Aristotle’s (384 – 322 BCE) belief about truth (Crivelli) is described as recognition of reality, while reality is an entity of something. Truth in metaphysics is the property of some propositions, belief, assertions that agrees with the facts or to events (“Truth”). According to James Williams, truth (Williams) is a property of our idea while the property is the reality. Agreement of idea and reality is truth. Summarization of previous interpretations of truth leads to another concept, which is called reality. Unless and until knowledge conceives the reality in the form of belief, humans are unable to identify the reality. Therefore, knowledge and truth creates a bonding system thru reality; knowledge conceives the reality, and truth recognizes that reality. These terminologies are part of philosophy. Philosophy is an academic discipline that analyzes reason and logic in an attempt to understand reality and response to fundamental questions about knowledge (“What is Philosophy”). The subject matter of philosophy is the key features of reality and our relationship to them. Though philosophy spreads to various fields of human activities, but its basic domains (“Truth b”) are metaphysics that studies basic facts, epistemology that defines what knowledge is, ethics that teaches how human should live. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies truth thru the concept of knowledge and belief. Truth, though, is believed to be a branch of epistemology, but has been the primary topic of study in various fields of philosophy for thousand of years (“Truth b”). Huge issues of philosophy relates to truth, either by relying or implying about truth. Quest for truth is the fundamental task of philosophy. It would be difficult to discuss all of these quests in any coherent way in one essay. This essay focuses on three main theories of truths to explain why pragmatic theory is superior to the other two.
Truth is a logical object (substance) delivered by the human mind as a verdict related to issues that human faces each day. The discussion of the above section points out that knowledge conceives the reality and truth recognizes that reality. Knowledge is a means (vehicle) to reach the truth. Knowledge in epistemology is defined as justified true belief. Traditional definition of knowledge is facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. Traditional definition of belief is an agreement that something exists. From mathematical concept, knowledge is an iterative process that takes place in the human mind; the result of the process is called belief. Using digital age concept, we can define knowledge is information that human minds receive. We feed the human mind with information. Information has parameters (“Truth b”), which describe where it came from (source), what is its structure, what are its limits, and what are the applicable conditions. First stage is receiving the information. Second stage is to compare the information with some predefined parameters. The predefined parameters are the justified belief, which incorporates; understanding of the concept of justification, parameters or attributes that make a belief justified, method (internal or external to one’s mind) of justification. Above described complex process takes place in human minds, once it receives information. After the completion of this process, human minds generate a complex database of values of reality in the form of beliefs. This database remains in the human mind. Further information (propositions) given to the human mind compares it with database values of reality and establishes if the object is true or false. Under the concept object, we can define; statements, sentence-tokens, sentence-types, propositions, theories, facts, assertions, opinions, doctrines, etc. The following example demonstrates the above concept. Suppose, human mind receives information; “S knows that p”. Human mind processes this information, compares with the database containing the values of reality and extends a verdict “true” or “false”. Truth is a product (logical) of complex evaluation process that takes place in the human mind. We can explore the solution of the concept of truth from different branches of science, but this article will present the solution thru philosophical inquiries about truth. Philosophical inquiries deal with theories. This essay will examine three prevailing theories that assess the nature and concept of truth. These theories are; coherence theory of truth, correspondence theory of truth, and pragmatic theory of truth. The following section provides a review about theories and explains why pragmatic theory is pragmatic in defining truth.
The correspondence theory finds the answer about what truth is by establishing a structural correlation between what is true and what makes it true. The name of this structural relationship is correspondence. This approach establishes a correspondence between belief, judgment, proposition, sentence to an event, fact, state of affairs. The origin of correspondence theory goes back to Aristotle’s definition of truth, where he mentioned, “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is false while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true” (“The Correspondence Theory of Truth”). Thus, the core concept of this theory is whatever corresponds to reality is truth. Reality is fact, and the truth is not a property of fact. This approach leads us to distinguish between facts and beliefs. Facts cannot be true or false. A belief expressed thru statements, propositions, sentences, etc can be true or false. When we say, sun is a star we state a fact. It is neither true nor false. When we say, August is a summer month we state a belief, true for North hemisphere and false for South hemisphere. Epistemology establishes that Knowledge forms belief and belief analyzes a statement (proposition) and extends the verdict by recognizing reality of the statement. Thus, according to epistemology fact is not a determinative variable for establishing truth. It is belief, which is determinative variable. The contemporary version of correspondence theory summarized by Hume, Mill, Moore and Russell states that a belief is true when there is a corresponding fact. When we offer verdict based on correspondence theory that the statement “The sky is blue”, is true since it correspond to the reality because the sky is blue. From a pragmatic viewpoint, we can say; is it a fact that the sky is blue, or it is our belief. Have we established truth thru correspondence theory in this case? First of all sky does not exist and color is neither subjective nor objective. We examine another statement (“Eubuildes Paradox”); “What I am saying here is false”. According to correspondence theory a statement is true if there is a fact (reality) if it does not, it is false. For the above statement to be true there cannot be any fact, but if there is a fact then the statement is false, which contradicts the concept of correspondence theory.
Belief analyzes a statement (proposition) and recognizes the truth of it. To understand the coherence theory we first need to assume a complex system (set) of beliefs. The belief that analyzes the proposition has to be a subset of the 1st set thus being coherent to the whole set of beliefs. This is the principal concept of a coherent theory (“The Coherence Theory of Truth”). This concept bears the meaning given by Harold H. Joachim (“Coherence Theory of Truth”). He claims that there could be no absolute truth unless the whole system of knowledge could be completed. Joachim defines truth is a property of whole, and individual prepositions are partly true partly false. We can consider an individual “preposition” as the bearer of the truth-value, which will be compared with belief acquired thru knowledge. Once we accept this line of reasoning, we try to find the relationship between propositions and their truth-values. This relationship in one theory is called correspondence, and in the other coherence. Correspondence theory states that the truth conditions of propositions are not propositions, but rater objective facts. Coherence theory states that truth conditions of propositions consist in other propositions. These two theories do not consider the truth-value of a proposition. James Williams (1842 – 1910) states, “My account of truth value is realistic” (William, p. 113). This statement is the basis of his pragmatic theory. Charles Sanders Piers (1839 – 1914) defined truth (“Pragmatism”) as the opinion, which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate. This statement exclusively emphasizes it is proposition, which bears the value of truth, and not objective fact or other propositions. According to James, a statement carries three information (Williams); true, false and irrelevant to reality.
When we say, “things exist”, we are following canonic conception of epistemology for defining truth, but the statement does not include the value of truth yet. This statement is irrelevant to reality. When we say, “ A desk is at the corner of the room”, it becomes a truth if the desk is there, which can be touched. Pragmatic definition of truth lies on the independency of reality considered by the observers. The reality of a statement to be counted true must agree to working. This is how James Williams defines pragmatism. According to him notion of working makes likely to view or imagine the same reality stated by one person and accepted by the other person. Thus, pragmatic theory as stated above defines the universal truth as stated by Charles Sanders Piers.
The principal thrust of pragmatist theory is if something is useful it is true. The theory does not follow the principle of utility that makes something true. If we consider placing a hand in fire will burn the hand is true is not because it is useful, but because it is true. Notion of truth is achieved thru recognition of reality. Pragmatic theory in the sense of identifying truth is not subjectivist. Notion of true belief consists in its correspondence with reality. In pragmatist theory, question remains unanswered how objective is reality on the pragmatist view. Correspondence theory accepts the reality as objective fact. Reality is not true or false; it is set of circumstances in the world. Belief is an opinion about this set of circumstances. Knowledge defines certain belief as true because they correspond to the relevant facts associated with the belief. Correspondence theory uses belief as a guideline to specify fact (reality). This is the power of this theory.
The advantage of coherence theory is truth is not tested against one single reality, but against a whole system. At the same time, the individual reality is becoming a member of the complex reality, thus expanding the reality and approaching the whole reality. Once we reach the whole reality we can explore any proposition.
Correspondence theory states that truth is established thru belief, but stress on the fact by saying that belief is true when it matches the fact. Correspondence theory uses belief to discover the truth while belief is formed based on facts. Thus, this is an indirect relationship between truth and fact. How do we know if the belief is true and correspond to the fact. It is not enough to say that X is true if and only if X corresponds with fact A” while we have no idea whether A is a fact or not (“Epistemology Introduction”). Coherence theory is not far from correspondence theory. Correspondence theory states truth is whatever correspondences to reality while coherence theory states that a statement can be judged true if it coheres to a larger system, and it is assumed that the larger system corresponds to reality. The philosophers who support this contention they do not separate truth from reality, they, on the other hand, perceive the reality as a total rationalized system of all realities. However, the question arises why a proposition is not true if it does not cohere to a larger system if even it corresponds to an individual reality?