The Quest for Truth

This post presents a heuristic exploration of truth, delineated in the following sections.

  1. What is Truth?
  2. Understanding the Human Mind
  3. The Importance of Believing the Truth
  4. The Question
  5. Types of Truth
  6. The Truth is Contained in the Form of the Statement
  7. The Four Expressions of Truth
  8. Logos, Ethos, Pathos and Mythos in Communication
  9. Delineating the Lack of Truth, Lies and Deceit
  10. Dealing with Confusion
  11. On the Journey Towards Truth
  12. Conclusions

1. What is Truth?

Truth is most often used to mean “being in accord with fact or reality”, or “fidelity to an original or a standard”. Commonly, truth is viewed as the correspondence of language or thought to an independent reality, in what is called the Correspondence Theory of Truth. Truth may also be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of “being true to one’s self,” or authenticity. Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself.

The concept of truth can take on many forms, interpretations, applications and expressions, such as logical, factual, or ethical truths. The meaning of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts within society, including philosophy, art, and religion. Many human activities depend upon concepts of truth, where the nature of truth as a concept is assumed as a foundational entity, rather than being a subject of discussion and debate. These human activities include most of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday social interaction.

The commonly understood opposite of truth is falsehood, or, under other contexts, is considered to be a lie. Falsehoods deal with factual or logical errors, while lies imply an inaccurate or distorted conveyance of an identity, often intended to deceive. Fibs are merely statements that oppose the real fact of the matter.

2. Understanding the Human Mind

The human brain works in two ways. There is the “ancient brain” that is modular, non-linear and most often non-conscious. Facial recognition is an example of the ancient brain in action. A person can see a face, and without thinking, he either recognizes it or he doesn’t, but his mind can reach that decision very quickly, and without his awareness of the process. Another example is a person’s fight-or-flight reaction to a stressful or dangerous situation. The brain can quickly analyze the pros and cons of his condition and abilities, and come to a choice of action, again, without his awareness of the process.

The “modern brain” utilizes a conscious and willful process using facts, logic and linear reasoning, and most differently from the “ancient brain”, it is at liberty from the constraints of instinct and emotion. Its advent came long after humans developed language and was paramount in the establishment of civilized society.

3. The Importance of Believing the Truth

Some religions, such as Christianity, use the analogy of warfare to describe the process of coming to know the truth. This spiritual warfare is not fought in the physical world, using weapons such as swords and rifles. Instead, it is most aptly described as a battle to believe, and to be believed. These two aspects, to believe, and to be believed, are mutually codependent upon each other, as we must live a life that is empowered by a self-concept based on Absolute Truth, and is also sufficiently convincing to others. Otherwise, our speech and our actions will be misinterpreted by others, leading to a poor reputation, reduced opportunities in life, and possibly even rejection. In other words, we each have the responsibility to let others know who we are, and to teach others how we want to be treated. As such, how does one form his or her identity?

4. The Question

In life, people are hard pressed to consider the essence and variance of their ways.

  • Beliefs: True or False?
  • Behaviors: Right or Wrong?
  • Motives: Good or Bad?
  • Efficacy: Useful or Worthless (or Harmful)?
  • Value: Loved and Appreciated or Neglected and Ignored (or Abused)?

It remains an underlying assumption that if a person can conform more closely to “the Truth”, then his or her life will become magnanimously more worthy of living, regardless of where they stand in the above respects.

5. Types of Truth

Absolute Truth, as discussed in philosophy, metaphysics, religion, spirituality, and other contexts, is the essence of the most real being. The Absolute is conceived as being itself or perhaps the being that transcends and comprehends all other beings, for example, God. One personal experience that humans commonly have with Absolute Truth is in sharing an eternal relationship with God or another human being. In this sense, the word eternal means that the nature of the relationship is founded on identities which are not changed or affected by the passage of time.

Relative Truth concerns those things which are only true and applicable within a particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture (cultural relativism), or within the context of moral principles and ethics (moral relativism). It carries the idea that views are relative to differences in beliefs, perceptions and considerations, and intrinsically, have no absolute truth or validity. Relative Truth is expressed in the axioms, “It’s true if you really believe it!” and “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Objective Truth possesses the state or quality of being true, even outside of a person’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered to have Objective Truth when its truth conditions are met without any biases caused by the feelings, ideas, and opinions of a person. A second, broader meaning of the term refers to the ability in any context to judge fairly, without partiality or external influence. The adjective, objectivity, is sometimes used synonymously with neutrality.

Subjective Truth is a central philosophical concept, related to the collection of the consciousness, perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, agency, personhood and beliefs specific to a person, and one’s own experience of reality (the Unshared Environment). The term subjective is most commonly used to describe that which influences, informs, and biases people’s judgments about truth or reality. Three common definitions state that subjectivity is the quality or condition of:

  • Something being a subject, broadly meaning an entity that has agency, meaning that it acts upon or wields power over some other entity (an object).
  • Something being a subject, narrowly meaning an individual who possesses conscious experiences, such as perspectives, feelings, beliefs, and desires.
  • Some information, idea, situation, or physical thing considered true (perhaps only) from the perspective of a person considered to be the subject.

Factual Truth concerns factual matter, logic and reason. Here, the facts are used to establish the truth or falsehood of any statement, and are understood to be relative to the perspective of those proving or falsifying the statement.

6. The Truth is Contained in the Form of the Statement

The way words and sentences are constructed, to a large degree, determines the truth of what is being said. If a person’s verbal expressions are true in form, then the content of their speech is more likely to be true as well. This is why it often appears that people are more believable when they say somewhat of the opposite of what they really believe, or mean to say. This phenomenon is also the foundation of the western rhetorical devices of irony, sarcasm, and in many cases, humor.

Irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or event in which what appears, on the surface, to be the case, differs radically from what is actually the case. Irony may be divided into categories such as verbal, dramatic, and situational, which are often used for emphasis in the assertion of a truth.

The ironic form of simile, used in sarcasm, and some forms of litotes, can emphasize one’s meaning by the deliberate use of language which states the opposite of the truth, denies the contrary of the truth, or drastically and obviously understates a factual connection.

A fundamental structure of western humor, and a good deal of world-wide humor, is comprised of two elements:

  1. An element of truth.
  2. An incongruency.

The humorous impression is made upon the realization of the incongruency.

Case Study 1 – Absolute Truth

Two business partners get together to discuss a transaction after meeting the week before. One says, “Hello Dr. Tang, how is your son doing in med school?”

The other replies, “He already graduated, and now he’s making more money than I am! Thanks for asking. Now what can I do for you today?”

Two old college buddies haven’t spoken to each other for more than a year. When they finally meet again, one of them says, “Randy, you lousy rascal! Did you ever stop drinking?”

The other laughs and replies, “No, did you? Wow! Has it really been a year? It feels like we only just spoke last week!”

Now, which of these two pairs of men do you think has a more honest and authentic relationship?

Case Study 2 – Relative Truth (as expressed in Sarcasm)

Two soldiers are preparing to go into a battle. They both hope to survive.

One man says, “Don’t give up hope! Fight valiantly! Perhaps God will see it good to spare our lives! If I don’t come back, please forgive me for the $50.00 I owe you.”

The other man says, “Come on! Let’s get this over with, so that we can get back to our card game! Maybe you can win back that $50.00! If you don’t come back, I’ll collect it from your brother!”

Now, which man has more confidence to face battle? Which man is more likely to survive the war?

Case Study 3 – Objective Truth (as expressed in Irony)

One man says, “Who knows what the truth is, right?”

In the same sentence, the man assumes that no one knows what the truth is, but also asks those who are listening to affirm the truth of his statement, thereby presenting both a methodical error in logic and a situational contradiction.

Another man says, “No one knows what the truth is.”

Here, the man obviously believes his statement is true, and his statement forms a null hypothesis that remains to be proved or disproved.

Now which man do you think is closer to knowing the truth?

Case Study 4 – Subjective Truth

A couple is having an argument. The wife says, “You never listen to me!”

The husband responds with, “Yes, I do. I am listening to you now!”

Another couple is having a similar argument. The wife says, “I often feel like you don’t listen to me!”

The husband responds with, “Really? What am I doing that makes you feel that way?”

Even though the two wives essentially said the same thing, the second couple is able to have a more truthful discussion because the wife framed her statement with the acknowledgement of her experience as a subjective truth. Likewise, the husband is able to respond in a more sincere manner, partly because she is being more truthful, and partly because he cannot argue against her personal feelings.

Now, which couple do you think will resolve their argument in a successful manner?

Case Study 5 – Factual Truth

A young man asks an attractive girl, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Another young man asks the same girl, “Are you alone?”

But in truth, neither young man is interested in knowing about her boyfriend, nor in discussing her experience of being single. They are nervous and inexperienced, and they don’t know what to say. But they both want to know the same thing – whether she is open to dating either of them. So the real question they are asking is, “Will you give me a chance at love?” To this question, the desired answer is “yes”.

The girl answers “no” to the first man, and “yes” to the second man. But her answer to the second man is more truthful in addressing the real question. In other words, her “yes” really meant “yes”. The first man also made the faithless mistake of holding the unfavorable assumption that she is unavailable.

Now, which man do you think she will go out with?

7. The Four Expressions of Truth

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, outlined classic arguments describing the three primary means of persuasion employed by the “modern brain”:

  1. Logos (the logical argument – facts and rationality)
  2. Ethos (the ethical argument – the credibility of the speaker)
  3. Pathos (the emotional argument – the passion of the speaker)

These three classic appeals can be described in various ways. In addition to “Logic, Character, and Emotion”, they are found in the familiar words, “Heart, Mind and Soul” (in religions such as Christianity), “Function, Value and Form” (in Engineering Design), and “Technology, Business and Human Values” (in Sales and Marketing).

There is a fourth expression, not from Aristotle, but certainly present among humanity since long before his time.

  1. Mythos (the narrative argument built on beliefs, hopes and expectations)

Mythos relies mainly on the “ancient brain”, and will be described in more detail later.

From this perspective, there are two ways of communicating – logical (i.e. logos and ethos) and emotional (i.e. pathos and mythos). The former is about objective truth, whereas, the latter is about subjective “truthiness”. In other words, it may or may not be true, but it “feels” true or right, so it is easily accepted as such.

8. Logos, Ethos, Pathos and Mythos in Communication

All three of the classic appeals of Logos (logic), Ethos (character), and Pathos (emotion) are needed for an efficacious communication to take place. Expressions comprised of just a single basic, isolated mode of communication type (Logos, Ethos, or Pathos) lack the principle of completeness, and are thus obviously limited in their application and/or effectiveness in conveying meaning.

Logos, or Logic, coincides with Function. This is the aspect of intelligence and reasonability, or that which is needed to make something work, which is arguably the main purpose of technological disciplines, such as engineering and manufacturing.

Ethos, or Character, is analogous to Value, the brand name, or the product image. This is the reputation of a person, or the company providing the product or service, signifying the relationship between the customer and company. Personal presentation or marketing, along with the history of interaction with the person or company, are the traditional champions for this element of communication.

Pathos, or Emotion, can be linked with Form and is related to aesthetics, pride, confidence, and/or the appearance or application of a product. This is expressed as a person’s level of maturity and magnetic appeal. Take the example of Industrial design, which has the primary responsibility for creating a form that is appropriate to the context of a given product.

Mythos is perhaps the least understood among the general populace, and is only addressed in the arts and entertainment. Mythos is not traditionally a part of educational curriculum but is nevertheless important in our quest for truth. Aristotle’s work, Poetics, investigates drama, and more particularly tragedy. In this work, several elements are listed as being part of the dramatic experience, these being Plot, Character, Language, Thought, Spectacle (the impressive or memorable), and Melody (or theme). But of these elements, perhaps the most important of them is the organization of events, i.e. the plot. Thus, the Greek word “Mythos” is often simply translated as “Plot”. Aristotle goes on further to say that,

“The events which are the parts of the plot must be so organized that if any one of them is displaced or taken away, the whole will be shaken and put out of joint.”

This is the concept of Wholeness, Completeness, or being part of a larger movement. The point is made that,

“a well constructed plot… will neither begin at some chance point, nor end at some chance point.”

Another important aspect of Plot is Magnitude, which is the size or importance that properly belongs to it. The concept of magnitude might be substituted by “appropriateness,” which relates to the rhetorical concept of decorum. The product of Mythos then, can be thought of as a small story or fable where there is completeness (i.e., ethos, logos, and pathos are all represented), and appropriate magnitude (i.e., things are in their proper balance or relationship to one another).

Popular themes based on Mythos include “the power of love” in romance, “the indomitable hero” in adventure stories, the “lost and found” narrative, and revelations or transformations from common baseness into someone or something glorious and beautiful.

Why are people so captivated by a dramatic story? Human beings have certain emotional and spiritual needs, and among these are hope, faith, love, finding intrinsic personal value, and establishing a purpose for living. Through drama (i.e. mythos), people hope to find answers to their deeper questions concerning these needs, and also to reinforce their deepest beliefs.

9. Delineating the Lack of Truth, Lies and Deceit

Although there could be many contributing factors that might result in incompleteness, one reason could be because one of these classic appeals (Logos, Ethos, or Pathos) has been omitted, neglected in some way, or thought to be unimportant. Similarly, failures occur when one area is emphasized over the others. Mythos is the element that attempts to add completeness and balance to the expression.

Deceitful people, whom we commonly call “liars”, often use pathos and mythos to win the empathy of others (called targets), and thereby convince them to agree to their course of action. These liars entice others with warm emotions, desires and expectations (at best), or confront them with shame and fear (at worst), thereby appealing to a primal instinctive mode of thinking using the “Ancient Brain” (once again, without their awareness of the process). This method of seduction or coercion requires the target to forget about reason, truth, value, self-esteem, purpose, and the benefits of past experience, and in effect, abandon their “Modern Brain”. This is all done by relying on the target’s hope of attaining that which seems to be missing from their lives, or to avoid the loss thereof. Mythos especially, is pressed hard in the presentation of a lie, with the implied promise of completeness and/or fulfillment. In other words, it is the “Big Lie”, fed to hungry people who are desperate to believe something. The power behind mythos is that it appeals to a deeper motivation present in other humans, and it can be extremely powerful in terms of persuasion.

The defining hallmark of a liar is that he intends to take advantage of a situation in which he can benefit from something he could otherwise not receive if he were to remain truthful and honest. Furthermore, in almost all cases, a liar will present the concept of a distorted or false identity, which can take on several forms. A few are described here.

  • The Expert – In this persona, the liar pretends to be someone much more professional, educated, qualified and/or experienced than he really is, thereby giving you the impression that he knows what he is doing, and is able to deliver on his purported promises.
  • The Optimistic Fool – Still another embodiment of deception can be found in the opposite situation where the liar pretends to be more naïve or inexperienced than he really is. In this case, the liar attempts to lead you down a course of action in which he already knows what the outcome will be, but he presents the impression to all those involved that he has the good faith that this particular course of action will lead to a different outcome, which is, of course, more favorable to the one being deceived.
  • The White Knight – The liar might appeal to a false identity that is held, or wished for, by his target, often in the form of an idealistic self-image that the target wants to believe is true about either the liar or the target. In this case, the target may find the liars presentation to be amusing, inspiring, affirming, encouraging or flattering (i.e. appealing to pathos), and as a result, the target drops his defenses, abandons his “modern brain”, and becomes a willing victim or accomplice to be molded into the liars plans. Victims of such forms of lies often fail to ever realize the deception, and instead cling to the liar’s presented image with the false notion that it represents love or some other virtue.

The problem with liars is that their gain is always at the cost of others, in terms of time, energy, resources, and emotional health, among many other things. The problem with being a liar is the associated guilt, shame, the fear of getting caught, the consequences of getting caught, the loss of reputation and trustworthiness, the inability to trust others and form meaningful intimate relationships, and loneliness in general. Several generalized descriptions of liars are listed as follows.

  • A liar almost always operates without divulging his true motives.
  • A liar does not give others any knowledge of his intentions.
  • A liar does not give others the freedom of making a consensual choice.
  • The liar almost always is only willing to make the smallest investment possible, and seeks the shortest time frame possible for the payoff.
  • Liars often push others to make decisions very quickly, and these decisions often require a large degree of faith and trust on the part of the target. Liars often describe portended losses or unfavorable outcomes if the target hesitates or waits too long to make the decision.
  • Some liars have the mindset that they are the authority, that is, they do not answer to any higher authority than themselves or their cohorts. As a result, their attitude is lofty and presumptuous, and their actions are lawless, which means, they act without any regard to the rules, established procedures, societal order, or what would be best for all those involved.
  • Some liars are motivated by a sense of guilt or shame. That is, they are afraid of presenting the truth because they believe it will make them look bad or feel bad.
  • Liars have the habit of avoiding intimate social connections.
  • Liars generally avoid meaningful communication, often saying things like, “Whatever”, “It doesn’t matter”, “It’s none of your business”, “I’ll have to get back to you on that”, etc.
  • Liars present many nonverbal cues of non-confidence, which often include things such as the following.
    • Avoiding extended eye contact.
    • Displaying nervous behaviors, such as fidgeting, blinking, clearing the throat.
    • Making incomplete or unclear statements.
    • Changing their story, or making excuses for things.
    • Making verbal false starts, such as, “ah”, “um”, and “well”.
    • Giving the impression that they are daydreaming, or thinking of something unrelated to the situation or discussion at hand.
    • Asymmetrical facial expressions, such as raising one eyebrow, squinting one eye, a lop-sided smile or grimace, etc.

Liars are not to be taken lightly, because this approach definitely works. For example, just look at American politics and many other democratic elections where objective truth and reason are overlooked in favor of post-truth. Politicians attain dominance and garner power, not by telling the truth, but by generating the particular entity of “truthiness” that most appeals to their mass constituencies.

This is not to say that Pathos and Mythos are always necessarily the foundations of lies and deceit. On the contrary, Pathos and Mythos are powerful ways to communicate subjective truth and circumstantial reason.

On the other hand, logic and sound reason will not always yield the truth either. For example, if the logical process failed to take into account some important facts which were unknown, or were disregarded as being unimportant at the time, then the conclusions will not be reliable.

Also, feelings may not be considered to be logical, and they cannot always be counted upon to be indicators of truth, but feelings are, at the very least, a source of information that needs to be considered in the analysis of truth. Therefore, Logos, Ethos, Pathos and Mythos are not mutually exclusive. They are all important elements of expressing, conveying, and apprehending truth.

10. Dealing with Confusion

Confusion is the state of being bewildered or unclear in one’s mind about either the truth of a matter, or the necessary actions to be taken. It can be caused by any of the following.

  • Stress
  • Culture shock
  • Lack of experience
  • Lack of adequate rest
  • Social, temporal or spatial disorientation
  • The use of various drugs, especially hallucinogens
  • The inability to focus one’s attention, ADHD for example
  • Lack of adequate knowledge of the related area of interest
  • Immaturity, which includes the inability to distinguish reality from fantasy
  • Various impairments in awareness, perhaps caused by an illness or disability
  • Chronic organic neurological pathologies, such as dementia, Aspergers or Alzheimers.

Confusion can also be induced through the influence of another person, who is usually not being very truthful themselves. For example, being taught a false ideology, being a victim of a deceptive scheme, or being targeted by witchcraft, can all cause extreme confusion. In many such cases, creating confusion is often one of the methods that dishonest and manipulative people use in their effort to disable the agency of others and take control of a situation.

Cognitive Dissonance is a larger issue which arises when a person experiences a crisis of belief, which they are often not aware of. This is experienced as a mental confusion that is a source of great stress and anxiety, and it has a significant impact on their attitudes. Cognitive dissonance can be experienced in different forms.

  • The person simultaneously holds two incompatible cognitions in habitual use (e.g. double-mindedness).
  • The person’s beliefs are not in agreement with their behaviors (e.g. hypocrisy).
  • The person denies certain undesirable characteristics of themself, and believes that the problem lies in others (e.g. projection) 
  • The person has a false notion, which they believe to be true and right, but their beliefs are not complicit with objective truth (e.g. dissociative rationalization).
  • The person has a belief, which they know to be true and right, but it simply isn’t taking them where they want to go in life (e.g. dispassionate ambivalence).

Cognitive Dissonance can be expressed in the following ways.

  • Double Mindedness – When a person simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and cannot experience the impact, satisfaction and/or rewards of either one.
  • Hypocrisy – When a person says or does something that contradicts their existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
  • Projection – When a person attributes other people to be the source of negative thoughts and behaviors which actually arise from within themselves, and thereby shifts blame from themselves onto others.
  • Dissociative Rationalization, AKA “Hamstering” – When a person invents a seemingly rational explanation for their otherwise inappropriate words or behaviors.
  • Dispassionate Ambivalence (or Apathy) – When a person is confronted with new information that contradicts their existing beliefs, ideas, and values, and because the person is lacking an urgent sense of agency, they are thereby disabled from effectively handling the learning process.

Learning is a process in which a person is confronted with some new information, and they are then faced with the challenge of integrating this new information into their present understanding of things. It often requires them to rethink many of their previously held notions about things, and to change some of their existing beliefs. It may also be necessary for them to only accept part of the new information, and reject other parts, depending on what parts have urgency, and what can be accepted into one’s belief and value system. Learning can be either limited to the cognitive arena, or it may involve a change of attitudes and behaviors as well. Learning is hard work, but at some point in time, people have to face the dissonance in their lives, and change some things in order to achieve an acceptable status. Being successful in this endeavor is a central aspect of maturing in the knowledge of Truth.

11. On the Journey Towards Truth

Humans are all ruled by their own life stories, which generate enormously complicated codes, and the codes form thousands of guiding principles that suggest and inform their every move and every decision. People cannot escape their life-stories, but instead, they should learn to accept themselves and make the most of who they are. It makes sense to figure out our personal values, our habits, our virtues and vices, our motives or guiding principles, our private logic, the nature of our codes, and to discover how fruitful our codes can be, or whether they are wrong-headed, goofy, damaging or even malicious.

Thus, the process of self-discovery, especially for those who suffer (following Aristotle’s form of Tragedy), is to get clarity about how they function, how their life-stories compare to others’, how their lives can be put straight, and then what to do about it. Everyone has a different plight. Some of those who suffer need to learn how to adjust to this world, and take responsibility for letting others know who they are, and teaching others how they want to be treated. Others who suffer, and who are well acquainted with the ways of this crazy world, need to find and develop an inner guide of some truth and elegance.

To this end, it is of monumental value to study personality types and temperaments. People are not completely random and unique. They tend to fall into a category of temperaments. For example, some people care most about completing a task well and on time, whereas others care more about the process of completing the task, like how the people involved in the task are utilized and treated. Some people focus mainly on what they can see and touch, while others spend most of their energy on dreams, relationships and ideas. People tend to be either outgoing or reserved. People tend to be either emotional, or rational. Moreover, people attain blends of these four dichotomies, which comprise four basic personality types, and these can be seen everyday in the people around you. All (normal) people fall into one of these four personality types in order to create stories that in some way offer meaning, structure and guidance to their lives.

Example 1 of Mythos [1]

If you read carefully the text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s classic, I Have a Dreammythos oozes from the text. This is almost the speech in a nutshell:

“The United States promised justice for all. You’ve denied it to people of color. This denial is a violation of the American story. It’s time to live up to your story.”

Mythos is what explains the power of this section from the speech:

“Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds”. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

In other words, he says, in essence, “with your discrimination against black Americans (Dr. King used the word “negroes” in his speech), you have violated your narrative, your story – our story.”

He repeated this same message so powerfully in his last speech, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, which was delivered the night before he was assassinated:

“All we say to America is,”Be true to what you said on paper.”

So, here’s the principle: if you as a speaker can say, “this is our story, and this step we take is part of the ongoing story – part of our story, a step that we must take together”… then you’ve marshaled a powerful persuasive tool to your cause.

Example 2 of Mythos [1]

NPR has a talk show called Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She was interviewing Jo Becker, the author of the book Forcing the Spring. (This book describes the struggles in recent years in the fight for marriage equality, which has attracted much controversy and criticism.) In the interview, we learn about the moment that President Obama threw his support to marriage equality. Here is the excerpt from the interview. Note the power of the narrative story, which is employed through the reference to a concept of mythos – “equality is part of the story we all believe in”.

“When the president gathered a little – months later, his advisors together, and said, ‘I want to do this’, David Plouffe, who was the campaign manager of Obama’s 2008 campaign, called (Ken) Mehlman, and asked for, kind of, ‘if we’re going to do this, how might we go about it in a way that would appeal to, sort of, Middle America?’”

“And Chad and Mehlman had made a real study of this. And what they had come to understand was that if you talk about marriage in terms of hospitalization visitation (being able to visit someone in the hospital), or being able to get a tax break, then straight people kind of think, well, gay people don’t want to get married for the same reason that we do.”

“But if you talk about it in terms of, like, their stories, right, these plaintive stories that they ‘love each other’, that they ‘want to commit to each other’, it becomes clear that they want to own this language that allows everybody to understand the reality and the commitment of the relationship. Well, that really moves people.”

“And the other thing that they were finding that really moves people, is if you talk about this issue in terms of, sort of, ‘shared American values’. So you talk about it in terms of the Golden Rule, right? You have to say, you know, most Americans believe that, you know, you wanted to be treated the way you treat others, I mean, treat others the way you want to be treated.”

“That was moving to people. Are we really going to say to members of our military that they can’t marry the person that they love after coming home from Afghanistan? Are we going to tell the policeman in your neighborhood who keeps you safe that they can’t marry the person that they love? And what was kind of really interesting was when the president then, after Biden said what he said on ‘Meet the Press’, they scrambled and they got an interview ready.”

“And when he went and sat down for this interview with Robin Roberts, it was very much a mirror of these talking points and these very poll-tested kinds of messages that were resonating with the American public.”

In other words, if the story of America genuinely reflects the Golden Rule in the form of providing a place for people to live their lives with the person they love… if that is the story, then how can we not support this? This pushes aside the prevailing beliefs, and finds a niche in people’s minds and hearts, whether or not people can accept it as being “true”.

12. Conclusions

Whenever you sit down to watch the news, or read the newspaper, remember the four elements of truth, Logos, Ethos, Pathos, and Mythos. Be aware of how these elements, especially Mythos, i.e. the narrative fallacy, might be construed to seduce you into sympathising or even agreeing to the viewpoints that are portrayed. Ultimately, YOU decide what to accept as truth or not. Do not let others deceive you into believing what is not inherently true.


  1. ffbsccn: The power of mythos – the shared story – a powerful tool for persuasion (April 23, 2014)


About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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12 Responses to The Quest for Truth

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  10. Brady Jack says:

    May I teach the information posted on your website in my university and high school classes? I really enjoy your commitment to posting truth!

    Thank you in advance for considering this request.



    • Jack says:

      Brady Jack,

      Thanks for recognizing the value of this essay. It took weeks of studying and writing to produce. My purpose for writing this article was for it to be a reading assignment for my own students – a brief summary to quickly bring Asian minds up to speed on the western philosophy of truth.

      Of course, the experience of Truth cannot very well be put into words. So I need to point out that this article only contains the Western epistemology concerning truth. The real Truth is on a higher plane of awareness than what western minds typically can envision. Ed Hurst wrote an insightful review which gives some clues as to how the western quest for truth has fallen short. Please read his comments here.

      You’re welcome to use the material contained herein for non-profit, educational purposes. But if you plan to make money on it (e.g. selling booklets or handouts), then you need to cut me a slice!

      Most of all, thanks for asking!

      All the best~!


  11. Brady Jack says:

    Thank you Jack for your kindness and encouragement. I have no interest in selling your materials; I have interest in sharing this truth 🙂 Please allow me to ask, two questions.
    1. Do you teach outside of the US?
    Yes, I’ve been teaching in Taiwan since 2006.
    2. May I see your responses to your posted case studies?
    Case study 1 – Most students believe the two old college buddies have a more authentic relationship.
    Case study 2 – Most students believe the second soldier who wants to play cards is more likely to survive the war.
    Case study 3 – Most students believe the second man who says no one knows what truth is, has a better grip on truth.
    Case study 4 – Most students believe the second couple with the wife who subjectively frames her statements, has a better conflict resolution.
    Case study 5 – Most students believe the second man who asks, “Are you alone?”, is more likely to receive a “Yes” from the girl.

    Thank you in advance for your patience and assistance in helping me teach other about truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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