Chapter 3
Clean or Dirty?

Let’s continue with our true-or-false test. Please consider whether the following statements are True (T) or False (F), based on your personal knowledge about the clothing which you may presently be wearing:

5. ____   “I am wearing clothes; I am not naked.”

6. ____   “I am wearing clean socks.”

The first question is fairly straight forward. Most of us would answer “True.” A few might truthfully answer “False.” Either way, there would probably not be much debate about the issue, if everyone concerned was accurately aware of your clothing situation. This is what I call a “black-and-white” kind of truth. The statement is clearly true or false, and everyone who has accurate knowledge of the situation would very likely be in agreement.

The previous chapter was primarily about this kind of “black-and-white” “true-or-false” kind of truth. Of course, disagreements can arise over this kind of truth when at least some people do NOT have accurate knowledge about the black-and-white truth under consideration.

Now the second question above (about your socks) is likely more difficult to answer. If you are like me, I tend to resent such a question. Not only is the question socially inappropriate, but I believe the subject is more complicated than a simple true or false answer can communicate. I am wearing socks as I write this, but are they “clean”? My socks may not be completely clean, but I don’t consider them to be dirty either. Neither “True” nor “False” seems to be an accurate answer. I think of my socks as being clean right after being washed, but once I put them on they immediately begin a transition away from being clean toward being dirty. I prefer to think of them as being more clean than dirty, even though they are no longer completely clean. You may prefer to simply call my socks “dirty” once I put them on.

This odd discussion is intended to clarify an important issue: Some aspects of truth are not “black-and-white” in nature, but are better understood as matters of degree. That is to say that some things are better understood to be more “shades-of-gray” rather than being “black-and-white” in nature. If we try to reduce them to black-and-white facts, or true-or-false facts, then our understanding of them will be very shallow. For the sake of discussion, I’ll refer to this kind of truth or concept as being “gray,” or “more gray,” or “shades-of-gray” rather than “black-and-white.”

This brings us to summarize another important principle, which I find to be self-evident:

Some truths are black-and-white,
while other truths are more gray.

Some of you may find fault with my reasoning above. You may allege that the first true-or-false statement is not really black-and-white. For example, someone may have so little clothing on that the correct answer is debatable. This illustrates another important concept:

Some truths that appear to be black-and-white
may, at times, involve shades-of-gray.

For Further Reflection:

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