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Emotions, feelings and intuition is the expression of a person’s mental state, normally based on the person’s internal (physical) and external (social), sensory feeling. We use emotions to determine our personal state of mind, we can be angry, sad and confused; and through emotion we can arrive at the truth that we are depressed. Regardless this truth only remains legitimate if the causes of the emotions remain constant. Likewise in the case we change the context of the situation, such as instead of it raining it were sunny, that person wouldn’t feel as depressed and a new truth would emerge.
Ethics is the study of morality; analysing if behaviour, thoughts and actions are “good” or “right” as opposed to “bad” and “wrong.” Ethics plays a major role in the modern world as every public and social source, especially the media, are advertising what is nice and evil, good and bad, right and wrong. It is like the legal system, but it is more vague and theoretical also the consequences tend to be social as opposed to being sent to jail. Ethics are open to interpretation by each individual each society or even a culture as a whole. Where in the majority of Western countries it is seen as morally “wrong” to have more than two wives as well as illegal, in some Arab countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia it is acceptable to have more than one wife if you can support them. Sometimes the more wives you marry, the more money you must have, therefore the wealthier you are.
It is interesting to see how a large amount of people can interpret the same truth, such as in this case, which was brought to my attention by a guide during my stay in China. The use of “footbinding” on 6 year old girls in China during 1,000 years to impress the Emperor, was at the same time interpreted completely differently by an entire society. Westernized countries have never deformed their bodies, for status, erotic or social reasons as it is seen as morally “wrong.” It all depends on the context, and in this case it is the different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs of the two societies.
History is the objective study and interpretation of information about the past. To any historian a vital area of focus is the validity of sources to arrive at a truth. For example an unedited video would be considered reliable as it shows what happened without any tampering of the source as opposed to a journal, which could be biased. However if the source is biased does it mean the truth is no longer valid ? For example when I was a little kid my parents (the source) used to tell me the Three Kings would come every January bearing presents and so they did. To me at the time it seemed as a truth and it was still valid, because I got my presents. It’s not until we change the context, e.g.: present day, that the truth loses all its validity.
This shows that the truth we derive from the validity of the sources is completely relative depending in the context which it is presented in, which means that the truths we know now may not be considered truths in the future. Mathematics is a science dealing with logic and aim to derive theorems from axioms. Whether it was discovered or invented we will never know, however one thing is certain; maths is highly influential in our day to day life; for example, technology, finance and architecture. We assume that mathematics provides us with an absolute truth;
1 + 1 = 2 However during my IGCSE course I experienced the ambiguity of maths (in the following example), which since then has left me thinking, if we could continue using maths as a source for truth. The fraction 1/3 when written as a decimal number is .333… where the dots indicate that the sequence of 3’s is infinite. Thus we might write the equation: 1/3 = .3333… Multiplying both sides by 3 we get: 1 = .999… Therefore: 1 + 1 = 2
We know the first equation is a truth as we have been taught this in school and the world of mathematics revolves around that equation being valid. However using mathematical induction and rationalisation we have induced that the last equation is also valid. Nonetheless we arrive to the conclusion that they both can not be equal in a same frame of reference. Once again Margaret Atwood, shows that the truth as we know it, can’t be absolute as it varies depending on the context in which it is proposed.
Answering the question “Does this mean that there is no such thing as truth ?” I believe there is always a truth as depending on the context, any situation can be ‘manipulated’ to arrive at a truth. However I don’t think Universality; an idea which is universal, and exists everywhere, throughout the Universe nor an Absolute Truth exists, as the value of every thought changes depending on the context. As the Relativists would say; it’s all Relative. I think a more appropriate title would have been: “Does this mean there is no such thing as an absolute truth ?” as the use of “Context is all” allows for there always to be a truth but not one that is absolute.
Atwood, M. (1996), “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Vintage (pg. 202) http://dictionary.reference.com