The Truth is Made Up

April 6, 2013

It was G.K. Chesterton who introduced me to the idea that truth is a matter of invention, in one of those epigrams that you feel ought to be wrong even as you sense that it isn’t. It has taken me many years to get my head around it.

But he was quite right: “truth” is always a matter of invention. This is not to deny that there is an objective reality. There is and we should have the humility of the good scientist, both always to explore the frontiers of our knowledge and to grant the testimony of our perceptions. But we must never forget that it is on the loom of language that we weave our perceptions into the tapestry of comprehension. Our way of understanding—indeed our way of being—is to make up stories about what we see. To the extent the word has any meaning, “truth” resides in the stories, not in the world.