Truth – an old definition

I try to read articles written by historian Victor Davis Hanson, as they show up in my feeds. He seems to hit the nail on the head quite a bit more than other columnists I have followed. (While I admire Charles Krautheimer, he often seems cranky.)

Now I’m in the middle of Hanson’s book Carnage and Culture

where I am learning way more than I ever wanted to know about ancient Greece and Persia.

He recenty published an article on Patriot Post where he gave a wonderful old definition of the word truth, from Greek:

The Greek word for truth was “aletheia” – literally “not forgetting.”

When remembering correctly what happened in one’s own past, one is viewing truth. It appears to me impossible to view the truth of what happened to someone else, unless you were there. And even then, your truth of it will be colored by your viewpoint, separate and distinct from the truth of others who were there. So historians (like Hanson) can only ever give their understanding of what was happening at some past time, based on their research. And I, at third- or fourth-hand remove from the incidents they describe, can only ever take their word for it. So I have to ask, does whatever else that particular historian says jive with what I know to be true? If not, then I’ll have to reject their offered “truths” about the past.

Keeping that old Greek definition in mind, why then, when creating new things, as when one writes fiction or paints or makes a song, does it often feel like one is creating truth?

When writing, I try to reject absolute truths and absolute falsehoods both. We exist among gradients of truths and lies.

And I think that’s close enough to the truth to get me by.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

All Rights Reserved.