Changing Minds: Three Kinds of Truth

Next time you hear a report or believe something to be accurate, make sure you qualify the information into one of these truth theories.

“The mind is meant to know the truth. Train your mind to speak the truth in a committed language so it is beautiful and effective.” — Yogi Bhajan 

One morning late in his life, renowned comedian Bob Hope was having breakfast at his home in Palm Springs, California. As the news played in the background, Hope heard a special report alert come on. The television reporter announced with great sadness the passing of legendary comic Bob Hope at the tender age of ninety-five. Hope continued his meal with a chuckle. But the reporting did not stop. Before an hour had passed, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Dick Armey, ordered Representative Bob Stump to announce to Congress the news of Bob Hope’s passing. With glowing accolades, praise, and condolences, the nation learned of the passing of this legend.  

Bob Hope never flinched. Not because he was too old, or incoherent, instead he knew the absolute truth. Hope was not going to overact to something he heard or read when it was not the fact. No matter how many sources confirmed his death, Bob Hope knew he was still breathing, still moving, and, most importantly, still living. 

It took almost eight hours for the Associated Press to retract the story. Representative Armey had to go before Congress apologizing for his mistake. Since Bob Hope was a comedian, this false story turned into a joke. While we can all play it off as a joke, in reality, we have reacted to fake news and information. We have believed reports even though we know the absolute truth.

There are three different types of truth we all deal with each day:

  1. Correspondence Theory of Truth: This theory states that a statement (a proposition) is true if it corresponds to or reflects (reality). If somebody says, “It is raining” (the proposition), then it is true only if it is raining outside (reality)

  2. Coherence Theory of Truth: This theory states that a statement (a proposition) is true if it is consistent with other things that are considered true (and do not contradict it). A proposition is true if it “fits into the system.” For example, you hear a pencil falling to the ground. A second person in the room also hears it, and the pencil that you just saw on your table a moment ago is now gone. Three observations fit together: you hear it, a second person hears it, and the pencil is missing. According to the coherence theory, the proposition “the pencil hit the ground” is correct. 

  3. The Pragmatic Theory of Truth: This theory states that something is true if it is useful. Whether or not it reflects reality is of minor importance. Somebody may, for example, believe that earning a lot of money is an essential thing in one’s life. This belief is right for this person, and it is indeed a beneficial belief. 

Next time you hear a report or believe something to be accurate, make sure you qualify the information into one of these truth theories. Had U.S. Representative Dick Armey done this, Bob Hope’s breakfast would have been more enjoyable that day.


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