Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Fake News

What is "truth?"

2017 television commercial for the New York Times.  Please note that the Wichita State University Libraries do not endorse the New York Times.  The ad is presented for educational purposes only.

The truth -- a slippery concept, to be sure.  So slippery, in fact, that an entire philosophical field, epistemology, is in large part dedicated to discussing the question of what truth is.  The Gale Encyclopedia of Philosophy's treatment of knowledge (WSU Login required) is useful for understanding the concept of truth:

The traditional analysis of knowledge is that it is a combination of three conditions: truth, belief, and justification. The idea is that for someone to have factual knowledge, what is known has to be a fact and thus true; the person has to regard it as true, that is, believe it; and the person must have an adequate basis for believing it—that is, have sufficient justification for believing it. These conditions yield knowledge defined as a sufficiently justified true belief.

Truth (noun)

1.   the quality of being true, genuine, actual, or factual: the truth of his statement was attested

2.
something that is true as opposed to false: you did not tell me the truth
3.
a proven or verified principle or statement; fact: the truths of astronomy
4.
(usually pl) a system of concepts purporting to represent some aspect of the world: the truths of ancient religions
5.
fidelity to a required standard or law
6.
faithful reproduction or portrayal: the truth of a portrait
7.
an obvious fact; truism; platitude
8.
honesty, reliability, or veracity: the truth of her nature
9.
accuracy, as in the setting, adjustment, or position of something, such as a mechanical instrument
10.
the state or quality of being faithful; allegiance
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/truth?s=t
 

Truth (noun)

1  The quality or state of being true.

‘he had to accept the truth of her accusation’
 
  1. 1.1also the truthThat which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
    ‘tell me the truth’
     
    ‘she found out the truth about him’
  2. 1.2count noun A fact or belief that is accepted as true.
    ‘the emergence of scientific truths’
     
    ‘the fundamental truths about mankind’
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 

Conversely, what is a "lie?"

Pinoccio

Image by John Dyer, used under the creative commons license.

While it may be easy to say, "a lie is the opposite of truth," more complete definitions are available.  To be specific, this page considers the noun form of the word "lie," as opposed to the verb, "to lie." Drawing from the Random House Dictionary, for example, dictionary.com offers the following definition:

  • A false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
  • Something intended or serving to convey a false impression

Also adapted by dictionary.com, The Collins English Dictionary offers a similar definition:

  • An untrue or deceptive statement deliberately used to mislead
  • something that is deliberately intended to deceive

The key point these definitions underscore in different ways is a lie must have a calculated intent to mislead or deceive behind it.  Merely repeating inaccurate information out of ignorance isn't "lying" per se.  Repeating that information while knowing it to be false or inaccurate, by contrast, is lying.  In an academic context, a student or researcher has the responsibility to verify information before repeating it to ensure it is valid and truthful, and thus avoid inadvertently presenting false or misleading information, or outright lying.

Wichita State University Libraries, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67260-0068 | Phone: (316) 978-3481 | Comments/Suggestions | Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube Channel Federal Depository Library Program HathiTrust Digital Library Patent and Trademark Resources Centers