“What is truth?” said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.
– Francis Bacon, Essays, Civil and Moral; Of Truth
A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language.
When you go looking for the facts to help you make a decision, or engage in discussion with someone, how do you separate fact from fiction, reliable information from misleading versions? It’s not an easy process, and it depends what you are looking for.
This section, being level 2, assumes you already know the main differences between terms like Left and Right, Labour, Liberal and Conservative. If you wish to re-examine those words feel free to nip back to Level One briefly and check them out. But if you think you have at least a rough idea, let’s start with this:
Look at this circle of dots and, as you stare at it, try to discover the number 8.
Can you see it? Suppose I told you this was an intelligence test and you had ten seconds to find it. I’ve told you it is there, you want to see it, so you’ll see it. Of course, it is only a random selection of dots. Any ‘number 8’ you see is an order imposed on the random facts by your desire to see what you want. That, by and large, is how we make sense of the random nature of reality. Millions of external stimuli assail our eyes and ears every hour and we ignore most of them, because there are far too many to process. The rest we put into an order that corresponds to shapes, ideas and beliefs that are familiar to us. Or that we wish to believe. We make sense of the world in ways we have been taught to use, by simplifying it into our own private world.
We can look at this in various ways, using ideas from:
Social media analysis (fake news and technology)
Psychology, logic and syllogism
Substructure, superstructure and ideology
Then think about
Fake news and fact checking
Is truth possible?