Should truth be given out in small doses, or should the truth—facts—be wholly available to each and every person? For how is it we actually come upon the truth of things?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In most cases, a truth—especially a startling or upsetting truth—should be given in small doses. This is common wisdom: even when the police, for example, show up at a person's door to report a death, although the truth has to be delivered quickly in that case, their appearance at the...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In most cases, a truth—especially a startling or upsetting truth—should be given in small doses. This is common wisdom: even when the police, for example, show up at a person's door to report a death, although the truth has to be delivered quickly in that case, their appearance at the door, their sober demeanor, and usually their prefacing statement about bad news to report will prepare the person for the startling truth they are about to receive.

Literature, one of the best vehicles for discovering truth, supports the idea of the wisdom of revealing the truth in small doses. We see the terrible effects, for instance, when Oedipus suddenly realizes the truth that he has married his mother and killed his father—he blinds himself in anguish, while his wife/mother commits suicide. A more gradual approach might have averted these tragedies.

Poet Emily Dickinson expresses the idea of gradual approach to truth when she says, "Tell the truth but tell it slant." Too much truth all at once is too blinding. The idea of a sudden truth as blinding (disabling) hits its fullest expression in the Apostle Paul, who was so stunned by the appearance of the Holy Spirit telling him to support the Christians that he temporarily went blind—this (to him) truth so upended his world that he was temporarily disabled.

Stephen Benet expresses this idea directly in his short story "The Waters of Babylon." The village priest's son John comes home with the information that what his people think of as gods are simply humans who destroyed themselves. His father tells him not to simply blast out this truth, because it will be overwhelming and destructive to the people if not revealed gradually.

Even Galileo's best friends, highly educated people, were stunned and disbelieving when he insisted the earth travelled around the sun and not vice versa, as the evidence of the senses seems to show the sun revolving around the earth. It took a long time for Galileo's truth to stick. This seems to be the way it goes, so gradual revelation is best to get people used to new ideas.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This question is central to many ethical and philosophical debates. The idea of truth is sometimes confusing, but an understanding of the implications for the people who know the truth will help in decision-making about whether or not it should be disseminated.

Knowing the full truth about something will allow an individual to go into a situation prepared and knowledgeable about what they're facing. This can help them better assess and address whatever they encounter, be it a military conflict or a relationship. However, truth can be hurtful at times or, in the case of governmental action, can lead to information getting where you don't want it to be.

What is your intent with the information? Do you wish to arm someone so they can prepare themselves for whatever befalls them, or do you wish to protect them so their feelings aren't hurt? If you wish the former, then tell them the truth; if you wish the latter, then let it out slowly.

In my personal opinion, knowledge is always useful, and it is better to be prepared for every possible scenario than to protect your feelings, because what you don't know can, in fact, hurt you. So, truth should be shared.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The nature of truth is one of the most fundamental concepts considered in philosophy. For some theorists, defining "truth" is intrinsically connected to defining "facts." For others, "truth" is presented wholly through "revelation." Distinctions between scientific and religious world-views shape different understandings of the concept of truth.

In the last century, theorists in many disciplines have increasingly struggled to find ways to reconcile the different positions. Among the Christian philosophers, Paul Tillich developed the "method of correlation.” For him, theology is a dialogue relating the questions for which we seek answers through reason to the faith-based knowledge from revelatory experience.

Regarding the recommendation part of your question ("should truth ...?") the answer may be personal, especially if it is faith-based, or primarily intellectual, if it is asking you to identify different philosophical theories of truth.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team