’s statement was extremely prescient and sadly reflective of where we are in the second decade of the 21st century.

So what do you think? Are the words “fact” and “truth” synonyms? Do you use them interchangeably in your oral and written communications? Or do these two words, as Faulkner believes, have little to do with each another?

And in today’s world, where truthiness means more to a lot of people than either facts or truth, does it even matter anymore?

15 thoughts on “Repost — Facts Versus Truth

  1. James Pyles September 28, 2018 / 10:27 am

    Pretty much spot on. Facts are objective and you can’t really have alternative facts, although you can have different witnesses to the same event perceptions of a factual event. This is why eyewitnesses are not particularly reliable. Facts become “truth” once they enter our perception and our memory, and then can change with the passage of time, even fairly short periods of time.

    Maybe that’s why when a person is sworn in at court, they’re asked to tell the truth rather than relate the facts.

    You can have multiple different versions of truth and this is where we can stray in the areas of ideology, theology, and philosophy.

    Kavanaugh and Ford can testify to what they believe to be the truth based on their experiences, memories, and ideological outlooks, but we will never know the objective facts of the events they describe.

    That said, in court (and although the confirmation hearings are supposed to be an amplified version of a “job interview,” it certainly turned into a trial or trial-like event), witnesses are told to tell the truth, and by that and other evidence, including physical evidence, it is believed that the facts of a particular event can be established. My experiences as as child abuse investigator in Southern California decades ago tend to kick in at times like these. Although the level of evidence I had to satisfy was less than that required for criminal court (preponderance instead of beyond a reasonable doubt), I still had to conduct interviews, weigh physical evidence if available (bruises, cuts, and such), evaluate evidence using experts (police officers, doctors), and come to a determination regarding the allegations. The most extreme action I could take was, with law enforcement, to remove a child or children from their home, because leaving them there exposed them to further risk of imminent harm.

    It’s not easy.

    But that’s why my approach to these situations, to the best of my ability as a human being, is to minimize my emotional response, and to rely on a more cognitive analysis. It will never make me popular with the #MeToo movement.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marleen September 28, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I understand your perception of yourself, but making excuses for affirming a liar to the highest court in our country isn’t helpful. He didn’t just not put together a good presentation. He is not qualified.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen September 28, 2018 / 12:35 pm

        I’m aware. And it’s good news.

        Liked by 2 people

        • James Pyles September 28, 2018 / 2:55 pm

          Probably only going to investigate Ford’s allegations. They can only do so much in one week, and Trump just ordered the FBI to do the investigation an hour or less ago.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fandango September 28, 2018 / 5:12 pm

            Trump had no choice. I’m glad that Flake at least forced the matter.

            Like

  3. cagedunn September 28, 2018 / 3:17 pm

    The missing word is ‘evidence’ because enough of that, little bits of facts that can be pieced together to make a clear picture may say more than either fact or fiction — whoops, truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 28, 2018 / 5:15 pm

      It has, hasn’t it. What a shame.

      Like

  4. Sight11 September 28, 2018 / 8:58 pm

    How can you say that ‘Fact’ that no one read your post…. That’s not ‘truth’..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 28, 2018 / 10:40 pm

      I didn’t state as a fact that no one read my original post. I said that it “basically went unread,” which was the truth when I wrote this repost.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sight11 September 29, 2018 / 1:17 am

        Basically went unread is not a proper term, basically it would be alright to use the term overlooked than that.. Come on Sensei…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fandango September 29, 2018 / 8:22 am

          “Basically,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “for the most part.” So to say that that my post, for the most part, went unread, is definitely a proper use of the word “basically.” Come on, Sight….

          Like

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