Saturday, January 07, 2006

Truthiness is nuttiness

Linguists Vote 'Truthiness' Word of 2005

The Associated Press
Friday, January 6, 2006; 10:47 PM

A panel of linguists has decided the word that best reflects 2005 is "truthiness," defined as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. More.

[The article goes on to quote someone who says that unless we get truth and facts together "we're not going to make much progress." Quite so. Facts are what make statements true. That is, a declarative or indicative statement needs a "truth-maker" or state of affairs to which it corresponds in order for that statement to be true. If there is no truth-maker, the statement is false. Truth is not a quality of gender, skin pigment, consensus, power, or expert opinion. It is a quality of statements that reflect or represent reality.

Years ago, Charles Fair wrote a book called The New Nonsense (1974) in which he lamented the rise of "willful personal belief." This, in essence, is "truthiness"--one takes something to be true simply because one chooses or wants it to be true. It is "true for me." That makes truth mighty easy--and terribly cheap. Let's apply it: I am the greatest living philosopher, or so I wish. And it is thus true. What a relief. What a crock!

For more on what truth is, see my book, Truth Decay, especially chapters three and four.]


Cheerful Curmudgeon said...

Truthiness is nuttiness. A good response to the Post Modern and New Age flexigetical liquid lexography. I strongly recommend your book "Truth Decay" for readers who want to understand the truth about truth in a culture that is suffering from truth starvation! Great post Dr. G.

Becky said...

"Truthiness" is a word used by a fake newsman on fake news to describe what he does (Stephen Colbert's The Colbert Report). Pop culture's influence on our language is becoming intractable.

Cheerful Curmudgeon said...

I am wondering what the antithesis of "truthiness" might be. Might next years linguistic word be: sininess?

Anonymous said...

'Truthiness.' An interesting concept. Now you've got me interested in your book.

Ken Abbott said...

Perhaps a similar concept is "fake but true," said of something that is not fact but is consistent with the actual truth. To use a political example, the forged military document that was supposed to cast aspersions on President Bush's service was called "fake but true" by the CBS producer most involved with the case.

Craig Fletcher said...

It doesn't seem as though most people stop and think deeply (just for a minute!) about what truth really means. What does "truth" really mean? Maybe the definition from Webster's dictionary would help:

(1)The state of being the case. The body of real things, events, and facts

(2) The property of being in accord with fact or reality.

So knowing that truth has a direct correlation with facts and reality, can it be that propositions that contradict each other are simeltaneously true (such as contradictory religious beliefs)? No, either they are all wrong on a given doctrine or teaching that they contradict each other on, or only one is right.

Can it be that a proposition that aligns with facts and reality is objectively true, despite its' implications or how it "makes us feel"? Of course. How intolerant of me to say so.

Cheerful Curmudgeon said...

Responding to Craig:
Your closing paragraph (question) was packed: "Can it be that a proposition that aligns with facts and reality is objectively true, despite its' implications or how it "makes us feel"?"
I love this question that you pose. First, a clear distinction between "reality" and "perceived reality" is crucial. Unfortunately many will not take the time to "think deeply" to test themselves (or to a reliable fixed standard) for's perceived reality might actually be wrong, oh my! Objectively true often falls prey to the "subjectively true"...likewise, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The lines between perceived reality (being wise in one's own eyes) and actual objective reality (not simply leaning on one's own understanding) are very confused in our relativistic culture. Of course you mention the possibility of contradictions in your posting as well and the law of non-contradiction tends to raise up the neck hair on our relativistic culture. Seems as though the worldview of many within modern culture is fractured, fluid, and unstable. Keep up the great thinking!