Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff

karl marx

I once heard someone say that “The truth belongs to he who tells the story first and best.” I think there is some truth to that.

As I was writing this, I was listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

The truth is they admit that the world has changed because they can no longer reconcile the facts with their truth.

I grew up Catholic and for most of my life, I have heard the truth that things are “God’s Will.” God wants us to suffer to prepare for the afterlife. It is God’s will that he took Uncle Conrad home to him so young. It is God’s will that your dog Rusty got hit by that car.

The truth is God does not will anything. God — if he exists — does not care. People are the Universe. We make our own “luck” by the relationships we form, forge and maintain with others. We create our own “truths” by what we are willing to admit as fact to ourselves.

Facts are that rain and snow fell, that waters rose, that wind patterns blew, that the Earth buckled under strain. Fact is that people are attracted to the coast, the ocean, the river banks and choose to build there. Fact is that these elements destroy things we build. Fact is nature is more powerful than our puny stuff. The fact is that most people who are affected by bad luck failed to or were unable to plan for the rain.

I used to think there was one Universal Truth, that the Aristotelian A is A was something that we could achieve if we all pulled in the same direction and thought hard enough about the facts. If we could use the right words to define something so narrowly that there would be no ambiguity, we could get to “the truth” about a thing. I remember taking a Marxism class in college and the only things that stuck with me were* a) the professor was very strange and had a bad habit of snorting inappropriately and b) the cornerstone of Marx’s philosophy of physics was A is in the process of becoming A. As I get older, I’m thinking that maybe Marx had it right all along.**

The only problem with Marx’s truth is he admits uncertainty as fact. That loss of control makes lots of people uncomfortable. The truth is this post was going to go an entirely different direction, but I found the words I had originally taken out and arranged to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. If it seems like this post wanders around and has no point, then my work here is done. It is a blog post in the process of becoming a blog post.

I believe that all events are neutral, that the Universe is impartial and indifferent. Events are given meaning by people within their understanding of the Universe. The truth is many people don’t strive to understand the Universe because it is depressing and fatalistic. In the end, the only fact is that truth hardly really matters.

*b was probably the more important point, but that snorting is now an indelible part of the story. I’m telling it here, ok?
**I think this theory was disproved or fell out of favor or some other thing, but so what, don’t care.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What is the difference between fact and truth? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

6 Replies to “Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff”

  1. Whenever I post for the blog off, I make it a point to conscientiously read all the other posts and comment on them—although some people have a real pain-in-the-neck method for their comment feature, so I sometimes miss those! Yours is a blog I read a couple of times, and my mind still feels like it’s been tied into a pretzel!

    What you recited as facts passed muster with me, but I do take exception to your concept of truth. How do you establish the validity of these truths? God exists? How do you know this to be true?

    Perhaps Marx did have it right, but the fact that he admitted to uncertainties does not make his arguments invalid. It simply bears witness to his honesty.

    And, finally, I must say that although I accept your assertion that the Universe is impartial and indifferent, I cannot be as sanguine about your declaration that truth hardly matters. It matters a great deal, as we will soon learn if the Republicans succeed in overthrowing the social legislation that has saved this country from the rapaciousness of modern day Robber Barons. To prove their point, they distort the facts and draw from that a truth that isn’t true at all.

  2. I don’t know God exists. I don’t know that he doesn’t.

    I don’t think Marx ever admitted to uncertainties in his theories. I think part of what pissed off a lot of his contemporaries was that he was so certain of his contrarian positions. With the ’60s all going away and the Bohemians dying off in record numbers, being a fan of Karl Marx generally grew out of favor. I think his theories just kinda quietly slithered out except with Republicans want to trot out threats of socialism. They scream “Marxism” to really mean “stuff that is not what we want.” Ok… and regardless of what the “facts” are, the “truth” the Republicans have convinced themselves of its a manufactured one. But that will shape a reality (facts??) soon enough so that truth really won’t then matter. Go ahead and beat your head against that wall; you are unlikely going to change that truth for them.

    But what will change a truth for others who are now listening to them is a set of facts that will shape their truths; truths that will include high debt, increased poverty, sky-rocketing medical costs, diminished individual rights — a revolution when they figured out they have been use and lied to. Or not; maybe they will gain some power over us who are resisting and throwing up caution… I dunno… maybe I’ll be fortunate and die off before that day comes…

  3. And that’s why the truth matters and why it matters that we endeavor to ascertain what it is. The union movement is, in many respects, a socialistic movement. I embrace that because I know the history of the events that led to it. I have read about robber barons and the Homestead strike and all kinds of things that are relevant to the present discussion. But if we go about saying that the truth does not matter or that the truth is relative or things like your concept of truth may not be mine… well, it is just that kind of fuzzy thinking that is going to produce the very world you’ve just predicted.

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