It seems as if there is no firm basis for what anyone believes. People’s opinions vary depending on who one talks to. Perhaps one can accept this difference of opinion, asserting that someone else’s opinion is simply incorrect. One might say this is because, for example, their views are tainted by bias, or that it is simply because of the crowd they run with. Making these claims about others, one must believe that there is a certain truth that others are missing, ‘that if only they were more educated, or more open minded.’ In objecting to the others opinion, one might feel sympathy for their erroneous beliefs, perhaps bewilderment, or even anger.
While such differences of opinion may, at times, seem innocuous, such differences may turn out to have dire consequences. Wars can be fought not only over resources such as oil and gas, but also ideas. Ideas can often serve as the rationale for wars. Differences in ideology can turn into animosity, and animosity can turn into conflict, and conflict can turn into hatred.
Someones opinion may seem certain in their own eyes, but in fact these beliefs, while valid, could be based on false premises. Also one’s beliefs could be the result of the persuasion of some orator who practiced some sleight of speech using the logical fallacies such as the Bandwagon Fallacy, the Ad Hominem Attack, or even the Poisoning the Well fallacy. The demagogue may also use such rhetorical devices such as the enthymeme 1
Truth is most often thought of as a shining ideal. Perhaps there are some truths shown with opinions, but oftentimes these truths seem unreliable. Are opinions the only types of truths? It seems not. It seems most often one’s opinions are considered to be a truth by at least the one asserting these opinions. How many ways are there to talk about truth? In fact there are many different types of truth.
There is the type of truth where there is a correspondence between what is asserted and the things it refers to. Other types of truths include a coherence theory of truth, where beliefs seem to hold together by virtue of their composition. Also there is the pragmatic theory of truth where if things work there is truth (i.e., a machine if functioning properly works).
The correspondence theory of truth is the most common type of truth easily accepted, understood and used in the world. When looking for a correspondence, one identifies what they believe is true corresponds with something else. If I say that I see a blue beach ball at the beach, and there is in fact a blue beach ball within view, and it is the one I see, then my statement is true. This sort of truth can be applied to opinions, facts, laws of science, and as well as all objects of perception. All of these truths can be observed. We can observe that the Democratic or Republican party is right, or that the sky is blue, or that some element has a certain atomic weight. We know all of these things through experience.
When talking about using sense perception, we are referring to what can be observed. When we speak of observation we most often think of seeing with the eyes, but to observe something can arguably contain hearing sounds as well as including the other senses. Most often observation comes together with most or all the senses engaged at once. When using the senses for understanding of the world, one acquires empirical knowledge, that is making judgments about that which is observable based on sensory experience.
When we look at an object we see that object in a certain way. If we look at it today, tomorrow or the next day it always appear the same. If it is blue it always appears blue, if it is coarse to the touch then it always feels that way. There is a certain constancy and therefore permanence in that which we perceive. We feel assured that things are as they are, and they will under ordinary circumstances, be the same tomorrow.
This sort of idea of constancy and resilience permeates our contact with the world. As the sun rose yesterday, it will rise today, and likewise will rise tomorrow. The decay of fall and the coldness of winter, the rebirth of spring and the gloriousness of summer, present themselves in reliable cycles. As we are born, mature, reproduce and die, this is the life and legacy of being human.
These things that are seemingly permanent give comfort to us and provide a sense of security. This reliability of existence allows us to be at ease, to revel on holidays, celebrate with friends successes, but also to find sorrow at another’s passing, knowing that you have yet survived. The unknown is what disturbs us most. The unknown is the stuff of stories of horror contained in movies and novels of ghosts and vampires, werewolves and demons. While one may enjoy the diversion of such a story, which releases us temporarily from the cares of the world, when the stories are over, we are happy to return to our adjusted lives.