How To Think About Truth
Heavens, start with a light one, why don't you, Adler! And it honestly wasn't a long essay at all but it was dense. Dense, as in tons of relevant information packed into a small space. Dense, as in my brain hurts. Let's see if I can untangle some neurons and launch into a coherent explanation.
|Truth Stolen Away by Time Beyond|
the Reach of Envy and Dischord
Truth is associated with the pursuit of knowledge which encompasses all earnest endeavours or investigations. False knowledge does not exist, therefore, what you have in your mind about the object you are trying to know is "knowing the truth".
However, there are problems with the pursuit of truth and Adler summarizes them:
Scepticism - the sceptic either believes that nothing is true or false, or that everything is equally true or false. We are unable to distinguish or know true or false, have knowledge, or possess truth. Freud spoke against sceptics, saying, "If it were really a matter of indifference what we believe, then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gram of morphine into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take teargas as a narcotic instead of ether; but the intellectual anarchists themselves (the sceptics) would strongly repudiate any such practical applications of their theory."
Relativism - Relativists believe that what can be true for one person, can be false for another and vice versa, or what was true in one point in history may not be true in others. The opposite view to relativism is that truth is "absolute and immutable, the same for men everywhere."
Pragmatism - Pragmatists believe truth is only truth if it bears fruit in action --- it is only truth if it works. The opposite view to pragmatism is that practical verification is unnecessary for man to have an awareness of truth.
Adler splits the problem into smaller pieces, now asking not only "what is truth," but "what is true?"
|Philosophy Unveiling Truth|
Louis Jean François Lagrenée
The easier question of the two is: What is Truth?
Within oneself, one knows the difference between the truth and a lie. There is a correspondence between our own words, speech and thoughts. Between two people, using words, we develop a truth of communication or a truth of understanding between each other. However the third case is more problematic: finding truth within reality ....
The Easy Problem of Truth
The generally agreed upon definition of truth in European thought is the "correspondence between the mind and reality." From the ancient to the Medieval to the modern world this definition holds true.
Plato: A false proposition is one which asserts the nonexistence of things which are or the existence of things which are not.
Aristotle: To say of what is that it is or of what is not that it is not, is to speak the truth or to think truly; just as it is false to say of what is that it is not or of what it is not that it is.
Aquinas said that truth in the human mind consists in the mind's conformity to reality (that which is)
John Locke: Though our words signify nothing but our ideas, yet being designed by them to signify things, the truth they contain will be only verbal when they stand for ideas in the mind that do not agree with the reality of things.
William James was a pragmastist who maintained that the successful working of an idea signaled truth, meaning the truth of our ideas have an agreement with reality.
However, this definition is only the starting point and many problems remain. It is more difficult to tell how something is true or false.
As mentioned above, it is relatively easy for the mind to directly correspond with its own thoughts or indirectly with the thoughts of others. This brings us to our very difficult case.
The Difficult Problem of Truth
How does one test the correspondence with my own mind with that of reality?
We express our thoughts in statements or propositions; reality is the facts about which we're trying to make the propositions. The problem? It is impossible for us to grasp the facts except within our own propositions, therefore we have no direct way of discerning whether the propositions correspond to the way things are. Likewise, we have no indirect way of discerning either, because we cannot ask reality questions and reality cannot answer back. We cannot have correspondence between what we know and what we are trying to know.
|The Endearing Truth (1966)|
Consistency Is Needed For Truth
Some say a test of truth is noncontradiction. For example, the propositions a is b and a is not b cannot both be true; one must be true and one must be false. Consistency, coherence or absence of contradiction is a sign of truth for if reality were full of contradictions, then the presence of contradictions in the mind would not be a sign of falsity. Descartes propounded the idea that when our ideas are clear and distinct and contain no contradictions, then we know truth. Likewise, Spinoza said, "What can be more clearer or certain than a true idea as the standard of truth? Just as light reveals both itself and the darkness, so truth is the standard of itself and of the thoughts."
Yet Adler does not think this explanation sufficient, for, of the two propositions, how are we to know which is true? We can only discover truth if we have some measurement or standard with which to measure these propositions. Aristotle said, "The human mind uses two kinds of principles. There are the unquestionable truths of the understanding which are axioms or self-evident truths and there are truths of perception, truths which we know, which we possess, when we perceive matters of fact, such as, 'Here is a piece of paper in my hand,' or 'Here is a book, I see a book, I observe a book.'" If we can test the truth of our propositions against these self-evident truths, we begin to solve the problem.
The Immutability of Truth
Many people can change their minds, but this has nothing to do with a change in truth or what is true. If the earth is round, it is round no matter how many people claimed that it was flat. It's fair to say that true is immutable, but human beings do not possess truth immutably.
|Truth presenting a Mirror to the Vanities of the World|
Northern European School
Oh heavens, I can already tell that this project is going to take much more effort than I expected. It's truly an introduction to philosophy. I just have to keep telling myself that it will be worth it .......