qvid veritas est

red_horizontal_abstract

38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

(John 18; King James Version (KJV) Bible)

The notion of truth is extant in a number of different contexts. In the painting, above, we can find a measure of truth, but this truth is aesthetic. Pilate used the term to mock his position, as judge of a trial which he clearly thought was closer to farce than reality. Postmodernist faggots will often assert that no such thing exists as truth. One of the more annoying aspects of working where I do is having to deal with such goons. They’ll often excuse their devotion to orthodoxy, and my lack of enthusiasm for the same, by asserting something like “that’s your truth, but I have my own.” Such statements are meaningless in themselves, and when I hear them, I make a mental note never to take the speaker seriously, in any context, ever again.

I’d like to discuss the notion of truth in a restricted domain, motivated by logicians like Russell and Tarski, who were also fans of the correspondence theory. Bertrand Russell wrote that the logical proposition is the bearer of truth. (1) He also noted that propositions are encoded in sentences. (2) Tarski’s theory of truth (3) is the one most cited today. Like Russell’s theory, it includes a two-language composite structure. The concept of a sentence as truth-bearer is pretty straightforward. By sentence we mean a set of sounds, uttered in sequence, or a set of squiggly lines, which make up a well-formed formula. In either case, the reader or listener is able to intuitively decode the semantic content of the language, which is then metalinguistically used to get at the logical proposition beneath the words. This last part is the tricky part, because all sorts of things can go wrong in the mind of the reader, as he attempts to unconceal the truth-bearing proposition behind the metalanguage. (4)

So what is truth? I’m a fan of the correspondence theory in most contexts; though there are competitors (5) with their own merits. Aristotle was the first correspondence theorist. He wrote:

But on the other hand there cannot be an intermediate between contradictories, but of one subject we must either affirm or deny any one predicate. This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are. To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true; so that he who says of anything that it is, or that it is not, will say either what is true or what is false; but neither what is nor what is not is said to be or not to be.

(6)

The concept of truth is pre-epistemological. This is a fancy way of saying that what we know is based partly upon the truth of the thing we claim to know. You can’t “know” something that is false, because falsehoods evade justification, which is another prerequisite to knowledge. Plato called knowledge “justified true belief,” (7), but the Gettier cases (8) suggest that justification and truth are not enough yet to define knowledge. There is some additional prerequisite, which is very difficult to pin down.

So, what does all this complicated stuff mean for us? Basically it means that, s being a well formed sentence:

s is true iff s

In other words, if I make a statement, I am prepared to back it up with a pointer to some fact, some state-of-affairs, that is verifiable. If I say:

There is a blue car in space no. 4 of the parking lot.

Then any listener who can intuit the semantic import of this well-formed sentence can appropriately check space 4, and verify the existence of the car so mentioned.

The correspondence theory and Tarski’s truth conditions have some notable contextual problems, however. Suppose I write on this blog that:

5 + 3 = 8

Can any of my readers be expected to find the numbers 5, 3 and 8 in some spatiotemporal location? It seems unlikely. Try it out.

There are certain truths that can be uttered without metaphysical correspondence. I can claim this sentence is true (and I do). I can be sure it is true. Perhaps more sure of it than most other things, despite the fact that I can never tell you what the number 5 looks like, or where it’s located.

There are people who make pretty good arguments for the untruth of all mathematical statements. (9) Such epistemologists/metaphysicians generally don’t deny that mathematics is useful, but they find it inconceivable to believe that a sentence full of acausal, abstract objects can bear truth-claims.

    1. Russell, Bertrand. The Philosophy of Logical Atomism. London: Routledge, 2010. 12-13.
    2. Russell, Bertrand. “On Denoting” Mind, 1905, 14 (56): 479–493.
    3. Tarski, Alfred. “The Semantic Conception of Truth.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 1944, 4 (3): 341–376.
    4. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Model Theory” Accessed 2018 FEB 05 (link)
    5. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Coherence Theory” Accessed 2018 FEB 05 (link)
    6. Aristotle. Metaphysics IV. (1011b25)
    7. Plato. Theaetetus. (201c-210b)
    8. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Gettier Problems” Accessed 2018 FEB 05 (link)
    9. Field, Hartry. Realism, Mathematics and Modality. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989.

Author: Boxer

Secret King of all Gamma Males, Member of Frankfurt School, Your Fave Contrarian!

7 thoughts on “qvid veritas est”

  1. “There are people who make pretty good arguments for the untruth of all mathematical statements. (9) Such epistemologists/metaphysicians generally don’t deny that mathematics is useful, but they find it inconceivable to believe that a sentence full of acausal, abstract objects can bear truth-claims.”

    Indeed. Truth cannot come from abstraction, from not just math, but the sciences as well. Math and science produces abstractions, models, and simplifications. They are approximations of truth, often really useful approximations, but ultimately are false because they are not true.

    “There is some additional prerequisite, which is very difficult to pin down.”

    Metaphysically, if the ultimate reality (the ‘true’) is not math or science, what is it? Beings. Creators. Life and purpose.

    Or put another way, the additional prerequisite is found by asking this question: where does truth come from?

    Beings are required for creativity and creation. Without a being, these have no meaning. There is no truth (in art, for example, or anything else) without a being. Beings are essential to truth. The most essential examples of this are (1) God; and (2) the joining of a man and a woman. So, for example, feminism must necessarily be untrue because it denies ultimate reality.

    This is what Christianity tells us from the beginning.

    1. This is what Christianity tells us from the beginning.

      It’s pretty close to what Heidegger said in Being and Time too. Great riposte!

      1. I have no formal training in philosophy and have not read the seminal works you cite. In this you have me at a disadvantage as I’m just bumbling my way along. My background is in the math, science, and logic.

        As a lifelong educated ‘evangelical’ Christian, I’ve always been struck, even as a kid, by how ever-increasing knowledge of science leads to more, not less, evidence for God. Outside of Christianity, these disciplines have always been unsatisfyingly unable to answer the important questions, especially regarding truth. They were (necessarily) incomplete. This led to an interest in (religious) metaphysics.

        Christianity is quite satisfying in this regard. Genesis 1-2 alone tell us that there is a Creator, that the earth had a beginning, that life arose from non-life out of a wrecked state, that humanity is the central focus of creation, consciousness and relationship (God and marriage) are the fundamental truths of reality (along with creation and creativity), that there is a cognitive or spiritual reality beyond the physical, and that the universe is an open system. To the latter point, science has finally caught up with its multiverse theory, but doesn’t appreciate the metaphysical magnitude of this concession.

        I’m not sure how many people have argued that marriage is a core metaphysical truth and that feminism is an untruth. If someone accepts Christianity the conclusion seems inevitable: “It is not good that the man should be alone”

  2. They’ll often excuse their devotion to orthodoxy, and my lack of enthusiasm for the same, by asserting something like “that’s your truth, but I have my own.” Such statements are meaningless in themselves, and when I hear them, I make a mental note never to take the speaker seriously, in any context, ever again.

    You have a relativist on your hands. They don’t stand up for anything.

    Of course our Lord stated He is ‘the Truth’. He even flat out told Pilate that which is why he uttered his infamous ‘what is truth’ statement.

    1. Of course our Lord stated He is ‘the Truth’. He even flat out told Pilate that which is why he uttered his infamous ‘what is truth’ statement.

      I read it as Pilate taking the piss out of having his day wasted, by a bunch of religious fanatics, who were trying to use him to settle a meaningless score with someone they hated.

      The best part of this chapter proceeds directly…

      39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

      40. Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

      Isn’t democracy grand? The system that consistently picks Bar-Abbas the robber, over Jesus.

  3. “Postmodernist faggots will often assert that no such thing exists as truth. One of the more annoying aspects of working where I do is having to deal with such goons. They’ll often excuse their devotion to orthodoxy, and my lack of enthusiasm for the same, by asserting something like “that’s your truth, but I have my own.” ”

    For all they claim there’s no truth, it only seems to surface in the context of religion/morality. Offer them $20 to walk off a cliff and they’ll whine about “choosing” to believe in gravity.

Shout!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.