What is Truth?

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Truth is not, to this view, a fully objective matter, independent of us or our thoughts. Instead, truth is constrained by our abilities to verify, and is thus constrained by our epistemic situation. Truth is to a significant degree an epistemic matter, which is typical of many anti-realist positions. As Dummett says, the verificationist notion of truth does not appear to support bivalence. Any statement that reaches beyond what we can in principle verify or refute verify its negation will be a counter-example to bivalence.

Take, for instance, the claim that there is some substance, say uranium, present in some region of the universe too distant to be inspected by us within the expected lifespan of the universe. Insofar as this really would be in principle unverifiable, we have no reason to maintain it is true or false according to the verificationist theory of truth. Verificationism of this sort is one of a family of anti-realist views.

Another example is the view that identifies truth with warranted assertibility. See also works of McDowell, e. Anti-realism of the Dummettian sort is not a descendant of the coherence theory of truth per se. But in some ways, as Dummett himself has noted, it might be construed as a descendant — perhaps very distant — of idealism.

If idealism is the most drastic form of rejection of the independence of mind and world, Dummettian anti-realism is a more modest form, which sees epistemology imprinted in the world, rather than the wholesale embedding of world into mind. At the same time, the idea of truth as warranted assertibility or verifiability reiterates a theme from the pragmatist views of truth we surveyed in section 1. Anti-realist theories of truth, like the realist ones we discussed in section 4. Convention T, in particular, does not discriminate between realist and anti-realist notions of truth.

Likewise, the base clauses of a Tarskian recursive theory are given as disquotation principles, which are neutral between realist and anti-realist understandings of notions like reference. As we saw with the correspondence theory, giving a full account of the nature of truth will generally require more than the Tarskian apparatus itself. How an anti-realist is to explain the basic concepts that go into a Tarskian theory is a delicate matter. As Dummett and Wright have investigated in great detail, it appears that the background logic in which the theory is developed will have to be non-classical.

For more on anti-realism and truth, see Shieh and the papers in Greenough and Lynch and the entry on realism. Dummett himself stressed parallels between anti-realism and intuitionism in the philosophy of mathematics. There Putnam glosses truth as what would be justified under ideal epistemic conditions. With the pragmatists, Putnam sees the ideal conditions as something which can be approximated, echoing the idea of truth as the end of inquiry. Davidson has distanced himself from this interpretation e.

Insofar as these are human attitudes or relate to human actions, Davidson grants there is some affinity between his views and those of some pragmatists especially, he says, Dewey. Another view that has grown out of the literature on realism and anti-realism, and has become increasingly important in the current literature, is that of pluralism about truth. This view, developed in work of Lynch e.

Wright, in particular, suggests that in certain domains of discourse what we say is true in virtue of a correspondence-like relation, while in others it is its true in virtue of a kind of assertibility relation that is closer in spirit to the anti-realist views we have just discussed. However, whether or not a pluralist view is committed to such claims has been disputed. In particular, Lynch b; develops a version of pluralism which takes truth to be a functional role concept.

The functional role of truth is characterized by a range of principles that articulate such features of truth as its objectivity, its role in inquiry, and related ideas we have encountered in considering various theories of truth. A related point about platitudes governing the concept of truth is made by Wright But according to Lynch, these display the functional role of truth.

Like all functional role concepts, truth must be realized, and according to Lynch it may be realized in different ways in different settings. Such multiple realizability has been one of the hallmarks of functional role concepts discussed in the philosophy of mind.

For instance, Lynch suggests that for ordinary claims about material objects, truth might be realized by a correspondence property which he links to representational views , while for moral claims truth might be manifest by an assertibility property along more anti-realist lines. For more on pluralism about truth, see Pedersen and Lynch and the entry on pluralist theories of truth.

We began in section 1 with the neo-classical theories, which explained the nature of truth within wider metaphysical systems. We then considered some alternatives in sections 2 and 3, some of which had more modest ontological implications. But we still saw in section 4 that substantial theories of truth tend to imply metaphysical theses, or even embody metaphysical positions.

One long-standing trend in the discussion of truth is to insist that truth really does not carry metaphysical significance at all. It does not, as it has no significance on its own. A number of different ideas have been advanced along these lines, under the general heading of deflationism. Deflationist ideas appear quite early on, including a well-known argument against correspondence in Frege — However, many deflationists take their cue from an idea of Ramsey , often called the equivalence thesis :.

Ramsey himself takes truth-bearers to be propositions rather than sentences. This can be taken as the core of a theory of truth, often called the redundancy theory. For instance, they may be acts of confirming or granting what someone else said. Strawson would also object to my making sentences the bearers of truth. In either its speech act or meaning form, the redundancy theory argues there is no property of truth. It is commonly noted that the equivalence thesis itself is not enough to sustain the redundancy theory.

It merely holds that when truth occurs in the outermost position in a sentence, and the full sentence to which truth is predicated is quoted, then truth is eliminable. What happens in other environments is left to be seen. Modern developments of the redundancy theory include Grover et al. The equivalence principle looks familiar: it has something like the form of the Tarski biconditionals discussed in section 2. However, it is a stronger principle, which identifies the two sides of the biconditional — either their meanings or the speech acts performed with them. The Tarski biconditionals themselves are simply material biconditionals.

A number of deflationary theories look to the Tarski biconditionals rather than the full equivalence principle. Their key idea is that even if we do not insist on redundancy, we may still hold the following theses:. We will refer to views which adopt these as minimalist. Officially, this is the name of the view of Horwich , but we will apply it somewhat more widely.

It comes near to saying that truth is not a property at all; to the extent that truth is a property, there is no more to it than the disquotational pattern of the Tarski biconditionals. As Horwich puts it, there is no substantial underlying metaphysics to truth. And as Soames stresses, certainly nothing that could ground as far-reaching a view as realism or anti-realism.

Deflationists typically note that the truth predicate provides us with a convenient device of disquotation. For more on blind ascriptions and their relation to deflationism, see Azzouni, Suggestions like this are found in Leeds, and Quine, Recognizing these uses for a truth predicate, we might simply think of it as introduced into a language by stipulation.

The Tarski biconditionals themselves might be stipulated, as the minimalists envisage.

Nietzsche and Dr. Jordan Peterson - What is Truth?

One could also construe the clauses of a recursive Tarskian theory as stipulated. There are some significant logical differences between these two options. See Halbach and Ketland for discussion. Other deflationists, such as Beall or Field , might prefer to focus here on rules of inference or rules of use, rather than the Tarski biconditionals themselves.

There are also important connections between deflationist ideas about truth and certain ideas about meaning. These are fundamental to the deflationism of Field ; , which will be discussed in section 6. For an insightful critique of deflationism, see Gupta For more on deflationism, see Azzouni and the entry on the deflationary theory of truth. One of the important themes in the literature on truth is its connection to meaning, or more generally, to language. This has proved an important application of ideas about truth, and an important issue in the study of truth itself.

This section will consider a number of issues relating truth and language. There have been many debates in the literature over what the primary bearers of truth are. Candidates typically include beliefs, propositions, sentences, and utterances. We have already seen in section 1 that the classical debates on truth took this issue very seriously, and what sort of theory of truth was viable was often seen to depend on what the bearers of truth are.

In spite of the number of options under discussion, and the significance that has sometimes been placed on the choice, there is an important similarity between candidate truth-bearers. Consider the role of truth-bearers in the correspondence theory, for instance. We have seen versions of it which take beliefs, propositions, or interpreted sentences to be the primary bearers of truth.

But all of them rely upon the idea that their truth-bearers are meaningful , and are thereby able to say something about what the world is like. No assumptions about just what stands in relations to what objects are required to see truth-bearers as meaningful. It is in virtue of being meaningful that truth-bearers are able to enter into correspondence relations. Truth-bearers are things which meaningfully make claims about what the world is like, and are true or false depending on whether the facts in the world are as described.

Exactly the same point can be made for the anti-realist theories of truth we saw in section 4. Though it is somewhat more delicate, something similar can be said for coherence theories, which usually take beliefs, or whole systems of beliefs, as the primary truth-bearers. Though a coherence theory will hardly talk of beliefs representing the facts, it is crucial to the coherence theory that beliefs are contentful beliefs of agents, and that they can enter into coherence relations.

Noting the complications in interpreting the genuine classical coherence theories, it appears fair to note that this requires truth-bearers to be meaningful, however the background metaphysics presumably idealism understands meaning. Though Tarski works with sentences, the same can be said of his theory. They characterize the world as being some way or another, and this in turn determines whether they are true or false. But note that just what this fact of the matter consists in is left open by the Tarskian apparatus. We thus find the usual candidate truth-bearers linked in a tight circle: interpreted sentences, the propositions they express, the belief speakers might hold towards them, and the acts of assertion they might perform with them are all connected by providing something meaningful.

This makes them reasonable bearers of truth. For this reason, it seems, contemporary debates on truth have been much less concerned with the issue of truth-bearers than were the classical ones. Some issues remain, of course. Different metaphysical assumptions may place primary weight on some particular node in the circle, and some metaphysical views still challenge the existence of some of the nodes.


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Perhaps more importantly, different views on the nature of meaning itself might cast doubt on the coherence of some of the nodes. Notoriously for instance, Quineans e. Even so, it increasingly appears doubtful that attention to truth per se will bias us towards one particular primary bearer of truth. There is a related, but somewhat different point, which is important to understanding the theories we have canvassed. The neo-classical theories of truth start with truth-bearers which are already understood to be meaningful, and explain how they get their truth values.

But along the way, they often do something more. Take the neo-classical correspondence theory, for instance. This theory, in effect, starts with a view of how propositions are meaningful. They are so in virtue of having constituents in the world, which are brought together in the right way. There are many complications about the nature of meaning, but at a minimum, this tells us what the truth conditions associated with a proposition are.

The theory then explains how such truth conditions can lead to the truth value true , by the right fact existing. Many theories of truth are like the neo-classical correspondence theory in being as much theories of how truth-bearers are meaningful as of how their truth values are fixed. Again, abstracting from some complications about meaning, this makes them theories both of truth conditions and truth values. The Tarskian theory of truth can be construed this way too. This can be seen both in the way the Tarski biconditionals are understood, and how a recursive theory of truth is understood.

As we explained Convention T in section 2.

“What Is Truth?”

Likewise, the base clauses of the recursive definition of truth, those for reference and satisfaction, are taken to state the relevant semantic properties of constituents of an interpreted sentence. But they also show us the truth conditions of a sentence are determined by these semantic properties. As we saw in sections 3 and 4, the Tarskian apparatus is often seen as needing some kind of supplementation to provide a full theory of truth.

A full theory of truth conditions will likewise rest on how the Tarskian apparatus is put to use. The realist option will simply look for the conditions under which the stuff snow bears the property of whiteness; the anti-realist option will look to the conditions under which it can be verified, or asserted with warrant, that snow is white.

There is a broad family of theories of truth which are theories of truth conditions as well as truth values. This family includes the correspondence theory in all its forms — classical and modern. Yet this family is much wider than the correspondence theory, and wider than realist theories of truth more generally. In a slogan, for many approaches to truth, a theory of truth is a theory of truth conditions. Any theory that provides a substantial account of truth conditions can offer a simple account of truth values: a truth-bearer provides truth conditions, and it is true if and only if the actual way things are is among them.

Because of this, any such theory will imply a strong, but very particular, biconditional, close in form to the Tarski biconditionals. It can be made most vivid if we think of propositions as sets of truth conditions. Then we can almost trivially see:. This is presumably necessary. But it is important to observe that it is in one respect crucially different from the genuine Tarski biconditionals. It makes no use of a non-quoted sentence, or in fact any sentence at all. It does not have the disquotational character of the Tarski biconditionals.

Though this may look like a principle that deflationists should applaud, it is not. Rather, it shows that deflationists cannot really hold a truth-conditional view of content at all. If they do, then they inter alia have a non-deflationary theory of truth, simply by linking truth value to truth conditions through the above biconditional. It is typical of thoroughgoing deflationist theories to present a non-truth-conditional theory of the contents of sentences: a non-truth-conditional account of what makes truth-bearers meaningful.

We take it this is what is offered, for instance, by the use theory of propositions in Horwich It is certainly one of the leading ideas of Field ; , which explore how a conceptual role account of content would ground a deflationist view of truth. Once one has a non-truth-conditional account of content, it is then possible to add a deflationist truth predicate, and use this to give purely deflationist statements of truth conditions.

But the starting point must be a non-truth-conditional view of what makes truth-bearers meaningful. Both deflationists and anti-realists start with something other than correspondence truth conditions. But whereas an anti-realist will propose a different theory of truth conditions, a deflationists will start with an account of content which is not a theory of truth conditions at all. The deflationist will then propose that the truth predicate, given by the Tarski biconditionals, is an additional device, not for understanding content, but for disquotation.

It is a useful device, as we discussed in section 5. To a deflationist, the meaningfulness of truth-bearers has nothing to do with truth. It has been an influential idea, since the seminal work of Davidson e. At least, as we have seen, a Tarskian theory can be seen as showing how the truth conditions of a sentence are determined by the semantic properties of its parts. More generally, as we see in much of the work of Davidson and of Dummett e. Thus, any theory of truth that falls into the broad category of those which are theories of truth conditions can be seen as part of a theory of meaning.

For more discussion of these issues, see Higginbotham ; and the exchange between Higginbotham and Soames A number of commentators on Tarski e. If it is so used, then whether or not a sentence is true becomes, in essence, a truth of mathematics. Presumably what truth conditions sentences of a natural language have is a contingent matter, so a truth predicate defined in this way cannot be used to give a theory of meaning for them.

But the Tarskian apparatus need not be used just to explicitly define truth. The recursive characterization of truth can be used to state the semantic properties of sentences and their constituents, as a theory of meaning should. In such an application, truth is not taken to be explicitly defined, but rather the truth conditions of sentences are taken to be described. See Heck, for more discussion. Inspired by Quine e. Whereas a Field-inspired representational approach is based on a causal account of reference, Davidson e. This led Davidson e. This is a weaker claim than the neo-classical coherence theory would make.


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It does not insist that all the members of any coherent set of beliefs are true, or that truth simply consists in being a member of such a coherent set. But all the same, the conclusion that most of our beliefs are true, because their contents are to be understood through a process of radical interpretation which will make them a coherent and rational system, has a clear affinity with the neo-classical coherence theory. In Davidson , he thought his view of truth had enough affinity with the neo-classical coherence theory to warrant being called a coherence theory of truth, while at the same time he saw the role of Tarskian apparatus as warranting the claim that his view was also compatible with a kind of correspondence theory of truth.

In later work, however, Davidson reconsidered this position. What is important is rather the role of radical interpretation in the theory of content, and its leading to the idea that belief is veridical. These are indeed points connected to coherence, but not to the coherence theory of truth per se. They also comprise a strong form of anti-representationalism. Thus, though he does not advance a coherence theory of truth, he does advance a theory that stands in opposition to the representational variants of the correspondence theory we discussed in section 3.

For more on Davidson, see Glanzberg and the entry on Donald Davidson. The relation between truth and meaning is not the only place where truth and language relate closely. Another is the idea, also much-stressed in the writings of Dummett e. Again, it fits into a platitude:. It is easy to cast this platitude in a way that appears false. Surely, many speakers do not aim to say something true. Any speaker who lies does not. Any speaker whose aim is to flatter, or to deceive, aims at something other than truth. The motivation for the truth-assertion platitude is rather different.

It looks at assertion as a practice, in which certain rules are constitutive. As is often noted, the natural parallel here is with games, like chess or baseball, which are defined by certain rules. The platitude holds that it is constitutive of the practice of making assertions that assertions aim at truth. An assertion by its nature presents what it is saying as true, and any assertion which fails to be true is ipso facto liable to criticism, whether or not the person making the assertion themself wished to have said something true or to have lied.

The idea that we fully explain the concept of truth by way of the Tarski biconditionals is challenged by the claim that the truth-assertion platitude is fundamental to truth. As Dummett there put it, what is left out by the Tarski biconditionals, and captured by the truth-assertion platitude, is the point of the concept of truth, or what the concept is used for.

For further discussion, see Glanzberg, a and Wright, Whether or not assertion has such constitutive rules is, of course, controversial. But among those who accept that it does, the place of truth in the constitutive rules is itself controversial. The leading alternative, defended by Williamson , is that knowledge, not truth, is fundamental to the constitutive rules of assertion. Williamson defends an account of assertion based on the rule that one must assert only what one knows. For more on truth and assertion, see the papers in Brown and Cappelen and the entry on assertion.

Davidson, Donald facts James, William liar paradox Peirce, Charles Sanders realism Tarski, Alfred: truth definitions truth: axiomatic theories of truth: coherence theory of truth: correspondence theory of truth: deflationary theory of truth: identity theory of truth: pluralist theories of. The neo-classical theories of truth 1. Correspondence revisited 3. Realism and anti-realism 4. Deflationism 5. Truth and language 6. The neo-classical theories of truth Much of the contemporary literature on truth takes as its starting point some ideas which were prominent in the early part of the 20th century.

In a slogan: A belief is true if and only if it corresponds to a fact. Joachim says that: Truth in its essential nature is that systematic coherence which is the character of a significant whole p. Blaise Pascal. Pilate then famously replied, "What is truth? Although Jesus made no reply to Pilate, Christians affirm that Pilate was staring truth in the face, for Jesus had earlier said to his disciple Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life" John This historic exchange raises the perennial question of the very nature of truth itself.

What does it mean for a statement to be true? Or, to put it another way: What does it take for a statement to achieve truthfulness? This has been a subject of much debate in postmodernist circles, where the traditional view of truth as objective and knowable is no longer accepted. Many even outside of academic discussions may be as cynical about truth as Pilate.

Postmodernist philosopher Richard Rorty claimed that truth is what his colleagues let him get away with.

Jesus is the truth

Before attempting to determine which claims are true, we need to understand the nature of truth itself. I will briefly argue for the correspondence view of truth and then pit it against two of its main rivals, relativism and pragmatism. The correspondence view of truth, held by the vast majority of philosophers and theologians throughout history, holds that any declarative statement is true if and only if it corresponds to or agrees with factual reality, with the way things are.

The statement, "The desk in my study is brown" , is true only if there is, in fact, a brown desk in my study. If indeed there is a brown desk in my study, then the statement, "there is no brown desk in my study" , is false because it fails to correspond to any objective state of affairs. The titanic statement, "Jesus is Lord of the universe" , is either true or false. It is not both true and false; it is not neither true nor false.

This statement either honors reality or it does not; it mirrors the facts or it does not. The Christian claims that this statement is true apart from anyone's opinion see Romans In other words, it has a mind-independent reality. Minds may recognize this truth, but minds do not create this truth. This is because truth is a quality of some statements and not of others. It is not a matter of subjective feeling, majority vote or cultural fashion. The statement, "The world is spherical" , was true even when the vast majority of earthlings took their habitat to be flat.

The correspondence view of truth entails that declarative statements are subject to various kinds of verification and falsification. This concerns the area of epistemology, or the study of how we acquire and defend knowledge claims. The photographs from outer space depicting the earth as a blue orb along with prior evidence falsified flat-earth claims.

Certainly, not all falsification is as straightforward as this; but if statements are true or false by virtue of their relationship to what they attempt to describe, this makes possible the marshaling of evidence for their veracity or falsity. Therefore, Christians — who historically have affirmed the correspondence view of truth — hold that there are good historical reasons to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in space-time history, thus vindicating His divine authority see Romans ; 1 Corinthians For example, does the sentence "There will be a sea battle tomorrow" express a proposition?

Presumably, today we do not know whether there will be such a battle. Because of this, some philosophers including Aristotle who toyed with the idea have argued that the sentence, at the present moment, does not express anything that is now either true or false.

Another, perhaps more powerful, motivation for adopting this view is the belief that if sentences involving future human actions were to express propositions, i. To defend free will, these philosophers have argued, we must deny truth-values to predictions. This complicating restriction — that sentences about the future do not now express anything true or false — has been attacked by Quine and others. These critics argue that the restriction upsets the logic we use to reason with such predictions.

For example, here is a deductively valid argument involving predictions:. We've learned there will be a run on the bank tomorrow. If there will be a run on the bank tomorrow, then the CEO should be awakened. Without assertions in this argument having truth-values, regardless of whether we know those values, we could not assess the argument using the canons of deductive validity and invalidity.

We would have to say — contrary to deeply-rooted philosophical intuitions — that it is not really an argument at all. For another sort of rebuttal to the claim that propositions about the future cannot be true prior to the occurrence of the events described, see Logical Determinism. A liar sentence can be used to generate a paradox when we consider what truth-value to assign it.

As a way out of paradox, Kripke suggests that a liar sentence is one of those rare declarative sentences that does not express a proposition. The sentence falls into the truth-value gap. See the article Liar Paradox. Do sentences such as "Torturing children is wrong" — which assert moral principles — assert something true or false , or do they merely express in a disguised fashion the speaker's opinions, or feelings or values? Making the latter choice, some philosophers argue that these declarative sentences do not express propositions.

We return to the principal question, "What is truth? It is the goal of scientific inquiry, historical research, and business audits. We understand much of what a sentence means by understanding the conditions under which what it expresses is true. Yet the exact nature of truth itself is not wholly revealed by these remarks. Historically, the most popular theory of truth was the Correspondence Theory. First proposed in a vague form by Plato and by Aristotle in his Metaphysics , this realist theory says truth is what propositions have by corresponding to a way the world is.

The theory says that a proposition is true provided there exists a fact corresponding to it. In other words, for any proposition p,. The theory's answer to the question, "What is truth? Perhaps an analysis of the relationship will reveal what all the truths have in common. Consider the proposition that snow is white. Remarking that the proposition's truth is its corresponding to the fact that snow is white leads critics to request an acceptable analysis of this notion of correspondence.

Surely the correspondence is not a word by word connecting of a sentence to its reference. It is some sort of exotic relationship between, say, whole propositions and facts. In presenting his theory of logical atomism early in the twentieth century, Russell tried to show how a true proposition and its corresponding fact share the same structure. Inspired by the notion that Egyptian hieroglyphs are stylized pictures, his student Wittgenstein said the relationship is that of a "picturing" of facts by propositions, but his development of this suggestive remark in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus did not satisfy many other philosophers, nor after awhile, even Wittgenstein himself.

And what are facts? The notion of a fact as some sort of ontological entity was first stated explicitly in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Correspondence Theory does permit facts to be mind-dependent entities. McTaggart, and perhaps Kant, held such Correspondence Theories.

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The Correspondence theories of Russell , Wittgenstein and Austin all consider facts to be mind-independent. But regardless of their mind-dependence or mind-independence, the theory must provide answers to questions of the following sort. A true proposition can't be a fact if it also states a fact, so what is the ontological standing of a fact? Is the fact that corresponds to "Brutus stabbed Caesar" the same fact that corresponds to "Caesar was stabbed by Brutus", or is it a different fact?

It might be argued that they must be different facts because one expresses the relationship of stabbing but the other expresses the relationship of being stabbed, which is different. In addition to the specific fact that ball 1 is on the pool table and the specific fact that ball 2 is on the pool table, and so forth, is there the specific fact that there are fewer than 1,, balls on the table?

Is there the general fact that many balls are on the table? Does the existence of general facts require there to be the Forms of Plato or Aristotle? What about the negative proposition that there are no pink elephants on the table? Does it correspond to the same situation in the world that makes there be no green elephants on the table? The same pool table must involve a great many different facts. These questions illustrate the difficulty in counting facts and distinguishing them. The difficulty is well recognized by advocates of the Correspondence Theory, but critics complain that characterizations of facts too often circle back ultimately to saying facts are whatever true propositions must correspond to in order to be true.

Davidson has criticized the notion of fact, arguing that "if true statements correspond to anything, they all correspond to the same thing" in "True to the Facts", Davidson []. Davidson also has argued that facts really are the true statements themselves; facts are not named by them, as the Correspondence Theory mistakenly supposes. Defenders of the Correspondence Theory have responded to these criticisms in a variety of ways.

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Sense can be made of the term "correspondence", some say, because speaking of propositions corresponding to facts is merely making the general claim that summarizes the remark that. Therefore, the Correspondence theory must contain a theory of "means that" but otherwise is not at fault. Other defenders of the Correspondence Theory attack Davidson's identification of facts with true propositions. Snow is a constituent of the fact that snow is white, but snow is not a constituent of a linguistic entity, so facts and true statements are different kinds of entities.

Recent work in possible world semantics has identified facts with sets of possible worlds. The fact that the cat is on the mat contains the possible world in which the cat is on the mat and Adolf Hitler converted to Judaism while Chancellor of Germany. The motive for this identification is that, if sets of possible worlds are metaphysically legitimate and precisely describable, then so are facts. To more rigorously describe what is involved in understanding truth and defining it, Alfred Tarski created his Semantic Theory of Truth. In Tarski's theory, however, talk of correspondence and of facts is eliminated.

Although in early versions of his theory, Tarski did use the term "correspondence" in trying to explain his theory, he later regretted having done so, and dropped the term altogether since it plays no role within his theory. The Semantic Theory is the successor to the Correspondence Theory. For an illustration of the theory, consider the German sentence "Schnee ist weiss" which means that snow is white.

The Coherence View of Truth

Tarski asks for the truth-conditions of the proposition expressed by that sentence: "Under what conditions is that proposition true? Line 1 is about truth. Line 3 is not about truth — it asserts a claim about the nature of the world. Thus T makes a substantive claim. Moreover, it avoids the main problems of the earlier Correspondence Theories in that the terms "fact" and "correspondence" play no role whatever.

A theory is a Tarskian truth theory for language L if and only if, for each sentence S of L , if S expresses the proposition that p, then the theory entails a true "T-proposition" of the bi-conditional form:. In the example we have been using, namely, "Schnee ist weiss", it is quite clear that the T-proposition consists of a containing or "outer" sentence in English, and a contained or "inner" or quoted sentence in German:. There are, we see, sentences in two distinct languages involved in this T-proposition.

If, however, we switch the inner, or quoted sentence, to an English sentence, e. In this latter case, it looks as if only one language English , not two, is involved in expressing the T-proposition. But, according to Tarski's theory, there are still two languages involved: i the language one of whose sentences is being quoted and ii the language which attributes truth to the proposition expressed by that quoted sentence.

The quoted sentence is said to be an element of the object language , and the outer or containing sentence which uses the predicate "true" is in the metalanguage. Tarski discovered that in order to avoid contradiction in his semantic theory of truth, he had to restrict the object language to a limited portion of the metalanguage.

Among other restrictions, it is the metalanguage alone that contains the truth-predicates, "true" and "false"; the object language does not contain truth-predicates. This latter claim is certainly true it is a tautology , but it is no significant part of the analysis of the concept of truth — indeed it does not even use the words "true" or "truth", nor does it involve an object language and a metalanguage. Tarski's T-condition does both.

Tarski's complete theory is intended to work for just about all propositions, expressed by non-problematic declarative sentences, not just "Snow is white. Also, Tarski wants his truth theory to reveal the logical structure within propositions that permits valid reasoning to preserve truth. To do all this, the theory must work for more complex propositions by showing how the truth-values of these complex propositions depend on their parts, such as the truth-values of their constituent propositions.

Truth tables show how this is done for the simple language of Propositional Logic e. Tarski's goal is to define truth for even more complex languages. Tarski's theory does not explain analyze when a name denotes an object or when an object falls under a predicate; his theory begins with these as given.

He wants what we today call a model theory for quantified predicate logic. His actual theory is very technical. The idea of using satisfaction treats the truth of a simple proposition such as expressed by "Socrates is mortal" by saying:. If "Socrates" is a name and "is mortal" is a predicate, then "Socrates is mortal" expresses a true proposition if and only if there exists an object x such that "Socrates" refers to x and "is mortal" is satisfied by x.

If "a" is a name and "Q" is a predicate, then "a is Q" expresses a true proposition if and only if there exists an object x such that "a" refers to x and "Q" is satisfied by x. The idea is to define the predicate "is true" when it is applied to the simplest that is, the non-complex or atomic sentences in the object language a language, see above, which does not, itself, contain the truth-predicate "is true".

The predicate "is true" is a predicate that occurs only in the metalanguage, i. At the second stage, his theory shows how the truth predicate, when it has been defined for propositions expressed by sentences of a certain degree of grammatical complexity, can be defined for propositions of the next greater degree of complexity. According to Tarski, his theory applies only to artificial languages — in particular, the classical formal languages of symbolic logic — because our natural languages are vague and unsystematic.

Other philosophers — for example, Donald Davidson — have not been as pessimistic as Tarski about analyzing truth for natural languages. Davidson has made progress in extending Tarski's work to any natural language. Doing so, he says, provides at the same time the central ingredient of a theory of meaning for the language. Davidson develops the original idea Frege stated in his Basic Laws of Arithmetic that the meaning of a declarative sentence is given by certain conditions under which it is true—that meaning is given by truth conditions. As part of the larger program of research begun by Tarski and Davidson, many logicians, linguists, philosophers, and cognitive scientists, often collaboratively, pursue research programs trying to elucidate the truth-conditions that is, the "logics" or semantics for the propositions expressed by such complex sentences as:.

Each of these research areas contains its own intriguing problems. All must overcome the difficulties involved with ambiguity, tenses, and indexical phrases. Many philosophers divide the class of propositions into two mutually exclusive and exhaustive subclasses: namely, propositions that are contingent that is, those that are neither necessarily-true nor necessarily-false and those that are noncontingent that is, those that are necessarily-true or necessarily-false.

On the Semantic Theory of Truth, contingent propositions are those that are true or false because of some specific way the world happens to be. For example all of the following propositions are contingent :. The contrasting class of propositions comprises those whose truth or falsehood, as the case may be is dependent, according to the Semantic Theory, not on some specific way the world happens to be, but on any way the world happens to be.

Imagine the world changed however you like provided, of course, that its description remains logically consistent [i. Even under those conditions, the truth-values of the following noncontingent propositions will remain unchanged:. However, some philosophers who accept the Semantic Theory of Truth for contingent propositions, reject it for noncontingent ones. They have argued that the truth of noncontingent propositions has a different basis from the truth of contingent ones.

The truth of noncontingent propositions comes about, they say — not through their correctly describing the way the world is — but as a matter of the definitions of terms occurring in the sentences expressing those propositions. Noncontingent truths, on this account, are said to be true by definition , or — as it is sometimes said, in a variation of this theme — as a matter of conceptual relationships between the concepts at play within the propositions, or — yet another kindred way — as a matter of the meanings of the sentences expressing the propositions.

It is apparent, in this competing account, that one is invoking a kind of theory of linguistic truth. In this alternative theory, truth for a certain class of propositions, namely the class of noncontingent propositions, is to be accounted for — not in their describing the way the world is, but rather — because of certain features of our human linguistic constructs.

Does the Semantic Theory need to be supplemented in this manner? If one were to adopt the Semantic Theory of Truth, would one also need to adopt a complementary theory of truth, namely, a theory of linguistic truth for noncontingent propositions? Or, can the Semantic Theory of Truth be used to explain the truth-values of all propositions, the contingent and noncontingent alike? If so, how? To see how one can argue that the Semantic Theory of Truth can be used to explicate the truth of noncontingent propositions, consider the following series of propositions, the first four of which are contingent, the fifth of which is noncontingent:.

Each of these propositions, as we move from the second to the fifth, is slightly less specific than its predecessor. Each can be regarded as being true under a greater range of variation or circumstances than its predecessor. When we reach the fifth member of the series we have a proposition that is true under any and all sets of circumstances. Some philosophers — a few in the seventeenth century, a very great many more after the mid-twentieth century — use the idiom of "possible worlds", saying that noncontingent truths are true in all possible worlds [i.

On this view, what distinguishes noncontingent truths from contingent ones is not that their truth arises as a consequence of facts about our language or of meanings, etc. Contingent propositions are true in some, but not all, possible circumstances or possible worlds. Noncontingent propositions, in contrast, are true in all possible circumstances or in none. There is no difference as to the nature of truth for the two classes of propositions, only in the ranges of possibilities in which the propositions are true.

An adherent of the Semantic Theory will allow that there is, to be sure, a powerful insight in the theories of linguistic truth. But, they will counter, these linguistic theories are really shedding no light on the nature of truth itself. Rather, they are calling attention to how we often go about ascertaining the truth of noncontingent propositions. While it is certainly possible to ascertain the truth experientially and inductively of the noncontingent proposition that all aunts are females — for example, one could knock on a great many doors asking if any of the residents were aunts and if so, whether they were female — it would be a needless exercise.

We need not examine the world carefully to figure out the truth-value of the proposition that all aunts are females. We might, for example, simply consult an English dictionary. How we ascertain , find out , determine the truth-values of noncontingent propositions may but need not invariably be by nonexperiential means; but from that it does not follow that the nature of truth of noncontingent propositions is fundamentally different from that of contingent ones.

On this latter view, the Semantic Theory of Truth is adequate for both contingent propositions and noncontingent ones. In neither case is the Semantic Theory of Truth intended to be a theory of how we might go about finding out what the truth-value is of any specified proposition. Indeed, one very important consequence of the Semantic Theory of Truth is that it allows for the existence of propositions whose truth-values are in principle unknowable to human beings. And there is a second motivation for promoting the Semantic Theory of Truth for noncontingent propositions.

How is it that mathematics is able to be used in concert with physical theories to explain the nature of the world? On the Semantic Theory, the answer is that the noncontingent truths of mathematics correctly describe the world as they would any and every possible world. The Linguistic Theory, which makes the truth of the noncontingent truths of mathematics arise out of features of language, is usually thought to have great, if not insurmountable, difficulties in grappling with this question. The Correspondence Theory and the Semantic Theory account for the truth of a proposition as arising out of a relationship between that proposition and features or events in the world.

Coherence Theories of which there are a number , in contrast, account for the truth of a proposition as arising out of a relationship between that proposition and other propositions. Coherence Theories are valuable because they help to reveal how we arrive at our truth claims, our knowledge. We continually work at fitting our beliefs together into a coherent system.

For example, when a drunk driver says, "There are pink elephants dancing on the highway in front of us", we assess whether his assertion is true by considering what other beliefs we have already accepted as true, namely,. In short, the drunk's claim fails to cohere with a great many other claims that we believe and have good reason not to abandon.

We, then, reject the drunk's claim as being false and take away the car keys. For example, one Coherence Theory fills this blank with "the beliefs of the majority of persons in one's society". Another fills the blank with "one's own beliefs", and yet another fills it with "the beliefs of the intellectuals in one's society". The major coherence theories view coherence as requiring at least logical consistency.

Rationalist metaphysicians would claim that a proposition is true if and only if it "is consistent with all other true propositions". Some rationalist metaphysicians go a step beyond logical consistency and claim that a proposition is true if and only if it "entails or logically implies all other true propositions". Coherence Theories have their critics too. The proposition that bismuth has a higher melting point than tin may cohere with my beliefs but not with your beliefs. This, then, leads to the proposition being both "true for me" but "false for you". But if "true for me" means "true" and "false for you" means "false" as the Coherence Theory implies, then we have a violation of the law of non-contradiction, which plays havoc with logic.

Most philosophers prefer to preserve the law of non-contradiction over any theory of truth that requires rejecting it. Consequently, if someone is making a sensible remark by saying, "That is true for me but not for you," then the person must mean simply, "I believe it, but you do not. A second difficulty with Coherence Theories is that the beliefs of any one person or of any group are invariably self-contradictory.