Homework Help

Is there a difference between truth and honesty?Is there a difference between truth and...

user profile pic

goshencollege | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 9, 2011 at 6:15 AM via web

dislike 1 like
Is there a difference between truth and honesty?

Is there a difference between truth and honesty?

7 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 9, 2011 at 6:35 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

I would say that you must first distinguish between the objective and subjective in the use of these terms.  Truth is only useful as a concept when two or more people agree.  For something to be True, it must have a consensus of agreement, which makes Truth a sort of universal concept.  However, Honesty is strictly subjective, meaning that it is completely dependent upon the integrity of the person making whatever statement will be judged for its honesty. Enotes gives a great summation of the difference in its page on Honesty:

In discourse a statement can be strictly true and still be dishonest if the intention of the statement is to deceive its audience. Similarly, a falsehood can be spoken honestly if the speaker actually believes it to be true, assuming the speaker doesn't unfairly reject or suppress evidence.

So, while Truth has a universal or objective sense to its usage, Honesty is much more subjective and depends upon the integrity and intention of the speaker.  In this sense, Truth is a debatable topic, something that philosophers, religious leaders and others argue and discuss in order to arrive at a common understanding.  Yet, again, Honesty is not debatable, but relies strictly upon the intention of the individual.

For more on these concepts, please follow the links below.

user profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 9, 2011 at 6:55 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

I would have to say this depends on one's definition of both words.  If we distinguish between fact and truth, then there is no great difference, except semantically, since honesty is an attribute, while truth is considered the product of that attribute.   My honesty will produce a truth, either spoken or thought, if we agree that truth is a matter of perception and not necessarily based on some external reality.  However, if truth and fact are defined as interchangeable concepts, then there is a distinction between honesty and truth, since honesty can produce thoughts and speech that are not factual, hence, not true. 

The story of the blind men and the elephant is a good metaphor for this, I think.   Each blind man examines a different part of the elephant and reports his findings, but because none of the men can see the entire elephant, each perceives a different truth.  Are they exhibiting honesty?  Certainly.  Are they providing a truth?  Yes, if truth is a matter of perception, but not if truth is the same as fact. 

 

user profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 10, 2011 at 3:48 PM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

Honesty has to do with what you believe.  If you believe that what you are saying is true, you are being honest.

Truth (if such a thing exists) is an objective thing.  The truth of a statement does not depend on anyone's intentions or opinion.

As an example, let us say that someone is describing me and they say I am 30 years old.  They are being honest if they believe I am 30.  But they are not telling the truth because I am actually not 30 years old.

user profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 12, 2011 at 3:29 PM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

I think of honesty as a virtue that someone does or does not possess. Truth is the act of stating what is factual, or at least in your perception. The example of the blind men and the elephant is a great one, each man was being honest and telling the truth with what information he has available to him.

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 13, 2011 at 3:44 PM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

Truth is an absolute concept; honesty a quality.  A person is honest if he or she is forthright and tells what he or she believes is true.  However, a person can be mistaken in his/her perception so that all that he/she says is not true.  But, truth is universal; it has been tested by others, or by time

user profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted January 22, 2011 at 6:10 AM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

We have a tendency to throw around terms such as "truth" and "universal truth" without any real thinking about the terms. Truth even universal truth is subjective and determined by society, culture, and etc. Perhaps truth is more blatant and honesty is influenced by emotion. For example "Do these pants make me look fat?" Truth would, perhaps, say "Yes they do." Honesty might say, "You look fantastic."

user profile pic

litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 2, 2011 at 1:37 PM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like
I think honesty means telling people what you feel. Truth is a more objective word. It impilies that there is one answer. Honesty is an emotion. You feel how you feel. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Honesty just means telling it like it is.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes