Is the whole question like "what is truth" just about finding definitions to things we know but can't put into words to explain (things that are currently ineffable). For example, everyone knows what knowledge is but its hard to define (is it really justified true belief). We know what knowledge is because we can evaluate definitions based on cases. Likewise, it seems we can evaluate definitions of truth based on cases.

So,really how is truth different from facts, or what is the case, or whatever. What is its unique significance that differs it from the state of affairs. What's the point of the Tarski T-scheme, doesn't everyone intuitively believe that if you think something is the case its true and if you think something is false its not true?

What is the property of truth? It seems like truth is being grounded on definitions rather than grounded in the world.

How does the philosophical definition of truth differentiate from the layman definition.

Explain to layman non philosopher. Pretend I'm like 10 years old.

  • 2
    reality is when you walk into the door, the truth is that you forgot to open it.
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 9:21
  • 2
    1+1=2 is not possible in reality because two identical apples are impossible. But it is a mathematical truth. How do we relate those notions? Read about the theories of truth.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 9:28
  • @user66697 yes, and in many (most?) cases, the door is made of glass and we couldn't see that it was there before hitting it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 11:43
  • @ScottRowe is that a science?
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 16:14
  • Reality and state of affairs are what is the case, truth and facts are merely statements that describe them. It is the difference between an apple that you can eat and its (faithful) description in words or images that you can't.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 17:37

6 Answers 6


Truth is a property of statements. Reality is not true, rather it is real. Only symbolic language can be true, when the meaning of those symbols is close enough to reality, ie when they don't misrepresent reality.

  • What would this mean in the context of alethic nihlism? How can you deny truth but accept reality? Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 18:00
  • It makes no sense to deny "truth", because one who affirms that truth does not exist, usually thinks it's true that truth does not exist. IOW, one then falks into logical contradictions.
    – Olivier5
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 21:17
  • I think alethic nihlism tackles the self-refutation problem by stating that it just denies the truth part in the T-scheme. It basically states that p could be the case but not be true. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 0:36
  • More on alethic nihlism: aeon.co/essays/… Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 1:13
  • Not interested in fakes trying to reach philosophical fame by pretending something weirder than their predecessors. The concept of truth is not optional, or disposable. You need it if you want to describe reality, as is simply about whether descriptions of reality are by and large correct. No philosopher worthy of the name will ever want to get rid of truth.
    – Olivier5
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 6:05

Like other words, truth is just a symbol before definitions give it meaning. Somebody has to define it, otherwise it's just a picture or a noise. Then it means (to them) what they define it to mean, which may change depending on context. Definitions can be more or less useful for thinking clearly, and more or less useful for communicating with others. Matching common intuitions is a feature of a definition that is useful for communicating with others.

Even obvious concepts can benefit from being defined in detail. The Tarski truth schema is such a definition. Its purpose is to be able to isolate a single idea that can work for both natural language treatment of truth and mathematical treatment of truth in a consistent way that won't ever generate contradictions.

Usually the purpose behind definitions in philosophy is thinking clearly, defining consistently, and communicating effectively.

Unfortunately, sometimes philosophers define things so as to be not useful for communicating, which can be good for creating job security by manufacturing an unnecessary professional lingo that you have to take university classes to learn. Sometimes philosophers define things so as to not be useful for thinking clearly, which is useful for publishing papers when you don't have anything interesting to say and still need to justify your paycheck, or when you want to defend bad ideas by linguistic legerdemain.

I would suggest starting with SEP: Truth for the ways that philosophers have defined truth and investigations of the ramifications of those definitions. If something seems interesting but you're having trouble understanding it, you can ask a more specific follow-up question.

  • Sometimes people ask the same sort of question over and over here because... Hmm.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 11:45
  • So basically philosophical truth is not too different from how we use truth commonly, we just want to come up with a definition thats not ineffable. Sort of like how everyone knows what knowledge is, its just hard to explain what it is. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 18:02
  • > Sometimes people ask the same sort of question over and over here because... Hmm. – Scott Rowe Because that's what philosophers do?
    – Olivier5
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 21:33
  • @HelpMePlease yes
    – g s
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 22:44
  • @Olivier5 it seems to me that once they got the answer they would move on to different questions.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 0:27

Let's start by giving very simple definitions:

  • Reality is everything that exists around us. It's the trees in the forest, the cars on the road, the stars in the sky. Reality is what we can touch, see, hear, taste, and smell. It's the world as it is.

  • Truth is a statement or idea that accurately reflects reality. If I say, "The sky is blue," and you look up and see a blue sky, then what I said is true. It matches reality.

Now, the difference between truth and reality can be a little tricky, but let's think about it this way:

Imagine you and your friend are playing hide and seek. Your friend runs off to hide, and you think they've hidden behind the big oak tree in your backyard. In your mind, the truth is that your friend is behind that tree. But when you go and look, they're not there. The reality is that your friend chose a different hiding spot.

In this case, your truth didn't match reality. You believed something to be true (your friend is behind the tree), but the reality was different (they're hiding somewhere else).

This example shows us that truth is tied to our beliefs and understanding, while reality is independent of what we think or feel.

Now, philosophers have spent a lot of time trying to understand what truth really is, and how we can be sure that something is true. You mentioned the Tarski T-scheme, which is a theory that tries to explain truth. It basically says that a statement is true if what it says matches reality. So if I say, "There's a cat on the mat," that statement is true if, in reality, there truly is a cat on the mat.

But sometimes, what we think is true can change as we learn more about the world. Long ago, people believed it was true that the Earth was flat because that's what it looked like to them. But as they learned more about the world and how it works, they discovered the truth is that the Earth is round.

In summary, reality is the world as it is, and truth is our understanding of that reality. Sometimes our understanding can be wrong, but we keep asking questions and learning more to get closer to the truth.

  • 1
    Regarding the tree example, your belief wouldn’t be true if your friend wasn’t behind the tree. This covers the truth-reality link and the reality-truth link. What does it mean to deny the reality-truth link? Is it possible to claim that there is no such thing as true things but reality exists (from standpoint of alethic nihlism)? Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 18:04
  • @HelpMePlease you could think of 'truth' as a sometimes helpful tool, but you are not compelled to use it. Reasoning, ditto. Other people's statements, same. All of science, or engineering or philosophy or medicine, likewise. Use what you find helpful. But if you don't, it doesn't make it wrong.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 0:24
  • Sorry, I'm trying to understand this in the context of alethic nihlism. What does it mean to deny truth in this context? @ScottRowe Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 0:33
  • @HelpMePlease perhaps this will be relevant. There is a famous story that I think is factual, that Blaise Pascal the mathematician, when confronted with several different and apparently correct forms of Geometry, said: "Geometry is not true, it is useful." We can take statements as functional, helpful, applicable... And leave the idea of 'truth' aside.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 2:24
  • @Scott Rowe. Is that nominalism? What does it have to do with alethic nihlism? I don't really understand what alethic nihilism entails: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/101224/… Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 3:43

Truth and reality are fuzzy and overlapping terms, each of which has many shades of meaning in everyday speech. It is impossible to give a clear-cut definition of the individual words, let alone a definition of the difference between them which will apply to every sense in which the words are used.

Broadly, reality is most often understood to mean what actually exists, (although that in itself- ie the meaning of existence- is a can of worms). Truth refers to the extent to which our notions or statements or other depictions of reality are an accurate reflection of it.

The key difference, then, between truth and reality in that sense is that the former is a tag we use to categorise faithful depictions of the latter.

However, there are other uses of the terms which fall outside those broad brush definitions.

For example, true and false are properties that can be applied to statements in formal systems that have no relationship to reality. True in that sense means that a statement accords with the axioms and rules of the system. Your concern about truth sometimes being grounded in reality and sometimes just in definitions is just a reflection of two different applications of the term.

Truth and reality are often used in a slipshod way as synonyms. Indeed, you can find philosophers who happily ignore everyday usage altogether and insist that truth is reality. Which brings me to my final point. If I really were explaining this to a ten year old, I would not be able to stress sufficiently that there is no philosophical definition of anything- philosophers argue endlessly about philosophical terms- and much philosophical writing is of no use whatsoever other than providing enjoyment to philosophers and perpetuating the debate.


The difference in the philosophical world is that there is no one, universally acclaimed definition of either Truth or Reality for philosophers. Rather, the nature of these are foundational questions that help distinguish different philosophical positions and traditions.

For Plato, for instance, Reality is a deeper level of existence underlying the perceptible world, and Truth is what brings us closer to actual Reality. But for his student Aristotle, Reality and the perceptible world are one and the same, and Truth is composed of facts. In (somewhat) more recent times, this disagreement became the schism between Idealists like Descartes and Empiricists like Hume. Even in the modern world, scientists take one view of Reality and mystics, priests and mathematicians take another.

And that's all at the most general level. Finer-grained arguments about the exact nature of Truth and Reality can be found between any two philosophers, no matter how adjacent. In fact, we could gloss the entire field of philosophy as arguments over the definitions of Truth and Reality (and the relationship between them).



  1. the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

  2. the state or quality of having existence or substance

  3. the actual state of things, or the facts involved in such a state

  4. you use reality to refer to real things or the real nature of things rather than imagined, invented, or theoretical ideas

  5. the state of things as they are or appear to be, rather than as one might wish them to be

From these definitions we may conclude that reality is a state ... without imagination, invention or theoretical ideas … and so it of something that is existing.

Here, from a layman’s point of view … Reality is a state rather than a quality.


  1. the quality or state of being true

  2. that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

  3. a fact or principle that is thought to be true by most people

  4. the truth about something is all the facts about it, rather than things that are imagined or invented

  5. a truth is something that is believed to be true

Here also there is no place for imagination or invention and it must be in accordance with fact or reality. But here, by definitions, though existence is not necessary, existence (in some form) also must be there since it is not an imagination or invention.

Here, since there is no object, a layman imposes qualities on Truth.

From these two conclusions we are forced to think that Reality and Truth are some state or quality of something that is existing.

In our daily life, for convenience, we ignore the characteristics of truth.

Characteristics of truth:

1.Truth must be universal.

2.Truth must be indestructible or incorruptible.

3.Truth must be constant.

4.Truth must be independent.

5.Truth must be the cause or the source, but not the effect.

Or, a layman would say that truth must have these above mentioned qualities … or, truth itself is something related to quality rather than a state. From a layman's point of view, reality can always be treated as a state, but truth cannot. The word truth is not necessarily related to the senses, but reality is related to the senses

Actually, these two terms have difference only in the usage. Even what magicians create are illusions (a kind of false reality). And so they are not realities or truths. What I am saying is, If somebody says that this universe we experience is a great magic, it must imply that this universe is neither reality nor truth. I am focusing on the uniqueness of these two terms when going to higher levels.

While using these two terms for communication, in the case of truth, I feel like the idea converging or becoming stable or subtler.



Since all the things that are perceived by our senses undergo changes, strictly speaking, even this universe now we are experiencing is not Reality or Truth. But since almost all of us know nothing (or, can’t imagine) about the thing that is beyond our senses, we consider the things that is perceived by our senses to determine reality and truth.

Those who have ‘experienced’ the truth realize that it is the only reality and existence. In other words, beyond nothingness; existence, reality and truth can be ‘experienced’ as one and non-dual.

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