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A Philosophical Exploration into the Nature of Truth

By: Sean Naquin


For a long time, philosophers have sought after a sure method of obtaining
knowledge. However, all methods so far have had their faults.
In some methods, one can arrive at the correct conclusion, but that conclusion
cannot be considered knowledge. This is because the conclusion could have just as likely
been true even if their reasoning for it being true was in fact not the reason that it was
true. An example of this is the well-known Either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in
Boston case. In this case, Brown could well be in Boston and Jones could be borrowing
his Ford. However, the following scenarios are also possible:
1) Brown is in Boston, and Jones owns a Ford as well, making it both rather than one
or the other and thereby making Smith correct that Bown is in Boston, but he
doesn't know it.
2) Brown is not in Boston, and Jones does not own a Ford. In this case Smith is
wrong if he assumes that either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Boston
because neither is true.
3) Brown is in Boston, and Jones does not own a Ford. In this case, Smith could be
right in assuming that Jones is borrowing Brown's Ford while he's in Boston.
However, Smith could also be wrong in that part of his assumption. Brown could
be in Boston, and Jones could be renting a Ford.
In cases 1 and 2, Smith is wrong about one of the two things he thinks that he
knows. In case 3 and many similar possibilities, Smith does not know that Brown is in
Boston because his reasoning Jones is borrowing Brown's Ford is wrong. To further
complicate the matter, Jones may assure Smith that he owns a Ford, but Jones could be
lying.
Alternately, Smith might be correct, and his reasoning correct. Therefore, Smith
would actually know that Brown is in Boston. However, unknown to Smith, Jones could
buy a Ford while Brown is still in Boston. Brown would still be in Boston, and Smith
would still think he knew that Brown was in Boston, yet Smith would no longer know
that Brown is in Boston because Jones now owns a Ford.

A possible solution to this dilemma of knowing how to obtain knowledge is to


remove the difference between what makes a belief justifiable and true, so they would
become one-in-the-same. In this case, it would be impossible to justify a belief in
something untrue. As such, anything people could justify their belief in would be true.
However, this logic is circular. If something is justifiable because it is true, and true
because it is justifiable, that means that people cannot know it to be true without it being
true. As a result, the justification step becomes meaningless. The only part that would
matter is if it is true or not.
For example, if I believed the that your dog had indeed become a turtle while it
was at your house and out of sight from both of us, I would sound insane. However, by
the logic that justifiable belief is defined by the truth of that belief, you would be forced
to acknowledge that I knew that your dog had become a turtle, if when you got home it
was a now turtle. Since it is clear that I would not have known such an absurd thing to be
true even if it was in that situation, perhaps there is also a problem with beliefs being
justifiable merely by being true.
On the other end of the spectrum, what if beliefs were justifiable regardless of
how they were obtained? If that were the case, Smith could believe that Brown was in
Boston because Brown was having coffee with him in Michigan. That believe would be
justifiable by this definition of justifiable believe, but it would be obviously false to
anyone other than Smith who somehow believes it. Therefore, this definition does not
work either.
In conclusion, defining the relationship between justifiable believe and truth in
such a way that knowledge can be obtained with near absolute certainty is a very difficult
task. While some methods of defining this relationship are far more problematic than
others, there has yet to be anyone has been able to find a solution to this dilemma that
cannot be defeated. Furthermore, since the nature of this dilemma is find a solution that
holds true in all cases, the search for such an answer continues to this day.