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

Expert Answers
shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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. 


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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."

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
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.
sid-sarfraz | Student

Truth and honesty are two separate terms with saperate meanings but are directly related. 

Truth and honesty both depends on the person himself. Truth is the reality that we tell others exactly how anything took place. Where as honesty is our heart's decision that shall we tell truth and be honest. Therefore being honest means to tell truth and keep yourself satisfied. Being honest is an act of being truthful to people.