This topic is overdue, as it is something I have been pondering for the past month. In fact, I have been pondering it for many years. Interesting that I began the last sentence with the expression ‘In fact’, because this writing concerns what is considered a ‘fact’. How many times have we all used the expression ‘In fact’, or said, ‘That’s a fact’ or ‘Is that a fact’? What does this really mean to consider something ‘fact’? Webster’s dictionary says:

fact (fakt), n. 1. something that actually exists; reality; truth. 2. something known to exist or to have happened. 3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true. 4. something said to be true or supposed to have happened.

One common theme in these definitions is ‘truth’. If a fact is something that is true, then what is ‘truth’? Webster’s dictionary says of this:

truth (trooth), n. 1. The true or actual state of a matter. 2. conformity with fact or reality. 3. a verified or indisputible fact, proposition, principle, or the like. 4. the state or character of being true. 5. actuality or actual existence. 6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude. 7. honesty; integrity; truthfulness. 8. ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending experience. 9. agreement with a standard or original. 10. accuracy of a position or adjustment.

The semantics are not the issue here, but ‘truth’ seems have a broader definition than ‘fact’. The definitions are provided here for completeness and to frame the discussion. So, what am I getting at? Simply this, that there is no evidence in life that anything is ‘true’ and, therefore, not ‘fact’. The ‘truths’ we choose to adopt are often ones that fit our own personal needs and validate our own preferred worldview. This is especially valid concerning interpersonal relationships, where it is often impossible to disentangle competing points of view. In this case, each person draws on a common pool of ‘facts’. Each person might interpret them differently or choose those that represent their worldview and so, have an honest disagreement. But as long as the pool of ‘facts’ are agreed upon then some ‘truth’ can be arrived at. But does this mean it is really true? Is truth just an agreement by consensus or does it represent some absolute? The definition is vague itself and seems to validate many points of view. ‘Truth’ as a word can not even be defined well it seems. How then can anything be taken as fact?

Look at information today: Print, Radio, Television, Internet; designer facts for a world of consumers, ready to match your worldview for economic, political and social advantage. Be in the majority, be a consensus, consume, vote left, vote right, take a yes/no stand socially. ‘Truth’ is used to spin and twist. ‘Facts’ are interpreted. This is natural and accepted to some degree, but ask your self, what really is the truth?  Jack Nicholson may have been right when he said, “You can’t handle the truth!”, in the film ‘A Few Good Men’. We can’t handle the truth because we don’t even know what it is. These are the facts of life. Better yet, and for a better way of life, ask yourself, what is self-awareness? Lao Tzu said, “Knowledge studies others, wisdom is self-known”. This is not a ‘truth’ or a ‘fact’, but only one seed for thought.