The Nature of Truth

What is "Truth"?

1.0  Preface

The notion of truth comes up in many contexts, not just philosophical.   It is normally expected that when we speak, we speak "the truth" -- or at least we mean others to interpret what we say as "the truth".   But very often a discussion can come to a sudden grinding halt when it becomes apparent that differing understandings of the term are being employed and the dreaded question rears its genuinely ugly head.   In a famous passage from the Bible, Jesus and Pontius Pilot undoubtedly brought different notions of the meaning of "truth" to the discussion:

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world.
If it were, my servants would fight to prevent
my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom
is from another place."  

"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king.
In fact, for this reason I was born,
and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

"What is truth?" [Pilate responds.]
                       (John 18:36-38)

Pontius Pilate did not wait for an answer to his question.   It is possible (and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we may speculate as we wish) that Pilate realized that Jesus was employing a different notion of truth from the one he understood, and hence further discussion was pointless.   As we shall see, the answers we provide in response to this question have significant consequences for what we are ultimately aiming at when wondering about the meaning of the words we speak and the thoughts we entertain.   What it means to "speak the truth" is key to any communication of meaning.

In the following Essay, I will first discuss several ways in which "truth" is defined.   I will discuss what truth is, and how the "equivalence thesis" applies to any theories of truth.   I will follow that with a lengthy examination of the Correspondence Theory of Truth.   As you will see throughout this essay, it is the only theory of truth that I consider acceptable.   I will then examine the debate between the "realist" and the "anti-realist" about truth since the various "anti-realist" positions are most at odds with the realism of the Correspondence Theory, and are the basis for competing theories.   Next I will discuss how judgments of truth can be naturally divided into two distinct classes.   And I will follow that with some discussion of the three classical "dichotomies" into which statements are divided.   Finally, I will wrap up the essay by summarising how these various threads contribute to a proper understanding of the concept of "truth", and the significance of that for a consistent system of philosophical beliefs.

I think that it is also a good idea, in this preliminary setup of things, to make clear the distinction between a theory of truth, a definition of truth, and a criterion of truth.

Strictly speaking, a definition establishes the meaning of a word -- in this case the word "truth".   Commonly, this means a description of the meaning of a word, framed in other words -- as in a dictionary.   Alternatively, in more technical philosophical usage, a definition of a word describes the necessary and sufficient conditions that must obtain for the proper use of the word.   Hence if I define a predicate T as the truth predicate, or if I assert that the predicate T established the necessary and sufficient conditions for truth, then it becomes logically impossible for there to be some proposition P that is both true and lacks T, or has T but is not true.  

A theory of truth, unlike a definition of truth, provides only a non-definitional explanation or description of the meaning of the concept denoted by the word "truth".   So that if it is my theory that the truth predicate T adequately describes what it is for a proposition to be true, then it should be logically possible for there to be some proposition P that is both true and lacks T or has T and yet is not true.   In other words, since my theory of truth is not a definition of truth, there should be a logical possibility that my theory is false, and T is in fact not a good explanation of what it is for a proposition to be true.

For example, let T stand for "the majority of persons of sound judgement would assent to its truth".   Now if I define "T" as the truth predicate, then for any proposition P, if P is true, then by definition P is T.   And vice versa.   On the other hand, if it is my theory that T adequately describes what it is for a proposition to be true, then it should be logically possible for there to be some proposition P that is true and yet "the majority of persons of sound judgement would not assent to its truth".   Or equivalently, "the majority of persons of sound judgement would assent to its truth" and yet it is not true.   In other words, since it is not a definition, there should be a logical possibility that my theory is false, and "the majority of persons of sound judgement would assent to its truth" is in fact not the best description of what it is for a proposition to be true.

Neither a theory of truth nor a definition of truth is a criterion of truth.   A definition of truth establishes just what the word "truth" is to mean.   A theory of truth attempts to describe, in an informative way, what truth is.   As for example: the Correspondence Theory would claim that truth is a certain kind of mapping relationship (correspondence) between a particular proposition and the facts of the matter (or a state of affairs in reality).   A criterion of truth, on the other hand, would be a principle or standard by which true propositions may be distinguished from non-true propositions.   A criterion of truth is a way to pick out of the universe of all propositions those that are true.   There can be many criteria of truth for a given definition or theory.   An example of a criterion of truth would be a description of how the Correspondence Theory's mapping relationship actually works.

2.0  Can "Truth" be Defined?

Before exploring the philosophical nature of the concept "truth" and some of the various theories that purport to describe or explain what truth is, I think it appropriate to close out these introductory remarks by seeing just what common meaning has been assigned to the word "truth", and how that assignment has been accomplished.   This review of the definition and usage of the English word "truth" (or "true") has much of significance to contribute to a more profound philosophical understanding of the meaning of the symbol.

Now it should be noted that most "definitions" that are employed in common language are not definitions that adhere to the technical demand of some philosophers for necessary and sufficient conditions.   They are rough and approximate assignments of meanings to the words involved.  

It is important, therefore, when considering philosophical arguments about whether "truth" can be defined, to remember that such discussions are not over how to provide some specification or assignment of meaning for the word "truth".   They are discussions of the technical philosophical question of what (if anything) constitutes the proper necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of a proposition.   The sometimes maintained philosophical argument that it is not possible (for various reasons) to "define" truth does not, therefore, argue that the word "truth" does not have a rough and approximate assignment of meaning in common usage.   The argument is instead that it is not possible to establish a complete and consistent set of necessary and sufficient conditions for truth.

Such arguments may indeed be correct in suggesting that it is not possible to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for "truth".   But they are in fact chasing the wrong rabbit by claiming that their arguments mean that "truth" cannot be defined.   The word "truth" denotes a particular collection-concept.   The concept of "truth" is an open-ended collection of propositions that we recognize as similar across some particular set of characteristics or properties.   It is not necessary for the formation of the concept that we are consciously aware of the complete set of characteristics across which we recognize that members of the set of "true" propositions are similar.   A definition of a concept need not, therefore, involve necessary and sufficient conditions.   The search for necessary and sufficient conditions is a hold-over from the desire to make philosophy more like physics.   A definition in words for the concept of "truth" describes, instead, a consciously selected subset of the characteristics across which we think we recognize members of the set of "true" propositions as similar.   In addition to a definition in words, there are other ways that the meaning of the word "truth" can be defined.   So the philosophical argument that "truth" cannot be defined is simply wrong.

2.1  The Dictionary Definitions

An entry for "true" or "truth" can be found in any dictionary and in many encyclopaedias. As a common word in the English language, it has its defined common usages.

Truth -- "1. Conformity to fact or actuality. 2. A statement proven to be or accepted as true. 3. Sincerity; integrity. 4. Fidelity to an original or a standard. 5. Reality; actuality."
                      Microsoft's American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Truth -- "1. true or actual state of the matter. 2. conformity with fact or reality; verity. 3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like. 4. state or character of being true. 5. actuality or actual existence. 6. ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience. 7. agreement with a standard or original. 8. honesty; integrity; truthfulness. 9. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude. 10. accuracy, as of position or adjustment."
                      Random House College Dictionary

True -- "1. in accordance with fact. 2. in accordance with correct principles or an accepted standard; rightly or strictly so called; genuine, not false. 3. exact, accurate. 4. accurately placed, balanced, or shaped; upright; level. 5. loyal, faithful."
                      Oxford Reference Dictionary

Truth -- "In philosophy, the property of statements, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case."
                      Encyclopaedia Britannica Online

All together, in these dictionary entries, there are twenty-one defined meanings.   Nine of these, and the first in each case, specifically reference the facts, reality or actuality that renders truth.   The evidence from these documentaries of common English usage, is that the common sense, run of the mill, normal, every-day usage of the concept of "truth" clearly references something other than people's opinions on the matter at hand.   In particular, the common every day usage of the concept "truth" demands that whatever is to be considered "true" must be in accordance with the facts, consistent with reality.

2.2   A Functional Definition

"Truth" is that target that beliefs, judgements, and assertions aim at.   In the words of Bernard Williams(2) "Someone who asserts [a belief] to another standardly gives the hearer to understand that he can rely on the truth of what has been asserted, in particular that he may base his actions on that assumption."

There is a fundamental conceptual difference between what we believe, and what we desire, wish, or speculate.   There is a clearly recognised difference between a belief about something, and an opinion about something.   Consider the proposition p("Pontius Pilate was a secret philosopher who really puzzled about the nature of truth")   I can utter the sentence p in a number of different mental "moods".   I can suggest p as a whimsical interpretation of the motivation behind his biblical question "What is truth?"   I can say that I wish, want, or desire that p.   I can hold or express the opinion that p.   I can suggest that it is possible that p, given the absence of any evidence to the contrary.   If I should speak p in any of these moods, I am not pretending that my suggestion is really what motivated his question.   If I should say p in any of these moods, I would not be intending you to understand that you can rely on the truth of p.   But if I believe that p, and assert to you that it is my belief that p, then I am indeed intending to give you the understanding that p is true.   The fundamental property that separates a belief that p from an opinion that p, a desire that p, or a whimsical suggestion that p, is that a belief that p intends to be true.   So, what truth is, is that fundamental property that separates a belief from a whimsical speculation.

We can approach the same result from another direction.   Our beliefs serve a definite purpose in our daily lives.   We survive on a day to day basis because our beliefs guide us to wait for the traffic to pass.   Without appropriate beliefs about the dangers of jaywalking across a busy street, many of us would perish in pedestrian encounters with vehicles every day.   It is on the basis of our beliefs that we can discriminate things that we can eat from things that tend to eat us.   "Truth" therefore is that property of beliefs that renders them more successful than their negations when those beliefs become the foundation for our expectations of future events or as the basis of our behaviour.   If one's belief is that there is no tiger behind that bush, then one will proceed on that basis.   And one will either become lunch or enjoy lunch according as to whether the belief was true or false.   (The Pragmatist Theory of Truth takes this functional definition of truth and turns it into a Theory of Truth.)  

The significance of this functional or operational definition of "truth" is that it is clear that there is something other than what we believe that renders beliefs true.   There has to be something more than what we believe.

2.3  An Ostensive Definition

Like with any fundamental concept that cannot be further defined in words beyond providing a list of synonyms, we can define "truth" ostensively.

We all can recognise a true statement when we see one.   I don't mean to suggest that we can all recognise whether any arbitrary statement is true.   But that there are many statements that we can easily and immediately recognise are true or false.   If I were to look out my window and exclaim to my wife "The snow is pink", my wife would look out the window and protest "No, it is not. The snow is white".   Clearly, my wife recognizes that there is something about my expressed belief that "the snow is pink" that does not match what she sees out the window.   In this way, and in a similar fashion, we all come to recognise the difference between beliefs that are easily and immediately discernable as "true" from those that are easily and immediately discernable as "not true".

Easily Recognised as "True" Easily Recognised as "False"
Snow is white. Snow is green.
London is between Glasgow and Dover   Glasgow is between London and Dover  
Dogs have four paws. Dogs have six paws.
Winter is cold in Canada Winter is cold in Australia
The hat is on the cat. The cat is on the hat.

Clearly, all those statements on the left share a common attribute.   An attribute made all the more obvious by comparison with the list on the right.   So "truth" is that property of propositions that we recognise, when we recognise that they correspond to how we understand the world around us.   And that, of course, is just what is demanded by the Theory of Concepts.

2.4  Summary

So, can truth be defined? -- Yes, of course it can!   In any and all of a number of ways.   And the key philosophical significance of these various definitions of "truth" is that any philosophical discussions of the concept of "truth" must keep in mind that the boundary conditions for "truth" can be explored in all of these various ways.   Specifying the necessary and sufficient conditions for "truth" is not necessary for an understanding of the definition of "truth".   And any philosophical exploration of "truth" must remain consistent with all of these ways of defining "truth", or become merely an idiosyncratic definition of "truth*".

3.0  What is "Truth"?

3.1  The Concept of "Truth"

As is obvious from the ways in which we can define the word, the English word "truth" (and its related variations) denotes a particular Collection Concept of the "property" kind.   We all initially learn the concept of "truth" ostensively.   We are exposed to a bunch of statements that we are told are "true".   The human mind, being the best pattern recognition device known to man, readily discerns the pattern inherent in those statements designated as "true".   We quickly come to recognize the similarities of "true" statements, and their differences from "non-true" statements.  

By observing the readily discernable pattern of similarities among those statements that we recognize are "true" and their differences with those statements that we recognize are "untrue", we form the "similarity set" of characteristics of statements by which we recognize "true" statements.   Now, being the result of a pattern recognition process, we need not necessarily be consciously aware of the particular characteristics that we employ to discern "true" statements from "untrue" ones.   But on this basis, we create our own concept for the commonalities and denote it by the word "truth" (and its relates).

As I explored above in my introductory comments on propositions, for the purposes of more in-depth philosophical analysis, the property of "truth" is best not considered as a property of statements or other linguistic forms.   The concept of truth clearly transcends any one language, and applies more easily to component parts of statements than to complex statements themselves.   Therefore, "truth" is best understood as a property of atomic propositions.   And because a proposition is a logical form that expresses a relationship between conceptual classifications of "things" in "reality", the concept of "truth" can best be understood in terms of that relationship of conceptual classifications.  

Furthermore, since the relationship expressed in a proposition is between conceptual classifications of "things" in "reality", we can understand that a proposition purports to declare that the specified relationship between "things" is indeed the way things actually are in "reality".   In other words, there is a suitable (although semantically complex) mapping between the proposition and "things" in "reality".   Hence, the "similarity set" of characteristics across which we recognize "true" propositions (and distinguish them from "un-true" propositions) is just exactly that the purported relationship expressed by the proposition is in fact the way things are in "reality".   True propositions express a relationship between conceptual classifications of "things" in "reality" that is consistent with (accurately maps to) an existent state of affairs in "reality".   (Note that this talk of "reality" at this point is neutral with respect the metaphysical nature of that reality.   This conceptual definition of "truth" applies equally to the realist as to the idealist metaphysical notions of reality.)

What we are talking about when we talk about theories of "truth", therefore, is the underlying basis for our ready discernment of the difference between true and not-true propositions -- why and how that discernment is, in most cases, so rapid and so easy.   Those philosophers who argue that "truth" cannot be defined are therefore arguing that even though we are capable of discerning the difference between true and not-true propositions, it is not possible to consciously identify the basis of this discernment.   Theories of truth purport to describe and explain just what characteristics we employ to distinguish those propositions that are "true" from those that are not.   Just what is it, these theories attempt to explain, that we find similar across "true" propositions, and different from "not-true" propositions, such that we can usually distinguish between the two alternatives.   Theories of "truth" are all about applying some metaphysical assumptions about the nature of "reality" to a description of that complex mapping between the meaning of the proposition and the state of affairs in "reality".

3.2   The "Equivalence Thesis"

Alfred Tarski (1901-1983) was a logician and mathematician of considerable philosophical importance.   A brilliant member of the interwar Warsaw School of Mathematics and active in the USA after 1939, he wrote on topology, geometry, measure theory, mathematical logic, set theory, meta-mathematics, and most of all, on model theory, abstract algebra, and algebraic logic.(3)

In 1944, Alfred Tarski proposed his semantic theory of truth(4), suggesting that a proposition is true if and only if a claim about the world holds.   Thus, the proposition "the cat is on the mat" is true if, in fact, the cat is really on the mat; conversely, if the cat is on the mat then the proposition "the cat is on the mat" is true.   The kernel of Tarski's semantic theory of truth is also known as "the equivalence schema", "Convention T", and the "T Schema".   Where "S" is a reference to a statement (the statement's name), and S is just the statement itself:  

"S" is true if and only if S

Tarski's equivalence schema focuses on the one crucial consequence of any theory of truth which must hold if we are talking about "truth" (as opposed to "truth*").   Tarski's thesis is that the predicate "true" functions as a linguistic device for disquotation. Generalizing from this, he claimed that any predicate which functions as a linguistic device for disquotation would be the truth predicate.

But treating "truth" as a predicate of disquotation is acceptable only from the very narrow perspective of linguistic analysis that was Tarski's agenda.   From the conceptual perspective, the two sides of the equivalence are completely different concepts -- the concept {"S" is true} is a quite different concept from {S}.   On the left side you have a description of an epistemological fact (or state of affairs, or assertion, or "thing") -- namely that "S" is true, on the right side you have description of a metaphysical fact (or state of affairs or arrangement of "things") -- namely the description of reality that is S.   So from this perspective it would be such a gross oversimplification as to be wrong to label "truth" as simply "the predicate of disquotation".   From the conceptual perspective such a move would be to invest in the word "disquotation" all of the philosophical issues otherwise associated with "truth".

Tarski's semantic analysis is a significant contribution to the discussion of "truth" only because it combines the "equivalence thesis" with the prior assumption that the statement involved ("S") is in fact a semantically valid description of the underlying status of reality (S).   This is almost surely why Tarski himself described his semantic theory as a version of a Correspondence Theory (see below for more details on the Correspondence Theory of Truth).   He clearly takes as given the conceptual challenge of the meaning of semantic symbols, and assumes without further investigation that the meaning of {"S"} can be taken to be a semantically proper description of S.   He assumes as given that the basis for the material equivalence is a suitable "correspondence" between the meaning of the statement "S" and the state of affairs {S} that it purports to describe.   For this reason, his semantic theory has also been interpreted as a "Deflationary Theory of Truth" (see below for further details) because it leaves unaddressed the question of just what it means for it to be the case that S.

Translating Tarski's "equivalence thesis" from the realm of linguistic analysis of statements in English into the language of atomic propositions that I prefer to deal with, and the equivalence thesis becomes:

P is true if and only if F

What this thesis claims is that there is a material equivalence between the existence of some specific underlying basis (F) for our discernment of a true proposition, and that proposition (P) possessing the property of being "true".   In other words, there exist some observable characteristics of propositions that we recognize as similar across all those that we classify as "true", and different from all those excluded from that class.   And of course, given the nature of propositions, the only characteristics that propositions have are characteristics of meaning.   That is why the "equivalence thesis" is invariant across all theories of "truth".   It is just describing the normal conceptual meaning of the English word "true" as it is used as a label for a property of statements.  

However, philosophers have an unfortunate penchant for redefining common English words for their own purpose.   So the significance that the "equivalence thesis" has for philosophical theories of truth, is that unless the theory posited satisfies the equivalence thesis, it cannot be called a theory of "truth" without committing serious abuse to the common English meaning of either "theory" or "truth".   Therefore, the problem or challenge for the various theories of truth is to show that they are consistent with the minimal requirement of Tarski's "equivalence thesis".

To see why there is a potential issue here, consider a naive version of a Pragmatic Theory of Truth - "P is true if and only if it is useful to believe that P".   It follows, by simple substitution, that "It is useful to believe that P" is true if and only if it is useful to believe that it is useful to believe that P.   You can see where this is going.   We started off with the apparently simple idea that there is such a thing as a proposition's being "useful to believe".   But very quickly the naïve theory develops into an infinite regress.

A less naïve theory of truth is the Correspondence Theory of Truth that maintains that P is true if and only if P corresponds with reality.   In other words, P is true if and only if it is an apt and fit description of reality.

4.0  Theories of Truth

The study of truth is part of philosophical logic and epistemology.   There are numerous theories about truth that philosophers and logicians have proposed, besides the Correspondence Theory that I will be exploring in more detail below.   The fundamental basis underlying the debate between the proponents of the various theories can be made a little clearer by borrowing a classification scheme published by Richard Kirkham in his Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction(5)   In this work, he describes the following classification categories for theories of truth.

"I. The metaphysical project: This project attempts to identify what truth consists in, what it is for a statement (or belief or proposition, etc.) to be true. This project has three branches:

A. The extensional project: This project attempts to identify the necessary and sufficient conditions for a statement (or belief or proposition, etc.) to be a member of the set of true statements. It attempts, in other words, to fix the extension (the reference, the denotation) of the predicate "is true".

B. The naturalistic project: This project attempts to find conditions that, in any naturally possible world, are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for a statement being true in that world.

C. The essence project: This project attempts to find conditions that, in any possible world, are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for a statement being true in that world.

II. The justification project: This project attempts to identify some characteristic, possessed by most true statements and not possessed by most false statements, by reference to which the probable truth or falsity of the statement can be judged.

III. The speech-act project: This project attempts to describe the locutionary [pertaining to the act of conveying semantic content in an utterance, considered as independent of the interaction between the speaker and the listener] or illocutionary [relating to or being the communicative effect of an utterance] purpose served by utterances that by their surface grammar appear to ascribe the property of truth to some statement (or belief, etc.), for example, utterances like "Statement s is true".

A. The illocutionary-act project: This is just the speech-act project as pursued by those convinced that the utterances in question have no locutionary purpose. So this project attempts to describe what we are doing when we make this sort of utterance.

B. The assertion project: This is just the speech-act project as pursued by those convinced that the utterances in question do have a locutionary purpose. So this project attempts to describe what we are saying when we make this sort of utterance. It attempts, in other words, to fix the intension (the sense, the connotation) of the predicate "is true".

1. The ascription project: This is just the assertion project as pursued by those convinced that the surface grammar of such utterances is a safe guide to what we are saying when we make them.

2. The deep-structure project: This is just the assertion project as pursued by those who are convinced that the surface grammar of such utterances is misleading."

In his book Kirkham discusses a number of different theories of truth, but approaches his analysis by philosopher rather than by theory.   I do not intend to discuss any particular philosopher's theory.   Nor do I intend to explore those theories that are specific to other "truth bearers" than propositions.   Instead I will present my own analysis of one theory -- the Correspondence Theory of Truth as it applies to propositions.   In dealing with some of the alternatives to that theory I will explore more or less briefly a few of its main competitors.   But to draw upon Kirkham's classification scheme, here is how I would classify those theories of truth that I have encountered (not all of which I will be discussing later):

(I) The Metaphysical Project - Recall the Tarskian equivalence scheme we met above --

P is true if and only if F.

Theories of truth in this group attempt to define just what "F" is -- just what is the underlying basis for our ready discernment of a difference between propositions we call "true" and all other propositions.   They each in their various ways allege to describe just what it is we discern when we discriminate "true" propositions from "false" propositions. Each of these approaches to a "theory of truth" can be interpreted as either an explanatory description of the fundamental nature of truth, or as a set of criteria for determining truth values.   So, for instance, someone might explain truth as correspondence with the facts, and argue that the only valid way to determine the truth of a proposition is to see if it corresponds to the facts.   Someone else might also explain truth as correspondence with mind-independent reality, but maintain that the truth or falsity of a statement is determined by its cohering with the body of accepted scientific knowledge.   Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 -- 1914), one of the early Pragmatists, in his later writings thought that truth was explainable as correspondence with reality, but held that the truth or falsity of any proposition was determined by the agreement of the relevant experts.

(I-C) The Essence Project - the specification of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a proposition to be true:

 The Correspondence Theory of truth sees truth as correspondence with objective reality.   Thus, a proposition is said to be true just in case it accurately describes a state of affairs in the world.  

 The Coherence Theory sees truth as coherence with some specified set of statements.   Thus, a proposition is said to be true just in case it coheres in some specified sense with a specified set of other propositions.   Usually the set is identified as the statements that make up what is the best justified and most complete description of the world. (This theory might also be classed as I-A -- the extensional project, since it leaves open the question of why the propositions in question cohere so nicely.)

 (I-A) The Extensional Project -- the specification of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a proposition to be a member of the set of true propositions:

 The Pragmatist Theory sees truth as the success of the practical consequences of an idea, i.e. its utility.   Thus a proposition is true just in case its practical consequences are desirable or useful.   Although it leaves open the question of what it is that makes the practical consequences so desirable or useful.

 The Consensus Theory invented by Charles Sanders Peirce sees truth as something agreed upon by some specified group, such as all competent investigators.   Although it leaves open the question of why all competent investigators might want to agree.  

 The Social Constructivist Theory holds that truth is constructed by social processes, and represents the outcome of power struggles within a community.   Hence a proposition is true just in case it is consistent with the beliefs of the socially influential (or "power elite").   Although it leaves open the question of why the proposition is found so attractive by the power elite.

(II) The Justification Project -- the specification of the necessary and sufficient conditions for our recognition that a proposition is true:

 The Verificationist Theories see truth as the consequence of a process of verification, either in practice or in principle.   Although they leave open the question of just what constitutes verification in the absence of a notion of truth.   Unfortunately theories that are the product of the justification project are not theories of "truth".   They are about "justification".   They do not analyze "truth" in any way.   In fact, they presuppose the concept of "truth" for their concept of "verification".

(III) The Speech-Act Project -- Theories of truth in this category see truth as a linguistic function having no more deep philosophical meaning than can be expressed by the equivalence schema.   They each in their various ways allege that our common concept of "true" is in some way illusory.   They approach the concept of "truth" from the perspective of linguistic analysis, and ignore the critical role that the concept of truth plays in the notions of judgement and belief.   As such, they are not theories of "truth".   They are about what it is we are saying when we ascribe the predicate "is true" to something.

 Deflationary / Semantic Theories - nothing more meaningful can be said about the concept "true" than the semantic version of the Tarskian equivalence schema -- "S" is true if and only if S.   Presupposes a theory of meaning that provides the relationship between the quoted proposition, and what the proposition is about, or equivalently between the English expression of the proposition and what the proposition means.

 Pro-Sentential Theories -- the predicate "is true" is simply a linguistic "pronoun"-like function of referring to something previously or elsewhere said.   As in "everything Paul said is true" -- the pro-sentential function of "is true" avoid the linguistic necessity of specifically referring to everything that Paul said.

 Performative Theories -- the predicate "is true" serves the same linguistic function as does "I do" in a marriage ceremony.   It performs the act of approval of whatever it is applied to. It is not actually predicating the property "is true" of anything.

 Emotive Theories - the predicate "is true" performs the act of approval of whatever it is applied to.   Very similar to the Performative Theory, except in some of its details.

In addition to this classification schema of Kirkham, there is another way to broadly divide the theories of truth into two groups.   There are the "Realist" theories of truth.   And there are the "Anti-Realist" theories of truth.   For a "Realist" (about truth) to say that a proposition is true, the realist is saying that there does metaphysically exist a mind-independent reality that appropriately corresponds to the description provided by the proposition.   Regardless of the details of the particular theory of truth that the realist maintains, a realist holds that the truth of any proposition is "out there" in reality and exists independently of however we may judge the situation.   A realist about truth maintains that regardless of how convincing the evidence may be it is still possible that we may judge the situation wrongly.   The realist assumes as a fundamental metaphysical premise that the necessary facts, states of affairs, or other determinants of truth do in fact exist, and exist in a manner that is independent of the epistemic status of either the proposition in question, or the contemplator of the proposition.   In other words, for a realist about truth, truth is judgement transcendent.   Of the above listed sets of theories of truth, only these can be considered a product of the Metaphysical Project would count as Realist theories of truth.

The Anti-Realist, on the other hand, denies the fundamental premise of the Realist -- either negatively by denying that the relevant determinants of truth have metaphysical existence, or positively by maintaining that truth is an epistemic concept that is dependent on the epistemic status of either the proposition or the contemplator.   In contrast with the Realist, the Anti-Realist denies the possibility of truths that remain inaccessible to human inquiry, and maintains that some propositions are inherently undecidable -- have no determinate truth value.   The Anti-Realist theories of truth include all of the other theories cited above.

I will preface what follows with a ready admission that I am myself a Realist about truth, and find the various anti-realist positions quite incomprehensible.   I am going to deal with the Correspondence Theory of Truth because it is, in my opinion, the only correct theory of truth.   And I am going to deal with the Coherence Theory of truth because all of the other products of the Metaphysical Project can be viewed (more or less) as particular variants of a generalized Coherence Theory.   Because anti-realism comes in a number of diverse flavours that overlap the various anti-realist theories of truth, I am going to deal with the Realist / Anti-Realist debate after I have discussed   these two Realist theories of truth.  

5.0  The "Correspondence" Theory of Truth(6)

In its basic usage, the adjective "true" has a very straight forward meaning.   J.L. Austin(7) summarized it thus: to assert that a proposition p is true is to maintain that "p corresponds to the facts", which he says is "a piece of standard English" and therefore "can hardly be wrong".   More precisely, the word "true" denotes the validity of an intended (or expected) correspondence between a representation and what it represents.   This is clear from the following examples.

What these all have in common is that each involves two "systems", linked by a "mapping".   One system is a "representation" of the other, the latter being called "reality".   The purpose of the mapping is to let us use the representation to manipulate information about reality without having to manipulate reality.   In the first example, the two systems are (a) a piece of paper with pencil marks on it and (b) the streets of Toronto.   The mapping is a spatial isomorphism between those two.   This is a useful mapping because you can carry the plan around in your pocket, whereas you cannot carry Toronto around with you.   The plan enables you to find places in Toronto more quickly than wandering around the actual streets.   In the second example, the two systems are (a) a strip of magnetic tape with some magnetised patterns on it and (b) the events that took place in view of the traffic camera.   The "mapping" in this case is a little more complicated than a simple spatial isomorphism.   The mapping represented by the video tape combines a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional scene onto a flat plane, along with some specialised coding representing time, and some further specialised coding to translate all that into and out of magnetised spots on a mylar strip. In the last two examples I cited, the "mapping" is even more complex, and involves the translation of conceptual complexes into and out of linguistic conventions (words and sentences).

Never the less, in these examples, "truth" is merely the correspondence between the representation and what it represents.   It is often said that what is most obvious about truth is that truth consists in just this kind of correspondence to the facts - that the truth of the proposition that the earth revolves around the sun consists in its correspondence to the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.   This is just common sense, but philosophers call it The Correspondence Theory of Truth.     The Correspondence Theory of truth is built around this basic common sense intuition, and tries to explain the notion of truth by appeal to the notions of correspondence and fact.   Even if one does not build one's theory of truth around this intuition, many philosophers regard it as a condition of adequacy on any theory of truth that the theory accommodates this common sense correspondence intuition.

A rejection of any sort of relativism about truth, the Correspondence Theory maintains that the truth or falsity of a proposition is determined only by how it relates to the world, and whether it accurately describes (corresponds with) that world.   Other uses of the word "true" may be regarded as extensions of this basic usage.   For instance: a wife may ask whether her husband has been true to her, meaning faithful; or the Church may advocate worship of the "one true God", as opposed to false gods, meaning that God really exists.   All of science and technology is "officially" based on a Correspondence Theory of Truth.   The work of science and technology is not to create reality but to discover reality.   The work of technologists (engineers) is to use our knowledge of the facts of the matter to predict the future behaviour of things.

Despite the robust Austinian view that the Correspondence Theory of Truth is really no more than an expression of what the word "truth" means in English, some people deny the validity of this theory.   Challenges to the theory arise from consideration of precisely what is supposed to correspond with what and with just what "correspondence" means.

5.1   Correspondence

Consider first -

(1) The proposition that P is true iff P corresponds with the facts.

So "true" means "corresponds with the facts."   The most commonly cited problem for the correspondence theory is this question: Just what is this relation of correspondence?   When and how does a proposition correspond with the facts?   What does it mean for a proposition (which is an abstract conceptual entity) to correspond with "the facts" (which is presumably a material concrete entity)?   How do we tell (and I don't mean judge, I mean sense) whether it corresponds?   These are all very good and detailed questions about the nature of "correspondence" in a correspondence theory of truth.

As I suggested earlier, we can think of correspondence as a sort of mapping relation.   If a mapping can be proposed that maps the relationship between concepts expressed by the proposition with the relationship between the entities that the concepts denote in reality, then is what it means for the proposition to correspond to that fact.

The particular criticism of the correspondence relation is the claim that the precise nature of correspondence as a mapping is in fact undefined and undefinable.   In the case of a map, we have a straightforward spatial isomorphism between the marks on the paper and the geography being mapped.   But what of the proposition "The cat is on the mat"?   Clearly the proposition does not resemble and hence cannot possibly be congruent in any way with either the cat, the mat, or the relationship between the cat and the mat.   So precisely what does the correspondence consist in?   Obviously it cannot be correspondence in any geometric sense.  

The traditional answer is that it consists of a complicated mapping function that comprises the conventions that govern our use of language.   Consider a well-defined function "f" that maps the set of propositions expressed in a language like English, "L", into the set of states of affairs, "A".   Thus: f(L)=>A.   Or proceed in the reverse direction.   Consider a well-defined function "m" that maps the relationships between existents in reality "R" into a set of propositions "P".   Thus: m(R)=>P.   Therein lies the correspondence between propositions and the states of affairs that they represent or describe.   In general, if 'p' is the proposition expressed by a sentence l(p) in L, then: p is true if and only if the state of affairs f(l(p)) obtains in reality.   Or alternatively, in the reverse direction, p is true if and only if there is a relationship between a set of existents in reality (r) in R that is mapped by the function m into that proposition p:   m(r)=>p.       Admittedly, the functions f and m are massively complex, and will incorporate a lot of information about the language, human culture, and about the world.   Nevertheless, they are just well-defined functions.   They are of the same kind of thing as the spatial isomorphism between a street plan and the streets of Toronto.   And they are "simple" functions to learn how to use -- everyone who learns to use a language knows how to use those functions.

A detailed description of nature of the correspondence -- of functions f and m - is in fact a theory of how a sentence or proposition has a particular meaning -- just how the linguistic entity refers to (talks about) the non-linguistic entity.   It is my position that "how reality makes propositions true" is just that theory of meaning which demonstrates what saying "le neige est blanc" actually means, and how the employment of linguistic terms (such as "true" or "snow" or "white") relate to what those terms refer to in reality.   The process of disquotation involved in Tarski's equivalence schema is a process of bi-directional translation between the proposition "le neige est blanc" and the state of affairs in reality that snow is white.  

One thing we might observe in any case is that, in order for a proposition to be true, according to the correspondence theory, there must be some fact to which it corresponds. So a fact (a relationship between entities in reality) has to exist in order to be matched up to a proposition (an entertained relationship between concepts)   And remember, we've already decided which fact that a proposition has to correspond with: the proposition that P has to correspond with the fact that P, if the proposition that P is true.

Therefore, we can say that it is true that P if and only if there exists a fact that P. If we put it like that, then we don't have to talk about correspondence at all. We just say: it's true that the cat is on the mat if, and only if, there exists a fact that the cat is on the mat. And we could put it even simpler than that:

(2) The proposition that P is true iff it is a fact that P.

We can regard that as explaining what it means for a proposition to correspond with a fact: basically, if there exists a fact that P, then that fact corresponds with the proposition that P.

5.2  Facts

But now we need to address the next challenge.   Namely what are facts, and what does it mean to say that facts exist, or that there is some alleged fact?   Our definition (2) basically says that "true proposition" means "factual proposition."   So then we have to ask "Have we really explained anything about truth, about true propositions, if we merely said that they are factual?"   Aren't we just letting this other word, fact, do all the work of the word we're trying to explain, "true"?   Don't we have to give some account of what facts are?

There is at least one basic way to reply to this objection.   And that is to actually offer a theory of what facts are.   This is something that, drawing upon a particular Theory of Concepts(2), I will now try to do.   Facts are basically combinations of entities in reality together with their properties and/or relations; so the fact that the cat is on the mat is the combination of two differentiable entities in reality (ie. a cat, and a mat) together with one of the discernable relationships between them (ie. that the cat is on the mat).   Notice that I did not suggest that these entities and relationships has to be observed.   All that is necessary for the concept of a fact is that they be observable in principle.

But of course the cat being on the mat is only one fact; there might also be other facts, about all cats; or about the relation between cat hairs and cats; and so on.   But the idea is that it is possible, using a Theory of Concepts approach to meaning, and limiting the discourse to atomic propositions, to specify and categorise all those different kinds of facts that are relevant to the propositions that we entertain.   An analogy perhaps might help. Imagine that Reality is the chessboard with its chessmen.   Facts are all the possible configurations of chessmen on any part of the chessboard.   So there is nothing that ontologically exists in addition to the board and the men.   There is one board of 64 squares, and 32 chessmen.   But there is an almost infinite number of facts that can be considered with that limited ontology.

I am, I readily admit, a realist about facts.   Although I have learned from my reading that I must needs be a bit specific about what I mean by "realist" here.   I mean that I take reality to be real, and that facts are particular configurations of that reality.   I do not mean that I consider "facts" to have separate ontological existence in addition to reality.   Facts are abstract entities -- ways in which the world can be considered.   (Notice again the "can".   It does not require a conscious mind capable of considering the facts for there to be facts.)   Although I myself am a realist about reality, the abstract conception of facts would apply equally well to an idealist metaphysical approach to reality.   As Berkeley might suggest, the necessary differentiable entities and discernable relationships might exist only as ideas in the mind of God.

So we've got an answer to the question, "What are facts?"   A "fact" is one or more differentiable entities in reality together with their properties and/or relations.   As well, we have an answer to the question "What does it mean for a fact to exist?"   It's for each part or component of a fact to exist -- for a differentiable existent, with all its properties, and all its relations to other existents, to exist in reality (whether or not it is actually differentiated by some conscious mind).   So if a cat exists, and a mat exists, and there is a differentiable relationship between the cat and the mat such that it is discernable that the cat is on the mat, then the fact that the cat is on the mat exists -- whether or not someone is aware of it. And that's what makes it true to say that "the cat is on the mat".

5.3  True and False

One of the challenges raised with many of the theories of truth, not just the Correspondence Theory, is the impact of a definition of "false" on the details of the theory. Consider the following four sets of definitions --


Pis true iff P corresponds to some fact;  
Pis false iff P does not correspond to any fact;


Pis true iff P corresponds to some state of affairs that obtains;  
Pis false iff P corresponds to some state of affairs that does not obtain.


Pis true iff P corresponds to some fact that exists;
Pis false iff P corresponds to some fact that does not exist;  


Pis true iff it is a fact that P;
Pis false iff it is a fact that not-P

All these variations invoke portions of reality -- facts or states of affairs -- that are denoted by that-clauses.   If, as I argue above, the primary truth-bearers are atomic propositions, then a "state of affairs" can be understood as the meaning or content of a combination of propositions of any arbitrary complexity.

Form (2) is committed to the ontological existence of non-obtaining states of affairs.   Form (1) on the other hand, is not; for to say that a fact does not obtain means, at best, that there is no such fact.   Advocates of Form (2) typically hold that facts are states of affairs that obtain, ie., they hold that their account of truth is in effect an analysis of Form (1)'s account of truth.   So disagreement turns largely on the treatment of falsehood, which (1) simply identifies with the absence of truth.   The main point in favour of Form (1) over Form (2) is that Form (1) is not committed to the ontological existence of non-obtaining states of affairs, like the state of affairs that snow is green, as constituents of reality.

Both forms (1) and (2) should be distinguished from Form (3) which is a confused version of Form (1), or a confused version of Form (2), or, if unconfused, implies commitment to the thesis that there are things that do not exist.   The lure of (3) stems from the desire to give a good account of falsehood while avoiding commitment to non-obtaining states of affairs.

Form (4), by comparison, is a version of Form (1) that explicitly restates the correspondence relation in terms of "facts that P" as I described above.   My reasons for preferring Form (4) over any of the others is --

(a) In line with my preference for the Logical Atomism view that atomic propositions are the only meaningful truth-bearers, this form avoids the complexity of "states of affairs".

(b) In line with my discussion of the correspondence relation above, this form avoids the necessity of providing a description of what it means for a proposition to correspond with the facts.

(c) It incorporates the attempt of Form (3) to give a good account of falsehood while avoiding any ontological commitment to non-obtaining states of affairs or non-obtaining facts.  

(d) It both draws upon the intuitive nature of the principle of bivalence, and allows for its failure.   Consistent with the intuition that there are facts that render the proposition "P" true, it asserts that there exist facts that render "P" false.   Yet by specifying that it is the fact that "not-P" that renders the proposition that "P" false, the Form allows for the possibility that there may not be a fact that P, or a fact that not-P -- allowing the principle of bivalence to fail in exceptional circumstances.

5.4  Scepticism and the "Sense-Data Prison"

Some criticisms of the Correspondence Theory of Truth focus on the epistemological problem of scepticism -- the problem of knowing whether or not a proposition does indeed agree with the facts.   Consider, for instance, the apparently innocuous proposition that "the chair is red".   I cannot be absolutely sure whether the chair is red, as I might be hallucinating.   And this problem will arise when considering the truth or falsity of any other proposition.  

The metaphysical foundation underlying this source of criticism is the premise that what is given is the this of experience -- the indisputable and yet indescribable personal presence and immediacy of our awareness of our experiences of the world.   The essence of this premise is that there is a separation between our conscious awareness of our experiences, and the sensory inputs into our perceptual systems.   From this premise, all of our experiences are of what our perceptual systems report to our consciousness.   I am, therefore, trapped in a "sense-datum prison", and have (according to the metaphysical premise) no direct awareness of whatever external reality exists beyond the perceptual systems whose reports I am aware of.   I can therefore never know with any confidence whether propositions agree with such an external reality.  

Neither can I trust my memory absolutely, as I might have remembered the meaning of the symbol "red" incorrectly.   So I cannot even tell whether the proposition "there is a red patch in my visual field" corresponds with the reality of my visual field.  

These thoughts have led some philosophers to the view that the correspondence theory of truth is unworkable.   For, although we clearly do classify propositions as true or false in everyday life, we cannot securely do so on the basis of their correspondence to reality because we have no direct access to reality, only to the sense-data that our perceptual systems provide us.

I think that this criticism is founded on a confusion of context (completely aside from the problems inherent in the "sense-data" approach to perception).   If we cannot know with absolute certainty that the chair is red, then that simply means that we cannot know with certainty whether the proposition "the chair is red" is true.   This does not count against the correspondence theory at all.   The proposition can still be true or not-true according to the facts of the matter, regardless of whether we can be aware of that truth.

5.5  Frege

In 1918 Gottlob Frege (Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege 1848 -- 1925) wrote a relatively short paper entitled (in its English translation) "The Thought: A Logical Inquiry".   It is sometimes claimed that in this paper Frege presented a "decisive refutation" of the relational view of truth that is central to the Correspondence Theory of Truth.   Having examined Frege's paper (as reproduced in Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Simon Blackburn and Keith Simmons, Eds (8)), I have to say that if Frege's essay is deemed to be a "decisive refutation" of truth as a relation, then I do not see any significant threat to the position presented in this essay that, contra Frege, truth is in fact a relation.

When reading Frege's paper, I found it interesting to note that the greater bulk of it is not about Truth at all.   It is all about his definition of just what he means by "a thought".   And with one minor alteration that is not particularly germane, what Frege calls "a thought", I have been referring to as "a proposition".   So to that extent, I found Frege's paper nicely anticipative and supportive of the position I maintain in this essay.   But I also noted that meaning that Frege assigns to the word "concept" is quite different from my own, so I found I had to be extra careful in keeping his definition in mind when reading his paper (or any of the other works about his thoughts that I came across).

As to the question of "truth" as a relation, the key passage seems to be rather short, and appears quite early in a paper seemingly more focussed on a different topic -

"Can it not be laid down that truth exists when there is correspondence in a certain respect?   But in which?   For what would we then have to decide whether something were true.   We should have to inquire whether it were true that an idea and a reality, perhaps, corresponded in the laid down respect.   And then we should be confronted by a question of the same kind and the game could begin again.   So the attempt to explain truth as a correspondence collapses."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 87)(8)

With a little help from materials found on the internet, I interpret Frege's reasoning here as -

  1. Assume that truth is a relation of correspondence with the world.   Then...
  2. In order to judge whether "p" is true, we would need to judge whether
    " 'p' corresponds to the world" is true.
  3. In order to judge whether " 'p' corresponds to the world" is true, we would need to judge whether " " 'p' corresponds to the world" is true" is true... and so forth.
  4. Hence, if we assume that truth is a relation of correspondence with the world, we can never judge whether a given thought is true.
  5. We do in fact judge whether a given proposition is true.
  6. Therefore, truth must not be a relation of correspondence.

I can see two critical errors in taking this analysis as a "decisive refutation" of truth as a relation of correspondence.   One is rather straight forward.   Frege is here talking about whether we can judge whether a thought is true or not.   He is not discussing whether the thought is true or not independently of whether we can judge it so.   Therefore, at best, Frege's argument (if we assume it is valid) demonstrates that our judgement of truth cannot involve a judgement that " 'p' corresponds to the world" is true.   What Frege's argument clearly does not do is demonstrate that what makes a thought true (judgement transcendently) cannot be a relation of correspondence.   Even if the process of judgement leads to an infinite regress, as Frege suggests, it still may be possible that the judgement-transcendent truth of the thought might never-the-less be definable as a relation of correspondence.

The second error is the assumption in (2) above that to judge whether "p" is true, it is necessary to judge whether " 'p' corresponds to the world" is true.   However, as Frege maintains later in his paper, it is not necessary that a thought be entertained for a thought to be true.   I would argue that instead to judge whether "p" is true it is merely necessary to judge whether " 'p' corresponds with the world", without having to judge whether " 'p' corresponds with the world" is true.   Elsewhere, Frege demonstrates the equivalence of the two thoughts -- to entertain the thought that " 'p' corresponds with the world" is to entertain the thought that " 'p' corresponds with the world" is true.   But to entertain the thought is not to judge that the thought is true.

"What is a content of my consciousness, my idea, should be sharply distinguished from what is an object of my thought.   Therefore the thesis that only what belongs to the content of my consciousness can be the object of my awareness, of my thought, is false."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 100)(8)
"What I recognize as true I judge to be true quite independently of my recognition of its truth and my thinking about it.   That someone thinks it has nothing to do with the truth of a thought."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 101)(8)

Hence, one can entertain the thought that " 'p' corresponds with the world" is true without having to judge whether it is true.   With this alternative (2) in the argument, the infinite regress is in fact not a vicious one.   For the simple(?!) act of judging that " 'p' corresponds with the world" resolves the entire infinite regress in one pass.  

I want to emphasize that I do not suggest that the one-step resolution is the judgement that "p" is true, or even that " 'p' corresponds with the world" is true.   For if I were to do so, as Frege does, the infinite regress is indeed vicious.   But if instead one focuses on the relationship between the words that express "p" and the world that "p" supposedly refers to and/or describes, then it is the process of linguistic comprehension that establishes whether " 'p' corresponds with the world".   The base of the regress is resolved at once, and the regress collapses.

5.6  Austin vs Strawson

In 1950 J.L. Austin (John Langshaw Austin 1911 -- 1960) and P.F. Strawson (Sir Peter Frederick Strawson 1919 -- 2006) exchanged articles in the philosophical periodical Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society in a debate over the Correspondence Theory of Truth.   Austin defended the notion of truth as correspondence, while Strawson attempted to demolish the notion.   Amongst critics of the Correspondence Theory of Truth, Strawson's attack on Austin's position is repeatedly considered to have been sufficiently definitive to have changed the whole nature of the debate over Correspondence theories.

Having read the relevant papers in Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy(9), I must admit that I fail to see how Strawson in any way demolished Austin's arguments -- at least those relevant to the correspondence theory of truth.   Strawson's attack on Austin's position seems to be about different matters entirely.   In fact, it even appears that Strawson actually agrees with Austin's basic description of the correspondence theory.

The two key passages in Austin's article seem to be --

"3.   . . .   If there is to be communication of the sort that we achieve by language at all, there must be a stock of symbols of some kind which a communicator ('the speaker') can produce 'at will' and which a communicatee ('the audience') can observe   . . .   There must also be something other than words, which the words are to be used to communicate about: this may be called 'the world'. . . . Further, the world must exhibit (we must observe) similarities and dissimilarities . . . if everything were either absolutely indistinguishable or completely unlike anything else, there would be nothing to say.   . . .   And finally (for present purposes . . .) there must be two sets of conventions:   Descriptive . . .[and]   Demonstrative . . . ."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 152)(9)


"3b.   . . .   The only essential point is this: that the correlation between the words (= sentences) and the type of situation, event, etc., which is to be such that when a statement in those worlds is make with reference to a historical situation of that type the statement is then true, is absolutely and purely conventional."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 154) (9)

The rest of Austin's article appears to wander off into largely irrelevant byways generated (I suspect) by his historical beginnings in the school of philosophy as linguistic analysis.   He focuses, for example, on speech-acts or "statements" as the things that can be true.   And this raises all of the red herrings inherent in the presumption that a certain sort of speech-act is necessarily presumed to be an assertion of truth, and presumed to be an historical incident.   But all of this is really beside the point.   As far as the correspondence theory of truth the only relevant passages seem to be these two quoted here.

As far as Strawson's article is concerned, he seems to spend most of his time attacking the irrelevant asides of Austin's position that it is speech-acts that are truth bearers, and Austin's definition of 'facts'.   Since with Strawson, I do not believe that 'speech-acts' is a productive approach for dealing with truth bearers, I need not address Strawson's comments on that topic.   And since Austin has adequately (at least better that I could, at any rate) replied to Strawson's attack on his notion of facts in his 1961 article "Unfair to Facts" (also appearing in Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy(13) pg 183-199), I will not address that issue either.   I will focus on what I found in Strawson's article to be particularly germane to the issue of truth as a notion of correspondence.

From that perspective, the most curious passage from Strawson's article would seem to me to be --

"In using . . . sentences to make statements, we refer to a thing or person (object) in order to go on to characterize it: (we demonstrate in order to describe).   A reference can be correct or incorrect.   A description can fit or fail to fit, the thing or person to which it is applied.   When we refer correctly, there certainly is a conventionally established relation between the words, so used, and the thing to which we refer.   When we describe correctly, there certainly is a conventionally established relation between the words we use in describing and the type of thing or person we describe."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 165) (9)

Now it sure seems to me that in this passage, Strawson is actually agreeing with Austin that truth is a relation of correspondence between the words we use to frame a thought (Frege), statement (Austin), or proposition (me) and the world that those words are about.   As Austin asks at the end of his article, if "truth" is not our label for a correct reference or a description that fits, then what else is?   Truth just is the very correctness of reference, and/or fitness of description.

More to the point, however, Mr. Strawson goes on to argue --

"That (person, thing, etc.) to which the referring part of the statement refers, and which the describing part of the statement describes fits or fails to fit, is that which the statement is about.   It is evident that there is nothing else in the world for the statement itself to be related to   . . .   And it is evident that the demand that there should be such be such a relatum is logically absurd   . . .   But the demand for something in the world which makes the statement true (Mr. Austin's phrase), or to which the statement corresponds when it is true, is just this demand."
                                                                         (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 166) (9)

Now I would love to be able to speak for Austin, but it seems to me that Strawson is here seriously misinterpreting the correspondence theory described by Austin in his article.   In my understanding, the correspondence theory does not demand an additional relatum.   It posits only the relatum that Strawson has already accepted -- the relatum that renders a reference correct, and/or the description fit.   In setting up this false demand for an additional relatum, Strawson is setting up a strawman position that he naturally finds easy to defeat.   But as Strawson takes pains to point out in the related context of "facts" --

"the thing, person, etc., referred to is the material correlate of the referring part of the statement; the quality or property the referent is said to 'possess' is the pseudo-material correlate of its describing part; and the fact to which the statement 'corresponds' is the pseudo-material correlate of the statement as a whole."
                                                                        (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 167) (9)

By focussing on the red-herrings introduced into the debate by Austin's employment of speech-acts as truth bearers, Strawson can say --

"My objection goes further.   It is that there is no such thing or event called "a statement" (though there is the making of the statement) and there is no such thing or event called 'a fact' or 'a situation' (though there is the chessboard with the pieces on it) which stands to one another in any, even a purely conventional, relatum as the newspaper diagram stands to the board and its pieces."
                                                                       (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 170, fn 2) (9)

As a critique of the correspondence theory of truth as a relation, this objection is patently absurd of course.   Strawson has already accepted that there can be a correctness of reference, and a fitness of description.   The very concepts of correctness and fitness demand, for their meaningfulness, exactly the relation of correspondence that he is here objecting to.

Later on in his critique of Austin's article, Strawson says --

"If Mr. Austin is right   . . .   in declaring a statement to be true, we are either

(a)       talking about the meanings of the words used by the speaker whose making of the statement is the occasion for our use of 'true' . . . or

(b)     saying that the speaker has used correctly the words he did use.

  It is patently false that we are doing either of these things."
                                                                       (Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Pg 173) (9)

I cannot see how Strawson can claim that it is false, and even less patently false.   There are cases of the use of the word 'true' in common discourse where one of these is just exactly what we are in fact explicitly saying.   And I would argue that it is also in fact patently obvious that it is what we are always implicitly saying.   For Strawson here omits the more intelligible interpretation of Austin --

(c)       saying that, given the conventional meanings of the words used by the speaker, the reference of the statement is correct and the description of the statement fits what the statement is about.

This more appropriate interpretation of the correspondence theory clearly includes the assumption of (a) and (b).   So in declaring a statement true because we are saying (c), we are also implicitly saying both (a) and (b).

5.7  Devitt

In my research for this essay, I also came across Realism and Truth (Second Edition)(10), by Michael Devitt.   Although J.L.Austin is obviously an advocate for the Correspondence Theory of Truth, he is like most of his contemporaries, heavily influenced by the philosophical practice made popular by the Logical Positivists(11) of approaching all problems from the perspective of linguistic analysis.   Devitt, being of a later generation, is not encumbered by this failed tradition.   So I find that I am much more in accord with Devitt's way of talking about the Correspondence Theory of Truth than Austin's.

In his work Michael Devitt offers a Correspondence Theory of Truth that does not raise any of the red-herrings that Strawson picks up on in Austin's work.   In particular, it makes no use of the concept of "facts".   And in the preamble to the definition of Truth I quote here, Devitt makes it clear that his use of "sentence" is intended to be neutral with regards to truth bearers, so it does not demand a speech-act interpretation and is compatible with Frege's "thought", Austin's "statement", and my "proposition".

"Sentences of type x are true or false in virtue of: (1) their structure; (2) the referential relations between their parts and reality; (3) the objective and mind-independent nature of that reality."
                                                                       (Realism and Truth, Pg 27) (10)

This is pretty close to what I understand is the core of Austin's position on Truth, once all the red herrings are stripped away.   And it is, as you would expect since I choose to quote it here, an excellent summarization of the Correspondence Theory of Truth that I have described above.

Devitt also makes a convincing case that, using the process of abduction (inference to the best explanation), a Correspondence Theory of Truth is the best available explanation of how eh concept of "truth" is employed:

"In learning from others, we use their beliefs and utterances as guides to reality.   Thermometers are instruments we use to tell us about one aspect of reality, temperature.   People are instruments we use to tell us about indefinitely many aspects of reality.   In both sorts of case we need to correlate states of the instrument with likely states of the world.   The correlation requires a relatively simple theory when the instrument is a thermometer.   The claim is that it involves a complicated theory involving truth when the instrument is a language-user."
                                                                       (Realism and Truth, Pg 96) (10)

Devitt's line of argument starts with what to my mind is the most critical starting premise -- that when talking about truth, we must settle the metaphysical issues before discussing the epistemological ones.   Metaphysics is the place to start.   Not the linguistic analysis that seems to inevitably lead to deflationary notions about truth.   And not an a priori epistemology that seems to inevitably lead to anti-realist notions about truth.

Once one adopts metaphysical Realism, then (following Devitt) one can also employ the method of abduction (inference to the best explanation) to argue that the notion of "Truth" is best considered as a relation of correspondence.   Drawing upon his arguments, and adding my own twist, I would argue that the Correspondence Theory of Truth is the best available explanation for the concept of "truth" because:

  1. The language of "Truth as Correspondence" is necessary to permit communications -- even for philosophers.   One simply cannot talk about truth, facts, states of affairs, reality, beliefs, or judgements without employing the language of a Correspondence Theory of Truth.   The English language is configured to speak of truth as a relation of correspondence.   Any other conception of "truth*" is simply the assigning of some philosopher's idiosyncratic notion to a common English word that usually means something else.  
  2. A focus on linguistic analysis erroneously assigns to the word "truth" a meaning (or lack thereof) derived from the common employment of "true" in English sentences.   This ignores the function of the concept of "truth" as it applies to the aim of judgements and beliefs, and to the description of scenarios where our judgements or beliefs might be inconsistent with the objectively and mind-independently existing reality.
  3. A focus on judgement and "truth conditions" erroneously assigns to the word "Truth" an epistemologically derived meaning.   All forms of verificationism, like all forms of deflationism, ignore the metaphysical function of the concept of "truth" as a relationship between the reference and descriptive function of words (and propositions, sentences, thoughts, et al) and the objective and mind-independent reality that they are about.

In the final analysis, I firmly believe that the Correspondence notion of Truth is the only notion that makes any coherent sense in world described by Metaphysical realism.   In the marketplace of philosophical ideas, there simply is no other notion of what "truth" means that is competitive.

6.0  The "Coherence" Theory of Truth(12)

A "coherence" theory of truth maintains that the truth of any (true) proposition consists in its coherence with some specified set of propositions.   Coherence theories differ from the Correspondence Theory of Truth in two essential respects.   The competing theories give conflicting accounts of the relation between propositions and their truth conditions.   According to one, the relation is coherence, according to the other, it is correspondence. The competing theories also give conflicting accounts of truth conditions.   According to coherence theories, the truth conditions of propositions consist in other propositions.   The correspondence theory, in contrast, states that the truth conditions of propositions are not (in general) propositions, but rather objective features of the world. (Even the correspondence theorist holds that propositions about propositions have propositions as their truth conditions.)

6.1  Versions of the Coherence Theory of Truth

There are several different versions of the coherence theory of truth.   These versions differ on two major issues.   Different versions of the theory give different accounts of the coherence relation.   Different varieties of the theory give various accounts of the set (or sets) of propositions (the "specified" set) with which true propositions cohere.

According to one version of the coherence theory, the coherence relation is simply consistency.   To say that a proposition "coheres" with a specified set of propositions is to say that the proposition is logically consistent with the set.   This account of coherence is unsatisfactory for the following reason.   Consider two propositions which do not belong to a specified set.   These propositions could both be logically consistent with a specified set and yet be inconsistent with each other.   If coherence is consistency, the coherence theorist would have to claim that both propositions are true, but this is intuitively difficult to accept.

Another version of the coherence theory states that the coherence relation is some form of logical entailment.   Entailment can be understood as strict logical entailment, or entailment in some looser sense.   According to this version, a proposition coheres with a set of propositions if and only if it is entailed by members of the set.

The second point on which coherence theories differ is the constitution of the "specified" set of propositions.   Coherence theories generally agree that the specified set consists of propositions believed or held to be true.   They differ on the question of who believes the propositions and when.   At one extreme, a coherence theorist can hold that the specified set of propositions is the largest consistent set of propositions currently believed by actual people.   A moderate position has the specified set consisting of those propositions which will be believed when people like us (with finite cognitive capacities) have reached some limit of inquiry.   At the other extreme, a coherence theorist can maintain that the specified set contains the propositions which would be believed by an omniscient being, or by us at the ideal limit of investigation.

If the "specified" set is a set actually believed, or even a set which would be believed by people like us at some limit of inquiry, the Coherence Theory involves the rejection of realism about truth.   Hence these versions of Coherence Theories are also called Anti-Realist theories of truth.   Realism about truth involves acceptance of the principle of transcendence (which says that a proposition may be true even though it cannot be known to be true).   Coherence theorists (those who do not believe that the specified set is the set of propositions believed by an omniscient being) are committed to rejection of both the principle of bivalence (since it is not the case that for every proposition either it or a contrary proposition coheres with the specified set) and the principle of transcendence (since, if a proposition coheres with a set of beliefs, it can be known to cohere with the set).

6.2  Arguments for Coherence Theories of Truth

Two principal lines of argument have led philosophers to adopt a coherence theory of truth.   Early advocates of coherence theories were persuaded by reflection on metaphysical questions.   More recently, epistemological and semantic considerations have been the basis for coherence theories.

Idealists are led to a coherence theory of truth by their metaphysical position.   Advocates of the correspondence theory believe that a belief is (generally) ontologically distinct from the objective conditions which make the belief true.   Idealists do not believe that there is an ontological distinction between beliefs and what makes beliefs true.   From the idealists' perspective, reality is something like a collection of beliefs.   Consequently, a belief cannot be true because it corresponds to something which is not a belief.   Instead, the truth of a belief can only consist in its coherence with other beliefs.   A coherence theory of truth which results from idealism sometimes leads to the view that truth comes in degrees.   A belief is true to the degree that it coheres with other beliefs.

In recent years metaphysical arguments for coherentism have found few overt advocates. This is due to the fact that idealism is no longer widely held by professional philosophers. The metaphysical arguments for coherentism in recent years have been more covert, and have come from theological foundations.

Other coherentist philosophers argue that a coherence theory of justification leads to a coherence theory of truth.   Their argument runs as follows.   Someone might hold that coherence with a set of beliefs is the test of truth but that truth consists in correspondence to objective facts.   If, however, truth consists in correspondence to objective facts, coherence with a set of beliefs will not be a test of truth.   This is the case since there is no guarantee that a perfectly coherent set of beliefs matches objective reality.   Since coherence with a set of beliefs is a test of truth, truth cannot consist in correspondence.

This argument, however, depends on the claim that coherence with a set of beliefs is the test of truth.   Understood in one sense, this claim is plausible enough.   But to argue that from this, truth cannot consist in correspondence, one has to accept this claim in a very strong sense: coherence with a set of beliefs is an infallible test of truth.   If coherence with a set of beliefs is simply a good but fallible test of truth the argument fails.   The "falling apart" of truth and justification is to be expected if truth is only a fallible test of truth.

Another epistemological argument for coherentism is based on the view that we cannot "get outside" our set of beliefs and compare propositions to objective facts.   This argument also depends on the coherence theory of justification.   The argument infers from such a theory that we can only know that a proposition coheres with a set of beliefs.   We can never know that a proposition corresponds to reality.   But this argument does not follow from the premises.   We cannot infer from the fact that a proposition cannot be known to correspond to reality that it does not correspond to reality.   Correspondence theorists admit that even though we can only know which propositions cohere with our beliefs, truth still consists in correspondence.   The Correspondence Theory accepts that there may be truths which cannot be known, and argues that the coherence of a proposition with a set of beliefs is a good indication that the proposition corresponds to objective facts and that we can know that propositions correspond with reality.

6.3  Criticisms of Coherence Theories

Any coherence theory of truth faces one principal challenge - called the specification objection.   According to the specification objection, coherence theorists have no way to identify the specified set of propositions without contradicting their position.   The proposition (1) "Ronald Reagan was President of the United States" coheres with some set of propositions. The proposition (2) "Margaret Thatcher was President of the United States" coheres with another set of propositions.   No one supposes that the second of these propositions is true, in spite of the fact that it coheres with a set of propositions.   The specification objection charges that coherence theorists have no grounds for saying that (2) is false and (1) true.   The specification objection notes that, having somehow established an appropriate "maximally coherent set of propositions", one is forced to make one extra claim, that this maximally coherent set is to be preferred to some alternative maximally coherent set.   In other words, that this coherent set is "true" whereas that one is false.

A Correspondence Theorist could say that we have grounds for saying that (2) is false and (1) is true because the latter coheres with propositions which correspond to the facts. Coherentists cannot, however, adopt this response without contradicting their position. Sometimes coherence theorists maintain that the specified system is the most comprehensive system possible.   But this is not the basis of a successful response to the specification problem.   Unless they are to compromise their position, Coherentists can only define comprehensiveness in terms of the size of a system.   Coherentists cannot, for example, talk about the most comprehensive system composed of propositions which correspond to reality.   There is no logical reason, however, why there cannot be two or more equally large systems of internally consistent propositions.   Other criteria of the specified system to which coherentists frequently appeal are similarly unable to solve the specification problem.   These criteria include simplicity, empirical adequacy and others. Again, there seems to be no reason why two or more systems cannot equally meet these criteria.

On the other hand, Coherentists do not believe that the truth of a proposition consists in coherence with any arbitrarily chosen set of propositions.   Rather, they hold that truth consists in coherence with a set of beliefs, or with a set of propositions held to be true. Since no one actually believes the set of propositions with which (2) coheres, coherence theorists can conclude that (2) is false without contradicting themselves.

A general objection that Correspondence Theorists raise against Coherence Theories of Truth is that Coherence theories focus on the nature of verifiability, and the justification of belief (or knowledge), and not on truth.   Coherence theorists focus on the holistic character of verifying that a proposition is true, or that a belief is justified, but don't answer the principle problem - "What is truth?"  

A coherence theory of truth has no means of answering questions like: What is it about a specified set coherent propositions that makes them coherent?   Why do some sets of propositions cohere, and not others?   Is there any way of distinguishing between two internally coherent sets of propositions that are mutually contradictory?   Correspondence Theorists would maintain that it is the nature of the underlying reality that makes the difference.

There is also a very significant consequence to any of the Coherence Theories of Truth. And that involves the process by which one acquires knowledge of the truth.   For a Correspondence Theorist, the truth is determined by objective facts of the matter, and what we believe about those facts is not relevant to whether some proposition is in fact true.   For Coherence Theorists, however, the truth of some proposition is determined by our beliefs.   There is nothing in any Coherence Theory of Truth that precludes identifying truth through the processes of inductive reasoning from the perceived evidence.   But Coherence Theories permit two (at least) additional sources of truth and of true propositions. The first is "Intuition", and the second is "Authority".

"Intuition" is considered to be the awareness of the truth of a proposition independent of any evidence from reality (or at least evidence from the senses, depending on one's metaphysical concept of "reality").   Intuition is also generally considered to include "revelation", because revelations are usually regarded as perceptions independent of sensory input (e.g.. dreams, hallucinations, etc.).   Pop culture moralists often attribute a person's "conscience" to an intuitive grasp of certain moral truths.   And religious moralists almost always attribute the source of their moral teachings to some form of revelation.   Both are assuming a Coherence Theory of Truth.

"Authority" is considered to be the acceptance of the truth of a proposition, again independent of any evidence, based on the assumed veracity of the source.   To a certain extent, of course, we all do this whenever we accept as true a proposition that someone else has told us is true.   But acceptance of "Authority" carries a much greater significance to those who maintain a Coherence Theory of Truth.   Suppose, by dint of fancy oratory, I were to persuade you to believe that a particular set of propositions are true (lets say - that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy of a secret society).   And suppose that this set was itself mutually consistent and more or less consistent with the rest of your knowledge.   Then, according to most Coherence Theories, this set of beliefs I have proposed should be properly considered True.   I can thereafter reinforce my persuasive oratory by proclaiming that I have never lied to you.   And, of course, since you know to be true everything I have said so far, I have proven that I am a reputable source of Truth.   You will thereafter be less and less likely to doubt my propositions or question my proclaimed veracity (say - when I suggest that this secret society is actually running the government).   This form of knowledge has appealed to all authoritarian forms of leadership since the dawn of time - hence the name "Authority" for the source of this kind of Truth.   For obvious reasons, every authoritarian leader has tried to persuade his/her followers to adopt both an Idealist metaphysics and a Coherence Theory epistemology. "The Truth is what I tell you it is!   Believe me!!"

All religions are based on a Coherence Theory of Truth.   Primarily because all systems of religious belief are based on an Idealist metaphysics.   But also because all systems of religious belief require their faithful to accept "The Truth" as an absolute and as revealed by intuition, revelation, and authority in the absence of (and often despite) any evidence.   All "organized" religions are also authoritarian in their leadership style, and as such benefit greatly from the freedom to exploit being the "Authority" that is a source of "Truth".

7.0  The Realist versus Anti-Realist Debate

In dividing up the universe of anti-realist arguments in the way that I do here, I do not mean to suggest that these positions are in any way mutually exclusive.   Some of the non-realist theories of truth draw arguments from more than one of the anti-realist categories I address here.

7.1  Metaphysical Anti-Realism about Truth

The "metaphysical" anti-realist about truth denies, for various possible reasons, the metaphysical existence of the "facts of the matter" to which a proposition might correspond.   As such, the metaphysical anti-realist presents a direct challenge to the "facts" demanded by the correspondence theorist.

This denial may stem from the metaphysical assumption of subjectivism, wherein nothing exists that is outside of my experience.   Hence, if I do not have any experiential evidence for the truth of "P" (or "not-P"), then it is indeterminate whether "P" or "not-P".   The concept of the "facts of the matter" is limited to the facts of my experience.   There is nothing beyond my experience to render a proposition true or false.   So if the proposition is about matters beyond my experience, the proposition has indeterminate truth-status.

Alternatively, the denial of the metaphysical existence of "facts of the matter" may stem from the more fundamental metaphysical assumption of Idealism -- the assumption that consciousness is primary, that all that we can know anything about is our experiences, and that "reality" (if it exists at all as something separate from our experiences) is hidden behind a "veil of perception".   Idealism, a similar but stronger doctrine than Subjectivism, is a metaphysical position from which it is impossible to infer the existence of an objective reality wherein there might be "facts of the matter".   Hence the denial that such experience independent (judgement transcendent) "facts of the matter" exist.

It should be noted that not all metaphysical Idealists deny the existence of mind-independent "facts of the matter".   Some Idealists adopt an additional premise - the assumption of a mind-independent reality.   Kant, for example posited the existence of a "nuominal world" that is hidden behind, and is none-the-less the source of any patterns we observe in the "phenomenal world" of our experience(13).   And Berkeley, as another example, posited that "the world" consists of ideas in the mind of God(14).   In Berkeley's view the notion of a "mind-independent objective reality" becomes the "reality" of ideas in God's mind, mind-independent and objective only from the perspective of our minds.

Anti-realism about truth can be adopted by metaphysical realists.   However such a metaphysical foundation puts the anti-realist at a particular disadvantage.   The anti-realist is in the position of maintaining the metaphysical existence of a judgement transcendent reality while denying the existence of judgement transcendent "facts".  

Anti-realism about truth is often adopted because of its implications for propositions about past and future events.   The anti-realist may claim that the truth of a proposition is dependent on the facts that exist "now", dependent solely on currently existing evidence.   While not maintaining a blanket denial of the very concept of "facts, such an anti-realist finds unacceptable the realist's assertion that past and future facts (or states of affairs or other relevant truth determinants) exist in a metaphysical sense "now".   Such an anti-realist denial necessarily stems from a metaphysically indeterminate view of time and causation.  

If, for example, causation is assumed to be radically indeterminate on a metaphysical level, or if the future is assumed to not yet exist, then there can not exist "now" any determinate "facts of the matter" about the future.   Supporters of Aristotle's view of "future contingency" (e.g. his famous example of the "sea battle tomorrow") claim that when we make a statement P about the future, there is nothing "existing now" which makes that statement true or makes it false, even though it is true to say "P or not P". Either there will be a sea battle tomorrow or there won't.   Until tomorrow comes, however, there is no "fact" because the future is open.   Whereas, the day after tomorrow there will be a "fact".

Consider another example.   If I drop a rock off the top of the tower in Pisa, the laws of physics dictate that it will hit the ground a few seconds later.   Based on the lawful nature of reality, at the moment I drop the rock I can posit the proposition "the rock will hit the ground" and believe it to be true.   Unless, that is, I am prepared to accept the interference of "magic" -- principles of physical causation in direct violation of the normal laws of reality.   Now suppose the anti-realist posits all sorts of possible interferences to that eventuality that allegedly renders the proposition undecidable.   Unless "magic" is permissible, unless the causal laws of reality are radically indeterminate, all of those possible interferences must be in the process of getting to the interference point when I drop that rock.   If we exclude "magic", even if I cannot decide or judge whether the proposition is true or not because of a lack of information, it remains the case that there exists at the moment I drop the rock an existing state of affairs in reality that will determinately result in the rock hitting the ground or not.   So the proposition is true or false, whether or not I can decide whether it is true or false.   Unless the nature of reality is not lawful -- unless, that is, the laws of causation are radically indeterminate and "magic" prevails.   Hence, the anti-realist position about the non-existence of "future" facts requires a metaphysical assumption that the future is radically indeterminate until observed (or, possibly, observable) and implies a radically indeterminate view of causation.

Similar reasoning can be extended to the existence "now" of facts about the past.   For example, because there are no relevant facts that exist "now", it is considered indeterminate just what Pontius Pilot had in mind when he asked his famous question.   These two positions are not tightly coupled, and can be maintained or denied independently, depending on the details of the metaphysical assumptions that are brought to the table.   It is quite common for metaphysical anti-realists to accept realism about the past while being anti-realist about the future   -

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."
                 The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - 11th century.

Yet the anti-realist's requirement for existence "now" of the truth determinants of propositions about the past and future leads the anti-realist into a severe difficulty.   Unfortunately, the anti-realist will find he cannot even claim that the proposition "it is raining outside" (or even "I am hungry") is true.   The mental event that is the thinking of that thought is temporally removed from the experience of the sensations that constituted the verification of the proposition.   Furthermore, the evidence of the senses is temporally removed from the event that was sensed.   The best that the anti-realist can manage is to assert the truth of "I saw that it was raining (or I was hungry) at the time I looked".   Which is, of course, not the way we speak at all.

This problem of temporal distance gets worse the further the verification process is removed from personal experience.   The anti-realist can perhaps assert that it is true that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" because of evidence that he remembers encountering over the course of his lifetime.   Yet that evidence is no longer available to his current judgement.   All that his current judgement has available is his memory of that evidence.   And what is to support the judgement that his memory is accurate in this case?   The anti-realist cannot even call upon the argument that the assertion could in principle be verified with currently existent evidence, and is therefore true.   The anti-realist has no currently existing evidence to justify the conclusion that the required evidence about Nero and Rome does in fact currently exist.

The realist, by contrast, maintains that past and future facts (or states of affairs or other relevant truth determinants) exist in a metaphysical sense -- but there is no context of "now" involved.   If one adopts the realist's Einsteinian four-dimensional view of space-time, then the four-dimensional manifold exists in a timeless static manner.   The "fact" of the sea-battle exists in a timeless sense within that four-dimensional manifold -- a "fact" that exists at a future point along the temporal dimension, but none the less exists.   The metaphysical sense in which the realist maintains these truth determinants exist is necessarily a timeless one.  

Moreover, even if the anti-realist's premise that the metaphysics of reality is not in fact determinate, there is still only one single story of the past that reality did in fact pass through in order to get here even if it could have gone through any number of possible past histories without violating the exclusion of "magic".   And there will be only one single story of the future that it does in fact evolve through from its current state, even if it is possible that it might have any one of a number of alternative futures without violating the "magic" exclusion.   The proposition "it rained here 10 million years ago today" is true if and only if it did actually rain here 10 million years ago today.   Likewise, the proposition "it will rain here 10 million years from today" is true if and only if it will actually rain here 10 million years from today.   That the "facts" do not exist in the present is irrelevant.   That the "facts" do not exist in any way that I might come to have some epistemological relationship with them is irrelevant.   And it is irrelevant because the realist concept of "truth" fundamental to the Correspondence Theory of Truth is not dependent on our epistemological relationship with the facts.

7.2  Epistemological Anti-Realism about Truth

Which introduces another sort of anti-realism about truth that can be called "epistemological".   Such anti-realism maintains that the very concept of truth is dependent on an epistemological relationship between the proposition and the thinker rather than on any relationship between a proposition and reality.   On such a foundation, the metaphysical existence of any "facts of the matter" is irrelevant and may either be accepted or denied without disrupting the basic epistemological claim that the truth is determined by our judgement of the evidence.   Since there can be no evidence "now" about the future, and evidence about the past may no longer exist, and there may be realms of the Universe that are beyond our ability to experience, many propositions are therefore considered undecidable in principle.   Hence the truth-status of these undecidable propositions is indeterminate.

The realist, of course, maintains that because "reality" is independent of any observer, so must truths about that reality be independent of any observer.   For the realist, the "similarity-set" of recognition characteristics by which we discern true propositions from false ones involves a mapping from the semantic content of the proposition to a state of affairs in a mind-independent reality.   For the realist, metaphysics constrains epistemology.   The epistemological anti-realist, on the other hand, by maintaining that the similarity-set of recognition characteristics of "truths" is in some way dependent on our ability to know the truth, must endorse a metaphysics that permits the mind of the observer to influence "reality".   To be able to maintain that there is no answer to some undecidable question, is to maintain that "reality" is radically indeterminate until and unless observed.   The anti-realist lets epistemology constrain metaphysics.   (While this position might be consistent with quantum mechanics -- a fact that gives anti-realists great solace, it is inconsistent with all other science -- a fact that causes most realists to view quantum mechanics with suspicion).

Arguments have been presented by a number of philosophers (among them William P. Alston(15) and Richard Kirkham(5)) that suggest that this sort of anti-realism about truth is logically incoherent.   They argue that it depends for its concepts of evidence and verification on the very concept of realist truth that it denies.   The anti-realist is attempting to construct an ersatz, "epistemological" notion of truth to replace the rejected notion of a realist judgement transcendent truth.   But it can't be done, and it is not difficult to see why.   Verification and falsification can never be totally conclusive.   There is always room for discovering that your verification wasn't a verification after all.   Even if you allow that we can say we "know" things for practical purposes, such propositions as are reliably "known" are too soft to play the role of truth.   And the concept of knowledge involves subjective evaluation of the adequacy of justification.   We need a hard subject-independent notion of truth in order to express the very possibility that the anti-realist is trying to construct.

As a matter of historical record, most versions of anti-realism about truth deny the existence of truth determinants that are independent of our thinking of them.   As a result, most versions of anti-realism result in some form of evidentiary based concept of truth.   As with the metaphysical anti-realist's denial of "facts" that exist "now", statements about the past or future can only be considered true if there is evidence "now" that does or could in practice or in principle justify a judgement that it is true.   For most such anti-realist theories, therefore, the conception of "truth" involves an ability of some mind to judge the evidence.   The details - whether the required ability is "in principle" or "in practice", is relevant to the mind contemplating the proposition or some other ideal, omniscient, or group of minds - vary according to the preference of the anti-realist philosopher involved.

These are all different flavours of of Kirkham's Justification Project class of theories.   The core idea being that a proposition is true only if we can (somehow, vaguely defined) verify that it is true.   And it is false if we can (somehow, vaguely defined) verify that it is false.   In all other circumstances, the proposition is indeterminate.   According to these Verificationist theories of truth, a proposition is true if and only if it can be verified (or perhaps merely confirmed) in principle (or perhaps in practice) -- leaving usually unspecified which mind is to be involved.   The concept of verification is specifically mind-dependent.   From the Encarta® World English Dictionary -- "verification -- (noun) establishment of truth: the establishment of the truth or correctness of something by investigation or evidence."   From the Oxford English Dictionary -- "verify -- (verb) make sure or demonstrate that (something) is true, accurate, or justified."   As you can see from these dictionary entries, the concept of verification is specifically the product of judgement.

Which brings us to the meaning of "judgement".  

Judgment also judgement (noun)   -   1. The act or process of judging; the formation of an opinion after consideration or deliberation.   2. a. The mental ability to perceive and distinguish relationships; discernment.   b. The capacity to form an opinion by distinguishing and evaluating.   c. The capacity to assess situations or circumstances and draw sound conclusions; good sense.   3. An opinion or estimate formed after consideration or deliberation.  
                              from Microsoft's American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

Without explicitly saying so, this definition of "judgement" clearly implies a choice between alternatives.   After consideration or deliberation or evaluation of the evidence or arguments, one distinguishes or discerns that the fact of the matter is A rather than B (or, alternatively, A rather than not-A).   So in any circumstance where we apply judgement, the process of judging is a process of discerning the "right", "proper", "true" alternative from the "wrong", "improper", "false" one(s).   Because a judgment always involves a choice between alternatives, it is always logically possible that we might choose the wrong alternative.   The process of judgement is a search for the proper choice.   But what identifies the "proper" choice?   In order to be able to distinguish between the alternative that is correct and the alternative that is not correct, one needs a standard of correctness of judgement that is independent of what one is trying to establish by the judgement. In denying the metaphysical existence "now" of past or future facts (or states of affairs or other suitable truth determinants), the anti-realist is denying the existence of the very external perspective that is demanded by the concept of "truth" as a standard of correctness of judgement.  

Epistemic anti-realism about truth does entail metaphysical consequences however.   It is logically inconsistent with metaphysical realism about reality.   Consider the proposition "it is raining outside".   This is a proposition that seems to be about the present.   So an epistemological anti-realist might have little difficulty in accepting that our ability to examine the currently existing state of affairs of it raining outside is sufficient to render the proposition true.   But how can the anti-realist verify that what he is seeing is in fact the actual state of an externally existing reality.   As I discussed briefly when referring to the metaphysical anti-realist, there is nothing inherent in our experiences that would justify a deduction that there is an external objective reality.   Hence there is nothing in the anti-realist's experiences that could be used to verify the proposition that there is an objective external reality.   Therefore, the best that the anti-realist about truth could logically conclude is that the existence of an external objective reality is indeterminate.   Only by a prior adoption of the realist metaphysical premise that reality is external and objective can anyone (realist or anti-realist) employ the evidence of their experiences in a manner that draws upon that premise.   By treating epistemology as prior to metaphysics, the anti-realist about truth finds it impossible to epistemologically verify the "truth" of the proposition that reality is independent of mind.

7.3  Deflationary Anti-Realism about Truth(16)

Another sort of epistemological anti-realist about truth maintains that the concept "truth" is not an epistemologically "robust" one that explains anything.   Such an anti-realist maintains that "truth" is either indefinable, or deflatable into a linguistic artefact of some sort.   All of the products of the Speech-Act Project fall into this category.   According to the various "deflationary" theories of truth, to assert that a proposition is true is just to assert the proposition itself.   Deflationary theories of truth allege that "truth" is not the name of some property of propositions �"some thing about which one could have a theory.   Obviously, anti-realism of this sort is a direct challenge to the Correspondence theorist.

Anti-realists of this sort start their philosophical analysis of "truth" by examining the linguistic employment of the word "true" and assuming that the meaning of the underlying concept is dictated by the use of the word.   An argument can be made that language is not an effective starting point for any philosophical analysis.   Be that as it may, it is obvious that if one starts from an epistemological foundation, then one is not going to be able to determine any metaphysical issue.

Advocates of Deflationism argue that any attempt to introduce content into a "definition of truth" or a "theory of truth" that says anything meaningful will fall foul of Tarski's "equivalence thesis".   The belief that truth is a property is just an illusion caused by the fact that we have the predicate "is true" in our language.   Since most predicates name properties, we naturally assume that "is true" does as well.   But, deflationists maintain, statements that seem to predicate truth actually do nothing more than signal agreement with the statement.

For example, the redundancy and disquotational theories of truth holds that to assert that a statement is true is just to assert the statement itself. These deflationary theories draw upon a variant of Tarski's schema:

To say that " 'P' is true" is to say that P.

Thus, to say that "the cat is on the mat" is true is to say nothing more nor less than that the cat is on the mat.

Another example is the performative theory of truth which holds that to say "the cat is on the mat" is true is to perform the speech act of signalling one's agreement with the claim that the cat is on the mat (much like nodding one's head in agreement). The idea that some statements are more actions than communicative statements is not as odd as it may seem.   Consider, for example, that when the bride says "I do" at the appropriate time in a wedding, she is performing the act of taking this man to be her lawful wedded husband.   She is not describing herself as taking this man.

But deflationary theories are theories about the semantics of the English language.   Like Tarski's semantic theory, they seem to assume as given that the concept of truth involves a correspondence with reality.   They say nothing about what it means for it to be the case that P.   More particularly, deflationary theories of truth ignore the key role of truth in the process of judgement.   What all deflationary theories of truth ignore is the function of the concept "truth" as a standard of correctness of judgement.

7.4  Logical Anti-Realism about Truth

There is also a "logical" sort of anti-realist about truth.   The logical antirealist does not actually maintain any particular theory with regards to "truth".   Instead the logical anti-realist tries to tie the realist up in logical knots by maintaining that for the realist to argue that the facts of the matter are such that either "P" or "not-P" is to say nothing meaningful.   The logical anti-realist argues that the logical disjunction of a proposition with its full negation doesn't need anything to make it true -- it is truistic.   This is based on the logical axiom that (P & not-P) includes everything.   For any proposition P, therefore, "(P or not-P)" is always going to be true.   Hence to suggest that the facts of the matter are such that "(P or not-P)" is not to say anything meaningful.  

However, the logical anti-realist is deliberately trading on a misunderstanding of the realist's argument that is permitted by the vagueness of English.   What the realist is claiming is "((the facts of the matter are such that P) or (the facts of the matter are such that not-P))".   Taken as a whole, this statement is of course always true.   But that is not the point.   What the realist is arguing is that the facts of the matter are specific to each of "P" or "not-P" rendering one and only one of the disjunctions true.   And it is this that the logical anti-realist skips over.   The logical anti-realist applies the rules of logic to factor out the common phrase that seems to appear in the realist's claim to get "(the facts of the matter are such that (P or not-P))".   While permissible according to the rules of logic, the result is a deliberate distortion of the realist's claim.   For the anti-realist's interpretation is, as claimed, obviously and necessarily true regardless of what the facts of the matter are.   Whereas the realist's intended interpretation is that the truth-status of each component phrase is dependent on what the facts of the matter are.   What the logical anti-realist does not consider is that the superficially "common" phrase that is being factored out, is not in fact "common" at all.   It is very specific to the term it is attached to.   The logical anti-realist is thus deliberately playing on the fact that the actual meaning of the English used to express the concept can be translated into "logic-language" in more than one superficially acceptable way.

7.5  Possible-Worlds Anti-Realism about Truth

There is another kind of anti-realism about truth that is consistent with both metaphysical realism about the existence of an objective mind-independent reality, and realism about the existence of the judgement transcendent truth-status of propositions "out there" in reality.   This kind of anti-realism about truth employs the notion of "possible worlds".  

This is not to suggest that the possible-worlds anti-realist denies the existence of judgement transcendent "facts".   Let's take a simple case of perceiving a tree.   The tree was there before I perceived it. It would have been there even if no-one had perceived it.   Things don't come into existence when we perceive them, nor does perceiving an object change it in any way (obviously this is not intended to rule out cases like stupidly switching on the light to see if you left the box of photographic paper open).   The possible-worlds anti-realist can fully agree with the realist on these points.   Things do not come into existence or change their intrinsic properties when we perceive them.   Where the possible-worlds anti-realist differs from the realist, is in the area of the existence of "determinate facts".

The possible-worlds anti-realist can agree with the realist that it is the state of reality that renders propositions true or false, and that there are "facts of the matter" that metaphysically exist to determine the truth-status of propositions.   However, the possible-worlds anti-realist maintains that while the facts of the matter are certainly "out there" in reality, it is nevertheless indeterminate whether those facts are such that "P" or "not-P".  

The logic behind this position is the supposition that there exists in reality both logically possible worlds wherein "P" and logically possible worlds wherein "not-P".   The truth-status of "P" in any particular possible world is determinate and "out there" in reality.   What is undecidable or indeterminate, the anti-realist claims, is which of these possible worlds is the actual world.   The possible-world anti-realist maintains that although we can judge whether "P" is true or not based on the evidence we have available in our actual world, whether in fact "P" is true or not is indeterminate.   The reason is that which of the possible worlds (in some of which "P", and in some of which "not-P") is the actual world is indeterminate, and there is always the possibility that in some logically possible world, the evidence on which we base our judgements is not valid.   There is nothing "out there" in reality to determine whether the proposition in question is actually true, or actually false in this actual world, because there is nothing "out there" in reality to determine which of the many logically possible worlds is this actual world.   Hence, in contrast to the realist, the anti-realist maintains that there is no determinate "fact of the matter", no determinate "state of affairs" that renders most propositions either true of not-true.

The possible-worlds anti-realist position is dependent on the presumption that there is no discernable metaphysical difference between the actual world that we inhabit and any of the alternative logically possible worlds.   If there was any discernable difference at all, detectable by us or not, the realist could retort that such a difference can distinguish between "P" (or not-P) being true in the actual world from a possible world where "not-P" (or P) is true.   Hence, the possible-world anti-realist about truth is necessarily committed to the same kind "reality" for possible worlds as is possessed by the actual world.   (However that "reality" is understood.   The possible-world anti-realist does not have to be a metaphysical realist.   The position could also be maintained by a Berkeleian Idealist.   It would just imply that possible worlds are indistinguishable from the actual world as ideas in the mind of God.)

However, the possible-worlds anti-realist does make two positive metaphysical claims that are very debatable: (1) that there are in fact possible worlds in which the proposition is true and possible worlds in which the proposition is false; and (2) the actual world is indistinguishable from those alternate possible worlds so that it is not determinable which truth value the proposition has in this actual world.

Unfortunately for the anti-realist, there is no evidence or logic in support of either of these claims.   In fact, it can be readily argued by the realist that there are in fact no logically possible worlds where in P if in this actual world not-P obtains (or vice versa), and hence there is no difficulty in distinguishing between the actual world that clearly exists and a hypothetical possible world that is not in fact logically possible.

Suppose we regard "the place wherein could exist all the logically possible things that might exist" (aka "The Universe") as an n-dimensional set of points.   "N" would, of course, have to be an infinite number, since there is no logical limit on the number of spatio-temporal dimensions that some "logically possible world" could exhibit.   Along any one particular dimension, of course, there are an infinite number of points.   So in an n-dimensional universe there are "infinity to the power of infinity" number of spatio-temporal points.   Technically this trans-finite number is called "Aleph-1".  

Suppose, as the next step, we adopt the attitude of Quantum Physics, and treat all forces that might exist as manifested by particles.   We can then treat all the logically possible particles of force the same way we do all the logically possible particles of matter.   Since there is no logical limit to the number of logically possible kinds of particles that might exist, we must treat the number of possible kinds of particles as infinite as well.   To complicate things, any given particle might assume any of an infinity of logically possible "quantum states".   Furthermore, any given particle in a particular quantum state might logically possess any of an infinite number of logically possible energy levels.   Therefore we can regard the number of discrete particle configurations as "(infinity to the power of infinity) to the power of infinity", or Aleph-1 logically possible particle configurations.   (Alpeh-1 to the power of infinity is still Aleph-1.   Transfinite mathematics is more than curious, it is downright odd.)

Putting these two suppositions together gives us - at each of the Aleph-1 points in the universe there might exist any one of Aleph-1 particle configurations.   This gives us "aleph-1 to the power of aleph-1" possible configurations of "The Universe".   (And, oddly enough, this even larger number of possibilities is also Aleph-1.   Trans-finite mathematics is very odd indeed.)

So this view would suggest that there are Aleph-1 logically possible "mathematically describable worlds".   (An unanswered question worth pondering is whether or not there could be a "logically possible world" that is not among the aleph-1 "mathematically describable worlds".   Personally, I don't see how, but I suppose it might be possible.   However, alpeh-1 is large enough to serve my purposes here, so I will ignore any potential left-overs.)   Yet each configuration presented by this analysis is timeless.   Each of the aleph-1 particular configurations of particles in an n-dimensional universe is static -- it does not change.   Time is one (or possibly infinitely many) of the dimensions of the n-dimensional universe, and to specify a particular particle's n-dimensional position is to specify also its specific time.

Now is this the image that the anti-realist has when he talks about "logically possible worlds"?   Certainly it cannot be if the anti-realist considers that there is at least one logically possible world in which Pontius Pilot really pondered the philosophical import of his question "What is Truth?" and at least one where he didn't.

So it would seem that the anti-realist's "logically possible world" is not a static thing, but a dynamic succession of "images" from the aleph-1 catalogue of "mathematically describable worlds".   I suppose this could be thought of as "seeing reality" like a movie film -- a rapid succession of individually static images.   (Possibly, I suppose, an infinitely rapid sequence of an infinite number of successive "images".)   And the number of ways in which the aleph-1 separate images of "mathematically describable worlds" can be arranged in sequences is called "aleph-2".   (The possibly infinite number of time-like dimensions that would be "discarded" in creating the temporal sequence is not relevant to the trans-finite mathematics involved.)   So we can, at least as a first approximation, treat the anti-realist's set of all "logically possible worlds" as containing Aleph-2 separate "worlds".

But this enormous set contains aleph-1 many "logically possible worlds" in which at one temporal instant I am sitting at my computer writing this essay, and in the next temporal instant spread thinly across the universe with each constituent particle in a widely separate position.   And it contains aleph-1 many "logically possible worlds" in which the dropped and shattered glass reassembles itself and jumps back into the hand that dropped it.   It is obvious that the overwhelmingly Vast majority of "logically possible worlds" in this set of Aleph-2 possibilities would not be recognizable as "meaningful possible worlds".   (You can think of the concept of a "Vast majority" [capitalized V] as what is left after a "Vanishingly small" [capitalized V] subset is removed from the whole.   And that "Vanishingly small" subset is infinitesimally small -- a fraction smaller than one divided by infinity, one divided by aleph-1, or one divided by aleph-2, depending on context.)

The Vast majority of the aleph-2 mathematically describable possible worlds would have spatial and temporal dimensionality different from our own.   The Vast majority of the remainder would not contain anything remotely resembling our current world.   The Vast majority of the little that's left would not contain anything that would be remotely recognizable as germane to the question of whether "P" or "not-P".   And by no means finally, the Vast majority of the Very Vanishingly small residual subset would not behave across time in any way remotely recognizable as "normal".

It is obvious, therefore, that despite the trans-finite enumeration of "logically possible worlds", what the anti-realist actually has in mind when contemplating the "logically possible worlds" relevant to the resolution of "P or not-P" is that Very Very Very Vanishingly small subset of aleph-2 possibilities that are consistent with what we might refer to as the "normally expected behaviour of reality".   In all cases of considering the possible worlds that might play a part in resolving any issue of "P or not-P", the anti-realist is not considering all Aleph-2 members of the set of "logically possible worlds".   The anti-realist is considering only that Very Very Very Vanishingly small subset that are "as like this current world as possible", except that either "P" or "not-P".

It now becomes clear that a more sophisticated interpretation of possible worlds anti-realism needs to address this question -- just what is the anti-realist's conception of the "normally expected behaviour of reality".   What does it mean for one of the aleph-2 logically possible worlds to be "as like this current world as possible" and still allow that either "P" or "not-P"?

Surely the anti-realist, when in discussions with a realist about the nature of "truth", must include in his notion of "normally expected behaviour of reality" the constraint that any candidate "logically possible world" will be consistent with the best understanding we have of the physical laws that appear to govern the world we experience.   Otherwise, the realist can respond that whatever the "evidence" says, the "evidence" appeared by magic, and does not mean what the anti-realist wants it to mean.   And if the anti-realist is not concerned by this challenge, he has reduced "truth" to "whatever I choose to believe".   And I don't think anyone but a Solipsist would want to maintain that position.

Which leaves the one remaining question -- how many "meaningful possible worlds" are left out of the aleph-2 "logically possible worlds" once we eliminate those that are not "as like this current world as possible"?   And does that Really Vanishingly small remaining sub-set actually include worlds where "P" and worlds where "not-P"?

It is obvious that for some propositions "P", the physical laws that appear to govern the world we experience do not allow acceptable alternative candidates of "logically possible worlds" that are both "as like this current world as possible" and permit both "P" and "not-P".   If I drop a rock off the tower in Pisa, the rock will hit the ground unless interfered with by magic.   Once the pool queue is struck, the billiard balls will proceed in a deterministic fashion, and you can tell which single history each traced if you come in before they stop rolling -- unless you permit magic.   And it is physically impossible, again unless you permit magic, (given the understanding we have of the physical laws that appear to govern the world we experience) for there not to be a star with a planet in a galaxy beyond our visible horizon.

A realist therefore can adopt the determinist position and reply to the anti-realist by arguing that there is in fact only one single "meaningful possible world" that is "as like this current world as possible" -- one that does not require "magic" to realize one of "P" or "not-P".   The realist can argue that without becoming inconsistent with the physical laws that govern the actual world, in other words without allowing "magic", there is only one single "logically possible world" that can be considered as a "meaningful possible world".   And that single remaining member of the set of aleph-2 logically possible worlds, is the actual world.   In that single actual world - past, present, or future - either "P" or "not-P".   So the realist can respond to the anti-realist who maintains that "an undecidable proposition would be true in some possible worlds, and false in other possible worlds, but there is no answer in reality to the question which of all these possible worlds is the actual world" by arguing that   -   it is simply not the case that there is both a possible world where "P" and a possible world where "not-P", as long as "magic" is excluded.   And the elimination of "magic" is the answer in reality to the question of which possible world is the actual possible world.

Past, present or future - if "P", then there is no logically possible world that is "as like this current world as possible" and still permits "not-P" without resorting to "magical" violations of the laws that govern our world.   For a realist to maintain that "P" is to maintain that "not-P" is inconsistent with the laws that govern the world.   (And vice versa for "not-P", of course.)  

To maintain otherwise, as does the anti-realist, is to maintain that the laws of physics that govern reality are radically indeterminate to an extent that challenges the efforts of science and the expectations that govern our choices of behaviour.   So I would wonder how the multiple-worlds anti-realist about truth marries his notions of "logically possible worlds" and the indeterminateness of truth values with the expectations he normally has about alarm clocks and getting up in the morning.

I don't think that the anti-realist would dispute the evaluation that the anti-realist notion of "truth" and the actuality of "logically possible worlds" is inconsistent with the common sense notions on these matters.   I think, therefore, that the onus should be on the possible-worlds anti-realist to demonstrate that both "P" and "not-P" is consistent with the physical laws that govern the world before claiming that the question is undecidable, or that the truth-value of "P" is indeterminate.

I therefore demand that the possible-worlds anti-realist provide some rationale for the truth of his two metaphysical claims.   Note that this way of couching the challenge is intentionally circular.   In order to argue for the reality of logically possible worlds, the anti-realist must first assume the reality of logically possible worlds.   (Else how is the anti-realist to assert any "true" proposition in support of the argument?)   A realist about truth, on the other hand, can apply Ockham's Razor to argue that there is only one actual world, and that it is trivially distinguishable from the other "logically possible worlds" by virtue of the fact that only the actual world is real.

7.6  "Negative" Anti-Realism about Truth

Finally, there is what I will refer to as "negative" anti-realism about truth.   This sort of anti-realist simply refuses to "understand" what the realist is trying to say.   The negative anti-realist carefully yet firmly avoids making any positive metaphysical claims that can be challenged.   Instead, the negative anti-realist simply challenges the alleged meaning of the realist's statements.   The anti-realist maintains that however many words the realist uses to express the point, no "meaning" can be attached to the assertion that permanently undecidable questions "have" answers.

Unfortunately for the negative anti-realist, the realist has a natural and parallel rejoinder.   The realist can simply refuse to "understand" the denials of the anti-realist.   What this does, is to deflect the disagreement between the realist and the anti-realist into a discussion of what it means to "understand" some proposition.   And that takes the conversation into the theory of meaning and the Theory of Concepts.  

It is difficult to comprehend how the "negative" anti-realist can maintain a consistent denial of the meaning behind the truth of some proposition.   Even the anti-realist maintains that at least some propositions are true -- at the very least, the proposition that no "meaning" can be attached to the assertion that permanently undecidable questions "have" answers.   Yet given that very denial, it is hard to understand what meaning the anti-realist can invest in the truth of such a statement.   It should be noted that negative anti-realism is only suggested by those professional philosophers who find themselves dissatisfied with all of the other alternatives.   It is uncertain whether any such suggestion is actually believed by the philosopher suggesting it.  

7.7  Summary

What is actually going on in the debate between the realist and anti-realist is that each has a different concept denoted by the word "truth".   Despite the fact that each has learned the concept of "truth" from a similar suite of ostensible examples, observing readily discernable differences between those propositions that we recognize are consistent with "reality" and those propositions that we recognize are inconsistent with "reality", each has arrived at a different "similarity set" of recognition characteristics for their concept as a consequence of their different metaphysical premises.   As a result, while in most situations the two can converse neatly with little confusion, when it comes to discussing the nature of the "similarity-set" of recognition characteristics for the concept, they start to confuse each other.

The "negative" anti-realist can try to suggest that the "onus" is on the realist to explain what he means.   But this move won't work because the anti-realist is being logically incoherent with respect to the very basis upon which any such explanation might be constructed.   The very concepts that the anti-realist employs to discuss the notions of "truth" and "meaning" -- evidence, judgement, and verification/falsification -- presuppose the very notion that the anti-realist is proclaiming not to understand -- a realist concept of "truth".

The realist clearly maintains the more common sense premise that reality is in fact determinate.   Certainly, all of the empirical evidence we have, at scales larger than that dominated by quantum mechanics, would support the conclusion that reality is determinate.   If reality is indeed determinate, then there is indeed something "out there" that picks out the actual world from all those hypothesized possible worlds.   And that "something" is the chain of causation and the Einsteinian image of a four-dimensional space-time manifold.   At any point in the past, present, or future, only one of the hypothesized possible worlds is causally linked to the current actual world.   "Logically possible" does not mean "causally possible".   And if that is the case, then the argument of the anti-realist falls flat.   The single actual world, past, present or future, is the thing that is "out there" to determine whether the proposition in question is actually true or actually false.

8.0  Judgments of Truth

In addition to the question of what makes a proposition true, is the question of how we judge whether the proposition is true.   The issue of just what constitutes a non-moral judgment, and how our non-moral judgments are justified, is a subject for a separate essay99.6 -- particularly, an essay that presents a fuller discussion of the concept of "knowledge" introduced briefly in the introduction.   For the purposes of this discussion on the nature of truth, it will suffice to proclaim as proven that judgments of the truth of propositions are based on the coherence of that proposition with the rest of the propositions that one believes, allowing for the contribution of non-propositional beliefs from sensory inputs.

With that minor preliminary established, we can now discuss the judging of "truth" under the headings of two basic and different kinds of propositions.   There are "Deductive Truth" (also variously called Definitional, A Priori, or Analytical Truth) propositions, and there are "Inductive Truth" (also variously called A Posteriori, Synthetic, Empirical, or Fuzzy Truth) propositions. I want to make clear here that I am not proposing this distinction on the basis of what renders a proposition true. I am proposing this distinction on the basis of how we judge whether a proposition is true.

8.1  Inductive Truth Judgments

We'll start with Inductive Truths, because that is the kind of "truth" that most people mean most of the time.   Most propositions asserted in the processes of normal and philosophical communication are propositions offered as Inductive Truth judgments.   The simple atomic "F is G" proposition asserts that the existents subsumed within the concept F are also subsumed within the concept G.   They are propositions that summarize our observations of, and conclusions about Reality.

When I entertain the proposition "F is G", the facts of Reality may be such that this proposition is true - an omniscient intellect would recognize that the existents subsumed within the concept "F" are also subsumed within "G".   It is this "sense" of the nature of Inductive Truth to which philosophers have referred when speaking of "Existential Truth" (also called The Real, Nuomenal, or Deep Truth).   But when I evaluate the truth of the proposition, then I must judge whether the proposition is true according to the information that I currently possess here-now.   So there is a "sense" in which the proposition is in fact true (or not-true, as the facts dictate), and there is a "sense" in which the proposition is judged to be true (or not true) according to my judgment.

Inductive Truth judgements are not binary in nature.   They are only probably correct. Remember, there may be a judgement transcendent fact of the matter whether "F is G".   But truth is a property of propositions, not a property of facts.   And while the facts of the matter will determine absolutely whether the proposition is (existentially) true or not-true, the proposition can never be judged true or not-true with certainty.   While it is absolutely certain that you perceive something, how you identify that something, and how you classify that identified existent within the pigeon-holes of your concepts is open to error.   So no evidence from Reality is infallible.   Thus most Inductive Truth judgments can never be made with certainty.   More significantly, judgments of this class can be more or less true, or true enough for the purposes at hand.   Inductive Truth judgments can be considered as a continuum that runs from "Almost Certainly True" on one end to "Almost Certainly Not-True" at the other end.

Inductive Truth judgements follow the rules of relative and comparative logic.   An inductive truth proposition can be judged to be true for a time, or in a place, or for as long as it is sufficient for the purposes to which it is being put.   A future time, a shift in place, a change in the degree of knowledge available, or a change in the degree of accuracy required, can change the truth judgment of such propositions.

As an example, consider the Newtonian Theory of Gravity.   In Newton's time, the propositions in this theory were judged to be "Inductively True".   They accurately reflected the then understood nature of Reality, to the highest degree of accuracy possible at that time.   Over time, however, Newton's theories became less true as more and more knowledge was discovered about Reality.   And they became less true as the increasing accuracy of measurements made the theories insufficiently useful as predictors of Reality.   Eventually a new set of propositions joined Newton's theories.   Currently, the Einstein Theory of Gravity is judged to be "Inductively True".   The Relativity theories of Einstein are a more complete representation of our understanding of Reality, and are more accurate predictors of our measurements of Reality.   But this does not mean we judge the Newtonian theories to be false.   We each, almost everyday, make use of the Newtonian theories in our daily lives.   The Newtonian theories are judged to be true-enough for our purposes in every-day living.   There is often no requirement for the accuracy and additional details of the Einstein theories.   Even the well understood facts of the Earth orbiting the Sun are not always necessary.   For some purposes in the field of celestial navigation, we can judge that it is sufficiently true enough to propose that the Stars and planets orbit the Earth.

As a further example, consider the atomic propositions "John is a male", and "John is unmarried".   These are propositions of the Inductive class.   They require observation of Reality from which to judge whether or not they are true.   The maleness of John is a characteristic that is tightly defined and closely coupled with bio-chemical characteristics of the genes (i.e. the presence of a Y chromosome).   Therefore, the maleness of John can be closely determined.   The proposition "John is a male" can be judged to be true or false with a high degree of confidence.   This confidence factor is a key characteristic of Inductive Truth judgements.   Because they depend for their truth on observations of Reality, Inductive Truth judgements can only be determined with a degree of confidence.   In a similar fashion, it can be determined from observation whether John is unmarried.   But because of the nature of "being married", the amount of observation and inference (justification) necessary may be excessive compared to the utility to which the proposition will be put.   Therefore, it may be acceptable to judge the truth of the proposition "John is unmarried" with a lesser degree of confidence than was determined for the proposition "John is a male".   Thus we have two propositions, one of which is "more true" than the other.

Following the rules of deductive logic, the conclusion "John is a Bachelor" can be deduced from these two atomic propositions.   Following the rules of probability statistics (for the inheritance of confidence limits), the conclusion inherits both the truth classification and its degree of confidence from the atomic propositions.   Thus, our conclusion is an Inductive Truth judgement, with a confidence level lesser than either of the two atomic propositions.   (I do not intend to go into the mathematics of confidence level inheritance.   In normal and philosophical discussions, the numbers are not significant.   Only that the conclusion has a confidence level less than any of the atomic propositions.)

Many propositions used in popular conversation make extensive use of loose approximations of Reality.   Like a measurement of the length of a table, such propositions are intended to be true enough for their purpose, and not necessarily true with a high degree of accuracy.   If we are conversing about a planned party weekend, then the proposition "John is a bachelor" might be true enough.   John might, in common knowledge, be married.   But if his wife is out of town, then for the purposes of planning the party, John can possibly be considered a bachelor.   In other words, John is expected to exhibit a sufficient number of the commonly expected characteristics of being a bachelor for a suitable period of time, even though he is not, in fact, a bachelor by the strict definition of the symbol.   Thus the proposition "John is a bachelor" can be judged as true enough for the purposes to which it is being put.   The proposition reflects a useful approximation of Reality that is suitable for the purposes at hand.

Let's assume that John's wife Jenny takes exception to this approximation.   If we also assume she understands the context within which the proposition is made, she would not dispute the judgement that the proposition is true based on whether John is, in fact, a male, or whether he is, in fact, unmarried.   She would dispute the judgement based on whether or not the approximation is useful under the given circumstances - in other words on the basis of whether John is expected to exhibit a sufficient number of the commonly expected characteristics of being a Bachelor for the relevant period of time.   Inductive Truths depend for their judged "true-ness" on this key concept of usefulness.   A proposition about the nature of Reality is judged to be acceptably "True", inductively, if when employed it will result in predictions about the behaviour of Reality that are usefully accurate.   Thus the proposition "John is a Bachelor" is judged to be inductively true if can be employed as a usefully accurate predictor of Reality's (in this case John's) future behaviour.   Otherwise, it cannot be judged to be inductively true.   Likewise Newtonian mechanics can be judged to be inductively true in most day-to-day circumstances, because it is a useful predictor of reality's future behaviour in most day-to-day circumstances.

Judgements of this kind, judging that some proposition is or is not sufficiently true enough for the purposes at hand, are called Inductive Truth judgements, and the propositions which are being judged are called Inductive Truth propositions (or simply Inductive Truths for short).

8.2  Deductive Truth Judgments

To begin an analysis of what constitutes a "Deductive Truth" judgement, we must first review the importance of definitions to the processes of communications.   From the perspective of propositions employed to communicate meaning, a definition is the assignment of some specific symbol to some specific concept through the process of learning conventional usage of language or through mutual agreement.   The symbol involved might be a sequence of specific marks on paper (such as a letter, an ideogram, or a word in a written language or code), or a sequence of sounds (such as a word in a spoken language or the dots and dashes of Morse Code), or a sequence of movements (in sign language for example).   Posters and signs use another form of definitional relation between a picture, more or less simplified, and the intellectual meaning.   The connection between the perceptible symbols and the concepts to which they refer is a definitional connection.

When employed in communications, a definition is said to work if it evokes in the mind of the receiver a similar concept to that intended by the transmitter.   The concepts can be considered sufficiently similar if, in the current communications context, both parties to the exchange subsume the same relevant existents within the concept.   And the "relevant existents" for this test are those that are relevant to the discussion at hand.   For example, if I should refer, in conversation, to a "house", "ball", or "airplane", you can immediately bring to mind what it is I am referring to.   And it is highly probable that, baring some unusual circumstance, we will both subsume approximately the same set of existents within these common concepts.   These kinds of concepts have concrete, physically existing referents.   For these kinds of concepts, it is easy to quickly generate a list of perceptible entities for which the symbol is commonly used.   It is easy, with such concrete concepts, to establish a usefully common definition of what a particular symbol refers to.   If you are curious about what concept I have tagged with the word "ball" I merely have to direct your attention to a series of concrete existents that I subsume beneath my concept of "ball".   If I showed you only a single ball, you might infer that the word "ball" is a proper label for that one particular object.   But if I show you a series of different balls, you will quickly arrive at the generalization that the word "ball" implies any member of the class of spherical objects.   Most "concrete" nouns can be provided their definition in this way.   Many verbs, and other non-connective parts of a language, have a similar "concrete" definitional connection to their base referents.   It is easy, for example, to generate lists of referents for the verbs "run", "play", or even "create".   The same is true of many modifiers (adjectives and adverbs).   It is relatively easy to establish a usefully common definition of a "red ball" or a "small house".   These modifiers are generally less precise than the kinds of concrete nouns I have been using as examples, but they are still simple to define.   It is easy to establish a list of physically existing referents to exemplify the meaning of the concept and verify that the symbol is evoking a similar enough concept at each end of the communications channel.

There are, of course, more concepts in any language than can be established with concrete referents.   Some simple examples are "faith, hope, charity". I cannot conceive of any physically existing items or relations that would function as referents for the nouns "faith", "hope", and "charity".   But I can provide a structured language description of what I mean by these nouns by employing other more "concretely" defined words.   That, essentially, is what a dictionary is all about.   The connection between the written words, the spoken words, or other symbology, and the meanings to be implied is definitional in nature.   Likewise, the connection between the different symbologies employed to communicate the same meanings is definitional in nature.   It does not matter whether you learn the association of the meaning of "ball" with a written word, or a spoken one. Once you know the one, the other is easy to grasp, because of the definitional connection between the written and spoken word.

Basic propositions that express all or some part of the definitions of the symbols in the appropriate language, are said to be "True by Definition".   Judging the truth of such propositions is not a matter of discovering what the facts of the matter are.   The truth is a matter of discovering what the convention is.   A definition declares the fact of the matter.   A proposition that is true by definition expresses some or all of this declaration.   This applies both to cases where the referents employed are "concrete" (in the sense used earlier), and where the referents might be highly abstract or circular.   And it applies to equally to any language, natural or artificial.   Both the proposition "A sentence contains one or more words" and the proposition "An idea is a creative product of mind" can be said to be true by definition.   In both cases, the propositions declare a part of the definition of the nouns "sentence" and "idea".   Unfortunately, most propositions encountered are not of this simple class.   But of all of propositions, the simplest variety is that class of proposition that expresses an existing, or declares a new definitional connection between some symbol(s) and some concept(s).

The next step in the analysis of Deductive Truth judgements is to review the nature of the rules of logical deduction.   Aristotle is the earliest philosopher known to have written extensively on the subject of the rules of logical thinking.   His analysis of the logical form known as a "syllogism" is still the definitive work on the subject.   But, for our purposes, it is necessary to note that all of the rules of deductive logic were established as axioms.   The entire body of logic and deductive reasoning is based on definitions.   Now there are many philosophers who will violently object to this statement, and insist that the rules of logic are based on the facts of reality.   But this is simply not the case.   It may indeed be the facts of reality that Aristotle observed in his daily life that caused him to conclude that a thing is either A or not-A, and he perhaps could not imagine the possibility of anything in between.   But his formulation of the "Law of the Excluded Middle" is established as a defined axiom of his investigation of the syllogism.   It was not proposed as an inductive evaluation of the truth of reality.   All of the rest of Aristotle's Logic, and indeed all the rest of the entire field of mathematical logic rests not on propositions describing the way that Reality appears to be (inductive truth propositions), but on defined axioms and propositions logically deduced there from (deductive truth propositions).   It is, of course, true that logic and mathematics are compilations of definitions and deductions from definitions that are designed to accurately describe reality.   But that does not make the axioms of logic and mathematics inductive in nature.   They are clearly definitional in nature.

By adding in the defined rules of logical deduction to a bunch of other propositions that are true by definition, it becomes possible to combine simple propositions of definition to get propositions that are more complex.   An example is "If John is a Bachelor, then John is a male".   It is true by definition that a bachelor is an unmarried male - it reflects the common usage of the words "bachelor", "unmarried" and "male" that all referents for the concept "bachelor" are also referents for the concept "male" subset "unmarried".   The proposition expresses a relationship between concepts whose truth is determined by the definitions of its terms, and the rules of deductive logic.   A judgment of whether this proposition is true must be based on the conventions of definitions and the rules of logic.   One does not go out and empirically examine a large number of bachelors to see if they are male.   Hence, the proposition is said to be a Deductive Truth proposition.

This is the kind of proposition that exists most visibly within formal systems of reasoning and logic.   Any proposition that conforms to the syntactic rules of such a formal system and states an existing or establishes a new definition of terms can be judged to be "True by Definition".   Any proposition that is arrived at through the processes of logical analysis defined by that formal system, can be judged to be "True by Deduction".   Both kinds of judgements are Deductive Truth judgements, and the propositions which are being judged are called Deductive Truth propositions (or simply Deductive Truths for short).

In less formal systems, such as English conversation and philosophical reasoning, the definitions are not as tightly specified, and the processes of logical deduction are looser, but the concepts still apply.   Contrast the processes of philosophical reasoning with the processes of mathematical reasoning.   Mathematics is the purest example of a tightly constrained formal system.   And philosophical analysis is, perhaps, a good example of a loosely constrained formal system.   Both, however, employ definitions and deductions.   Both systems rely heavily on the processes that result in "Truth by Deduction".   The English language is much less of a formal system of logic than Mathematics.   But there exists, none the less, recognized rules for the formation of propositions, which are followed more or less properly by most users of the language.   And there are well understood, if perhaps not too well defined, rules for the derivation of further propositions from previous propositions.

Propositions that are judged True by Deduction are often called "Necessary Truths".   This is because, as long as they are syntactically correct, and suitably express the definitions in question or are validly deducible from definitions, it is not possible for them to be false.   For example, the proposition "a bachelor is an unmarried male" is necessarily true, because it expresses the definition employing correct syntax.   Compare this to the proposition "a bachelor is a married male".   This proposition can be judged to be, by definition, not true.   It is therefore necessarily not-true.   Finally, consider the proposition "John is a bachelor".   This proposition can not be judged to be True by Deduction (it is an Inductive Truth proposition), so it is not necessarily true (or not-true). Any proposition that can be judged to be True by Deduction is necessarily true.   Any proposition that can not be judged to be True by Deduction is not necessarily true. (Careful - I did not say necessarily not-true, I said not necessarily true. These are not the same thing at all).

Unlike Inductive Truth judgements, a judgement of Deductive Truth is, by its nature, purely binary.   A proposition is judged to be either True, or Not-True (False).   No in-between alternative is permitted.   The concepts of relative truth also do not apply.   One proposition cannot be judged "more true" than another.   Consider again the proposition "John is a Bachelor".   Asserting this proposition, by itself, cannot be done on the basis of a Deductive Truth judgement.   One cannot, by appealing to definition or deduction, judge whether or not John is, in fact, a bachelor.   But if we expand this proposition to "If John is unmarried, and John is a male, then John is a Bachelor", then we can now judge that this more complex proposition is "True by Definition", and is "necessarily" true.   This is because the definition of a bachelor is an unmarried male.   And, because of its conditional structure, the proposition itself is true (based on the definition of its symbols, and the rules of logic) regardless of whether or not the facts of the matter are that John is a male or John is unmarried.

By involving the conditional construction, we have decomposed the initial proposition ("John is a Bachelor") that offered no opening for a deductive truth judgement, into one that can be judged to be a deductive truth proposition.   The two propositions are related by the accepted definition of a bachelor.   Notice that there is no new information in the second proposition.   It is in the nature of Deductive Truth propositions, that they do not contain "new" knowledge.   (Although by the processes of deductive reasoning, we may uncover something that we did not realize was inherent in the starting assumptions.   This is what is sometimes known as "analytic knowledge".)   What has been done by expanding this proposition is to transform it into one that more clearly identifies what inductive truth judgements are required to judge if John is, in fact, a bachelor.   Propositions of deductive truths appear in casual and philosophical discussion most often when they are fulfilling this analytical role.   By drawing upon accepted definitions, a simple proposition with hidden conditions or assumptions, is expanded into a more complex proposition (or series of connected propositions) where the conditions or assumptions are made explicit. No "new" knowledge is added, but the existence of the conditions or assumptions is made plain.

The other situation where Deductive Truth judgements play a part, is when the elementary conditions become known, and deductions from these "atomic" propositions can be used.   For example, if it is already judged (inductively) true that "John is a male" and "John is unmarried", then the processes of deductive logic can be used in conjunction with the Deductive Truth proposition "If John is unmarried and John is a Male, then John is a Bachelor", to judge that "John is a Bachelor".   But while the conditional proposition used in the deduction is a Deductive Truth proposition, the conclusion is not.   The conclusion shares the same "propositional truth class" as the atomic propositions upon which it is based.

9.0  The Three Dichotomies

When considering the different ways propositions can be judged "True", and when considering the consequences of different sorts of truth judgements, students of Epistemology have classically described three sorts of dichotomies:


Deductive / Analytic

"p" is true in virtue of its meaning. To understand the meaning of "p" is to know whether it is true or false.

Inductive / Synthetic

"p" is not true in virtue of its meaning. To understand the meaning of "p" is not sufficient to determine whether it is true or false.


A Priori

"p" can be known to be true or false independently of experience.

A Posteriori

"p" can be known to be true or false only by experience.



It is not logically possible that "p" is false.


It is logically possible that "p" could be false.

This table of course presents a very over-simplified rendition of the three dichotomies involved.   Many philosophers have generated volumes of detailed argument in support of, or criticizing, various particular definitions of one dichotomy or another.   A lot of philosophers assume that the three dichotomies are coincident - so that the Analytic is also A Priori and Necessary, while the Synthetic is also the A Posteriori and Contingent. This is not necessarily so, as any coincidence of these dichotomies depends intimately on one's metaphysical assumptions, and how one understands the concepts involved.

9.1  The Semantic Dichotomy

The definitive modern understanding of the Semantic Dichotomy is due to Kant(17), updated by Russell.   The definitive critique of the Semantic Dichotomy is by V.O.Quine.   Quine argued, in his Two Dogmas of Empiricism(18), that the semantic dichotomy between the Analytic and Synthetic is non-existent.   He presented an argument that supposedly demonstrated the presumption of a dichotomy is based the invalid assumption that synonyms could be replaced in an Analytical statement to reduce it to a simple logical equivalence.

Yet Quine's reasoning is itself based on several metaphysical assumptions that need not be valid.   And several philosophers have provided some counter arguments.(19)   In particular, the foundation of Quine's argument against the distinction is his suggestion that for a proposition (he uses "statement") to be identified as Analytical requires a prior understanding of "synonomy" (what it is that makes two words synonomous).   Lacking a clear understanding of concepts, and relying on the notion of "meaning" as applying to statements rather than propositions, Quine was being reasonable in his critique that a prior comprehension of synonomy is impossible.   However, when we add in a proper Theory of Concepts, Quine's arguments fail.   With a proper Theory of Concepts, the notion of "synonomy" is easily definable, and easily discernable.   Synonomy is simply the coincidence in the set of referents that is the concept.

Applying this Theory of Concepts to Quine's reasoning renders his arguments even more supportive of the dichotomy than mere "synonomy" would suggest.   For a proposition to be identified as Analytical, synonomy is a much stronger requirement than necessary.   All that is required is to demonstrate that the set of referents that is one concept is completely contained within the set of referents that is another concept.   And the Theory of Concepts suggests that if you understand the meaning of the concepts involved, then you will have no trouble in discerning that one set is contained within another.   Thus, Quine's critique of the Semantic Dichotomy fails completely.

9.2  The Epistemic Dichotomy

Whether such a dichotomy exists or not rests on one's definition of "experience" in this context.   If one maintains the Empiricist/Realist/Aristotelian tradition that all knowledge is founded on sensory experience, then there can be no such thing as "A Priori" truth.   At this level of discussion, any proposition that purports to be "A Priori" would have to be acquired through some means akin to "Intuition" or "Extra-Sensory-Perception".   As such, the "A Priori" is a favourite of Idealist Philosophers such as Kant.   From the perspective of any sort of realist or empiricist metaphysics, of course the Epistemic Dichotomy is impossible to support.   Even to understand the meaning of the concepts employed in any proposition "p" would require a plethora of experiences.   We are not granted the ability to understand concepts or propositions in the absence of some knowledge of the Known Universe.   Only the idealist metaphysics grants to us something that could act as a source for truth independent of understanding.

But there is another interpretation of "experience" that would remain consistent with the realist tradition.   When the proposition "p" is entertained, certain experiences are necessary in order to understand the meaning of the proposition.   One has to have had sufficient experiences of the appropriate kinds in order to have formed the concepts involved in the proposition.   And if the proposition is being expounded by someone else, one has to have had sufficient experiences in the use of the language employed, and the context of utterance, that the verbal/written symbols being employed communicate the appropriate meaning.   However, once the need for this sort of prior experience is accepted and stipulated as given - then (and only then) can the notion of "experience" in the definition of the "A Priori" be understood as additional, context specific experience.   At this level of discussion, the "A Priori" becomes equivalent to the Analytic.   Once one has had the experiences necessary to understand the meaning of the proposition, no additional experiences relevant to the subject matter of the proposition are required in order to judge whether the proposition is true or not.

This is, of course, a purely Realist/Empiricist rendition of the Epistemic Dichotomy.   It would be incomprehensible to an Idealist.   However, to a Realist/Empiricist, the idealist view of the dichotomy is the one that is incomprehensible.   Even the classically "A Priori" truths of mathematics and logic are fundamentally founded on experiences of reality.   The axioms of logic and mathematics, as in many other branches of knowledge, are definitions that have been established based on observed commonalities in reality.   So absent all experiences, not even mathematics and logic can be called "A Priori".   But limiting the definition of "A Priori" to no additional experiences, allows logic and mathematics (and a lot else) to be easily identified as A Priori.

9.3  The Modal Dichotomy

(This section is still under development.

Within the context of a Correspondence Theory of Truth, and the Realist metaphysics that underlies this essay, "Necessary Truth" is equivalent to "Deductive Truth", and "Contingent Truth" is equivalent to "Inductive truth".   But more needs to be added here on the impacts of Possible Worlds to this interpretation.   And on the interpretation of this dichotomy under the Coherence Theory of Truth.)

10.0  Summary and Conclusion

(This section is also still under development.   Here are a few brief notes that need to be fleshed out further.   Suggestions for further comments would be appreciated.)

Truth-bearers are atomic propositions. Atomic propositions consist of one relationship concept, and as many entity concepts as are necessary. An atomic proposition expresses a particular relationship between differentiable entities in reality.

Given a realist metaphysics, the Correspondence Theory of truth is the only acceptable one.   I maintain a Propositional, Realist, Correspondence Theory notion of Truth.   I maintain that there is a distinction between the facts of the matter (or the states of affairs) in an objective reality, and the truth (or falsity) of propositions about that reality.   As a corollary, I maintain that there is also a clear distinction between what makes a proposition true objectively, and what permits us to subjectively judge that a proposition is true.   I am, therefore, a realist about truth, and the ontological existence of the facts to which true propositions correspond.   I hold these positions, I should note, not as independent axioms of my materialism, but as the necessary logical consequences of my materialist metaphysical belief that "evidence matters" combined with an intellectual preference for a "common sense" "kiss'n'kin" approach to philosophy.

In my humble opinion, the most serious argument against an Anti-Realist, Deflationary, or Coherence Theory notion of truth is that this is simply not what most people mean when they talk of truth.   The "Common Sense" notion of truth is a realist, correspondence theory notion.   Dissenters from that position must therefore argue that most people think wrongly when they think of truth.   And I don't believe that is necessary.   "Entities [or concepts in this case] should not be multiplied unnecessarily".

Truth is determined by the correspondence of an atomic proposition to the facts of reality. The truth of the atomic proposition is rendered by whether or not the relationship between entities described by the concepts in the proposition reflect the relationship between the entities in reality.

Truth is judged based on the coherence of the atomic proposition with the set of all believed propositions.

Propositions can be differentiated into two broad classes (Inductive and Deductive) by virtue of the methods of truth judgement.

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(1) Unless otherwise specified, all dictionary definitions are quoted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution restricted in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States.

(2) Williams, Bernard; Truth and Truthfulness; Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 2002; ISBN 0-691-10276-7; Pg 79.

(3) Wikipedia contributors (2006). Alfred Tarski. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.   On the web at

(4) Hodges, Wilfrid, "Tarski's Truth Definitions", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

(5) Kirkham, Richard.   Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction, A Bradford Book / The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1992. ISBN 0-262-11167-5. Pg 20-21.

(6) In addition to the specific references contained in this section, much of the background and generic material has been drawn from:

 David, Marian; "The Correspondence Theory of Truth", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2002 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Wikipedia contributors, "Correspondence Theory of Truth," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

Bradley Dowden and Norman Swartz, Truth, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

(7) Auston, John L.; Sense and Sensibilia; Geoffrey J. Warnock (Editor); Oxford University Press, 1962. ISBN 0-19-500307-1

(8) Frege, Gottlob.   "The Thought: A Logical Inquiry" in Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Simon Blackburn and Keith Simmons, Eds., Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 0-19-875250-4. Pg 85-105

(9) Austin, J.L.   "Truth" and Strawson, P.F.   "Truth"   in Truth: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, Simon Blackburn and Keith Simmons, Eds., Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 0-19-875250-4. Pg 149-182.

(10) Devitt, Michael. Realism and Truth (Second Edition), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 1997. ISBN 0-691-01187-7

(11) Wikipedia contributors, "Logical positivism"   Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

(12) Material for this section drawn largely from:

               Young, James O., "The Coherence Theory of Truth", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

              Wikipedia contributors, "Coherence theory of truth"   Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

13) See for example:

Kant, Immanuel. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. The Library of Liberal Arts / Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1950. ISBN 0-672-60487-7. (Includes an excellent summary of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by Lewis White Beck.)

Kant, Immanuel, Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason; in Necessary Truth, R.C.Sleigh, Jr. (Ed), Prentice-Hall, 1972. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. ISBN 0-13-610766-4

(14) See for example:

Berkeley, George. Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Penguin Books Ltd., London, England. 1988.

(15) See for example:

Alston, William P. (Ed.). Realism & Antirealism. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2002. ISBN 0-8014-8790-0.

Alston, William P. A Realist Conception of Truth. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York. 1996. ISBN 0-8014-8410-3.

(16) Material for this section drawn largely from:

Stoljar, Daniel, Deflationary Theory of Truth, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 1997 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

              Wikipedia contributors, Deflationary theory of truth. (2006, May 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

              Damnjanovic, Nicolas, J., Deflationary Theories of Truth: A Short History

(17) Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason; Immanuel Kant; in Necessary Truth, R.C.Sleigh, Jr. (Ed), Prentice-Hall, 1972. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. ISBN 0-13-610766-4

(18) Two Dogmas of Empiricism; V.O. Quine; first delivered as a paper at a conference in 1950, published in a journal in 1951, and reprinted in From a Logical Point of View in 1953. On the web at

(19) See for example:

              A Refutation of Quine's Holism; Raymond D. Bradley, 2001.

              In Defense of a Dogma; H.P.Grice / P.F.Strawson; in Necessary Truth, R.C.Sleigh, Jr. (Ed), Prentice-Hall, 1972. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey . ISBN 0-13-610766-4


Additional References

BonJour, Lawrence Alan; Knowledge, Justification, and Truth; A Disertation presented to the Faculty of Princeton University in candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy; June 1969.

Candlish, Stewart, "The Identity Theory of Truth", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Dowden, Brad and Swartz, Norman; "Truth", The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosohy,

Hammer, Eric, "The Revision Theory of Truth", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2003 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Mead, George Herbert "A Pragmatic Theory of Truth", "Studies in the Nature of Truth" University of California Publications in Philosophy 11 (1929), pp. 65-88.

Newall, Paul; "Truth"; The Galilean Library Mnuscripts

Oddie, Graham, "Truthlikeness", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

Truth, Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia,

Truth and Certitude