This quote reminds me of one of many aphorisms from Oscar Wilde especially the one that goes "The truth is rarely pure and never simple". It also reminds of Wilde's own argument during his trials for gross indecency, where he calmly states that there is no truth whatsoever in any of the accusations for gross indecency despite of the fact that the evidence was rampant. In Wilde's case, he did not see homosexual behavior as gross indecency. To him, his truth was way different than that of the laws of men.
Therefore what this statement reflects is the unique interpretation that each individual gives to his or her reality, and what they consider to be a valid argument for or against something. I agree with the first posting, from Brettd, in that there is no white nor black, just many shades of grey. What each of us makes of what the truth is is completely inherent to our perception.
There is a clear distinction between truth and knowledge. Knowledge is changeable, truth is not. So often they are confused. The view of the attack on the New York Twin Towers, for instance, is based upon knowledge, not truth. Truths are universal verities; what was true yesterday is true tomorrow and always. Truths are not things such as the reason for the destruction of the Twin Towers--those reasons are knowledge. Here is an interesting observation:
Contingent and changeable truth, or opinion, is the conformity of his knowledge to the sensible world.
What I like about this quote is the way that it points towards the inherently partial nature of truth based on our understanding. Basically, because of our own set of cultural biases and life experience, we have formed a set of lenses that colours our understanding of "the truth," making it partial and biased. A great example would be the way that different people in the world view 9/11. In America and the west, we would unhesitatingly call it a terrorist outrage, yet in many Arab countries it was hailed as a blow for liberation against capitalism and consumerism and western decadence. This quote therefore points towards the way in which truth is shaped by our cultural perceptions.
I would have to agree that there are only partial truths. based upon the fact that no two people will likely see eye to eye on everything, their truths will differ. That being said, it is important for people to realize that there really is not absolute anything (what is true for me may not be true for you). People simply define and examine things in such different ways.
This quotation is very postmodern in the sense that there is little understanding of absolute truth. Since we are all colored by our historical points of view, personal experiences, and the way we percieve and construe knowledge, all knowledge will be relative to us. In light of this, my version of truth may differ from your version of truth. In this sense, all talk of truth is partial, or we can say that all truth is half truth in this sense.
In terms of this quote, the speaker seems to be suggesting that there is no such thing as a complete truth. This would reflect a sense that we only know a limited amount of information, and that what we do know is not absolute. In other words, it seems that the quote reflects that there are levels of knowledge. If this is the case, then we might believe that we know only superficial knowledge...that there are deeper levels of knowledge out there. I do not get the impression that the speaker is accusing the world of lying, but that perhaps we settle for what we know as the most there is to know. If we think about smoking, for instance, we can acknowledge that it is bad for a person. We know it causes cancer, however, this is not the entire truth. After a time researchers realized that smoking was even more deadly for those in the company of smokers. It became evident that smoking is addictive. In light of the quote, then, smoking caused cancer, but there were many other implications ("truths") that were unknown for a long time.
If this is the truth of smoking, how many other things in the realm of what we believe we know are left to be discovered? This quote indicates that we know little; there is much more to learn. Therefore, we know only half of the truth: "half-truths."
Truth is an objectivity, so it cannot be said to be halved or quartered. However, people's perceptions of truth are often biased by their own opinions and any falsities they have received from someone else. Therefore, it is hard for a person to have a whole and objective truth without some sort of subjectivity in it; true objectivity is impossible for a human because we are constantly influenced by everything around us. You could say that no person knows the whole truth, but we all know half-truths because we cannot or will not recognize the whole truth.
I would talk about this in terms of how there are two sides to every story. I might look at an instance in which I was in a dispute with someone and talk about how we each saw things differently. We all have our different "truths" because we see the world from different perspectives. Pick an example from your life or from the world as a whole (like two countries each thinking the other is out to get them or something) and discuss that as a way of illustrating this quote.
This is similar to the quote, 'there is no black and white, only shades of gray". Humans like to think in black and white, true or false, right or wrong so that the world makes more sense to them, but there are few absolutes. Often what we think is the truth later turns out not to be, or is true only from our perspective and not in someone else's reality.