Truth is a function of language. If there were no language (the giving of meaning) there would be no truth or falsity.)
Truth and falsity are not floating around in the universe that presumably exists outside our minds.
THEORIES OF TRUTH
If we utter the statement, "The book is on the table," and the book is on the table, the
STATEMENT is said to be true by correspondence; i.e., the fact is presumed to have been described by the statement.
Note that it is not the fact of the book being on the table or whatever you may be talking about that is true or false.
It is what you are saying, the sentence, the language, the meaning, that is true or false.
The sentence can repeatedly and alternately be made to be true or false merely by repeatedly lifting the book and returning it to the table.
If no true statements exist, then no truth exists.
Truth, then, is the relationship of a linguistic description of some segment of
reality -- whatever meaning may be given to that term.
If this were the only language existing in the universe and it were to cease to exist, so would truth and falsity cease to exist.
Generally, when we say some statement is true, we
do so with this concept of correspondence in mind believing that our claims can be tested and shown, in some sense, to mirror or resemble facts in the assumed physical world.
WEAKNESSES of the Correspondence Theory of Truth.
No correspondence can be shown between language and
"reality" for the following:
Different perceptions of the same object,
Different meanings of the same word,
"Descriptions" (hypostatizations) of mythical, supernatural, transcendent entities,
Ideas about things,
Ideas about ideas,
The COHERENCE Theory of Truth reflects the relationship of statements to other statements.
This relationship requires absolute consistency, i.e., no contradictions.
In the strictest sense it is a system of logic.
Such statements may pose what we believe we know about the world of facts and things and their relationships or they may be statements only about ideas without evidential support.
In the coherence theory of truth, statements, to be
consistent with each other, need not be about things that exist.
(If) all cats are pianos, (and if) all pianos are dogs, (then) all cats are dogs.
Though the conclusion is not true by correspondence, it is, nevertheless, CONSISTENT with the premises.
Note that statements about ideas, hypotheses, mathematical and geometric concepts, mythical personalities, and the
like are not about physical things.
The bottom line is that it is not our knowledge of things in the world that matter in this theory.
It is, rather, about whether or not the language we use in speaking about that knowledge is consistent, inconsistent, or contradictory.
If everything in the universe were to cease to exist except the consistent language we had accumulated, the consistency would still "exist."
As was indicated before, there is no need for a universe to exist for "1+1+1+1=4" to be true.
This is analogous to the coherence theory.
In "1+1+1+1=4," "4" is the meaning of "1+1+1+1."
In the coherency theory, the conclusion is already stated (hidden) in the premises:
If 1+1=2, and if 2+2=4, then 1+1+1+1=4
If the conclusion states something else, then consistency has been abandoned.
Ultimately, the coherence theory has to rely on correspondence, observation, to verify the
"truth" of its conclusions.
If the consistent statements, the premises, about the world are true by correspondence then we conclude that the consistently derived conclusion, is also true by correspondence, but only accidentally because there happens to be a physical world.
However, they are "true" by coherence whether a physical world exists or not.
If we observe that a bird is a bird (a strict tautology) and not something else, a cow for instance,
then we draw the conclusion that if it were something else, a cow, it would not be a bird.
From that we further conclude that it cannot be something else.
If those observations were not available to us, we would be unable to draw the latter conclusion.
In each instance we believe that we know that the conclusion is true.
the non-physical "laws" of identity (equality) and
contradiction are CONCEIVED and accepted as true laws.
There is no evidence in fact that equality exists in the universe except as an idea.
But what about the concept of contradiction?
These are "laws" fundamental to the coherence theory of truth, born out of observation (experience) and deduction, not out of the nature of the universe.
The nature of the universe is the existence of "things" in dynamic process constantly interacting with "each other."
To speak of processes "not being able to be something else," i.e., another process, is metaphor.
Even as Heraclitus observed, nothing remains the same from one nanosecond to another; i.e., a "thing" is a process of becoming "something else" and a process is a complex of processes--except in the (mathematical) "ultimate" particle.
The very ideas of "thing" and "something else" are constructs, and not, with all due respect to Bertrand Russell, aspects of the nature of the universe.
We may know what WE mean when we use such language.
But it is another thing to insist that WHAT WE MEAN, by the language we use, and WHAT IS are the same thing.
We no more KNOW that a thing cannot be something else than we KNOW that it exists.
But we seem compelled by our interpretation of our experiences of the world, not by the nature of things, to deduce that conclusion and we find it to be convenient and helpful to include it in our body of "knowledge" and in our social relations.
Such a deduction should not be equated with sheer logical, mathematical, and geometric deductions which are
"true" or "false" regardless of whether physical things exist.
For example, "A thing cannot be something else" (a SYNTHETIC statement), is learned to be true by "experiencing" the physical world.
This is shown by interchanging the subject and the predicate: "Something else cannot be a thing" (a synthetic statement also).
The truth value has been changed, i.e. falsified.
It is a (false) synthetic statement purporting to describe the world.
In an ANALYTIC statement: "a sphere is a locus of points equally distant from a given point (in a three dimensional geometry) " vs "a locus of points equally distant from a given point is a sphere."
The truth-value remains unchanged for the mathematician.
Strictly speaking, however, a locus of points, assuming points are physically real, may be only a segmented curved surface every point of which is equally distant from a given point.
A "thing" presumably exists in the space-time continuum.
Spheres (geometric CONCEPTS) do not.
In a world of process, i.e., time, motion, acceleration, and gravitational pulls, it is not likely that spheres or any other solids exist as geometrically described.
WEAKNESSES in the Coherence Theory of Truth:
Some have already been described above,
wiz., it is limited to a discussion of ideas, concepts, beliefs, opinions, hypotheses, and the like.
It is ultimately, in some sense, circular.
Ultimately, it must rely on the correspondence theory to verify its conclusions.
It cannot be applied to isolated statements such as, "The sun is shining," "That painting is beautiful," and the like.
William James' pragmatic theory of truth is a value theory of truth founded on his metaphysical philosophy of consciousness.
Experience, (radical empiricism), not a physical world, is the basis for our webs of belief which derive for us our greatest sense of satisfaction.
When a proposition fits well into our webs of beliefs, i.e., is good for us to believe, working to enhance our sense of satisfaction, then it is true.
If it creates a sense of dissatisfaction, then it is false.
In its simplest form, it comes down to:
"If it works for me, it's true; i.e., It's true for ME.
If it isn't, it's false."
WEAKNESSES of the workable theory of truth.
There seems to be little need to appeal to the physical world for verification.
Individual experience resulting in a sense of satisfaction is insufficient as a criterion for acquiring knowledge.
Satisfaction can be achieved in the strangest of ways.
No distinction accounts for the difference between, "It's true because it works," and, "It works because it's true."
If "It is true for me," then, it would appear that the term,
'true,' has lost all useful meaning.
It becomes all things to each and every one of us.
The USEFUL Theory of Truth is attributed to F. C. Schiller, also a radical empiricist.
Schiller shared much of James' metaphysical views but was opposed to the individualistic characteristic of James' concept of truth.
As with James, this, too, is a value
theory, but not quite the same as with James.
For Schiller, when a proposition is good, useful, or of value to an individual, this would constitute only the beginning of becoming true.
According to Schiller we do not have
Individual knowledge is not about things or matters one knows about.
Rather, we go through life creating our own
"realities," accumulating experiences that fit usefully into the whole body of our beliefs.
Moreover, Schiller speaks of propositions and claims, beliefs that are useful,
as true, or useless as false.
In social intercourse, however, our linguistic expressions of our experiences affect and change each other's experiences, beliefs, etc.
The result being a social experience, a social usefulness, a social acceptance, i.e., truth.
However, when they cease to be useful to society, they are false.
Only when society accepts our claims as useful do they attain being true.
WEAKNESSES in the Useful Theory of Truth.
Schiller's use of the term,
'useful,' is vague and confusing.
He fails to distinguish between all the propositions, theories, etc., that are useful but which are more or less useful than others.
Many claims continue to be useful to somebody and not useful to others.
Facts, particularly physical facts, impose themselves upon our experiences.
Hydrogen and oxygen combine under the right conditions and will always give you water whether we understand and experience the event or not.
Moreover it can be, and has been, shown that an individual can be right when 50 million others may be wrong.
Do "social acceptance" and "accepted by society" mean a majority vote?
Acceptance can be decided by a
Truth cannot be determined by a pyramid of accepted beliefs, individual or social.
One must consider the conditions, i.e., the evidence, that caused the acceptance.
The Success-In-Inquiry Theory of Truth espoused by John Dewey reinterprets the four terms,
'correspondence,' coherence,' 'workable,' and 'useful,' above and combines them into one theory which is
fundamentally the SCIENTIFIC METHOD.
First it is essential that we recognize that there must be a relationship between mind and reality.
We must accept that there is a world that continues to exist when each of us ceases to.
This is clearly indicated by a study of man's
history both linguistic and active.
(as a complex of functions of the brain) through experience deduces the
existence of an external world.
How else could there be a "content," i.e., ideas, perceptions, and conceptions, in
Truth and falsity are determined by our
uses of language and its relation to that content that presumably
represents 'reality,' however complex that term may be.
Reality is the ever-ongoing process, that existed before
the advent of life and intelligence, and will continue in the event of their
Hence if a statement is about reality then it must in some way correspond with it (if true), or not (if false).
For Dewey, ideas (right or wrong) derive from a world of facts.
Ideas are tools of inquiry, instruments we use with which to solve problems.
Analogously, they are like words, symbols, lines on paper to see if they make sense, i.e., solve problems, a map to see if it will lead to a desired destination.
If we act upon those ideas and experiment with arranging them in different ways in order to arrive at a successful solution to a problem, a correspondence exists between the successful course of action taken and the solution; hence, Success-in-Inquiry.
The consistency in the ideas stem from the ideas fitting so well with the existing body of verified claims to knowledge.
The truth does not lie in society's acceptance.
Rather, society, in the face of the evidence, has no choice but to accept.
Moreover, in experimentation, the ideas, the plan, the action are all
useful and of value.
They work, and give a sense of satisfaction.
probabilistically verified--the bottom line of the Scientific Method.
SEE FILE 21: PERENNIAL QUESTIONS
© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella