Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!
This biblical statement insinuates that we have a duty to find out the truth, and this said truth is meant to release us from all shackles of bondage.
What does it mean to know the truth? The answer to this is not farfetched. To know something means to have an intimate knowledge of that thing. Hence, knowing the truth implies an intimate knowledge of that which is not a lie.
Now, what is the truth? This is a question which is somewhat hard to answer. There are two main approaches to answering this question. These are the correspondence, and pragmatic theories.
The correspondence theory which was propounded by Plato proposes truth to be an agreement with reality. This means that true statements should correspond to facts, while false statements do not. For instance, if one says that “Bini people fly at night”, this statement can only be true if a reasonable man has indeed seen a Bini man flying at night before. However, Plato came to realise the fallacy in this theory when it was discovered that the theory does not allow for false belief. Bertrand Russel, a 20th century British philosopher took the pains to show the unsoundness in this theory by reasoning that if a belief is false because there is no fact to which it corresponds, it would then be a belief about nothing and so not a belief at all. the simple explanation to this is that if a man believes that Bini people do fly at night, but there has been no such recorded incidence of a Bini flying at night, neither is there any other circumstantial fact/evidence to support this claim, then this ‘belief’ is fundamentally invalid because it is not founded on any known premise.
In the late 19th Century, American philosopher Charles S. Peirce offered another answer to the question “What is truth?” He asserted that truth is that which experts will agree upon when their investigations are final. This came to be known as the pragmatic approach. Pragmatist believe that that the truth of our ideas must be tested through practice, not through lofty theoretical postulations. This simply means that we must have a first-hand experience with our claims before we dare postulate that it is indeed the truth.
My humble self proposes a balance between these two theories. Of course, it would be somewhat impossible for everyone to adopt a pragmatic approach to life. For instance those who are disadvantaged by virtue of the unfortunate circumstances of their positions in life or events surrounding their births will not be able to categorically make statements of facts. If they indeed do so, it would not qualify as truth.
To our initial exposition, when can it be said that one knows the truth? Does such a person have to have a first-hand experience with the alleged truth before it qualifies as such? Or is a mere unqualified belief in the existence of a state of fact enough to qualify as the truth? The law (at least the Nigerian law) allows for the latter. The defence of Mistake which is applicable in a criminal trial is premised on this.
Now, let us not forget that there is an injunction on us to know the truth. According to Philosopher Francis Bacon, the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature.
Therefore, it is not satisfactory to hold a mere belief, no matter how honest that belief may sound in the existence of a state of fact. We must, in a bid to ratify the veracity of our human nature, make sufficient inquires of the truth.
Only when we have made sufficient enquires to verify the truth can it then be said that we have an intimate knowledge of that truth. And no doubt, the act of verifying the truth shall make us intimate with the subject matter of that thing. It would be a wonder if one wouldn’t be released from all bondages and shackles of doubt after a thorough verification of the truth.
Indeed, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!
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