How one responds to this quotation is dependent on how one interprets it. When Lewis Carroll says "is true", in what way does he mean it? Does he mean that it will become a truth for me because as it is repeated, I will begin to believe it is the truth? Could he mean that as he repeats it, he himself is brainwashed into believing it is true? Or is he insinuating that by speaking something three times, it will automatically become THE TRUTH? Also, could it be as simple as him saying that if something already has the quality of being classified as truth, then he will reiterate it three times in order to get that idea across? This final idea more or less asks whether an idea can be true before it is stated as such, or if it must be verbalized as a truth before it can take on that quality.
Plato postulated that there are three characteristics of truth. First, that truth is public, and is true for everyone. Second, that it is independent of anyone’s belief, it can be true even if no-one believes it to be true, or false even if many people believe it to be true. Third, that it is eternal – if something is true, then it was and always will be true. However, a statement does not necessarily have to be true for a person to believe it to be true – a statement can be entirely untrue, and yet people can believe in the statement and think it true, shown in the second criterion of truth. People repeatedly told that something is true can come to believe in it even if does not meet the three criterion of truth, as the quote by Lewis Carroll suggests. There are many instances and ways through which this could happen.
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Particularly in Mystical paradigms, but also in most religions, the religious leaders control their follower’s beliefs, by telling them what to believe. This is paramount to telling them what to think, as Antonio Machado says; "Under all that we think, lives all that we believe, like the ultimate veil of our spirits." As religious beliefs do not rely on empirical knowledge, "facts" that are repeatedly drilled into congregations and religious followers become accepted as the truth. For example, during the crusades, which occurred from the 11th to the 13th centuries A.D., thousands of people died because of their belief that the Saracens (Arabs, non-Christians) should be evicted from Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which was a belief instilled by the church. Of course, for non-religious people this does not apply. However, through the faulty use of authority, it is still possible for figures in positions of power (those with "authority"), to preach to the masses of their beliefs, and in turn sway the masses beliefs to match their own. This can occur in relation with the appeal to fear, where the masses fear what the authority figure is capable of, as well as because the authority figure hammers his beliefs home, and he must be right, because he is in the position of power and authority. An example of a non-religious figure of authority instilling beliefs in people through repetition is Fidel Castro, who led a revolution against Cuba’s dictator at the time, President Batista, and instilling the population with his belief of freedom from America. Again, of course, there will be always be people who refuse to listen to people in positions of power and authority, and who thus shape their own beliefs. They more or less respond to the person in authority by saying, "you reiterated this fact, I now believe that you believe it to be true, however, I will hold out until more proof is provided." On the other hand however, people in authority quite often don’t even require 3 repetitions of something for other people to believe them, people will simply take their word for it on the first utterance. Soldiers, for example, have this sort of obedience drilled into them from the time they join the military – Obey your commander and don’t question him at any cost is the precept drilled into raw recruits. Eventually, the theory goes, that if their commanding officer tells them something, they’ll believe it without questioning.
One way of getting people to believe something other than the truth is through perceptual filtering, often seen in propaganda, where facts about an event are "filtered" – only selected facts are given to the targeted individuals, and the facts given are usually governed by an individual in a position of authority. Of course, the most typical perpetrators of this sort of perception altering are the media. Quite often, people in power who fear a rejection of their ideas by the public and want support for events they want to carry out, give a typically one-sided view of an event (the side they believe will gain the most acceptance by the public). For example, during the Vietnam war, through multiple presidencies, the people of America were subjected to faulty emotional appeals in order to gain their support to fight to free the South Vietnamese from the communist North. Also, that the war would be short in duration and was going as planned. Later on, when Vietnamization was the new plan, to nudge the South to do their own fighting with only the aid of American equipment, the American’s were told that the troops would be returning soon, but it still took a few more years until the troops were returned home. It was later learned that the Vietnam war was not necessary to prevent "the dominos from falling" due to communist victories. It also became apparent that it was well known that the troops would not return as quickly as the government was promising, but many in the government were too proud to admit defeat and pull the troops out.
It is also possible that they may have come to believe they were doing the right thing, and on the path to victory through the repetition of reasoning. They knew they were losing a lot of soldiers in the war, but kept telling themselves that there was going to be a good outcome, and they were doing it for the right reasons, as if to justify their actions in their own mind. Thus, through telling themselves something repetitively, they came to believe it as if it were the truth, and a more complicated version of the quote "What I tell you three times is true." proves to be true.
There are many things, however, which require no repetition at all to make them true for an individual. These things are so self-evident that they require no one to state them to make them true for a person – such as a Christian’s belief in God. Certainly, they have to be told about the existence of God to know about the existence, but they do not require repetition to know that he exists – to them, it is a self-evident truth that he exists and watches over us – it is the interpretation of the Lord’s commands that need to be reinforced and repeated, by people such as priests. Likewise, a person looking at the sky can know that it is blue, or clouded over, or the black night sky, without having to be told the fact. They may not know the cause for it, but they know that it is so, thus showing that belief cannot solely be determined by repetition alone.
There are also areas of knowledge which, through no amounts of repetition, could a belief about what is true be formed. Take the arts for instance. Is there really a truth in art? Art has many purposes, which are personal to the artist, as well as the viewer. As long as a response is brought about by the artwork, it is my opinion that the artwork has served its purpose. The artist may have made the artwork to ease stress, or express an emotion, which is also the reason a viewer will view a piece of work.
The formula for determining belief suggested by Lewis Carroll’s quote, "What I tell you three times is true", or more complicated interpretations of it, can be shown to be true in some cases, but not all. Through an examination of examples, including examples of authority, perceptual filtering, and reasoning, the truth of the statement has been proved for some cases. In some cases however, the statement does not hold true, as shown through several examples of self-evident truths and areas which have no truth.
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