Truth or Fact?
Reader Harshit Choudhary poses the question
What is the difference between “Fact” and “Truth”?
He goes on to offer his own definitions:
Fact: It will never change, e.g. Sun rise in the east. This is fact.
Truth: I am in New York. But all the time this statement couldn’t be true.
He suggests that fact indicates a universal truth while truth depends upon temporal circumstance.
To a large extent, the question of the difference between fact and truth is more philosophical than lexical.
Human beings have been asking Pilate’s question for centuries, “What is truth?”
English has numerous words to express the concepts of truth and fact:
Catch phrases used to emphasize the truth or factualness of something also abound:
in actual fact
as it happens
in point of fact
as a matter of fact
to tell the truth
if truth be told
Stephen Colbert has even given us a new word, truthiness, to allow for discrepancies between “truth” and “fact”:
truthiness: act or quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than those known to be true.”
Note: Colbert’s coinage was declared 2005 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.
In a general sense, fact is easier to define than truth. A fact is something that possesses objective reality. The sun rises in the east. The Gregorian calendar is divided into twelve months. A child who eats too much candy may become ill or hyperactive.
Although often used interchangeably with it, truth is often felt to be a grander concept than fact.
Scientific “facts” may change from generation to generation as new methods of observation come into use, but for the most part, it’s safe to define fact as “an assertion that can be proved.” Truth, on the other hand, is not so easy to pin down. A work of fiction, for example, can be “true to life,” or “true to human nature.” For me, the word “fact” is firmly planted in the physical world, while “truth” has room to soar.
As for defining the two terms, it’s unlikely that the same definitions can satisfy everyone.
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