What is Truth?
Myth

All truth is subjective, there is no objective truth.

Is Truth Objective or Subjective? Is All Truth Subjective? Is There Objective Truth?

The idea that all truth is subjective, that there is no objective truth, is a myth. Everything either has an absolute truth value (even if we can’t know it) or is an opinion or belief.[1][2][3]

To get this argument you need to understand our terms, so let’s define them:

  • Objectivity: That which is confirmable as true. The state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual biases, perspectives, interpretations, feelings, imaginings, and/or opinions. True for everyone (or confirmable as true, despite the subjectivity, opinion, and belief of some); truth based on empirical evidence or formal logic. Ex. “Water is wet” or “1+1=2.”
  • Subjectivity: That which we perceive. Knowledge based on individual biases, perspective, interpretations, feelings, imaginings, and/or opinions. True for a specific individual; truth based on perspective. Ex. “The water feels cold to me.”
  • Truth: Something that is the case, without a doubt. Can be either objectively true for everyone, or subjectively true for us, depending on context. When no context is given, it means that which is “objectively true.”

NOTES: Objectivity is a subject of philosophy and thus there is room to debate its meaning in different context. In a general sense, a proposition (a statement) is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met without biases caused by feelings, ideas, opinions, etc. While some might claim only empirical truth is objective, generally speaking we can say any claim, be it purely rational, empirical, or a mix of both can be objective if it meets the above criteria. “Water is wet” (empirical), 1+1=2 (rational), “gravity is affecting the man in the chair” (mix).

Why The Idea That all Truth is Subjective is Absurd

So the question here is, “since all human knowledge is based on perception and rationalization, then isn’t all truth therefore subjective?”

The simple answer to the question is, “no…” Consider, if all truth was subjective, the none of our technology would work (as much of it is dependent on constant truth values.”)

If we both look at a red ball, and you think it is red, and I think it is blue, then subjectively for me it is blue, and subjectively for you it is red, but objectively… it is red. There is no grey area here.

The fact is, all statements phrased correctly have an absolute truth value, or have a degree of truth that can be agreed on objectively (our whole website is based on this premise).

If we say, “aliens exist,” we can’t say whether it is true or not (it has an objective truth value that we don’t know for sure). However, if we say “it is likely given X data that the existence of aliens is highly likely,” that statement is easier to objectively rate true or false. The topic didn’t change, but the structure of our statement did.

Of course, with that said, some fields lend themselves to truth more than others (like mathematics and physics), and some field lend themselves to subjectivity (like metaphysics and speculation on aliens).

With that said, even metaphysics tends to ask questions that do ultimately have a truth value, the only caveat there is that we often can’t know it for sure.

For another example of objectivity, 1+1=2 is an objective truth, and so is is E2=(pc)2+(mc2)2  (a more complete version of E=mc2) that can be used when discussing mass energy conservation. Sure we can skeptically ask, “well can we imagine a case where 1+1 does not equal 2?” This however does not change the fundamentals, one way to respond to that is to clarify the statement. So we could say, “in general in mathematics, 1+1=2.”

The laws of physics, the laws of mathematics, the laws of all many formal rule-sets empirical and rational. These things are object realities, and we can be pretty darn certain of it because they always work, every time, without fail when put to the test.

If you and I both watch the dog eat the steak, if we have the dog on camera eating the steak, if we test the crime science and find his DNA on the steak, if we watch for it in the yard the next day, we look, we see, we confirm, etc, etc we can conclude that it is objectively true that the dog ate the steak.

Did aliens come down to earth and plant this scene here? Well, let’s say they did. In that case, that is what is true and our senses were fooling us. Either the dog ate the steak or didn’t, whichever is true is true. Only one thing happened, there is only one truth, and that one truth is objectively true.

This is to say, truth exists as an absolute, it is only our ability to prove it with certainty that is tricky. Meanwhile, those who deny object truths (while free to do so), are often demonstrably wrong (if not with certainty, then with such a high degree on probability that the “subjectivity” argument becomes rather fringe and absurd).

In other words, catchy phrases like “all truth is subjective” or “there is no objective truth” are just that, catchy phrases with no meaning. They are… objectively false. Knowing something is objectively false is itself, an objective truth.

Above I used an Einstein quote that speaks to relativity to show that there was objective truth. This quote has a dual meaning, it also tells us about relativity and subjectivity. If we change our frame of reference, we can see object truths from a different perspective, this can change our perception, but not the constant truth values behind our perception.

If you and a twin are speeding away from each other in rockets, lots of zany stuff happens (in terms of perception and physics), but what is happening is constant and governed by the laws of physics. There is subjectiveness in the perception, but not in the physics (there is only one objective truth).

Simply, all truth is objective, not subjective. However, how we view truth can be subjective, and our opinions, perceptions of feelings, and beliefs are subjective. A subject truth is what is true for us, an objective truth is what is actually true.

TIP: Many philosophers accept the idea of “a priori” truths, that is, those are truths that are true independently of experience, including mathematical truths and scientific truths. Now, people like to break out the old “all truths are subjective” card when we get to theology and moral philosophy, that is fine… but even there, at the end of the day, there is only one truth (the rest is just belief and opinion).[4]

Elon 2015 Spring Convocation: Neil deGrasse Tyson on objective and subjective truth.



Conclusion

The metaphysical concept that all truth is subjective is fun to muse on, with it we can be skeptics and question what we know. With that said, we build bridges and machines all the time. If there was no objective truth, our technologies wouldn’t work. Figuring out what is true isn’t always easy, but that is what it is, truth often exists without our ability to determine it with certainty (but that is a complexity, not a rebuttal to this longstanding debate).


Citations

  1. Objective Truth
  2. There is no such thing as objective truth. Just look at Sidney Crosby’s concussion.
  3. Objectivity
  4. Is all truth subjective?…


"There is No Such Thing as Objective Truth" is tagged with: Bias, Epistemology, Perception, Truth


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Yomammaa on

If a person claims that there are no objective truths than in fact they are believing in an objective truth by making said statement, ergo while they argue that objective truth does not exist they must first do so by using objective truth, hence they contradict themselves by illustrating one must first believe in an objective truth.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

A very good point.

Visign3d on
Supports this as a Fact.

The problem is whit 1+1 eqatation that its tru only in special cases. For exaplme if u take a spermium cell adds to it a gamete u get not two but one cell. So your equatation dont works everywhere – only in mathematic conceptions.

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

That is objectively true. Truths should be stayed like this, “in terms of mathematics, 1+1=2.” Context matters of course.

Visign3d on

But how we can say somthing is objective that is subject of a context?

Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele on

I think we can say simply: something being objectively true means being objectively true within the context of that which we are speaking.

If we want to go tortoise and Achilles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Tortoise_Said_to_Achilles) and ask “just because I think, does this really prove I am?” Then yes, we can argue the line of thought that says things like “we don’t know everything for sure, so everything might be subjective at its core, so all objective knowledge underlying that might be built upon a foundation of uncertainty, and thus nothing is objective.” <— something like that

If we want however to discuss practical knowledge and we want our words to be useful, we really have to speak in context and consider that which is constantly true in practice. When we program a computer, we need strict rules, 1+1 must equal 2 under normal circumstances, that must be objectively true. What is true within that context isn't subjective.

So on a metaphysical level of deep questions about the nature of reality, we can argue for all truth being subjective on some level. I am all for that.

I frankly also found your questioning interesting.

But I would argue that we none-the-less live in a world where all truth is ultimately objective, and subjectivity comes only from things like our sentiments, opinions, impressions, lack of understanding, and inability to phrase things properly.

Even things that exist in probability and uncertainty are governed by objectively true rules (like in particle physics).

For your example, for example, the problem isn't with the concept of 1+1 being true or untrue, it was with how we were phrasing it and applying it. For math, we need to speak in terms of math. For cytology, we need to speak in terms of cytology. What is true is. While, to the degree we fail at expressing it, that is on us.

Those are though, my opinions on a matter that ultimately has an objective truth. I might not be stating it correctly, but outside of me, you, and Plato's ability to say it, none-the-less, at the core, there is an objective truth to the discussion of truth and objectivity.

Consider this statement:
To the best of our knowledge, the physical universe is not filled with visible pink Unicorns named Henry. That is objectively true. It may not be useful truth, but it is an example of objective truth. Or at least, that is a very strong theory since there has never been any evidence to disprove it, and thus we can consider it objectively true to the best of our knowledge. Even if we are wrong, then it was, at its core, simply objectively false. Still objective.