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The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Message Board › TRUTH... it seems to be a starting point and a stumbling block, so how about

TRUTH... it seems to be a starting point and a stumbling block, so how about this explanation?

Ryan
Ryan9999
Dallas, TX
Post #: 76
What is truth? Is it whatever works? Correspondence to reality? Or how well a belief fits into an overall coherent system of beliefs? Or a norm that humans are trying to reach but that we will almost certainly never reach, more like an ideal? Or some other alternative?
Truth is whatever satisfies our inquiries when we seek the nature of the truth. tongue

I think coherence doesn't work by most common standards. So, if I use a leprechaun theory of gravity and I simply deny contradictory evidence as illusions created by trickster elves, I may have coherence, but I am also very gravely incorrect.

Beyond that, isn't the more relevant issue to figure out what's wrong rather than what's right? There doesn't actually have to be a clear and objective answer to "whatever satisfies our inquiries when we seek the nature of the truth", but if we can get a cluster of similar meanings close enough to suffice for the current inquiry, then that's sufficient. We don't need the right answer to what best fits our notions of truth, we can get by with an answer that's good enough. I'm fine with correspondence theory as a rough sketch, as I think that satisfies the issues like "Does Australia exist?" pretty easily. If it's got problems, then that's fine unless a better model of truth is invoked.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 379
Interesting points. It sounds like you have a pragmatic approach to the truth. Correct me if I'm wrong.

If we ask "What is truth," are we really asking for what suffices for current inquiries? Some people are, but I would guess that most aren't. After all, "what suffices for current inquiries" has often proved to be wrong. It's in light of this broader context in which what suffices is often perfectly compatible with being mistaken that the question is usually asked. 'Current inquiries' is inevitably the medium in which that question is asked, but is it the object? This distinction doesn't mean that humans can ever know what truth is in any objective, absolute sense, or even that there is any objective, absolute answer to the question, only that 'something' more or less loosely regulates truth talk, including judgments of what suffices for current inquiries. That's why all truth theories I know about ultimately depend on some kind of correspondence, even though correspondence has its problems too.
Ryan
Ryan9999
Dallas, TX
Post #: 77
Interesting points. It sounds like you have a pragmatic approach to the truth. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I try to take a pragmatic approach when we can.

If we ask "What is truth," are we really asking for what suffices for current inquiries? Some people are, but I would guess that most aren't. After all, "what suffices for current inquiries" has often proved to be wrong. It's in light of this broader context in which what suffices is often perfectly compatible with being mistaken that the question is usually asked. 'Current inquiries' is inevitably the medium in which that question is asked, but is it the object? This distinction doesn't mean that humans can ever know what truth is in any objective, absolute sense, or even that there is any objective, absolute answer to the question, only that 'something' more or less loosely regulates truth talk, including judgments of what suffices for current inquiries. That's why all truth theories I know about ultimately depend on some kind of correspondence, even though correspondence has its problems too.
Isn't a search for the objective meaning of a word going to be conceptually confused? Words, by their nature, being able to shift meanings radically.

And if the search is for the objective meaning of a concept, then don't we potentially have problems in that we have no background reason to think our brains actually *have* a rigorously developed theory of truth? I mean, the following facts are noteworthy:
1) The intuitions of philosophers can vary significantly, often based upon external factors(gender, background, psychological make-up, etc)
2) The intuitions of a given person can vary with exposure to certain stimuli, so an example is this study on True Temp and philosopher intuitions: http://dingo.sbs.ariz...­ If the order of exposure to thought experiments varies, then the percent of people claiming True Temp has knowledge varies relatively significantly. Without an argument made, we don't have reason to think that the control or any one the experimental states are more correct than the other.
3) We should not expect evolution to give us these cognitive faculties with rigorous pre-set definitions.
a) Evolution is true.
b) If evolution is true, then the innate tendencies of human beings are going to be set by a process that only "cares" about truth indirectly and also "cares" about parsimony.
c) The indirect concern for truth can be handled by creating innate processes that fail to fully or rigorously specify "truth".
d) A parsimonious process is going to pick the least completeness it can get away with while still surviving.
e) From c and d, we can know a parsimonious process with only an indirect concern for truth should be expected to only create an innate process that fails to fully or rigorously specify "truth".
f) From e and b, we should expect that evolution would create an innate process that fails to fully or rigorously specify "truth".
g) from a and f, we should expect not to have an innate process that fully and rigorously specifies "truth".
(Note: I am conflating evolution with naturalism & evolution, but that's because I think that the most sensible interpretation of evolution is naturalistic)

So, given reasons to think we don't have a pre-existing notion of truth that is rigorously defined, the best we can do is satisfy current inquiries, and build up notions of truth that are better at handling the process. There may actually end up being a notion of truth/a linguistic framework that leaves us the most satisfied, and so it may be the most desirable. There may be multiple. It may be that there are rougher notions of truth and more refined ones. However, my feeling on the matter is that correspondence theory is a very good working notion, and that using it provides the clearest concepts and language without getting bogged down in a highly abstract discussion that may not actually get anywhere.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 380
Isn't a search for the objective meaning of a word going to be conceptually confused? Words, by their nature, being able to shift meanings radically.
All words? Including "water" and "gold"? The meanings of these words can change radically, but why would this fact alone prevent those words from having objective meanings? "Objective," the way I understand the word, does not mean "eternal and absolute," nor does it necessarily mean "mind independent." I'm not claiming that the meaning of 'truth' is objective in the same sense that gold and water are, but only that objectivity cannot be ruled out merely because the meaning can
change.

If it can be established that at least some other truth theories, such as pragmatic ones, ultimately depend in important ways, as prior commitments, on some type of correspondence, that would tell us something more than we might have known, wouldn't it?

I think it's possible there are constitutive principles to truth understood normatively and, not descriptively. So no rigid pre-set definitions but principles understood as loosely constituting a norm, which could be objective. So when we ask "What is truth?" are "sufficing for or satisfying current inquiries" and some "rigid, pre-set definition or other" the only plausible answers? Maybe "truth" is more like a functional, relational term than a substantive one, thus escaping the need for substantive answers and maybe there could be more than two possible answers.

1) The intuitions of philosophers can vary significantly, often based upon external factors(gender, background, psychological make-up, etc)

Sure, but that's true for many disciplines, including the sciences, and the more theoretical and speculative the intuition, probably the more variation. It's more a matter of degree than of kind. I don't think this is uniquely a problem for philosophy, especially philosophy considered as a second order discipline.


I understand and appreciate what you write about an evolutionary understanding of cognition, concepts, etc.,. We may be coming at this from such incommensurable places that a discussion won't be that productive. I admit I don't know that much about evolution or evolutionary psychology. I'll have to read up on it. I must admit I'm skeptical of the explanatory range and depth that EP is given, especially in matters like rationality as rationality, consciousness, etc., but I could be wrong. I know that theoretically and methodologically, EP is pretty controversial, which alone doesn't say much other than that caution is advisable, especially for neophytes such as myself.biggrin
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