Critical Reflections on True to Life: Why Truth Matters by Michael P. Lynch
[Part 2 of 3]

Critical Reflections on True to Life: Why Truth Matters by Michael P. Lynch

Part II: False Theories

Coming to a consensus on how truth is formed, and why truth is formed are the only ways to come close to understanding of what truth is. As Lynch says William James posits, truth is made not found (62). In the “real world” people do not put a label on what kind of truth they believe in i.e. pragmatic (classical or modern), reductive naturalist, verificationsim, etc and they don’t often consider why a truth is a truth. But why are truths made? That answer depends on the philosophical line of thinking; self-delusion, power, and/or comfort. For most people it comes down to personal truths, based on beliefs about morals and values, generally meant as a tool to guide decisions and action, rarely thought of as a thing.

In fact, in reading the various views set forth by Lynch in True to Life, truth becomes an ambiguous theory and in other visions, it becomes nonexistent. In some instances, with its lack of properties, truth simply becomes a word describing subjective abstract concepts just as words like good, evil, true, false, do. To some this renders truth unimportant and meaningless – there is no such thing as truth! (Lynch, 106) The truth in a belief can be subjective. There is no realistic or rational truth, commonly known as pragmatic truth – but there is truth and it is complex. As stated in my previous reflection paper, and by Lynch, that by thinking of the complex nature of truth, truth, “much like “courage, kindness, and love” truth becomes recognized as something that has many forms. (100)

According to Lynch, Williams James asserts, “Truth of a belief consists in the practical use it has in your life” and truth “helps us to deal, either practically or intellectually” with reality. (64)

The first idea Lynch presents is that beliefs are a tool. They help people get what they want; truth is a means, not an end. Truth may be utilitarian in that it can get you what you want, and in that, there is value to truth. By the classical pragmatism standards of truth, in the utilitarian properties, truth has cash value because truth is a way of attaining something. However, lies, or false truths, can also get people what they want, sometimes more and better things than truth can provide, such as more opportunities, a better job, or a longer lasting relationship.

If a truth is perhaps equally as utilitarian as a lie, then why does truth matter, why tell the truth at all? There may be many answers, each individual will have a reason why truth matters to them, but in order to understand why, truth must be defined and recognized.

The first “problem” for some is finding the tangibility in truth. As reductive naturalism states, truth does not take physical form or space and therefore there is no reality in truth. (Lynch, 76) Truth has no physical properties, but as Lynch says of the nature of the reductive naturalist’s views, it poses a “serious threat to truth’s value”. (77) In the very least truth can be tangible and verifiable in the sensory experience, i.e. whether or not you can see, touch, smell, hear, and/or feel it. It still does not take truth out of the field of subjectivity though.

The second problem then, to people who philosophize about truth, is that the value of truth is not verifiable or falsifiable by scientific method. Truth is not verifiable by physical properties (Lynch, 89). The idea that things, that are not things, or “non-natural property”, are not true means, to some, they have no value. (Lynch, 89) In the very moral nature of truth, there is a lack of way to verify its worth. However, according to Nietzsche, it is “power that is valuable, not truth” (Lynch, 103). It is not truth itself that is powerful, but the illusion of truth that has power. If illusion is a lie, then false truths (lies) theoretically have equal value as truth. Taking Nietzsche’s concepts, but removing his idea of illusion out of truth, truth, along with lies, attain value. That value then is not money, but power, which becomes a means to money.

Truth still remains ambiguous, particularly those based on ethics and morals, which are manifestations of emotions, feelings and attitudes, simple synapses in the brain, often with cultural bearings. While truth based on morals cannot be justified or verified, truth is still dependent on reality and therefore tangible through consequence. As John Stewart Mill says, the consequence of taking action is what makes beliefs right or wrong (Lynch, 66), in ascribing right or wrong, truth develops a property; while it may not be a physical property, it a property that can be felt (by anyone who is not a sociopath).

In the coherent belief of coherence theory truth is given another property. To counter the “perceptual illusion” (Lynch, 86) of truth, this theory states that to be a truth, the truth must cohere with other beliefs within that belief, no matter what further information is receive. In this, if you believe in x because y, but z presents something that proves y incorrect, than x is no longer a truth. Therefore, truth becomes part of a whole.

While “it is useful to believe that truth is deeply good [it] doesn’t explain why it is deeply good, or even how it can be deeply good” (Lynch, 115). The ways in which truth is good can be seen in the opposite of the truth, which is the lie. Lying requires effort that taxes your brain, costs you money, causes stress, and effects you in many other ways. (Dachis, 2012) According to Jeff Hancock, truth is an important part of being true to yourself. (Hancock, 2012) In this, the real worth, the real good of seeking truth and the value of truth itself, the real reason truth matters, is found in the maintenance of your healthy positive self, the power and the value of being true to yourself.

In reading and reflecting on this section, I have created my own working definition of truth. Truth is a valuable power that is part of a whole of beliefs, guided by goals and values, which has tangible consequences good and bad, and helps in the sustaining of the best you.


Dachis, A. (2012, December). What Lying Actually Does to Your Brain and Body Every Day. Retrieved from Life Hacker:

Hancock, J. (2012). The Future of Lying. (J. Hancock, Performer) Winnipeg, Canada.

Lynch, Michael P. True to Life: Why Truth Matters. Cambridge: MIT, 2005. Print.