Facts Versus Truth

Facts and Truth

When 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?

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Facts Versus Truth”

  1. I like this. I appreciate your questions. My thoughts as I was reading were about facts not being as sure and some want to believe. Your example of the sun reminds me that change is always happening. Our knowledge is limited to our physical lifespans and what we choose to record, so for me, that means that there was a bunch of stuff happening before what we know about now in this reality and a bunch of stuff after. So for me, both fact and truth are temporal. The duration of the evidence may last a week or it can last light-years. We can only be ‘sure’ about what is within our scope of existence. Was I clear? Please let me know if this read as another language or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to respectfully disagree with you that “our knowledge is limited to our physical lifespans.” Were that the case, then recorded history is meaningless. Our current knowledge is based upon an accumulation of the stuff that happened before. Otherwise, each generation would be starting over from scratch. Evidence lasts forever, but new evidence is always being discovered, which could change what was once considered to be fact (or truth).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My thoughts were about the insertion of the human experience within that which was already in progress. I am ruminating about the qualification of ‘fact’ based upon what we have measured/manipulated since being here. Our labeling of everything as we know it is based upon our evolution of thought and understanding of what we have come in contact with. I guess I’m in a way asking something similar to the falling tree actually making a sound if no one is there to hear it. Still don’t feel as though I am translating what’s in my head accurately. Anyway, thank you for responding as you have. I appreciate the patience.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s