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What Is Truth? Essay Example

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The ideal of truth is relevant to the individual. Truth is based on a number of factors that are usually derived from absolute knowledge. However, when finding the relationship between knowledge and truth, one questions their own competence and confidence in establishing what is actually true. There are several debates among philosophers and research that try to derive the nature of truth. Defining the nature of truth is routed in technical analysis, a morass of arcane jargon, subtle distinctions from competing theories, and precise definition. Rene Desecrates famously wrote, “I am therefore I exist.” In stating this he holds that only truth that is certain is what the individuals own cognition of their existence. The principle question among the long time debate is to answer, what is truth? This questions have plagued the minds of philosophers since the time of Plato and Socrates. It has been a never ending debate trying to draw the relationship of knowledge, truth, and understanding what is relevant to their own assessment. From the readings of Martin Luther, Descartes, and others, this paper will explore the philosophical questions of knowledge and truth. Drawing on these reasons to come to a consensus on what can be the individual be assured of what they believe is the absolute truth, and what prevents individuals from the truth.

The notion of truth is developed through the ideas, belief, and opinion of what is and what is not. Truth is an object of relativism of an individual’s ideas, the agreement and disagreement of reality. In understanding truth, there are three principal interpretations that are used, truth as absolute, truth as relative, and truth as an unattainable reality. According to definition, absolute truth is, “is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts.” (All About Philosophy, n.d) Essentially it is a truth understood universally that cannot be altered. Plato was a staunch believer in this interpretation, as the truth found on earth was a shadow of the truth that existed within the universe. This is the hardest interpretation of truth because there can be no indefinite argument with those that try to negate the existence of absolute truth. In arguing against the interpretation, the arguer themselves tries to search for validation in their statement that absolute truth doesn’t exist. In a matter of contradiction in understanding what is truth is to establish that truth exists. In a better interpretation seeing the truth as relative is explaining that facts and realities vary dependent on their circumstances.

Relativism is in the matter of where no objectivity exists and is subjective which the validity of truth doesn’t exist. According to philosophy, “Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else.” (Swoyer, 2014) The last interpretation of truth is that truth is an unattainable reality where no truth exists. Truth is a universal fact in which corresponds with evidence, reality, and experience. Since an individual’s reality and experience constantly change, it is impossible to reach an absolute truth. This interpretation is relative to one’s own knowledge because it is present in their person’s mind. Using this interpretation many philosophers have carved out several theories of truth.

The pragmatic approach to defining truth is by seeing that truth is the objects and ideas that the individual can validate, assimilate, verify, and corroborate. In understanding what is not true it is essentially what the individual cannot. In establishing the absolute truth, it is what happens and becomes true events that are verified through a process of verification.  In the view of this paper, is that truth is dependent on the individual’s fact and reality, as Aristotle stated, “to say of what is that is it not, or what is not that is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and what is not that it is not, is true.” As confusing as the statement may be to some, the concept of truth is based on a person’s confidence in their own reality as the basis of truth. Not only is the general consensus now, but in also philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas in the 9 th century in which, truth is the equation of things and intellect, more importantly the basis of truth as true is up to the individuals’ knowledge.

In Rene Descartes search for truth, he begins with the method of doubt. Written Descartes, Meditation , “I seem to be able to lay it down as a general rule that whatever I perceive, very clearly and distinctly is true.” (Descartes, 7.35) Descartes add to the questions of what is truth is by the confidence and certainty in knowing that what is true is from the natural experiences and own personal truths. The individuals’ definition of truth is what the person understands in life through logic and reason. The individual establishes their idea of reality from their senses, what they see, and true perceptions.  Descartes wrote in his, Letter to Mersenne , any doubts about truth is perpetuated by the notion that no one can be ignorant of truth because it symbolizes the conformity of thought with its object. (Smith, 2014) Drawing from Descartes works we will answer what prevents us from the truth.

In his Method of Doubt from his First Meditation , his purpose was to negate skepticism by doubting the truth of everything including what we know in our minds. The reasons in which people doubt their truth is based on people second guessing their own subsequent beliefs. People claim to know the truth beyond their own realms of justification. People senses and experiences that have been taught are largely provided from prejudices past down. (Descartes, 1639) People are disappointed that what they believe to be true is often not. Descartes stated, “Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.” (Descartes, 1639)  From these understandings people then began to doubt what they know to be true because they have reasonable doubt.

In order for a person to understand truth, they must first doubt all things around them in a hypothetical doubt, in order to provide a pretense of what we know is the truth and what we cannot know. By determining our own knowledge of what is true, such as the snow is white, because we know there is no other color in existence, we can have a foundation of unshakeable truths.  While the senses can sometimes present falsehood, it is subjective to suggest that all senses are wrong. In determining using one’s experience to determine truth, it is important to note that everyone’s experience is not the same. The way one person sees an event can be different from someone that sees the same event. Take for example the group of five blind men that felt the tusk of an elephant. One men said it was like a snake, while another suggested that was the neck of a giraffe. Who is to tell who is correct and not? From their own experiences, knowledge, and senses what they believe is to be true. By limiting knowledge on what we know is absolute certain is limiting one’s own perception of reality. This is how doubt is raised, and takes away from the confidence of the individuals’ own knowledge of the truth.

Martin Luther takes on the quest for truth through his thesis, which he wrote to the church. In his appendage for reformation of the Catholic Church, he questioned the authority of the Pope, and what their interpretation of the Bible. In his belief that the word of God is the truth, his stance is that followers of the religion must have faith. In believing what is true and what is not, Luther’s is bound by his idea of faith which correspond with God is the absolute truth.  His justification of God being true is based on the works of God, but more importantly the understanding of truth is by faith alone. His unshakeable foundation of what he believes to be true is routed in his on senses, ideas, and experiences derived from his faith.  Just like knowing what is true and not, Descartes share that while we cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, we can prove that he doesn’t exist. While we can see the things around us does exist, if that has indubitable truth in believing that something exists, it is impossible to prove it isn’t true.

From drawing on the works on how a person can assure that they know is true is using Descartes Method of Doubt to provide a foundation in which what we know is true, and what we know is not. Luther bases his justifications of truth on faith and knowledge, while drawing from logic and reasoning to know what is true. A person is able to draw from their own cognitive knowledge in determining what is true. While knowledge all things is limited, one cannot be limited to suggesting to know the truth of things beyond our resonance. Until proven otherwise, what we say is the truth and everything else is subjective. In the relationship between truth and knowledge, Plato and Charles Peirce had their own separate perceptions. Plato believed that truth is derived from a person’s knowledge, while Pierce believed absolute knowledge to determine absolute truth can never be obtained. Plato’s belief of knowledge and the truth is more correct in providing reasoning that knowledge is based on past experiences, where universal knowledge is a factor in determining truth.

The definition of truth and search for knowledge will continue to be an ongoing debate in which many great philosophers in past, present, and the future will offer philosophies to help guide the debate. While truth will continue to be a matter of one’s own perception, in order to assure that what people believe is the truth is to base their knowledge on their own perceptions.  Based what they know on their own absolute truth in their senses, knowledge, ideas, and beliefs that help form their own realities. Truth is relative to only that individual, as people will experience events differently from other individuals. Descartes said it best that what he knows to be true is based on his own existence. Since he knows that he exists, he knows that the reality around him exists, therefore, his own perception of what is true.

Absolute Truth. (n.d). All About Philosophy . Retrieved from http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/absolute-truth.htm

Bennett, Jonathan. (1990). Truth and Stability. Canadian Journal of Philosophy . Vo. 16. Pg. 75-108. Retrieved from http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/jfb/trustab.pdf

Descartes, Rene. (1639). Meditations on First Philosophy . Marxists. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/descartes/1639/meditations.htm

James, William. (1909). The Meaning of Truth . Authorama. Retrieved from http://www.authorama.com/meaning-of-truth-1.html

Luther, Martin. (1520). The Freedom of a Christian . Lutheran Online. Retrieved from https://www.lutheransonline.com/lo/894/FSLO-1328308894-111894.pdf

Smith, Kurt. (2014). Descartes’ Life and Works.   The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/descartes-works

Swoyer, Chris. (2014). Relativism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/relativism

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Truth is one of the central subjects in philosophy. It is also one of the largest. Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for thousands of years. Moreover, a huge variety of issues in philosophy relate to truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying theses about truth.

It would be impossible to survey all there is to say about truth in any coherent way. Instead, this essay will concentrate on the main themes in the study of truth in the contemporary philosophical literature. It will attempt to survey the key problems and theories of current interest, and show how they relate to one-another. A number of other entries investigate many of these topics in greater depth. Generally, discussion of the principal arguments is left to them. The goal of this essay is only to provide an overview of the current Theories. Many of the papers mentioned in this essay can be found in the anthologies edited by Blackburn and Simmons (1999) and Lynch (2001b). There are a number of book-length surveys of the topics discussed here, including Burgess and Burgess (2011), Kirkham (1992), and Künne (2003). Also, a number of the topics discussed here, and many further ones, are surveyed at more length in papers in Glanzberg (2018).

The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. But this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy. Whether there is a metaphysical problem of truth at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it, are all standing issues in the theory of truth. We will see a number of distinct ways of answering these questions.

1.1 The correspondence theory

1.1.1 the origins of the correspondence theory, 1.1.2 the neo-classical correspondence theory, 1.2 the coherence theory, 1.3 pragmatist theories, 2.1 sentences as truth-bearers, 2.2 convention t, 2.3 recursive definition of truth, 2.4 reference and satisfaction, 3.1 correspondence without facts, 3.2 representation and correspondence, 3.3 facts again, 3.4 truthmakers, 4.1 realism and truth, 4.2 anti-realism and truth, 4.3 anti-realism and pragmatism, 4.4 truth pluralism, 5.1 the redundancy theory, 5.2 minimalist theories, 5.3 other aspects of deflationism, 6.1 truth-bearers, 6.2 truth and truth conditions, 6.3 truth conditions and deflationism, 6.4 truth and the theory of meaning, 6.5 the coherence theory and meaning, 6.6 truth and assertion, other internet resources, related entries, 1. the neo-classical theories of truth.

Much of the contemporary literature on truth takes as its starting point some ideas which were prominent in the early part of the 20th century. There were a number of views of truth under discussion at that time, the most significant for the contemporary literature being the correspondence, coherence, and pragmatist theories of truth.

These theories all attempt to directly answer the nature question : what is the nature of truth? They take this question at face value: there are truths, and the question to be answered concerns their nature. In answering this question, each theory makes the notion of truth part of a more thoroughgoing metaphysics or epistemology. Explaining the nature of truth becomes an application of some metaphysical system, and truth inherits significant metaphysical presuppositions along the way.

The goal of this section is to characterize the ideas of the correspondence, coherence and pragmatist theories which animate the contemporary debate. In some cases, the received forms of these theories depart from the views that were actually defended in the early 20th century. We thus dub them the ‘neo-classical theories’. Where appropriate, we pause to indicate how the neo-classical theories emerge from their ‘classical’ roots in the early 20th century.

Perhaps the most important of the neo-classical theories for the contemporary literature is the correspondence theory. Ideas that sound strikingly like a correspondence theory are no doubt very old. They might well be found in Aristotle or Aquinas. When we turn to the late 19th and early 20th centuries where we pick up the story of the neo-classical theories of truth, it is clear that ideas about correspondence were central to the discussions of the time. In spite of their importance, however, it is strikingly difficult to find an accurate citation in the early 20th century for the received neo-classical view. Furthermore, the way the correspondence theory actually emerged will provide some valuable reference points for the contemporary debate. For these reasons, we dwell on the origins of the correspondence theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at greater length than those of the other neo-classical views, before turning to its contemporary neo-classical form. For an overview of the correspondence theory, see David (2018).

The basic idea of the correspondence theory is that what we believe or say is true if it corresponds to the way things actually are – to the facts. This idea can be seen in various forms throughout the history of philosophy. Its modern history starts with the beginnings of analytic philosophy at the turn of the 20th century, particularly in the work of G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell.

Let us pick up the thread of this story in the years between 1898 and about 1910. These years are marked by Moore and Russell’s rejection of idealism. Yet at this point, they do not hold a correspondence theory of truth. Indeed Moore (1899) sees the correspondence theory as a source of idealism, and rejects it. Russell follows Moore in this regard. (For discussion of Moore’s early critique of idealism, where he rejects the correspondence theory of truth, see Baldwin (1991). Hylton (1990) provides an extensive discussion of Russell in the context of British idealism. An overview of these issues is given by Baldwin (2018).)

In this period, Moore and Russell hold a version of the identity theory of truth . They say comparatively little about it, but it is stated briefly in Moore (1899; 1902) and Russell (1904). According to the identity theory, a true proposition is identical to a fact. Specifically, in Moore and Russell’s hands, the theory begins with propositions, understood as the objects of beliefs and other propositional attitudes. Propositions are what are believed, and give the contents of beliefs. They are also, according to this theory, the primary bearers of truth. When a proposition is true, it is identical to a fact, and a belief in that proposition is correct. (Related ideas about the identity theory and idealism are discussed by McDowell (1994) and further developed by Hornsby (2001).)

The identity theory Moore and Russell espoused takes truth to be a property of propositions. Furthermore, taking up an idea familiar to readers of Moore, the property of truth is a simple unanalyzable property. Facts are understood as simply those propositions which are true. There are true propositions and false ones, and facts just are true propositions. There is thus no “difference between truth and the reality to which it is supposed to correspond” (Moore, 1902, p. 21). (For further discussion of the identity theory of truth, see Baldwin (1991), Candlish (1999), Candlish and Damnjanovic (2018), Cartwright (1987), Dodd (2000), and the entry on the identity theory of truth .)

Moore and Russell came to reject the identity theory of truth in favor of a correspondence theory, sometime around 1910 (as we see in Moore, 1953, which reports lectures he gave in 1910–1911, and Russell, 1910b). They do so because they came to reject the existence of propositions. Why? Among reasons, they came to doubt that there could be any such things as false propositions, and then concluded that there are no such things as propositions at all.

Why did Moore and Russell find false propositions problematic? A full answer to this question is a point of scholarship that would take us too far afield. (Moore himself lamented that he could not “put the objection in a clear and convincing way” (1953, p. 263), but see Cartwright (1987) and David (2001) for careful and clear exploration of the arguments.) But very roughly, the identification of facts with true propositions left them unable to see what a false proposition could be other than something which is just like a fact, though false. If such things existed, we would have fact-like things in the world, which Moore and Russell now see as enough to make false propositions count as true. Hence, they cannot exist, and so there are no false propositions. As Russell (1956, p. 223) later says, propositions seem to be at best “curious shadowy things” in addition to facts.

As Cartwright (1987) reminds us, it is useful to think of this argument in the context of Russell’s slightly earlier views about propositions. As we see clearly in Russell (1903), for instance, he takes propositions to have constituents. But they are not mere collections of constituents, but a ‘unity’ which brings the constituents together. (We thus confront the ‘problem of the unity of the proposition’.) But what, we might ask, would be the ‘unity’ of a proposition that Samuel Ramey sings – with constituents Ramey and singing – except Ramey bearing the property of singing? If that is what the unity consists in, then we seem to have nothing other than the fact that Ramey sings. But then we could not have genuine false propositions without having false facts.

As Cartwright also reminds us, there is some reason to doubt the cogency of this sort of argument. But let us put the assessment of the arguments aside, and continue the story. From the rejection of propositions a correspondence theory emerges. The primary bearers of truth are no longer propositions, but beliefs themselves. In a slogan:

A belief is true if and only if it corresponds to a fact .

Views like this are held by Moore (1953) and Russell (1910b; 1912). Of course, to understand such a theory, we need to understand the crucial relation of correspondence, as well as the notion of a fact to which a belief corresponds. We now turn to these questions. In doing so, we will leave the history, and present a somewhat more modern reconstruction of a correspondence theory. (For more on facts and proposition in this period, see Sullivan and Johnston (2018).)

The correspondence theory of truth is at its core an ontological thesis: a belief is true if there exists an appropriate entity – a fact – to which it corresponds. If there is no such entity, the belief is false.

Facts, for the neo-classical correspondence theory, are entities in their own right. Facts are generally taken to be composed of particulars and properties and relations or universals, at least. The neo-classical correspondence theory thus only makes sense within the setting of a metaphysics that includes such facts. Hence, it is no accident that as Moore and Russell turn away from the identity theory of truth, the metaphysics of facts takes on a much more significant role in their views. This perhaps becomes most vivid in the later Russell (1956, p. 182), where the existence of facts is the “first truism.” (The influence of Wittgenstein’s ideas to appear in the Tractatus (1922) on Russell in this period was strong, and indeed, the Tractatus remains one of the important sources for the neo-classical correspondence theory. For more recent extensive discussions of facts, see Armstrong (1997) and Neale (2001).)

Consider, for example, the belief that Ramey sings. Let us grant that this belief is true. In what does its truth consist, according to the correspondence theory? It consists in there being a fact in the world, built from the individual Ramey, and the property of singing. Let us denote this \(\langle\) Ramey , Singing \(\rangle\). This fact exists. In contrast, the world (we presume) contains no fact \(\langle\) Ramey , Dancing \(\rangle\). The belief that Ramey sings stands in the relation of correspondence to the fact \(\langle\) Ramey , Singing \(\rangle\), and so the belief is true.

What is the relation of correspondence? One of the standing objections to the classical correspondence theory is that a fully adequate explanation of correspondence proves elusive. But for a simple belief, like that Ramey sings, we can observe that the structure of the fact \(\langle\) Ramey , Singing \(\rangle\) matches the subject-predicate form of the that -clause which reports the belief, and may well match the structure of the belief itself.

So far, we have very much the kind of view that Moore and Russell would have found congenial. But the modern form of the correspondence theory seeks to round out the explanation of correspondence by appeal to propositions . Indeed, it is common to base a correspondence theory of truth upon the notion of a structured proposition . Propositions are again cast as the contents of beliefs and assertions, and propositions have structure which at least roughly corresponds to the structure of sentences. At least, for simple beliefs like that Ramey sings, the proposition has the same subject predicate structure as the sentence. (Proponents of structured propositions, such as Kaplan (1989), often look to Russell (1903) for inspiration, and find unconvincing Russell’s reasons for rejecting them.)

With facts and structured propositions in hand, an attempt may be made to explain the relation of correspondence. Correspondence holds between a proposition and a fact when the proposition and fact have the same structure, and the same constituents at each structural position. When they correspond, the proposition and fact thus mirror each-other. In our simple example, we might have:

Propositions, though structured like facts, can be true or false. In a false case, like the proposition that Ramey dances, we would find no fact at the bottom of the corresponding diagram. Beliefs are true or false depending on whether the propositions which are believed are.

We have sketched this view for simple propositions like the proposition that Ramey sings. How to extend it to more complex cases, like general propositions or negative propositions, is an issue we will not delve into here. It requires deciding whether there are complex facts, such as general facts or negative facts, or whether there is a more complex relation of correspondence between complex propositions and simple facts. (The issue of whether there are such complex facts marks a break between Russell (1956) and Wittgenstein (1922) and the earlier views which Moore (1953) and Russell (1912) sketch.)

According to the correspondence theory as sketched here, what is key to truth is a relation between propositions and the world, which obtains when the world contains a fact that is structurally similar to the proposition. Though this is not the theory Moore and Russell held, it weaves together ideas of theirs with a more modern take on (structured) propositions. We will thus dub it the neo-classical correspondence theory. This theory offers us a paradigm example of a correspondence theory of truth.

The leading idea of the correspondence theory is familiar. It is a form of the older idea that true beliefs show the right kind of resemblance to what is believed. In contrast to earlier empiricist theories, the thesis is not that one’s ideas per se resemble what they are about. Rather, the propositions which give the contents of one’s true beliefs mirror reality, in virtue of entering into correspondence relations to the right pieces of it.

In this theory, it is the way the world provides us with appropriately structured entities that explains truth. Our metaphysics thus explains the nature of truth, by providing the entities needed to enter into correspondence relations.

For more on the correspondence theory, see David (1994, 2018) and the entry on the correspondance theory of truth .

Though initially the correspondence theory was seen by its developers as a competitor to the identity theory of truth, it was also understood as opposed to the coherence theory of truth.

We will be much briefer with the historical origins of the coherence theory than we were with the correspondence theory. Like the correspondence theory, versions of the coherence theory can be seen throughout the history of philosophy. (See, for instance, Walker (1989) for a discussion of its early modern lineage.) Like the correspondence theory, it was important in the early 20th century British origins of analytic philosophy. Particularly, the coherence theory of truth is associated with the British idealists to whom Moore and Russell were reacting.

Many idealists at that time did indeed hold coherence theories. Let us take as an example Joachim (1906). (This is the theory that Russell (1910a) attacks.) Joachim says that:

Truth in its essential nature is that systematic coherence which is the character of a significant whole (p. 76).

We will not attempt a full exposition of Joachim’s view, which would take us well beyond the discussion of truth into the details of British idealism. But a few remarks about his theory will help to give substance to the quoted passage.

Perhaps most importantly, Joachim talks of ‘truth’ in the singular. This is not merely a turn of phrase, but a reflection of his monistic idealism. Joachim insists that what is true is the “whole complete truth” (p. 90). Individual judgments or beliefs are certainly not the whole complete truth. Such judgments are, according to Joachim, only true to a degree. One aspect of this doctrine is a kind of holism about content, which holds that any individual belief or judgment gets its content only in virtue of being part of a system of judgments. But even these systems are only true to a degree, measuring the extent to which they express the content of the single ‘whole complete truth’. Any real judgment we might make will only be partially true.

To flesh out Joachim’s theory, we would have to explain what a significant whole is. We will not attempt that, as it leads us to some of the more formidable aspects of his view, e.g., that it is a “process of self-fulfillment” (p. 77). But it is clear that Joachim takes ‘systematic coherence’ to be stronger than consistency. In keeping with his holism about content, he rejects the idea that coherence is a relation between independently identified contents, and so finds it necessary to appeal to ‘significant wholes’.

As with the correspondence theory, it will be useful to recast the coherence theory in a more modern form, which will abstract away from some of the difficult features of British idealism. As with the correspondence theory, it can be put in a slogan:

A belief is true if and only if it is part of a coherent system of beliefs.

To further the contrast with the neo-classical correspondence theory, we may add that a proposition is true if it is the content of a belief in the system, or entailed by a belief in the system. We may assume, with Joachim, that the condition of coherence will be stronger than consistency. With the idealists generally, we might suppose that features of the believing subject will come into play.

This theory is offered as an analysis of the nature of truth, and not simply a test or criterion for truth. Put as such, it is clearly not Joachim’s theory (it lacks his monism, and he rejects propositions), but it is a standard take on coherence in the contemporary literature. (It is the way the coherence theory is given in Walker (1989), for instance. See also Young (2001) for a recent defense of a coherence theory.) Let us take this as our neo-classical version of the coherence theory. The contrast with the correspondence theory of truth is clear. Far from being a matter of whether the world provides a suitable object to mirror a proposition, truth is a matter of how beliefs are related to each-other.

The coherence theory of truth enjoys two sorts of motivations. One is primarily epistemological. Most coherence theorists also hold a coherence theory of knowledge; more specifically, a coherence theory of justification. According to this theory, to be justified is to be part of a coherent system of beliefs. An argument for this is often based on the claim that only another belief could stand in a justification relation to a belief, allowing nothing but properties of systems of belief, including coherence, to be conditions for justification. Combining this with the thesis that a fully justified belief is true forms an argument for the coherence theory of truth. (An argument along these lines is found in Blanshard (1939), who holds a form of the coherence theory closely related to Joachim’s.)

The steps in this argument may be questioned by a number of contemporary epistemological views. But the coherence theory also goes hand-in-hand with its own metaphysics as well. The coherence theory is typically associated with idealism. As we have already discussed, forms of it were held by British idealists such as Joachim, and later by Blanshard (in America). An idealist should see the last step in the justification argument as quite natural. More generally, an idealist will see little (if any) room between a system of beliefs and the world it is about, leaving the coherence theory of truth as an extremely natural option.

It is possible to be an idealist without adopting a coherence theory. (For instance, many scholars read Bradley as holding a version of the identity theory of truth. See Baldwin (1991) for some discussion.) However, it is hard to see much of a way to hold the coherence theory of truth without maintaining some form of idealism. If there is nothing to truth beyond what is to be found in an appropriate system of beliefs, then it would seem one’s beliefs constitute the world in a way that amounts to idealism. (Walker (1989) argues that every coherence theorist must be an idealist, but not vice-versa.)

The neo-classical correspondence theory seeks to capture the intuition that truth is a content-to-world relation. It captures this in the most straightforward way, by asking for an object in the world to pair up with a true proposition. The neo-classical coherence theory, in contrast, insists that truth is not a content-to-world relation at all; rather, it is a content-to-content, or belief-to-belief, relation. The coherence theory requires some metaphysics which can make the world somehow reflect this, and idealism appears to be it. (A distant descendant of the neo-classical coherence theory that does not require idealism will be discussed in section 6.5 below.)

For more on the coherence theory, see Walker (2018) and the entry on the coherence theory of truth .

A different perspective on truth was offered by the American pragmatists. As with the neo-classical correspondence and coherence theories, the pragmatist theories go with some typical slogans. For example, Peirce is usually understood as holding the view that:

Truth is the end of inquiry.

(See, for instance Hartshorne et al., 1931–58, §3.432.) Both Peirce and James are associated with the slogan that:

Truth is satisfactory to believe.

James (e.g., 1907) understands this principle as telling us what practical value truth has. True beliefs are guaranteed not to conflict with subsequent experience. Likewise, Peirce’s slogan tells us that true beliefs will remain settled at the end of prolonged inquiry. Peirce’s slogan is perhaps most typically associated with pragmatist views of truth, so we might take it to be our canonical neo-classical theory. However, the contemporary literature does not seem to have firmly settled upon a received ‘neo-classical’ pragmatist theory.

In her reconstruction (upon which we have relied heavily), Haack (1976) notes that the pragmatists’ views on truth also make room for the idea that truth involves a kind of correspondence, insofar as the scientific method of inquiry is answerable to some independent world. Peirce, for instance, does not reject a correspondence theory outright; rather, he complains that it provides merely a ‘nominal’ or ‘transcendental’ definition of truth (e.g Hartshorne et al., 1931–58, §5.553, §5.572), which is cut off from practical matters of experience, belief, and doubt (§5.416). (See Misak (2004) for an extended discussion.)

This marks an important difference between the pragmatist theories and the coherence theory we just considered. Even so, pragmatist theories also have an affinity with coherence theories, insofar as we expect the end of inquiry to be a coherent system of beliefs. As Haack also notes, James maintains an important verificationist idea: truth is what is verifiable. We will see this idea re-appear in section 4.

For more on pragmatist theories of truth, see Misak (2018). James’ views are discussed further in the entry on William James . Peirce’s views are discussed further in the entry on Charles Sanders Peirce .

2. Tarski’s theory of truth

Modern forms of the classical theories survive. Many of these modern theories, notably correspondence theories, draw on ideas developed by Tarski.

In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that his seminal work on truth (1935) is very much of a piece with other works in mathematical logic, such as his (1931), and as much as anything this work lays the ground-work for the modern subject of model theory – a branch of mathematical logic, not the metaphysics of truth. In this respect, Tarski’s work provides a set of highly useful tools that may be employed in a wide range of philosophical projects. (See Patterson (2012) for more on Tarski’s work in its historical context.)

Tarski’s work has a number of components, which we will consider in turn.

In the classical debate on truth at the beginning of the 20th century we considered in section 1, the issue of truth-bearers was of great significance. For instance, Moore and Russell’s turn to the correspondence theory was driven by their views on whether there are propositions to be the bearers of truth. Many theories we reviewed took beliefs to be the bearers of truth.

In contrast, Tarski and much of the subsequent work on truth takes sentences to be the primary bearers of truth. This is not an entirely novel development: Russell (1956) also takes truth to apply to sentence (which he calls ‘propositions’ in that text). But whereas much of the classical debate takes the issue of the primary bearers of truth to be a substantial and important metaphysical one, Tarski is quite casual about it. His primary reason for taking sentences as truth-bearers is convenience, and he explicitly distances himself from any commitment about the philosophically contentious issues surrounding other candidate truth-bearers (e.g., Tarski, 1944). (Russell (1956) makes a similar suggestion that sentences are the appropriate truth-bearers “for the purposes of logic” (p. 184), though he still takes the classical metaphysical issues to be important.)

We will return to the issue of the primary bearers of truth in section 6.1. For the moment, it will be useful to simply follow Tarski’s lead. But it should be stressed that for this discussion, sentences are fully interpreted sentences, having meanings. We will also assume that the sentences in question do not change their content across occasions of use, i.e., that they display no context-dependence. We are taking sentences to be what Quine (1960) calls ‘eternal sentences’.

In some places (e.g., Tarski, 1944), Tarski refers to his view as the ‘semantic conception of truth’. It is not entirely clear just what Tarski had in mind by this, but it is clear enough that Tarski’s theory defines truth for sentences in terms of concepts like reference and satisfaction, which are intimately related to the basic semantic functions of names and predicates (according to many approaches to semantics). For more discussion, see Woleński (2001).

Let us suppose we have a fixed language \(\mathbf{L}\) whose sentences are fully interpreted. The basic question Tarski poses is what an adequate theory of truth for \(\mathbf{L}\) would be. Tarski’s answer is embodied in what he calls Convention T :

An adequate theory of truth for \(\mathbf{L}\) must imply, for each sentence \(\phi\) of \(\mathbf{L}\)
\(\ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true if and only if \(\phi\).

(We have simplified Tarski’s presentation somewhat.) This is an adequacy condition for theories, not a theory itself. Given the assumption that \(\mathbf{L}\) is fully interpreted, we may assume that each sentence \(\phi\) in fact has a truth value. In light of this, Convention T guarantees that the truth predicate given by the theory will be extensionally correct , i.e., have as its extension all and only the true sentences of \(\mathbf{L}\).

Convention T draws our attention to the biconditionals of the form

\(\ulcorner \ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true if and only if \(\phi \urcorner\),

which are usually called the Tarski biconditionals for a language \(\mathbf{L}\).

Tarski does not merely propose a condition of adequacy for theories of truth, he also shows how to meet it. One of his insights is that if the language \(\mathbf{L}\) displays the right structure, then truth for \(\mathbf{L}\) can be defined recursively. For instance, let us suppose that \(\mathbf{L}\) is a simple formal language, containing two atomic sentences ‘snow is white’ and ‘grass is green’, and the sentential connectives \(\vee\) and \(\neg\).

In spite of its simplicity, \(\mathbf{L}\) contains infinitely many distinct sentences. But truth can be defined for all of them by recursion.

  • ‘Snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white.
  • ‘Grass is green’ is true if and only if grass is green.
  • \(\ulcorner \phi \vee \psi \urcorner\) is true if and only if \(\ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true or \(\ulcorner \psi \urcorner\) is true.
  • \(\ulcorner \neg \phi \urcorner\) is true if and only if it is not the case that \(\ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true.

This theory satisfies Convention T.

This may look trivial, but in defining an extensionally correct truth predicate for an infinite language with four clauses, we have made a modest application of a very powerful technique.

Tarski’s techniques go further, however. They do not stop with atomic sentences. Tarski notes that truth for each atomic sentence can be defined in terms of two closely related notions: reference and satisfaction . Let us consider a language \(\mathbf{L}'\), just like \(\mathbf{L}\) except that instead of simply having two atomic sentences, \(\mathbf{L}'\) breaks atomic sentences into terms and predicates. \(\mathbf{L}'\) contains terms ‘snow’ and ‘grass’ (let us engage in the idealization that these are simply singular terms), and predicates ‘is white’ and ‘is green’. So \(\mathbf{L}'\) is like \(\mathbf{L}\), but also contains the sentences ‘Snow is green’ and ‘Grass is white’.)

We can define truth for atomic sentences of \(\mathbf{L}'\) in the following way.

  • ‘Snow’ refers to snow.
  • ‘Grass’ refers to grass.
  • \(a\) satisfies ‘is white’ if and only if \(a\) is white.
  • \(a\) satisfies ‘is green’ if and only if \(a\) is green.
  • For any atomic sentence \(\ulcorner t\) is \(P \urcorner\): \(\ulcorner t\) is \(P \urcorner\) is true if and only if the referent of \(\ulcorner t \urcorner\) satisfies \(\ulcorner P\urcorner\).

One of Tarski’s key insights is that the apparatus of satisfaction allows for a recursive definition of truth for sentences with quantifiers , though we will not examine that here. We could repeat the recursion clauses for \(\mathbf{L}\) to produce a full theory of truth for \(\mathbf{L}'\).

Let us say that a Tarskian theory of truth is a recursive theory, built up in ways similar to the theory of truth for \(\mathbf{L}'\). Tarski goes on to demonstrate some key applications of such a theory of truth. A Tarskian theory of truth for a language \(\mathbf{L}\) can be used to show that theories in \(\mathbf{L}\) are consistent. This was especially important to Tarski, who was concerned the Liar paradox would make theories in languages containing a truth predicate inconsistent.

For more, see Ray (2018) and the entries on axiomatic theories of truth , the Liar paradox , and Tarski’s truth definitions .

3. Correspondence revisited

The correspondence theory of truth expresses the very natural idea that truth is a content-to-world or word-to-world relation: what we say or think is true or false in virtue of the way the world turns out to be. We suggested that, against a background like the metaphysics of facts, it does so in a straightforward way. But the idea of correspondence is certainly not specific to this framework. Indeed, it is controversial whether a correspondence theory should rely on any particular metaphysics at all. The basic idea of correspondence, as Tarski (1944) and others have suggested, is captured in the slogan from Aristotle’s Metaphysics Γ 7.27, “to say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true” (Ross, 1928). ‘What is’, it is natural enough to say, is a fact, but this natural turn of phrase may well not require a full-blown metaphysics of facts. (For a discussion of Aristotle’s views in a historical context, see Szaif (2018).)

Yet without the metaphysics of facts, the notion of correspondence as discussed in section 1.1 loses substance. This has led to two distinct strands in contemporary thinking about the correspondence theory. One strand seeks to recast the correspondence theory in a way that does not rely on any particular ontology. Another seeks to find an appropriate ontology for correspondence, either in terms of facts or other entities. We will consider each in turn.

Tarski himself sometimes suggested that his theory was a kind of correspondence theory of truth. Whether his own theory is a correspondence theory, and even whether it provides any substantial philosophical account of truth at all, is a matter of controversy. (One rather drastic negative assessment from Putnam (1985–86, p. 333) is that “As a philosophical account of truth, Tarski’s theory fails as badly as it is possible for an account to fail.”) But a number of philosophers (e.g., Davidson, 1969; Field, 1972) have seen Tarski’s theory as providing at least the core of a correspondence theory of truth which dispenses with the metaphysics of facts.

Tarski’s theory shows how truth for a sentence is determined by certain properties of its constituents; in particular, by properties of reference and satisfaction (as well as by the logical constants). As it is normally understood, reference is the preeminent word-to-world relation. Satisfaction is naturally understood as a word-to-world relation as well, which relates a predicate to the things in the world that bear it. The Tarskian recursive definition shows how truth is determined by reference and satisfaction, and so is in effect determined by the things in the world we refer to and the properties they bear. This, one might propose, is all the correspondence we need. It is not correspondence of sentences or propositions to facts; rather, it is correspondence of our expressions to objects and the properties they bear, and then ways of working out the truth of claims in terms of this.

This is certainly not the neo-classical idea of correspondence. In not positing facts, it does not posit any single object to which a true proposition or sentence might correspond. Rather, it shows how truth might be worked out from basic word-to-world relations. However, a number of authors have noted that Tarski’s theory cannot by itself provide us with such an account of truth. As we will discuss more fully in section 4.2, Tarski’s apparatus is in fact compatible with theories of truth that are certainly not correspondence theories.

Field (1972), in an influential discussion and diagnosis of what is lacking in Tarski’s account, in effect points out that whether we really have something worthy of the name ‘correspondence’ depends on our having notions of reference and satisfaction which genuinely establish word-to-world relations. (Field does not use the term ‘correspondence’, but does talk about e.g., the “connection between words and things” (p. 373).) By itself, Field notes, Tarski’s theory does not offer an account of reference and satisfaction at all. Rather, it offers a number of disquotation clauses , such as:

These clauses have an air of triviality (though whether they are to be understood as trivial principles or statements of non-trivial semantic facts has been a matter of some debate). With Field, we might propose to supplement clauses like these with an account of reference and satisfaction. Such a theory should tell us what makes it the case that the word ‘snow’ refer to snow. (In 1972, Field was envisaging a physicalist account, along the lines of the causal theory of reference.) This should inter alia guarantee that truth is really determined by word-to-world relations, so in conjunction with the Tarskian recursive definition, it could provide a correspondence theory of truth.

Such a theory clearly does not rely on a metaphysics of facts. Indeed, it is in many ways metaphysically neutral, as it does not take a stand on the nature of particulars, or of the properties or universals that underwrite facts about satisfaction. However, it may not be entirely devoid of metaphysical implications, as we will discuss further in section 4.1.

Much of the subsequent discussion of Field-style approaches to correspondence has focused on the role of representation in these views. Field’s own (1972) discussion relies on a causal relation between terms and their referents, and a similar relation for satisfaction. These are instances of representation relations. According to representational views, meaningful items, like perhaps thoughts or sentences or their constituents, have their contents in virtue of standing in the right relation to the things they represent. On many views, including Field’s, a name stands in such a relation to its bearer, and the relation is a causal one.

The project of developing a naturalist account of the representation relation has been an important one in the philosophy of mind and language. (See the entry on mental representation .) But, it has implications for the theory of truth. Representational views of content lead naturally to correspondence theories of truth. To make this vivid, suppose you hold that sentences or beliefs stand in a representation relation to some objects. It is natural to suppose that for true beliefs or sentences, those objects would be facts. We then have a correspondence theory, with the correspondence relation explicated as a representation relation: a truth bearer is true if it represents a fact.

As we have discussed, many contemporary views reject facts, but one can hold a representational view of content without them. One interpretation of Field’s theory is just that. The relations of reference and satisfaction are representation relations, and truth for sentences is determined compositionally in terms of those representation relations, and the nature of the objects they represent. If we have such relations, we have the building blocks for a correspondence theory without facts. Field (1972) anticipated a naturalist reduction of the representation via a causal theory, but any view that accepts representation relations for truth bearers or their constituents can provide a similar theory of truth. (See Jackson (2006) and Lynch (2009) for further discussion.)

Representational views of content provide a natural way to approach the correspondence theory of truth, and likewise, anti-representational views provide a natural way to avoid the correspondence theory of truth. This is most clear in the work of Davidson, as we will discuss more in section 6.5.

There have been a number of correspondence theories that do make use of facts. Some are notably different from the neo-classical theory sketched in section 1.1. For instance, Austin (1950) proposes a view in which each statement (understood roughly as an utterance event) corresponds to both a fact or situation, and a type of situation. It is true if the former is of the latter type. This theory, which has been developed by situation theory (e.g., Barwise and Perry, 1986), rejects the idea that correspondence is a kind of mirroring between a fact and a proposition. Rather, correspondence relations to Austin are entirely conventional. (See Vision (2004) for an extended defense of an Austinian correspondence theory.) As an ordinary language philosopher, Austin grounds his notion of fact more in linguistic usage than in an articulated metaphysics, but he defends his use of fact-talk in Austin (1961b).

In a somewhat more Tarskian spirit, formal theories of facts or states of affairs have also been developed. For instance, Taylor (1976) provides a recursive definition of a collection of ‘states of affairs’ for a given language. Taylor’s states of affairs seem to reflect the notion of fact at work in the neo-classical theory, though as an exercise in logic, they are officially \(n\)-tuples of objects and intensions .

There are more metaphysically robust notions of fact in the current literature. For instance, Armstrong (1997) defends a metaphysics in which facts (under the name ‘states of affairs’) are metaphysically fundamental. The view has much in common with the neo-classical one. Like the neo-classical view, Armstrong endorses a version of the correspondence theory. States of affairs are truthmakers for propositions, though Armstrong argues that there may be many such truthmakers for a given proposition, and vice versa. (Armstrong also envisages a naturalistic account of propositions as classes of equivalent belief-tokens.)

Armstrong’s primary argument is what he calls the ‘truthmaker argument’. It begins by advancing a truthmaker principle , which holds that for any given truth, there must be a truthmaker – a “something in the world which makes it the case, that serves as an ontological ground, for this truth” (p. 115). It is then argued that facts are the appropriate truthmakers.

In contrast to the approach to correspondence discussed in section 3.1, which offered correspondence with minimal ontological implications, this view returns to the ontological basis of correspondence that was characteristic of the neo-classical theory.

For more on facts, see the entry on facts .

The truthmaker principle is often put as the schema:

If \(\phi\), then there is an \(x\) such that necessarily, if \(x\) exists, then \(\phi\).

(Fox (1987) proposed putting the principle this way, rather than explicitly in terms of truth.)

The truthmaker principle expresses the ontological aspect of the neo-classical correspondence theory. Not merely must truth obtain in virtue of word-to-world relations, but there must be a thing that makes each truth true. (For one view on this, see Merricks (2007).)

The neo-classical correspondence theory, and Armstrong, cast facts as the appropriate truthmakers. However, it is a non-trivial step from the truthmaker principle to the existence of facts. There are a number of proposals in the literature for how other sorts of objects could be truthmakers; for instance, tropes (called ‘moments’, in Mulligan et al., 1984). Parsons (1999) argues that the truthmaker principle (presented in a somewhat different form) is compatible with there being only concrete particulars.

As we saw in discussing the neo-classical correspondence theory, truthmaker theories, and fact theories in particular, raise a number of issues. One which has been discussed at length, for instance, is whether there are negative facts . Negative facts would be the truthmakers for negated sentences. Russell (1956) notoriously expresses ambivalence about whether there are negative facts. Armstrong (1997) rejects them, while Beall (2000) defends them. (For more discussion of truthmakers, see Cameron (2018) and the papers in Beebee and Dodd (2005).)

4. Realism and anti-realism

The neo-classical theories we surveyed in section 1 made the theory of truth an application of their background metaphysics (and in some cases epistemology). In section 2 and especially in section 3, we returned to the issue of what sorts of ontological commitments might go with the theory of truth. There we saw a range of options, from relatively ontologically non-committal theories, to theories requiring highly specific ontologies.

There is another way in which truth relates to metaphysics. Many ideas about realism and anti-realism are closely related to ideas about truth. Indeed, many approaches to questions about realism and anti-realism simply make them questions about truth.

In discussing the approach to correspondence of section 3.1, we noted that it has few ontological requirements. It relies on there being objects of reference, and something about the world which makes for determinate satisfaction relations; but beyond that, it is ontologically neutral. But as we mentioned there, this is not to say that it has no metaphysical implications. A correspondence theory of truth, of any kind, is often taken to embody a form of realism .

The key features of realism, as we will take it, are that:

  • The world exists objectively, independently of the ways we think about it or describe it.
  • Our thoughts and claims are about that world.

(Wright (1992) offers a nice statement of this way of thinking about realism.) These theses imply that our claims are objectively true or false, depending on how the world they are about is. The world that we represent in our thoughts or language is an objective world. (Realism may be restricted to some subject-matter, or range of discourse, but for simplicity, we will talk about only its global form.)

It is often argued that these theses require some form of the correspondence theory of truth. (Putnam (1978, p. 18) notes, “Whatever else realists say, they typically say that they believe in a ‘correspondence theory of truth’.”) At least, they are supported by the kind of correspondence theory without facts discussed in section 3.1, such as Field’s proposal. Such a theory will provide an account of objective relations of reference and satisfaction, and show how these determine the truth or falsehood of what we say about the world. Field’s own approach (1972) to this problem seeks a physicalist explanation of reference. But realism is a more general idea than physicalism. Any theory that provides objective relations of reference and satisfaction, and builds up a theory of truth from them, would give a form of realism. (Making the objectivity of reference the key to realism is characteristic of work of Putnam, e.g., 1978.)

Another important mark of realism expressed in terms of truth is the property of bivalence . As Dummett has stressed (e.g., 1959; 1976; 1983; 1991), a realist should see there being a fact of the matter one way or the other about whether any given claim is correct. Hence, one important mark of realism is that it goes together with the principle of bivalence : every truth-bearer (sentence or proposition) is true or false. In much of his work, Dummett has made this the characteristic mark of realism, and often identifies realism about some subject-matter with accepting bivalence for discourse about that subject-matter. At the very least, it captures a great deal of what is more loosely put in the statement of realism above.

Both the approaches to realism, through reference and through bivalence, make truth the primary vehicle for an account of realism. A theory of truth which substantiates bivalence, or builds truth from a determinate reference relation, does most of the work of giving a realistic metaphysics. It might even simply be a realistic metaphysics.

We have thus turned on its head the relation of truth to metaphysics we saw in our discussion of the neo-classical correspondence theory in section 1.1. There, a correspondence theory of truth was built upon a substantial metaphysics. Here, we have seen how articulating a theory that captures the idea of correspondence can be crucial to providing a realist metaphysics. (For another perspective on realism and truth, see Alston (1996). Devitt (1984) offers an opposing view to the kind we have sketched here, which rejects any characterization of realism in terms of truth or other semantic concepts.)

In light of our discussion in section 1.1.1, we should pause to note that the connection between realism and the correspondence theory of truth is not absolute. When Moore and Russell held the identity theory of truth, they were most certainly realists. The right kind of metaphysics of propositions can support a realist view, as can a metaphysics of facts. The modern form of realism we have been discussing here seeks to avoid basing itself on such particular ontological commitments, and so prefers to rely on the kind of correspondence-without-facts approach discussed in section 3.1. This is not to say that realism will be devoid of ontological commitments, but the commitments will flow from whichever specific claims about some subject-matter are taken to be true.

For more on realism and truth, see Fumerton (2002) and the entry on realism .

It should come as no surprise that the relation between truth and metaphysics seen by modern realists can also be exploited by anti-realists. Many modern anti-realists see the theory of truth as the key to formulating and defending their views. With Dummett (e.g., 1959; 1976; 1991), we might expect the characteristic mark of anti-realism to be the rejection of bivalence.

Indeed, many contemporary forms of anti-realism may be formulated as theories of truth, and they do typically deny bivalence. Anti-realism comes in many forms, but let us take as an example a (somewhat crude) form of verificationism. Such a theory holds that a claim is correct just insofar as it is in principle verifiable , i.e., there is a verification procedure we could in principle carry out which would yield the answer that the claim in question was verified.

So understood, verificationism is a theory of truth. The claim is not that verification is the most important epistemic notion, but that truth just is verifiability. As with the kind of realism we considered in section 4.1, this view expresses its metaphysical commitments in its explanation of the nature of truth. Truth is not, to this view, a fully objective matter, independent of us or our thoughts. Instead, truth is constrained by our abilities to verify, and is thus constrained by our epistemic situation. Truth is to a significant degree an epistemic matter, which is typical of many anti-realist positions.

As Dummett says, the verificationist notion of truth does not appear to support bivalence. Any statement that reaches beyond what we can in principle verify or refute (verify its negation) will be a counter-example to bivalence. Take, for instance, the claim that there is some substance, say uranium, present in some region of the universe too distant to be inspected by us within the expected lifespan of the universe. Insofar as this really would be in principle unverifiable, we have no reason to maintain it is true or false according to the verificationist theory of truth.

Verificationism of this sort is one of a family of anti-realist views. Another example is the view that identifies truth with warranted assertibility. Assertibility, as well as verifiability, has been important in Dummett’s work. (See also works of McDowell, e.g., 1976 and Wright, e.g., 1976; 1982; 1992.)

Anti-realism of the Dummettian sort is not a descendant of the coherence theory of truth per se . But in some ways, as Dummett himself has noted, it might be construed as a descendant – perhaps very distant – of idealism. If idealism is the most drastic form of rejection of the independence of mind and world, Dummettian anti-realism is a more modest form, which sees epistemology imprinted in the world, rather than the wholesale embedding of world into mind. At the same time, the idea of truth as warranted assertibility or verifiability reiterates a theme from the pragmatist views of truth we surveyed in section 1.3.

Anti-realist theories of truth, like the realist ones we discussed in section 4.1, can generally make use of the Tarskian apparatus. Convention T, in particular, does not discriminate between realist and anti-realist notions of truth. Likewise, the base clauses of a Tarskian recursive theory are given as disquotation principles, which are neutral between realist and anti-realist understandings of notions like reference. As we saw with the correspondence theory, giving a full account of the nature of truth will generally require more than the Tarskian apparatus itself. How an anti-realist is to explain the basic concepts that go into a Tarskian theory is a delicate matter. As Dummett and Wright have investigated in great detail, it appears that the background logic in which the theory is developed will have to be non-classical.

For more on anti-realism and truth, see Shieh (2018) and the papers in Greenough and Lynch (2006) and the entry on realism .

Many commentators see a close connection between Dummett’s anti-realism and the pragmatists’ views of truth, in that both put great weight on ideas of verifiability or assertibility. Dummett himself stressed parallels between anti-realism and intuitionism in the philosophy of mathematics.

Another view on truth which returns to pragmatist themes is the ‘internal realism’ of Putnam (1981). There Putnam glosses truth as what would be justified under ideal epistemic conditions. With the pragmatists, Putnam sees the ideal conditions as something which can be approximated, echoing the idea of truth as the end of inquiry.

Putnam is cautious about calling his view anti-realism, preferring the label ‘internal realism’. But he is clear that he sees his view as opposed to realism (‘metaphysical realism’, as he calls it).

Davidson’s views on truth have also been associated with pragmatism, notably by Rorty (1986). Davidson has distanced himself from this interpretation (e.g., 1990), but he does highlight connections between truth and belief and meaning. Insofar as these are human attitudes or relate to human actions, Davidson grants there is some affinity between his views and those of some pragmatists (especially, he says, Dewey).

Another view that has grown out of the literature on realism and anti-realism, and has become increasingly important in the current literature, is that of pluralism about truth. This view, developed in work of Lynch (e.g. 2001b; 2009) and Wright (e.g. 1992; 1999), proposes that there are multiple ways for truth bearers to be true. Wright, in particular, suggests that in certain domains of discourse what we say is true in virtue of a correspondence-like relation, while in others it is its true in virtue of a kind of assertibility relation that is closer in spirit to the anti-realist views we have just discussed.

Such a proposal might suggest there are multiple concepts of truth, or that the term ‘true’ is itself ambiguous. However, whether or not a pluralist view is committed to such claims has been disputed. In particular, Lynch (2001b; 2009) develops a version of pluralism which takes truth to be a functional role concept. The functional role of truth is characterized by a range of principles that articulate such features of truth as its objectivity, its role in inquiry, and related ideas we have encountered in considering various theories of truth. (A related point about platitudes governing the concept of truth is made by Wright (1992).) But according to Lynch, these display the functional role of truth. Furthermore, Lynch claims that on analogy with analytic functionalism, these principles can be seen as deriving from our pre-theoretic or ‘folk’ ideas about truth.

Like all functional role concepts, truth must be realized, and according to Lynch it may be realized in different ways in different settings. Such multiple realizability has been one of the hallmarks of functional role concepts discussed in the philosophy of mind. For instance, Lynch suggests that for ordinary claims about material objects, truth might be realized by a correspondence property (which he links to representational views), while for moral claims truth might be manifest by an assertibility property along more anti-realist lines.

For more on pluralism about truth, see Pedersen and Lynch (2018) and the entry on pluralist theories of truth .

5. Deflationism

We began in section 1 with the neo-classical theories, which explained the nature of truth within wider metaphysical systems. We then considered some alternatives in sections 2 and 3, some of which had more modest ontological implications. But we still saw in section 4 that substantial theories of truth tend to imply metaphysical theses, or even embody metaphysical positions.

One long-standing trend in the discussion of truth is to insist that truth really does not carry metaphysical significance at all. It does not, as it has no significance on its own. A number of different ideas have been advanced along these lines, under the general heading of deflationism .

Deflationist ideas appear quite early on, including a well-known argument against correspondence in Frege (1918–19). However, many deflationists take their cue from an idea of Ramsey (1927), often called the equivalence thesis :

\(\ulcorner \ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true \(\urcorner\) has the same meaning as \(\phi\).

(Ramsey himself takes truth-bearers to be propositions rather than sentences. Glanzberg (2003b) questions whether Ramsey’s account of propositions really makes him a deflationist.)

This can be taken as the core of a theory of truth, often called the redundancy theory . The redundancy theory holds that there is no property of truth at all, and appearances of the expression ‘true’ in our sentences are redundant, having no effect on what we express.

The equivalence thesis can also be understood in terms of speech acts rather than meaning:

To assert that \(\ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true is just to assert that \(\phi\).

This view was advanced by Strawson (1949; 1950), though Strawson also argues that there are other important aspects of speech acts involving ‘true’ beyond what is asserted. For instance, they may be acts of confirming or granting what someone else said. (Strawson would also object to my making sentences the bearers of truth.)

In either its speech act or meaning form, the redundancy theory argues there is no property of truth. It is commonly noted that the equivalence thesis itself is not enough to sustain the redundancy theory. It merely holds that when truth occurs in the outermost position in a sentence, and the full sentence to which truth is predicated is quoted, then truth is eliminable. What happens in other environments is left to be seen. Modern developments of the redundancy theory include Grover et al. (1975).

The equivalence principle looks familiar: it has something like the form of the Tarski biconditionals discussed in section 2.2. However, it is a stronger principle, which identifies the two sides of the biconditional – either their meanings or the speech acts performed with them. The Tarski biconditionals themselves are simply material biconditionals.

A number of deflationary theories look to the Tarski biconditionals rather than the full equivalence principle. Their key idea is that even if we do not insist on redundancy, we may still hold the following theses:

  • For a given language \(\mathbf{L}\) and every \(\phi\) in \(\mathbf{L}\), the biconditionals \(\ulcorner \ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true if and only if \(\phi \urcorner\) hold by definition (or analytically, or trivially, or by stipulation …).
  • This is all there is to say about the concept of truth.

We will refer to views which adopt these as minimalist . Officially, this is the name of the view of Horwich (1990), but we will apply it somewhat more widely. (Horwich’s view differs in some specific respects from what is presented here, such as predicating truth of propositions, but we believe it is close enough to what is sketched here to justify the name.)

The second thesis, that the Tarski biconditionals are all there is to say about truth, captures something similar to the redundancy theory’s view. It comes near to saying that truth is not a property at all; to the extent that truth is a property, there is no more to it than the disquotational pattern of the Tarski biconditionals. As Horwich puts it, there is no substantial underlying metaphysics to truth. And as Soames (1984) stresses, certainly nothing that could ground as far-reaching a view as realism or anti-realism.

If there is no property of truth, or no substantial property of truth, what role does our term ‘true’ play? Deflationists typically note that the truth predicate provides us with a convenient device of disquotation . Such a device allows us to make some useful claims which we could not formulate otherwise, such as the blind ascription ‘The next thing that Bill says will be true’. (For more on blind ascriptions and their relation to deflationism, see Azzouni, 2001.) A predicate obeying the Tarski biconditionals can also be used to express what would otherwise be (potentially) infinite conjunctions or disjunctions, such as the notorious statement of Papal infallibility put ‘Everything the Pope says is true’. (Suggestions like this are found in Leeds, 1978 and Quine, 1970.)

Recognizing these uses for a truth predicate, we might simply think of it as introduced into a language by stipulation . The Tarski biconditionals themselves might be stipulated, as the minimalists envisage. One could also construe the clauses of a recursive Tarskian theory as stipulated. (There are some significant logical differences between these two options. See Halbach (1999) and Ketland (1999) for discussion.) Other deflationists, such as Beall (2005) or Field (1994), might prefer to focus here on rules of inference or rules of use, rather than the Tarski biconditionals themselves.

There are also important connections between deflationist ideas about truth and certain ideas about meaning. These are fundamental to the deflationism of Field (1986; 1994), which will be discussed in section 6.3. For an insightful critique of deflationism, see Gupta (1993).

For more on deflationism, see Azzouni (2018) and the entry on the deflationary theory of truth .

6. Truth and language

One of the important themes in the literature on truth is its connection to meaning, or more generally, to language. This has proved an important application of ideas about truth, and an important issue in the study of truth itself. This section will consider a number of issues relating truth and language.

There have been many debates in the literature over what the primary bearers of truth are. Candidates typically include beliefs, propositions, sentences, and utterances. We have already seen in section 1 that the classical debates on truth took this issue very seriously, and what sort of theory of truth was viable was often seen to depend on what the bearers of truth are.

In spite of the number of options under discussion, and the significance that has sometimes been placed on the choice, there is an important similarity between candidate truth-bearers. Consider the role of truth-bearers in the correspondence theory, for instance. We have seen versions of it which take beliefs, propositions, or interpreted sentences to be the primary bearers of truth. But all of them rely upon the idea that their truth-bearers are meaningful , and are thereby able to say something about what the world is like. (We might say that they are able to represent the world, but that is to use ‘represent’ in a wider sense than we saw in section 3.2. No assumptions about just what stands in relations to what objects are required to see truth-bearers as meaningful.) It is in virtue of being meaningful that truth-bearers are able to enter into correspondence relations. Truth-bearers are things which meaningfully make claims about what the world is like, and are true or false depending on whether the facts in the world are as described.

Exactly the same point can be made for the anti-realist theories of truth we saw in section 4.2, though with different accounts of how truth-bearers are meaningful, and what the world contributes. Though it is somewhat more delicate, something similar can be said for coherence theories, which usually take beliefs, or whole systems of beliefs, as the primary truth-bearers. Though a coherence theory will hardly talk of beliefs representing the facts, it is crucial to the coherence theory that beliefs are contentful beliefs of agents, and that they can enter into coherence relations. Noting the complications in interpreting the genuine classical coherence theories, it appears fair to note that this requires truth-bearers to be meaningful, however the background metaphysics (presumably idealism) understands meaning.

Though Tarski works with sentences, the same can be said of his theory. The sentences to which Tarski’s theory applies are fully interpreted, and so also are meaningful. They characterize the world as being some way or another, and this in turn determines whether they are true or false. Indeed, Tarski needs there to be a fact of the matter about whether each sentence is true or false (abstracting away from context dependence), to ensure that the Tarski biconditionals do their job of fixing the extension of ‘is true’. (But note that just what this fact of the matter consists in is left open by the Tarskian apparatus.)

We thus find the usual candidate truth-bearers linked in a tight circle: interpreted sentences, the propositions they express, the belief speakers might hold towards them, and the acts of assertion they might perform with them are all connected by providing something meaningful. This makes them reasonable bearers of truth. For this reason, it seems, contemporary debates on truth have been much less concerned with the issue of truth-bearers than were the classical ones. Some issues remain, of course. Different metaphysical assumptions may place primary weight on some particular node in the circle, and some metaphysical views still challenge the existence of some of the nodes. Perhaps more importantly, different views on the nature of meaning itself might cast doubt on the coherence of some of the nodes. Notoriously for instance, Quineans (e.g., Quine, 1960) deny the existence of intensional entities, including propositions. Even so, it increasingly appears doubtful that attention to truth per se will bias us towards one particular primary bearer of truth.

For more on these issues, see King (2018).

There is a related, but somewhat different point, which is important to understanding the theories we have canvassed.

The neo-classical theories of truth start with truth-bearers which are already understood to be meaningful, and explain how they get their truth values. But along the way, they often do something more. Take the neo-classical correspondence theory, for instance. This theory, in effect, starts with a view of how propositions are meaningful. They are so in virtue of having constituents in the world, which are brought together in the right way. There are many complications about the nature of meaning, but at a minimum, this tells us what the truth conditions associated with a proposition are. The theory then explains how such truth conditions can lead to the truth value true , by the right fact existing .

Many theories of truth are like the neo-classical correspondence theory in being as much theories of how truth-bearers are meaningful as of how their truth values are fixed. Again, abstracting from some complications about meaning, this makes them theories both of truth conditions and truth values . The Tarskian theory of truth can be construed this way too. This can be seen both in the way the Tarski biconditionals are understood, and how a recursive theory of truth is understood. As we explained Convention T in section 2.2, the primary role of a Tarski biconditional of the form \(\ulcorner \ulcorner \phi \urcorner\) is true if and only if \(\phi \urcorner\) is to fix whether \(\phi\) is in the extension of ‘is true’ or not. But it can also be seen as stating the truth conditions of \(\phi\). Both rely on the fact that the unquoted occurrence of \(\phi\) is an occurrence of an interpreted sentence, which has a truth value, but also provides its truth conditions upon occasions of use.

Likewise, the base clauses of the recursive definition of truth, those for reference and satisfaction, are taken to state the relevant semantic properties of constituents of an interpreted sentence. In discussing Tarski’s theory of truth in section 2, we focused on how these determine the truth value of a sentence. But they also show us the truth conditions of a sentence are determined by these semantic properties. For instance, for a simple sentence like ‘Snow is white’, the theory tells us that the sentence is true if the referent of ‘Snow’ satisfies ‘white’. This can be understood as telling us that the truth conditions of ‘Snow is white’ are those conditions in which the referent of ‘Snow’ satisfies the predicate ‘is white’.

As we saw in sections 3 and 4, the Tarskian apparatus is often seen as needing some kind of supplementation to provide a full theory of truth. A full theory of truth conditions will likewise rest on how the Tarskian apparatus is put to use. In particular, just what kinds of conditions those in which the referent of ‘snow’ satisfies the predicate ‘is white’ are will depend on whether we opt for realist or anti-realist theories. The realist option will simply look for the conditions under which the stuff snow bears the property of whiteness; the anti-realist option will look to the conditions under which it can be verified, or asserted with warrant, that snow is white.

There is a broad family of theories of truth which are theories of truth conditions as well as truth values. This family includes the correspondence theory in all its forms – classical and modern. Yet this family is much wider than the correspondence theory, and wider than realist theories of truth more generally. Indeed, virtually all the theories of truth that make contributions to the realism/anti-realism debate are theories of truth conditions. In a slogan, for many approaches to truth, a theory of truth is a theory of truth conditions.

Any theory that provides a substantial account of truth conditions can offer a simple account of truth values: a truth-bearer provides truth conditions, and it is true if and only if the actual way things are is among them. Because of this, any such theory will imply a strong, but very particular, biconditional, close in form to the Tarski biconditionals. It can be made most vivid if we think of propositions as sets of truth conditions. Let \(p\) be a proposition, i.e., a set of truth conditions, and let \(a\) be the ‘actual world’, the condition that actually obtains. Then we can almost trivially see:

\(p\) is true if and only if \(a \in p\).

This is presumably necessary. But it is important to observe that it is in one respect crucially different from the genuine Tarski biconditionals. It makes no use of a non-quoted sentence, or in fact any sentence at all. It does not have the disquotational character of the Tarski biconditionals.

Though this may look like a principle that deflationists should applaud, it is not. Rather, it shows that deflationists cannot really hold a truth-conditional view of content at all. If they do, then they inter alia have a non-deflationary theory of truth, simply by linking truth value to truth conditions through the above biconditional. It is typical of thoroughgoing deflationist theories to present a non-truth-conditional theory of the contents of sentences: a non-truth-conditional account of what makes truth-bearers meaningful. We take it this is what is offered, for instance, by the use theory of propositions in Horwich (1990). It is certainly one of the leading ideas of Field (1986; 1994), which explore how a conceptual role account of content would ground a deflationist view of truth. Once one has a non-truth-conditional account of content, it is then possible to add a deflationist truth predicate, and use this to give purely deflationist statements of truth conditions. But the starting point must be a non-truth-conditional view of what makes truth-bearers meaningful.

Both deflationists and anti-realists start with something other than correspondence truth conditions. But whereas an anti-realist will propose a different theory of truth conditions, a deflationists will start with an account of content which is not a theory of truth conditions at all. The deflationist will then propose that the truth predicate, given by the Tarski biconditionals, is an additional device, not for understanding content, but for disquotation. It is a useful device, as we discussed in section 5.3, but it has nothing to do with content. To a deflationist, the meaningfulness of truth-bearers has nothing to do with truth.

It has been an influential idea, since the seminal work of Davidson (e.g., 1967), to see a Tarskian theory of truth as a theory of meaning. At least, as we have seen, a Tarskian theory can be seen as showing how the truth conditions of a sentence are determined by the semantic properties of its parts. More generally, as we see in much of the work of Davidson and of Dummett (e.g., 1959; 1976; 1983; 1991), giving a theory of truth conditions can be understood as a crucial part of giving a theory of meaning. Thus, any theory of truth that falls into the broad category of those which are theories of truth conditions can be seen as part of a theory of meaning. (For more discussion of these issues, see Higginbotham (1986; 1989) and the exchange between Higginbotham (1992) and Soames (1992).)

A number of commentators on Tarski (e.g., Etchemendy, 1988; Soames, 1984) have observed that the Tarskian apparatus needs to be understood in a particular way to make it suitable for giving a theory of meaning. Tarski’s work is often taken to show how to define a truth predicate. If it is so used, then whether or not a sentence is true becomes, in essence, a truth of mathematics. Presumably what truth conditions sentences of a natural language have is a contingent matter, so a truth predicate defined in this way cannot be used to give a theory of meaning for them. But the Tarskian apparatus need not be used just to explicitly define truth. The recursive characterization of truth can be used to state the semantic properties of sentences and their constituents, as a theory of meaning should. In such an application, truth is not taken to be explicitly defined, but rather the truth conditions of sentences are taken to be described. (See Heck, 1997 for more discussion.)

Inspired by Quine (e.g., 1960), Davidson himself is well known for taking a different approach to using a theory of truth as a theory of meaning than is implicit in Field (1972). Whereas a Field-inspired representational approach is based on a causal account of reference, Davidson (e.g., 1973) proposes a process of radical interpretation in which an interpreter builds a Tarskian theory to interpret a speaker as holding beliefs which are consistent, coherent, and largely true.

This led Davidson (e.g. 1986) to argue that most of our beliefs are true – a conclusion that squares well with the coherence theory of truth. This is a weaker claim than the neo-classical coherence theory would make. It does not insist that all the members of any coherent set of beliefs are true, or that truth simply consists in being a member of such a coherent set. But all the same, the conclusion that most of our beliefs are true, because their contents are to be understood through a process of radical interpretation which will make them a coherent and rational system, has a clear affinity with the neo-classical coherence theory.

In Davidson (1986), he thought his view of truth had enough affinity with the neo-classical coherence theory to warrant being called a coherence theory of truth, while at the same time he saw the role of Tarskian apparatus as warranting the claim that his view was also compatible with a kind of correspondence theory of truth.

In later work, however, Davidson reconsidered this position. In fact, already in Davidson (1977) he had expressed doubt about any understanding of the role of Tarski’s theory in radical interpretation that involves the kind of representational apparatus relied on by Field (1972), as we discussed in sections 3.1 and 3.2. In the “Afterthoughts” to Davidson (1986), he also concluded that his view departs too far from the neo-classical coherence theory to be named one. What is important is rather the role of radical interpretation in the theory of content, and its leading to the idea that belief is veridical. These are indeed points connected to coherence, but not to the coherence theory of truth per se. They also comprise a strong form of anti-representationalism. Thus, though he does not advance a coherence theory of truth, he does advance a theory that stands in opposition to the representational variants of the correspondence theory we discussed in section 3.2.

For more on Davidson, see Glanzberg (2013) and the entry on Donald Davidson .

The relation between truth and meaning is not the only place where truth and language relate closely. Another is the idea, also much-stressed in the writings of Dummett (e.g., 1959), of the relation between truth and assertion. Again, it fits into a platitude:

Truth is the aim of assertion.

A person making an assertion, the platitude holds, aims to say something true.

It is easy to cast this platitude in a way that appears false. Surely, many speakers do not aim to say something true. Any speaker who lies does not. Any speaker whose aim is to flatter, or to deceive, aims at something other than truth.

The motivation for the truth-assertion platitude is rather different. It looks at assertion as a practice, in which certain rules are constitutive . As is often noted, the natural parallel here is with games, like chess or baseball, which are defined by certain rules. The platitude holds that it is constitutive of the practice of making assertions that assertions aim at truth. An assertion by its nature presents what it is saying as true, and any assertion which fails to be true is ipso facto liable to criticism, whether or not the person making the assertion themself wished to have said something true or to have lied.

Dummett’s original discussion of this idea was partially a criticism of deflationism (in particular, of views of Strawson, 1950). The idea that we fully explain the concept of truth by way of the Tarski biconditionals is challenged by the claim that the truth-assertion platitude is fundamental to truth. As Dummett there put it, what is left out by the Tarski biconditionals, and captured by the truth-assertion platitude, is the point of the concept of truth, or what the concept is used for. (For further discussion, see Glanzberg, 2003a and Wright, 1992.)

Whether or not assertion has such constitutive rules is, of course, controversial. But among those who accept that it does, the place of truth in the constitutive rules is itself controversial. The leading alternative, defended by Williamson (1996), is that knowledge, not truth, is fundamental to the constitutive rules of assertion. Williamson defends an account of assertion based on the rule that one must assert only what one knows.

For more on truth and assertion, see the papers in Brown and Cappelen (2011) and the entry on assertion .

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How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.

[Please contact the author with suggestions.]

Davidson, Donald | facts | James, William | liar paradox | Peirce, Charles Sanders | realism | Tarski, Alfred: truth definitions | truth: axiomatic theories of | truth: coherence theory of | truth: correspondence theory of | truth: deflationation about | truth: identity theory of | truth: pluralist theories of


Thanks to Josh Parsons for advice on metaphysics, and to Jc Beall, Justin Khoo, Jason Stanley, Paul Teller, and an anonymous referee for very helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Copyright © 2018 by Michael Glanzberg < michael . glanzberg @ philosophy . rutgers . edu >

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Home / Essay Samples / Philosophy / Philosophical Concept / Truth

Significance of Telling the Truth

Essay details

Literature , Philosophy

Writers , Books , Philosophical Concept

Ernest Hemingway , The Things They Carried , Truth

  • Words: 945 (2 pages)

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

Works cited

  • Works Cited
  • O'Brien, T. (1990). The Things They Carried. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Hemingway, E. (1925). In Our Time. Boni & Liveright.
  • Waugh, P. (1992). The Telling and Retelling of War: Truth and Fiction in The Things They Carried. Modern Fiction Studies, 38(4), 863-881.
  • Heberle, R. (2001). Metanarrative and Metafiction in Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War Stories. Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Culture, 54(1), 101-121.
  • Olson, S. (2013). Truth, Fiction, and the Ethics of Storytelling in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 54(3), 283-293.
  • Birkle, C. (2017). "A Failure of Imagination": The Power of Storytelling in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Journal of War and Culture Studies, 10(1), 24-36.
  • Reid, C. (2018). Representing the Unknowable: The Power of Fiction in Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War Narratives. Journal of Modern Literature, 41(2), 107-125.
  • Parsons, D. (2018). Tim O'Brien's Postmodern Manifesto: Storytelling and the Subversion of Factuality in The Things They Carried. The Journal of American Culture, 41(3), 229-240.
  • Bryant, M. L. (2019). Storytelling and Truth in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Studies in American Fiction, 46(2), 233-250.
  • Miller, B. (2020). Speaking the Unspeakable: Tim O'Brien's Poetics of Silence. Twentieth-Century Literature, 66(2), 253-282.

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Trump White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson on the price of speaking out

By Tracy Smith

September 24, 2023 / 9:11 AM / CBS News

For past two years, Cassidy Hutchinson has basically been off the radar since that day last summer when she found herself in the eye of a political hurricane. "I go out in limited capacities," she said. "You know, part of it is for security."

In June 2022 Hutchinson, then 26 and a former senior advisor to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified before the January 6th Committee, and she didn't hold back. 

"As an American, I was disgusted."

  • Former aide Cassidy Hutchinson testifies on Jan. 6 warnings, pardon requests, and Trump trying to grab the wheel


Her position as an aide who worked only steps from the Oval Office seemed to make it all the more powerful. She said of the events of January 6, "We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie."

But reports of security threats afterward drove her into hiding. "My life changed in the way that I was living my life," she said. "I could not go back to my apartment. I ended up moving down to Atlanta for several months."

Her legal team didn't think it was safe for her to stay in D.C. Such a thing would've been unthinkable only a few months earlier. Hutchinson was a Trump loyalist from New Jersey who'd worked her way up from a White House internship to a spot as one of the higher-ranking aides in the West Wing, with access to the chief of staff and often the president himself.


"I was the conduit to the White House chief of staff," Hutchinson said. "Pretty much, to get to him, you had to go through me in some capacity."

Smith asked, "Did people trust you?"

"I would think so," she replied. "When I worked there, people did trust me."

But the events of January 6 left Hutchinson shocked and disillusioned.   

Pro-Trump Protests over Electoral College Vote Certification

In the final days of the administration, she was fired, but as a former White House insider, she was subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee, and she started talking in a series of taped depositions.

Hutchinson said, "I felt torn a lot of the time, because I knew what I knew, and I wanted to come forward with what I knew. But at the same time, I didn't want to feel like I was betraying them. And I didn't want to feel like I was betraying my colleagues."


As Hutchinson writes in a new book, "Enough" (published by Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS' parent company, Paramount Global), her first attorney was paid by a Trump PAC – and, she says, she was advised that the less she remembered, the better. 

  • Cassidy Hutchinson told Jan. 6 committee Trump-linked lawyer urged her to "downplay" role in testimony, transcript reveals

Smith said, "You're kind of caught here – you're starting to have this moral dilemma. I mean, you looked over the transcript and you counted the number of times that you said, 'I don't know, I don't recall.' And you said 'I don't know,' and 'I don't recall,' more than 100 times?"

"Yes, in the final transcripts it was ridden with I don't knows and I don't recalls ," Hutchinson said. "Which was information that I very clearly recalled." 


So, as she struggled with the thought of betraying her co-workers, Hutchinson started googling another landmark D.C. hearing, Watergate, and found Alexander Butterfield, the former Nixon aide who revealed the existence of the White House taping system, and helped bring down a president. 

Butterfield's story became her beacon of hope, and the Bob Woodward book about him, "The Last of the President's Men," became her Bible. She usually keeps her well-worn copy close to hand.

"He really was the source of strength for me," she said, "and gave me the perspective not only that I could do this, but that there was life on the other side of it."

And so, armed with a newfound conviction (and new attorneys), Hutchinson headed up to Capitol Hill, and into history.

She said she wanted to back out of testifying: "Oh, yes! I almost ran out of, there's a little hold room outside the committee room that we were about to walk in, and I almost darted. Even then! I heard the door click open, and I turned around and I looked at my attorney and said, 'I can't do this.' And I started to walk, and he gently pushed my shoulders, and he said, 'You can do this.' And then we walked out."

Among the more explosive moments of her testimony: A story she says she'd heard from the White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato, about a January 6 incident with Secret Service agent Bobby Engel in the presidential limousine nicknamed the Beast, where the president was said to have insisted on being taken to Capitol Hill to join his supporters:

"The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, 'Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel.' Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles."

  • Trump tried to grab steering wheel, lunged at head of security after he was told he couldn't go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, former Meadows aide says

Smith asked, "Both of these men say they don't remember this conversation happening. How can you explain that?"

"I know what I recall," Hutchinson replied. "And in this particular instance, I can't climb inside the minds of Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel. Maybe they truly don't recall this happening. But for me, I stand by what I testified to in that incident, and in any other incident that had been disputed."

In an interview last week on NBC's "Meet the Press," former President Trump himself weighed in, disputing her account: "Who wouldn't dispute it? She's … the craziest account I've ever heard. You mean that I was in the Beast, and she said I was in the Beast, and the Secret Service didn't want – so I took a guy who was like a black belt in karate and grabbed his neck and tried to choke him. How ridiculous."

Smith asked, "You admit in the book, you've admitted here, that you told less than the truth, that you lied. Why should we believe you now?"

" 'Cause what would I have to gain by coming forward?" Hutchinson replied. "You know, it would have been easier for me to continue being complicit and to stay in the comfortable zone … I had some sense of security, a semblance of security. I knew people that I could easily reach out to for jobs. I had friends."


She said she has not talked to Ornato nor Engel. "I have not talked to many people in the Trump World since the day of my testimony," she said.

Hutchinson's book is full of anecdotes about her time in "Trump World," including a detailed account of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani groping her . Guiliani's team calls it a "disgusting lie," but Hutchinson stands by her story, as does her publisher.

She was also among the witnesses who testified for the federal grand jury in Washington and the grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia. It's not clear how much impact her testimony had on the subsequent indictments of the president and his associates.

  • Trump's 4 indictments in detail: A quick-look guide to charges, trial dates and key players for each case

But there was someone watching it all with special interest: the man who helped inspire Hutchinson to come forward, Alexander Butterfield, who is now 97 and living in southern California … and she's been able to thank him in person.

"Now we're lifelong friends," Hutchinson said.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Butterfield said. "Well, more than friends we are!"


Cassidy Hutchinson says that while her life and her heroes have changed, she's still a Republican. But when asked whom she'll back in the 2024 election, she replied, "For starters, I would like to make clear, I would not back the former President of the United States. He is dangerous for the country. He is willing, and has showed time and time again willingness, to proliferate lies to vulnerable American people so he could stay in power. To me that is the most un-American thing that you can do."

Smith asked, "Alex Butterfield said he'd do it all over again. Would you?"

"I would," Hutchinson replied. "I don't think I would really change anything. You know, I got to where I needed to be. And I'm proud of the work the committee did, too. And I'm also very grateful that they were willing to listen, and that America was willing to listen, too."

READ AN EXCERPT:  "Enough" by Cassidy Hutchinson

       For more info:

  • "Enough"  by Cassidy Hutchinson (Simon & Schuster), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available September 26 via  Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble  and  Bookshop.org

      Story produced by John D'Amelio. Editor: Mike Levine. 

  • Cassidy Hutchinson

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Essay on Truthfulness | Importance of Truth in Our Life

February 18, 2020 by Study Mentor 8 Comments

Truth is the virtue by which all your sins can be averted.  Honesty is the one thing that holds the power to change hearts. Truthfulness is not only in the case of honesty towards others but it is also about how true we are to our own selves. We all need to realize our potential and learn to stay true to our own convenience.

“Are you experiencing difficulty in writing an essay on truthfulness in English? Feel free to try cheap paper writing services provided by Cheap Writing Help and its professional academic writers.”

As we say, charity begins at home; similarly, truthfulness begins in one’s own mind. If a person is true to his heart and learns to yearn to its calling; then his virtue will lead him to different places altogether where he always wanted to be. Truthfulness is always appreciated in an individual and the quantity of honesty stands him apart from everyone.

To assert the importance of truthfulness, our school had four houses- truth, peace, love and righteousness. Children are taught to appreciate truth from a young age at school and at home. The movement of truthfulness gained momentum, when Gandhiji asserted the importance of truth through his satyagraha  which he undertook to redeem India of its captors.

It is said that Gandhiji was greatly influenced by Raja Harish Chandra’s play where the protagonist walked on the path of truth no matter what. This is what inspired him to take up the path of truth in his life. Eventually his ideologies came in influence a lot of people and he was successful in turning out Britishers from our country.

More: If you need a high-quality custom-written essay on truthfulness topics, please visit  https://www.advancedwriters. com/custom-essay/

This is because he stood undeterred on his principles and working. Had he not taken stand of his words, his followers would be none who walk on his given path. Had he not been true to his word, he would not be recognized today for his impeccable character and moral values.

It is his path of truth that is followed today. History holds records of many such men who discovered their true selves when they yearned to their inner calling and learns to recognize it.

Great men like Buddha and Mahavir Swami were born as price and fed with silver spoons. But when they learnt what their heart accepted i.e. non-materialism; they left everything back – all their riches and lavish lifestyle, to start a new life which they wanted for themselves. And thus, they sit out to preach the path of righteousness and truth.

The path of truth is not easy to walk on. The path is laden with thorns of challenges and difficulties. Situations will tempt you to lie and walk on the wrong path due to hard consequences. But it is the strength of your character that stops you from swaying on the wrong path.

There are situations when truth can cost you dearly but at the end, there is no burden on your mind to hide the lies. A spoken lie attracts more lies.

It begins to spin a web around itself. It becomes difficult to get out of that trap of lies which is never ending. It starts with a small lie and to cover up that false statement, more lies are spoken. But as we all know that truth always triumphs.

It always finds a way out of the crevices of doubt that is left behind by false statements. In the end, the hidden truth always comes out and the consequences are even more harsh and grave when they would have been before. Without a truthful living, no success can ever be achieved.

A person should remain truthful to his virtues. Honesty is such a virtue which is admired by one and all. An honest man is always held in high esteem and respected wherever he goes. Recently, a case came up where in a taxi driver found a small case left behind by a passenger in his vehicle. He somehow found out his address and went to passenger’s residence to deliver the same.

There were apart from 1 lakh rupee, documents of vital importance. The owner of the box was surprised and amazed by the honesty shown by the taxi driver. He not only thanked the driver but also offered him a good driving job in his own company. Apart from this fable we also remember the honesty shown by the woodcutter to the god Mercury.

The woodcutter was offered by the god two different axes made up of silver and gold but the woodcutter was not tempted by the lure of gold or silver as he was an honest person. An honest person always wins the hearts of others no matter he may have to suffer.

We all should try to become honest like woodcutter and never be lead by any kind of temptation. This is a rare virtue which everyone does not possess. Therefore show courage and be a hero. When closely observed, we see that honesty stems from truthfulness.

Being truthful is the first step to loyalty, faith and honesty. Because without truth, no loyalty, faith or honesty towards yourself or the other person is possible.

Truth can save you from any difficult situation from worsening. The virtue of truth is the basic fundamental characteristics that should be embedded in each human.

Lies and deceptions stem from not telling the truth. Somewhere on the other, false statements destroys both the parties from insides: – the one who tells the false and the one who is being lied to because he eventually finds out about the lies.

The peculiar thing about truth is that it is like a surgery. The infected part is immediately attacked upon without any haste or twists. But lies are like painkillers.

Reader Interactions

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February 13, 2020 at 10:12 pm

Although I am a truthful person,but after reading the essay,I will become more truthful than before

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essay about the truth

Truth Essay Guide - Importance of a Truth Today

Any topic expressing a particular view of truth is a good idea as it's an all-time relevant issue. While working on a truth essay, you should combine examples from real-life, widely-accepted definitions, and personal experience to identify this phenomenon as accurately as possible.

If this writing guide, we will explain how to write an essay about truth, explore the matter in terms of prompts and topics, and provide you with some simple examples and tips.

What to Write in Your Truth Essay?

An essay on such a specific topic isn't a separate type of academic paper - it's just writing with a different subject matter. Defining it is not that easy. Our beliefs and perception of truth may vary depending on subjective experience and even life values. That is why one of the simplest strategies would be to come up with a definition of truth. There, you don't have to argue that lying is evil, and we should be honest with each other. You can just provide a trustworthy definition to the phenomena and analyze the way the world translates its importance. The main sources one can use for this paper are reliable websites and dictionaries.

And what if you're writing a philosophy essay? This is what is preferred the most amongst the college students because Philosophy offers more self-expression. Here, every opinion may be considered relevant if you provide the reader with reliable evidence and reasonable statements. But don't forget about the coherence. While being immersed in your thoughts, you may forget about the essay structure and start beating around the bush. To avoid that, pay attention to the structure of your truth essay and don't neglect to outline your assignment. Here is an example of how you can start this writing:

"I think that truth is one's perception of beliefs and decisions. The contrasting points of view predetermine the way each of us understands this phenomenon and answer the question, 'What is true or false?'. There is only one thing that unites all possible definitions of truth and makes people agree on it. That is something believed to be accurate while the opposite is wrong."

So, a philosophy essay on this topic is based more on the author's opinion than an official definition from the dictionary.

Master Absolute Truth Essay Writing

We've gone through two most popular assignment types that the students of different schools frequently deal with. But there are truth essays with other purposes that we must consider. Look through the following list with short explanations.

  • Descriptive. Involving touch, smell, hear, sight, taste, try to describe what a true is by these means.
  • Narrative. Create a narration in which the frankness will be a core idea.
  • Compare-contrast. Analyze why people express the same or completely different opinions on truth.
  • Cause-effect (problem-solution). Consider the consequences the world actually is facing because of the lie.
  • Argumentative. Formulate an idea related to the topic and provide arguments showing your statement is true and valid.
  • Persuasive. Convince the reader that a certain statement is/is not the truth.
  • Reflective. The way you reflect on being honest or telling lies.

So, when you are assigned to write an essay on truth, you may focus on the purpose that interests you the most (unless the type is assigned)

10 Great Truth Essay Topics

There are many students thinking that truth essays are all about "grass is green" and "the moon has craters" issues. The joke is it's not true - there are many great ideas to write about. It depends on which aspect you wish to focus as well as the type of academic paper you have to turn in. Here are some questions to consider:

  • The issue of true words through the history of mankind.
  • Locke's theories of truth correspondence.
  • The link between truth and honesty.
  • The challenges of being sincere.
  • The consequences of pretending to be someone else.
  • The idea of honesty in "Dear Evan Hansen."
  • Lies VS Truth: A never-never-ending battle.
  • Importance of being honest as a postmodern thought.
  • Situations in which lies could be justified.
  • Lying to dear people. How do they know about you being dishonest?
  • The correspondence theory of truth in everyday life.
  • How lying can distort our sense of reality.

The range of possible topic options is far wider - just decide a knowledge of what life aspect, science, or course you can successfully apply in your assignment.

Essay Thesis Statement

Each paper of this type should have a frankness-related thesis statement. That is the main idea of the entire writing that should appear in the opening paragraph (introduction). In your conclusion, you may paraphrase the thesis from the first paragraph to remind people of what you plan to talk about. However, we advise you to make conclusions more valuable than that and come up with thought-provoking ideas.

Essay about Honesty

Now, we're going to provide several examples, and the first one is an essay about truth and honesty. These two terms are interrelated, and one can barely exist without another. You may start with something like this:

"How is telling accurate things related to honesty? Honesty is one of the best human traits as it refers to always being open, no matter how bitter or sweet it is. Honesty is what makes human beings brave and robust, and that is why it is one of the most significant traits of candidates to become a president and other ruling authorities. It can lead to certain problems, but people tend to sympathize with those who are honest. It's an integral part of morality, which is the best policy in relationships; it's a significant building block."

Essay about Lies

Is life worth lying? In an essay about lies, you may compare and contrast two opposites. It is okay if you think that telling lies is more beneficial than being frank in specific cases. Share some examples and try to prove your position by providing relevant evidence. Here's an example that can inspire you:

"Is there a single person in the world who has never told a lie throughout life? Excluding Jesus Christ and some other saints from the Bible, everyone has experienced lies from both sides - telling and being told. A completely honest person is a myth. It's not because all people are bad and insincere. In my essay, I'm going to prove that telling lies in some situations may save one's life."

Importance of Being Frank in Our Life

Here, you should provide enough arguments against lying. You may recall some episodes from your favorite movies or just depict real-life examples when telling lies ended up dramatically for both sides. One of the good examples could be Evan Hansen from the "Dear Evan Hansen" musical. There, the socially anxious boy pretended to be the friend of his classmate who committed suicide to make friends with his family. Then, he becomes a hero in the eyes of other people. It all resulted in a big confusion, and the boy was left with nothing.

Truth Essays for Kids

Such an essay for kids should explain what the matter of truth is from a childish perspective. Avoid using difficult, complex terms from philosophy or other science as your target audience won't understand the text. Try to explain what each complex term means.

"In human frankness, there is essential and biggest virtue. Sincerity refers to speaking exactly what you think and feel, and an honest man never tells a lie. We should start telling only the true things since our early days, and here, a lot depends on our parents. You might have had these conversations with them already. Lying to parents is the biggest sin, so practice being honest with them and people around. You may tell lies only in sporadic cases, ensuring that no one will suffer from it, but benefit."

Custom Truth Essay for Students

On the whole, your essays could be written faster than you think. On WiseEssays.com, we can provide you with a top-notch custom writing anytime. All you need to do is to contact our customer support agents or leave an order on our website. Our professional writers will fill your assignment with relevant facts, convincing examples, and exciting ideas. So, if you're tired of different academic challenges, just rely on our experts!

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Of Truth, by Francis Bacon

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  • B.A., English, State University of New York

"Of Truth" is the opening essay in the final edition of the philosopher, statesman and jurist  Francis Bacon 's "Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral" (1625). In this essay, as associate professor of philosophy Svetozar Minkov points out, Bacon addresses the question of "whether it is worse to lie to others or to oneself--to possess truth (and lie, when necessary, to others) or to think one possesses the truth but be mistaken and hence unintentionally convey falsehoods to both oneself and to others" ("Francis Bacon's 'Inquiry Touching Human Nature,'" 2010). In "Of Truth," Bacon argues that people have a natural inclination to lie to others: "a natural though corrupt love, of the lie itself."

"What is truth?" said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly, there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief, affecting free-will in thinking as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labor which men take in finding out of truth, nor again that when it is found it imposeth upon men's thoughts, that doth bring lies in favor, but a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later school of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what should be in it, that men should love lies where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant; but for the lie's sake. But I cannot tell: this same truth is a naked and open daylight that doth not show the masques and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so stately and daintily as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves? One of the fathers, in great severity, called poesy vinum daemonum [the wine of devils] because it filleth the imagination, and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it; and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature. The first creature of God in the works of the days was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of his spirit. First he breathed light upon the face of the matter, or chaos; then he breathed light into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet that beautified the sect that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well, "It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors and wanderings and mists and tempests in the vale below"*; so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.

To pass from theological and philosophical truth to the truth of civil business: it will be acknowledged, even by those that practice it not, that clear and round dealing is the honor of man's nature, and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace and such an odious charge. Saith he, "If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is as much as to say that he is brave towards God, and a coward towards man." For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man. Surely the wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith cannot possibly be so highly expressed as in that it shall be the last peal to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men: it being foretold that when Christ cometh, "He shall not find faith upon the earth."

*Bacon's paraphrase of the opening lines of Book II of "On the Nature of Things" by Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus.

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Home — Essay Samples — Philosophy — Philosophical Concepts — Truth

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Essays on Truth

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Examining "Nothing But The Truth"

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Proving of God’s Existence: The Absolute Paradox, The Truth, and Acoustic Illusion

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Plato & The Truman Show: a Discussion on Truth in The Modern Age

Three sources of human willpower, a theme of truth in "the sapphires" and "beautiful boy", analysis of soren kierkegard’s idea of subjective truth, the themes of truth and illusion in who's afraid of virginia woolf, an analysis of power, authority and truth in antigone, a play by sophocles, truth issues in othello, understanding of the pragmatic theory of truth, different views on truth in the film rashomon, truth and nonviolence as old as hill: mahatma gandhi, collaborative truth in a dialogue: easy to define, hard to find, comparison of socrates’ and kierkegaard’s views on truth, comparison dissent vs disagreement: meaning, consequences and effects, understanding of the concepts of truth according to few authors, views on truth: james and roosevelt, pragmatist's understanding of the truth in william james's work, reflections on the sociology of knowledge: modernity and knowlegde, stand up for what is right and true even if you stand alone, relevant topics.

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On the national day for truth and reconciliation, the walrus recognizes the indigenous peoples impacted by residential schools in canada.

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September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day honours the children who never returned home from residential schools as well as the survivors and all of the families and communities impacted.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for the creation of a holiday as one of its ninety-four calls to action. September 30 was previously recognized as Orange Shirt Day before being elevated to a statutory public holiday, in 2021. Public commemoration of the tragic and horrific history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is an important part of the reconciliation process.

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Award-winning journalist Michelle Cyca is a contributing writer with The Walrus. She is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 and has written about a range of contemporary Indigenous issues, including:

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Essay on Truth


To Observe Enquire Read and Think in order to find Truth is the Highest Duty of Man."

It would appear to a careless observer, on glancing at the above text, that there is very little left to say upon the subject beyond what is there stated; but if we take a more minute notice of the ideas contained in it, we shall see that in such few words, thoughts lay hidden which would, if fully explained and commented on, fill volumes. We shall carefully proceed to analyse the motto—first of all asking ourselves the oft repeated question, "What is Truth?" Various have been the definitions given of its character, and many the thinkers who have striven to describe it. We do not intend to dictate to the reader of this essay what Truth actually is, for we consider that there is far more to be learnt before man can give an approximately correct definition of its real character in all its varied phases. Our intention is merely to show that if we want to find the truth of anything or everything, we must search it out for ourselves; not merely asking another what we wish to know and then resting satisfied with the answer but making ass of the information to test its real value, and discarding it if it does not harmonise with our reason after being carefully weighed in our minds without bias or headstrong aversion.

This great question has puzzled many a wise head, ​ and so varied and important are its bearings, that we hesitate not to say it will be food for philosophers of all time. It is a subject of such vast extent that what little progress we may make in its acquirement is scarcely noticeable, for it seems to keep continually beyond our grasp; and, in fact, so apparent was this to the ancient philosophers that many of them actually declared that it was not within man's power to find; that try hard as he may he never could obtain truth; and even allowing that he could do so, he would not then be certain that he had possession of it. This is going to extremes indeed, but we must remember that extreme views help to extend and develope human thought, and are equally as beneficial as the most impartial views to the proper understanding of truth. We hold the opinion that although man may not be capable of knowing all truth, still when he has the truth he is capable of appreciating its presence, or what would be the use of his senses? We know full well that nothing in nature is made without a purpose, and our perceptive faculties are no exception to this universal rule. For this reason it is man's duty to analyse carefully everything with which his ideas are brought in contact. This brings us to the first proposition of our text, "A knowledge of Truth is best for human welfare." It will be observed that the statement does not simply say that truth is best; but it goes on to say that a knowledge of truth is best. It is no use having a machine without knowing how to use it, nor an electric telegraph without knowing how to communicate through its agency—the knowledge of its method of working and general management, is what is required. And the same argument applies to truth. Truth is of little or no use to man unless he has a knowledge of its existence and the proper method of applying it. For instance, of what use would be the truths revealed to us by the telescope if we did not properly understand their significance, and the uses to which discoveries effected by their aid might be put for the benefit of humanity? We shall further illustrate our remarks by noting one or two of the benefits conferred on the race by the discoveries of Astronomy.

​ The science of astronomy has played an imporant part in the history of man's civilizatlon—both for good and evil—eventually for the former alone. In early times the study of astronomy was confined to a few, and not a remarkably sensible few either. It was then used (under the name of astrology) as a means of divining a person's future welfare—an extensive system of fortune telling. In this stage of its history it plunged man into a state of ignorance and superstition; the weakest of mankind were played upon by the more enlightened and avaricious, merely for the sake of pecuniary gain and generally as a system of earning a livelihood. Knowledge was hindered and superstition reigned. Men did not trouble about the affairs of life, beyond obtaining their daily bread, and asking their future lot of a set of men almost as ignorant and superstitious as themselves. We are told that in those times ignorance was almost universal, and that the little knowledge that existed was confined to a select few—a small portion of the aristocracy. Out of the ignorance which then existed many strange beliefs have sprung, some of which exist even to his day; for instance: in some foreign lands eclipses are viewed as an omen of evil. Amongst the Chinese an eclipse is a cause for great alarm, for they believe that the sun and moon are being devoured by dragons, and make all possible noise with drums, gongs, and brass kettles to frighten the monsters away. In many uncivilized lands similar views are held. But these beliefs, singular as they are, are not confined to the uncivilized alone; we find superstition rampant amongst ourselves. it is a common belief that the moon is the cause of lunacy; that scientific discoveries are often the work of the devil; and many more notions equally absurd. But, as we have before said, these beliefs chiefly exist amongst the ignorant, and astrology is almost a thing of the past. We have mentioned the state of society when ignorance reigned supreme. Let us now calmly watch Truth, which, like the rising sun, gently ascends from the horizon of superstition through which it has almost passed. Watching carefully, we note the gradual development of intellect in its attempts to unravel the mysteries of the stars. First a few shepherds mark the ​ relative positions of the stars on the soft sands. Presently, more interest appears to be taken in a study, so sublime; and men give more thought to it. Chaldean shepherds are superseded by the cultured. One after another discoveries are made, upsettlng false theories and giving correct and useful ones in their places. The Governments of Greece and Egypt give their aid to its development. Great men arise who attempt to explain the motions of the heavenly bodies upon the theory that the world is fixed in the centre of space, and that the stars are moving round it; but this theory, founded, as it is, on fiction, has to give way before the searching glance of a Coperuicus, who, in spite of the persecution and hatred with which he is received makes the bold assertion that the world is moving with the planets around the sun. People cannot believe it. They ask how it is, if the world is turning round, that they do not, fall off when it is turned upside down. Now, with a spirit almost unequalled, the brave Kepler comes to the front, and proves after years of toilsome and unceasing labour that the theory of Copernicus is correct. But all is not yet finished. It still waits to be accounted for how the earth manages to keep its inhabitants from falling to oblivion. Kepler, who applies a theory of attraction to certain phenomena of nature, leaves it to the master mind of Newton to apply this rule, without discrimination to every particle of matter in existence; and after mathematical demonstration of the correctness of his reasoning, proclaims it to the world. And thus truth rises. But, the reader may ask, "What good has all this done to man?" It has done this! It has taught him, in the first place, that a thing is not necessarily true because someone has said it is so. Further, that the truth cannot be arrived at without labour—that it is man's duty to try and find the truth; and when found, not to hoard it to himself as a miser does his gold, but to give it to the world for the benefit of humanity, so that his knowledge may be a foundation for other minds to build their knowledge upon. The force of our remarks are amply exemplified in the case of the question as to the fixity of the earth. What have been the consequences of these grand discoveries? ​ Why! the trading of priestcraft upon human credulity has been nipped in the bud and almost annihilated, not withstanding the vain efforts of the early Fathers, consequeutly giving man that liberty of thought which his nature so unsparingly demands.

Scientific discovery has also been greatly assisted by the disclosures of Geology. It is mainly by this science that most of the old legends connected with the history of this earth have been swept away. (In remarking upon these myths, or what we believe to be such, we know that we are treading upon dangerous ground; for many have their cherished fancies, and if anyone attempts to upset them, it wounds llke an arrow but we ask from such nothing more than an impartial and unprejudiced hearing, hoping for correction if we state anything wrongly, and the credit which we deserve if we speak the truth. Our intention is to state what we honestly believe to be the truth, and to show others the way to do the same, for

"The Truth is Truth, where'er 'tis found, On Christian or on heathen ground").

One of the old myths we shall more particularly notice, it being a common feature amongst the beliefs of various nations. We refer to the story of an unversal deluge. A short time back anyone attempting to deny the truth of this legend in a Christian community would have been stigmatised as a blasphemer and an opponent of the Word of God. This state of things is happily departing, and mankind are gradually discarding those old stories which cannot stand the test of reason—stories so ancient that they have no reliable records of who the real authors of them were, and which, by the searches made by modern theologists and scientists, are in many cases distinctly proved to be of different authorship than that ascribed to them. This legend of the universal deluge has a seat, as is now well known, amongst most of the nations of the world. We find it amongst the Chaldeans, the Jews, (the Christian and Mahometan stories being derived from the latter), and in America, and various parts of the world. Many works have been written upon the subject, both antagonistic and ​ defensive; amongst the former being the works of such eminent men as Lyell, Clodd, Bishop Colenso (of the Church of England), who, in spite of his being in such a high position, was, out of love for the truth, compelled to openly avow his total disbelief of these stories; and so ably has he defended his position that no one but the most prejudiced or ill-informed could possibly believe in the story after hearing the arguments that have been brought forward by himself and others to refute it.

Many other foolish beliefs have been uprooted by the revelations of Geology, amongst which are the ridiculous stories told in connection with the creation of the world, the origin of life upon its surface, the time which has elapsed since the creation, and the antiquity of man. In past times, when science was in its infancy, it was the common idea to believe that the world was created in a strange manner, only five or six thousand years ago, and that man suddenly appeared on its surface a few days later. The revelations of science, however, have taught man to be in this matter, as in everything else, cautious and enquiring, and have shown him conclusively that man has existed on this earth hundreds of thousands of years—the time of his first appearance being generally estimated at one million of years! It has shown, also, that the world could not have been created in one week, the time usually supposed to have elapsed, but that, like everything else in nature, its growth has been slow and orderly, and that it must have taken millions of years to perform its varied evolutions of matter. There are still many who doubt these statements; but one thing is certain—although they may be wrong in some minor points, they are built upon the strong foundations of truth; and though a few useless ornaments may crumble away, the edifice itself still remains ready to be re-adorned with facts more substantial and incontrovertible; and though men may close their ears to the voice of reason, they do themselves more harm than good, and stifle those glorious faculties for research with which nature has so plentifully endowed them.

"The proper study of mankind is man," is a ​ well-worn maxim, and one that, although quoted o'er and o'er, is always welcome to the ear. When man can properly appreciate the value of this study his progress will be far more rapid and beneficial. The more Physiology is understood the happier does man live. A great many valuable lessons can be learnt from it. He can learn how to save his fellow-creatures from agony, and often prevent a premature death; can discover the injurious effects of poisonous stimulants upon his constitution; can analyse every part of his body in order to have a better knowledge of its functions than he could by merely watching its effects; and, finally, can make laws—laws in accordance with nature's workings, which shall keep his health intact, and cause him to find that "life is real, life is earnest," and that it can only be properly enjoyed and appreciated by being assisted instead of being misunderstood. Medicine was tolerably well understood amongst the ancients, and they paid especial attention to the benefits to be derived from healthful exorcises. Later on, however, in the Middle Ages, people did not pay proper attention to their bodies; they were uncleanly and intemperate in their habits, and did not pay any attention to the ventilation of their houses, nor the sanitary conditions generally of the towns and villages in which they dwelt. And what was the result? They were visited on all sides by famine, disease, and fever; and in the fourteenth century were visited with the terrible Black Death, the horrors of which the pen of a Milton could not describe, nor the pencil of a Doré illustrate. But men are now living in an age of science and they have reason to be thankful for their good fortune. A man may now live in comparative happiness with very little chance of unknowingly infringing the laws of his nature; if he is sick, the means are in his reach to procure relief; if he suffers from fever, he knows that it is caused by bad drainage, or some other careless oversight—maybe insufficient ventilation and stifled atmosphere; if he be a drnnkard, the blame is upon himself, even thongh he be led into it by others, for he has perfect freedom of his will in such a case, and must be well aware from the experience gained by others, ​ that his sin will be visited on himself, This aptly illustrates the statement put forth in the conditions in reference to this essay, that it is man's duty to constantly exercise his intellectual faculties, and the consequent sin of not doing so can be seen accurately illustrated every day (we are sorry to say) in the streets of our city, by noticing the pernicious effects of so vile a practice on the poor inebriated fools who so frequently parade our streets in a sort of zigzag march, lowering themselves below the four-footed brutes, and making themselves despised by their fellow-creatures. If they studied the truths of Physiology and health, and spent their money on literature, or any other kind of useful knowledge, instead of buying the poisonous "nobbler," that their depraved tastes so eagerly long for, they might become model men and women and a benefit to mankind.

Let us now turn our attention to History, the record of man's existence, and see what lessons of truth we can glean from its vast fields. But first, let us ask ourselves the question, How should History be read? This question is of great moment, and it would be a good thing if every student put it to his careful deliberation before he commences so grave and important a study. A great many read a certain history through, or perhaps learn it off by heart, satisfied, when they have gone so far, that they know enough. But then the question naturally arises, Do they know enough, or, in, fact, do they know anything? They have studied work of a certain writer, and know what he has told them, it is true; but do they know anything of the author? his veracity? his partisanship? or his general character? and lastly, do they know whether his statements harmonize with the statements of others? It must be obvious to them that if the latter be not the case, his work, by itself, is no criterion to judge by, even though it be true, unknown to him. The only way, then, to properly study history, is by reading the works of different writers, holding different shades of opinion, if possible, and noting any discrepancies that may occur between them, and finding out by these means, a far as possible, which works are reliable histories, and which ​ writers are to be trusted for their statements. What example, then, has history given to mankind of the operations and benefits of truth? It has shown him in the examples of the ages, the disadvantages of bad draining, bad ventilation, bad government, indolence, bad practices generally, and has set him the task of using his intellectual faculties for the purpose of understanding and bettering his condition. It has shown him that the way to live happily is not by worshipping shrines, and paying money to priests, or by wandering about in the garb of a pilgrim to offer up thanksgivings for what he has never received, but by carefully attending to the wants of life—seeing that the drainage is good, to prevent disease—bathing regularly, to preserve a healthy skin—ventilating the house, to keep the air within pure—being clean in his person, and being generally attentive to the little necessities that occasionally crop up; and by these means, and these means only, tend to make life enjoyable, as Nature has destined it should be. If we examine the social condition of Europe at the time of the Reformation, we shall see the state of degradation to which humanity was lowered. The following quotations will serve to show this to the reader. "The surface of the Continent (of Europe) was, for the most part, covered with pathless forests. In the lowlands, and along the river-courses were fens, sometimes hundreds of miles in extent, exhaling their pestiferous miasms, and spreading ague far and wide. In Paris and London the houses were of wood, daubed with clay, and thatched with straw or reeds. They had no windows, very few had wooden floors. There were no chimneys; the smoke of the ill-fed, cheerless fire, escaped through a hole in the roof. No attempt was made at draining, but the putrefying garbage and rubbish were simply thrown out of the door. Men, women, and children, slept in the same apartment; not unfrequently domestic animals were their companions; in such a confusion of the family it was impossible that modesty or morality could be maintained. Personal cleanliness was unknown; great officers of state swarmed with vermin. The streets had no sewers; they were without pavement or lamps. The ague-stricken ​ peasant with no help except shrine-cure! How was it possible that the population could increase? Shall we, then, wonder that in the famine of 1030 human flesh was cooked and sold; or that, in that of 1258, fifteen thousand persons died of hunger in England? Shall we wonder that in some of the invasions of the plague the living could hardly bury the dead?" Such is the picture of the condition of Europe at the period mentioned, as described by Professor Draper. But how did society throw off those fetters which had so bound it down? It came about by the inevitable law of development. Men had sunken into these filthy habits, the result of indolence; but the necessary reaction ensued. They saw death and misery besetting them on all sides. What were they to do? They had the choice whether they should remain in this abominable state, or take steps to free themselves of it. But they had only one way of freeing themselves. They must study Nature, and assist her laws; overcome indolence; put their faith in their own capabilities instead of in shrine-cures and other inventions of human cunning; exert themselves to their utmost to better their position, and never cease working for such a good and beneficial object. It is only by these means, generally the result of necessity, that man has uplifted himself to the lofty position which he now occupies and it is only by continning to do so, that he will better his condition in the future. These troublous episodes in the history of mankind although so destructive in their time, are necessary for his welfare; they are the most useful lessons of History, for it is by example that we prosper, or, in other words, it is only by a knowledge of truth that mankind can benefit each other.

History, so called, gives an account of mankind in the collective sense; Biography gives an account of each man individually. Let us now turn our attention to the latter, and see what lessons of truth await us there, remembering that Biography requires the same careful study that History does. In all countries, and in all ages, we find lovers of mankind, eager to benefit their suffering brethren, and teaching such truths as their knowledge made them aware of. It is these that ​ we shall notice, for two reasons; firstly, they are more to the point for our subject; and secondly, the short space at our disposal prevents our noticing more. These saviours of mankind may be traced back to the remotest regions of antiquity. Going far before the time at which our own era begins, and, in fact, in almost prehistoric times, we take the reader back to about the year 628 B.C. This is the period generally assigned to the birth of Budda. We commence with him because he is the first, in chronological order, of the great moral leaders of mankind of whom we have any particular knowledge. Budda was born in India, of royal parents (so say the accounts). His mother died not long after his birth, and he took to spending his life in thoughtful reverie, his mind being chiefly occupied with thoughts upon life and death. Often would he stroll alone in the forests, thinking of the misery and wickedness of mankind, and wondering how he could help to better his fellow creatures. He went about preaching good morals, and spurring his hearers up to benevolent actions. He is said to have been very handsome, and of extensive wisdom; be this as it may, his teachings, written by his disciples (he never having written anything himself), show with what good thoughts he was inspired. We shall give a few examples of his utterances, though they must not be considered in any way complete; like every other good man he had his failings, but "taking him all in all" he was a worthy example for man to follow. He says, when asked by Alvaka (the devil), "of savoury things which is indeed the most savoury?" "Truth is indeed the most savoury of all savoury things." Again, he says, "Let the wise man guard his thoughts, they are difficult to perceive, very artful, and they rush wherever they list; thoughts well guarded bring happiness." "Let no man think lightly of evil." "Let us live happily then, not hating those that hate us .... free from greed among the greedy .... and though we call nothing our own." "Not to commit any sin; to do good, and to purify one's mind, that is the teaching of the Awakened" Budda lived to see his doctrines preached throughout India, and died in the eightieth year of his age. His ​ followers number at the present time upwards of four hundred million souls: a significant fact, showing how the truth can be spread by perseverance and devotion to its cause. Ascending the ladder of time we come next to Zoroaster. We cannot here say much of him. We shall merely remark that he was born about 513 years B.C., that he lived about 76 years, and that the docrines which he taught were widely spread throughout Persia. Very little is known of him, as his history (like that of Pythagoras) is so enveloped in fable and mystery. In his Zend-Avesa, or Bible, he says, Hear with your ears what is best, perceive with your mind what is pure, so that every man may choose his tenets." "Let us then be of those who further this world. . . ,. Oh! bliss. whose history is almost lost in fable, the next great thinker we come to is Confucius . He was born 550 years B.C. He is the leading light amongst the Chinese. He was very fond of learning, and showed great veneration to the aged; he also showed great respect for the laws of his country. "His life was given to teaching a few great truths, obedience to which would bring happiness to every man." Some of his sayings are very telling. "To see what is right, and not to do it, is the want of courage," and "Have no depraved thoughts," are two of his sayings. Pope says:—

"Superior and alone Confucius stood, Who taught that noble science—be good."

Socrates, born 469 B.C., was a great pioneer of truth. He taught that man should use his judgment in all things; and he was the first Greek philosopher on record who taught the value of scepticism. He talked with the youth of Greece upon all subjects, questioning them in a style not unlike the cross-questioning of the present day. "He talked with everyone, no matter how low in life they were nor how apparently ignorant; his theory being that every man knew something better than he did." He heretically taught that there was but one God, and that man was guided by an inward monitor (no doubt alluding to Conscience); but the people of ​ his day did not share that opinion, but said that he was possessed of a devil. He was therefore condemned to death, and drank the fatal cup of hemlock, the usual mode of death in those days. Thus through Ignorance of the Truth, and its offshoot, Bigotry, the world lost one of its greatest thinkers and philosophers. Plato, the disciple of Socrates, lived to preach his doctrines, and helped greatly to benefit his fellow creatures. We now come to one, of whom the reader of this essay has, no doubt, heard. We refer to Jesus Christ. This good man and true philanthropist (for a man he undoubtedly was, or his example would have been useless for man to try and imitate), whose history will be found in almost every Christian library, has done a great deal to alleviate the sufferings of mankind, and to teach them the doctrine of brotherly love; and, although respect for the truth prevents us from sating that we agree with many as to his Divine origin, we cannot but look upon him as one of those great and good minds, whose sympathies have ever been with their suffering fellow-creatures and who have always been averse to seeing the rich and powerful tramping down the weak. His teachings may be summed up in his two great moral precepts—"Do unto others as you would have that they should do unto you," and "Love one another." If men obey this there will be very little selfish feeling between them, and they will learn to respect the rights of others. In reference to our denying the Divinity of Jesus, we may mention that Buddists, Zoroastrians, Confucians, &c., might all put in a similar claim, and, of course, would do so, but we cannot grant it to them all, and if all but one be untrue, who is to say which is the true one? Coming to later times we meet with such men as Mahomet, King Alfred the Great, that earnest-hearted reformer, Martin Luther, who set the noble example of free thought to his followers—an example which few of them have imitated, and many other good souls; these we must, however pass over. In conclusion we must say, that it is by studying the lives of those that have lived before us, that man can best benefit himself and others; and that those whose names we have mentioned should all be classed in the same category, namely, saviours of mankind;— ​ when we speak of saviours, we mean those who have endeavoured to enlighten and benefit mankind. But whilst noticing their good qualities we must not overlook their faults, nor place blind faith in every story that human cunning, or human credulity, has affixed to their names.

Let Truth flash like the lightning, on, on, from shore to shore; Let all assist its progress, till time shall be no more.

We can scarcely mention a discovery of any importance whatever, that has not turned of advantage to man. Each new invention or discovery leads to another; the discoveries of electricity led to the electric telegraph; the electric telegraph led to the telephone, and evolved from this we have had the phonograph, microphone, and other great triumphs, the bare supposition of which, a few years back, would have been looked upon as the mental wanderings of a maniac, or at least, as "castles building in the air." Man has far more opportunities of aiding in the advancement of truth at the present time than he has ever had before. With the aid of the printing press and the newspapers, ideas can be exchanged between one party and another, and he who searches for the truth may find it by these means in many things; but as we have before remarked, he must not think himself infallible, but must use extreme care in drawing his conclusions; above all, he must avoid that great enemy to truth—Prejudice; let him overcome this, and he need not fear the results. Those modern outgrowths of civilization and experience, namely; Business, Commerce, Politics, and Law, are always capable of improvement and extension. We find them now, not applied to the advantages of one party and the disadvantages of another, to anything like the extent that they formerly were; for man is gradually, though surely, recognising the rights of others besides himself. And we hope, and believe, a time will come when prejudice shall be almost forgotten, and man's mind shall be free to wander through the broad paths of knowledge and enlightenment.

Reviewing what we have said, we note, that a correct knowledge of truth, as we have endeavoured to show, is absolutely necessary to man's welfare; we have shown the evil results of his not exercising his intellectual faculties, by reference to his state during the Middle Ages. We have shown that it is necessary he should observe, carefully taking note of the smallest particulars, enquiring far and wide amongst parties of every ​ opinion, either verbally, or by the use of books and papers; and that when he does get the information, he should carefully consider in his mind what value it has, and whether he cannot, if it be imperfect, supplant it by something better, or, at least, endeavour to improve it, that the truth may be more certain, and more reliable for future ages to build their knowledge upon.

If, as we believe, we have given a reasonably fair exposition of our text, our labours will not be in vain. We have honestly stated what we believe to be the truth, hoping earnestly that others may follow in our footsteps, finishing that which we may not have completed,and correcting any errors of our judgment by careful and impartal investigation, and thorough enquiry into the Truth.

essay about the truth

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1928, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 94 years or less . This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works .

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essay about the truth


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