Updated: Feb 25
If I have learned anything this week, it is that we need to be very careful about what we call ‘truth’ and how we use this word. It is not a word to use lightly. It is not synonymous with the idea of ‘facts.’ Truth as a philosophical term is actually more relative than we might first think.
To assess truth we really need to use a variety of perspectives and theories to determine whether that term is the right one to use with any assertion or statement about the world (ie. Correspondence, Coherence and Pragmatic theories). The scientific method has lulled us into a state where any sort of ‘facts’ or ‘findings’ using some kind of ‘scientific’ method is truth, but that is not ‘true.’
Facts, statistics even, can still be twisted. They must be looked at critically to assess the true validity of a statement. We must always be vigilant, and ask: Where is the person, organization or institution asserting this statement coming from? What is the source of this information? This is something that as a young journalist I was taught to always think about. The problem these days is there is a real challenge in staying vigilant because of the amount of information and ‘noise’ we are exposed to.
Noam Chomsky’s ideas and warnings about the media and the ‘collusion’ even between media and various corporate interests seem to have fallen almost by the wayside. We find even well-educated people can be very susceptible to this challenge; thinking they know better because they are well-educated. Chomsky warned us that this group is actually one of the most susceptible groups to this kind of ‘propaganda.’
So what do we do? I remember in high school being taught a lot about media literacy and critical thinking. I don’t know if these things are still taught in schools, but I would argue they are more necessary than ever. And this doesn’t even touch on the role of ‘art’ and artists in identifying ‘truth’ in our society.