The Search For Reality or Truth…Is It “Truth” or Perception

What I will share with you in this article was shared with me by someone deeply special who no longer is in this plane of existence. Someone who taught me a lot about life and what real humanity, kindness, love and strength look like. He used to say “too many people think themselves as kind and loving and preach things but when push comes to shove, unless it affects their lives directly, they are more concerned with being right than with working with reality to understand others…few things in this life are black or white; most are perception” –Why? because human beings are not machines, we are not robots, as such even the scientific method or rational thinking can vary according to which person or group is leading the study.

Based on how divided society finds itself today, I thought it would be good to share this information and to hopefully educate ourselves enough, which really leads to true open mindedness or balance. How much does our perceptions affect our truth? a lot; none of us holds the absolute truth, if we did, then there would be no need to be here anymore, nor need for any type of guidance, spirituality, Gods, faith, etc. Although this information is lengthy, I hope you read it and absorb it. The person who shared this, did not have all the answers, but the beautiful part was, he never claim he did! Although a professor and intellectual, he was also open, deeply flawed and humane, which is what makes a person beautiful and a spirit loving even towards that or those who may think differently….

Whenever you find (…) while reading the following essay, it means, the subject was extensive and continued.

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“The aim of this essay is to encourage thinking between the search for reality or the truth with methodology, by asking some questions to different theoretical perspectives and by analyzing different answers given by various authors over the centuries and taking a closer look at their theories. From the sociological theoretical perspective, I will deal with two levels of thought with methodological implications. The first refers to the methodological implications arising from the search for reality or truth. The second, epistemological, refers to the theoretical and paradigmatic duality between subjective capacity decisions against the constriction of the subjects by the structures.

Questions such as the search for reality or truth, have been little debated with the necessary depth and clarity in contemporary sociological currents and in existing methodological manuals. Despite this, it is a central problem of an ontological nature from which other epistemological questions derive with implications for the methodology in the search for knowledge….

Debating these ideas and their methodological implications, does not constitute an exclusive debate on critical thinking, for who am I to claim to have all the answers, even if I were naïve enough to believe so, my belief would be founded on my mere opinion. This essay constitutes the opinion of the greatest minds in history and their perceptions of reality after they tested their theories through the scientific method. Surprisingly, in studying the similarities and differences of the results, one is confronted with a higher reality; we create our own reality. In my simple opinion, their approaches constitute the decisive part of the logic that governs the theoretical approach and the methodology of observation….

The first hypothesis of an ontological nature makes direct reference to the interpretation of reality or truth in sociology in its philosophical aspects, as follows: the appearance of the sociological current of symbolic interactionism at the end of the decade of the 60s, has led to a methodological change in the social and human sciences on how reality and truth are understood, in such a way that the initial understanding of an objective reality has shifted towards an understanding of a reality interpreted and constructed subjectively. This calls into question the validity of objective facts. The paradigmatic change is due to the assimilation of the ontological principle of the synthetic a priori judgments proposed by Kant, and which were later exposed in sociological language by Weber, and by the interpretative currents. This step has had implications for the traditional empiricist hegemony of quantitative methods. Accepting the hypothesis has epistemological implications. The traditional conception that subjects are determined by structures is called into question by the interactionist principle: subjects are the product and producers of structures (Berger and Luckmann). Subsequent constructionist readings have radicalized the thesis, in such a way that Peter Berger goes so far as to affirm: “only an intellectual barbarian is able to affirm that reality is only what we can see by scientific methods” (Berger 1985:40).

The second hypothesis opens the theoretical debate around the change of the concept of autopoiesis proposed by Francisco Valera and Humberto Maturana and later adapted to sociology by Niklas Luhmann. This adaptation to society means an epistemological step with methodological implications. The argument is similar to that given by the sociobiology and neurophysiological perspective of Francisco Valera and Humberto Maturana, for example, when Maturana argues that “everything said”, that is, the result of the process of observation, “is said by an observer” (Maturana and Varela 1985:35). The universal validity of sentences and observations is questioned, since they depend on what the observer does, to the point of affirming, “without the observer there is nothing”. The fact of rethinking the concept of observer and observation, establishes a difference in the theory of self-referential or autopoietic systems of Niklas Luhmann, which are not contemplated in the classical concepts of philosophy or science…..

1. The vision of the human being in research within the social and human sciences

The vision of the human being in research varies in each historical epoch, depending on basic questions posed by scientists and philosophers such as: what is social reality?, what are social facts? Although these questions present some similarity, the answers vary profoundly and consequently have effects on the method adopted for the research. Two perspectives can be anticipated: a positivist and interpretive perspective and methodology. Perspectives, as we will see, closely linked to the epistemological debate around the way of understanding social processes and phenomena between the idiographic and nomothetic approaches.

To try to answer the central question of this essay, the search for reality or truth in contemporary sociology, it is necessary to pose a series of questions on two levels: a first epistemological level and a second ontological level. The epistemological debate, that is, the methods that lead to the obtaining of knowledge, in this case the axiom concerning action and structure, is considered as the “basic question of modern social theory” (Archer 1988: ix). In the currents of sociology and the current human sciences, the question around the epistemological debate usually stands out: is the human being free in his decisions or is he determined by structures? Although answering this question may have more impact on the metaphysical level than on the sociological and methodological level, the answer has implications for research in the sciences in general, and, in particular, in the social sciences.

Sociologists have given resumed answers, which are aimed at an integration (Giddens, Bourdieu, Habermas, Burt), and with a feminist perspective (Lengermann and Niebrugge-Brantle), among others. Despite these theoretical efforts to overcome theoretical antagonism, the ontological question what is to know? it remains current in the pursuit of reality, or truth. To solve the scientific, metaphysical and epistemological problems exposed, two central questions stand out. First, referring to the way of understanding research between idiographic, that is, the study of changing and unrepeatable events, or nomothetic, the pursuit of logical laws and the causal and immutable pursuit of facts, based on the observation of nature. The second, referring to the worldview and the type of perspective that guides the logic of research: positivist, interpretive, dialectical, systemic and systemic self-referential.

At the ontological level, the questions refer to the understanding of reality from understanding the being, as being and the environment: what do we understand by what we call reality? At the time of interpreting social facts and phenomena, and of developing an interdisciplinary research or study, important questions appear from different ontological presuppositions, which mark the theory that the researcher chooses the process and outcome of his research. The answers to the ontological question, is social reality external to the individual or is it a product of individual consciousness? have marked the philosophical debate between social scientists and philosophers, since the way of conceiving this has implications in the strategy, method and paradigm of research and in the type of information and interpretation of the dice that the researcher will make. The way in which the human being is interpreted and related in an observation, directly influences the way of exposing the following methodological steps, the problems and the questions that must be answered, as Durkheim, Weber and later Luhmann already warned, although from different perspectives.

The questions asked are part of the vision and image of the ontological tradition anchored in Western society, since these thoughts are aspects of the ontology as a whole; characteristic of European thought, which privileges “the being-itself” to the detriment of the discourse of the Other. Descartes’ work already highlights this tendency with the highlight of the “I“, later in Kant with “transcendental consciousness” and in Husserl with “intentional consciousness”, ideas that will later be reflected throughout Western sociology. The debate between holistic versus asymmetrical thinking is not new to sociological thinking. Already Frederich Engels, in Anti-Dühring or the Revolution of Science, when raising social and political questions asked: Does the objective world create thought or is it thought that creates matter? The answer corresponds to the existence of an external world explained through empiricism.

2. The search for reality or truth?

The questions what is knowing? and what is truth? have troubled philosophers from classical Greece to the present day. It is not in vain, since scientists who are based on phenomenological, hermeneutic and self-referential currents (in the sense given by sociobiology), doubt the existence of a universal reality and seek an interpretative or subjective form of truth.

Aristotle is based on two premises. The first is that the truth would be in thought or language and not in anything else. The second premise is based on the fact that truth, or its reification, is external to it. Referring to these early thinkers, Ferrater Mora in the Dictionary of Philosophy writes that for them, truth is equal to reality and this is equal to thought, although this thought must have an intelligible vision, that is, a rigorous method.

An illustrative way of exposing what we mean by truth is to refer to Plato’s allegory of the cave. Plato imagines that the prisoners who are grouped in a wall inside the cavern, are there from birth and their head is directed only to the interior of the cavern. Behind them lies a fire and a way out. Through the path circulate people and animals that cast their shadows on the wall at the bottom of the cavern. The prisoners inside the cave can barely perceive their shadows, in such a way that they prove that these shadows are real, being the only ones they have seen throughout their lives. One day, one of the prisoners is released, being able to leave the cavern. The flames and the sun will dazzle him completely, little by little he gets used to seeing the real world around him. This fact opens a process of differentiating the objects and recognizing the poverty in which he had been subjected for many years. Subsequently, the prisoner is forced to return to his original position in the cavern, seeing and distinguishing the world from the shadows of the real world he had seen. His companions, meanwhile, continue to believe that the real world is the shadow world, as they never had the opportunity to experience the real world. Plato’s parable shows that most of humanity is content to live in a world of appearance. But we can also draw another lesson: truth and light are to most the only reality, because it is all they see but it is not “the” reality….

Analytic philosophy, whose roots lie in the so-called operationist positivism and in the Vienna Circle, establishes a synthesis of thought between ethics and logic. It is due to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, in the Tractatus Lógico-Philosophicus, the approach of the structural link between language and the world. He considers facts as “states of affairs” and draws the central idea from the theory of figuration and truth. A proposition will be meaningful or makes sense to the extent that it represents a logically possible state of affairs. It may happen that a meaning is fragmented in several senses, or itself disintegrates into incoherence. He deepens the concept of truth and the relationship with propositions, coming to ask: “What is it and what does it mean: the truth of a proposition is true?” Truth is relativized from the subjective interpretation of facts. Wittgenstein’s use of the expression “true or false” is somewhat “deceptive” and is equivalent to saying “to conform to the fact or not” and what is really at issue is the meaning of “adjust”. One of the requirements of the search for truth is identity. The identity of a meaning takes place from different interpretations that people attribute to meaning: “the limits of a language are the limits of my world.” The identity of meaning makes truth possible…..

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The essay itself is quite long but I hope the above provides you with an idea of what he was aiming to point out….INTERPRETATION. How we interpret one thing or another can in “reality” change the outcome of personal “truth”–keeping this in mind, we should strive to work on remembering each and every day that to practice true open mindedness means to remember others do not see the world as we see it and there can be many version of one truth, even through scientific methods….critical thinking then, is to recognize the fact that reality is mostly determined by the observer.

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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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