Michael Daniel 10/15/2006 Truth (handout) Thesis: There are many theories of truth but none of them has

been accepted by philosophy yet. There are two questions that can be asked of any belief. They are, ‘Is it true?’ and ‘What are the standards or criteria for truth?’ The second question asks for a justification of truth but the first question is a question about the nature of truth. This reading only deals with empirical beliefs, or those that are known to be true or false thru observation. The first of the two principal theories of truth is the correspondence theory. The correspondence theory says that, “A belief is true if and only if it corresponds to its object.” The problem with this theory is that it is not clear what is meant by the phrase ‘corresponds to.’ If I believe that my stapler is on my desk then does that belief have to correspond to the stapler, the desk, or the fact that my stapler is on the desk? Another problem is raised when we ask how does a belief correspond with an event in the past or to a belief in compound propositions. For example: I always put cream in my coffee and I had coffee yesterday, so I put cream in my coffee yesterday. In that statement does the belief that I put cream in my coffee yesterday have to correspond with the cream or the event of my having coffee yesterday? Does we have to prove the foundational belief first that I always put cream in my coffee? These are all different kinds of correspondence. Which one should we use to tell us the truth of the conclusion? Another problem with the theory of correspondence is that it does not define what it means to ‘correspond’ with something. Does it correspond if and only if I can observe it or does it correspond if an expert tells me that it corresponds?

The correspondence theory also assumes an existence of reality that is external to the mind. This external reality is not completely accepted by philosophy. Skepticism is still debated in philosophy. The coherence theory of truth is the second principal theory of truth. It states that, “An empirical belief is true if and only if it coheres with a system of other beliefs, which together form a comprehensive account of reality.” In other words, 2+2 = 4 coheres to our mathematical system of beliefs and so it is true. There are many problems with this theory. For example, if I have a belief then which system of beliefs should I use to test it for coherence? How do I prove that a system of beliefs is true? If I were to do that then wouldn’t I have to prove that everything in my system of beliefs is true before I can say that any one belief is true? That makes this argument circular. Other theories include the pragmatic theory of truth, which is slightly different depending on which pragmatist you are reading. Pierce’s pragmatic theory of truth says that a belief is true if it is a belief that everybody who investigates that belief will agree with it. James and Dewey say that a belief is true if it can be justified to be true according to the type of truth it is. Scientific truths are validated thru experimentation and theological truths are true if they provide the individual with “vital benefits.” Rorty believes that truth is simply a form of praise that we attach to a belief that is so universally accepted that we do not have to justify accepting it. The performative theory of truth is associated with P. F. Strawson. It states that truth is a linguistic device used to emphasize or endorse a claim. Since truth is simply linguistic then there is no need to search for the nature of it.