"I remember this paper I wrote on existentialism. My teacher gave it back with an F. She’d underlined true and truth wherever it appeared in the essay, probably about twenty times, with a question mark beside each. She wanted to know what I meant by truth."
— Danielle Egan (journalist)
It was (1820-1903), the English evolutionary philosopher who said, "Ethical truth is as exact and peremptory as physical truth." (A number of our scientific concepts are true, and the proof is to be had by beholding the modern technical world; so, too it can be said that a number of our ethical or moral concepts, are not true, and the proof, likewise, is to be had by beholding the starvation and misery existing in today's world.)
Facts, for the neo-classical correspondence theory, are entities intheir own right. Facts are generally taken to be composed ofparticulars and properties and relations or universals, at least. Theneo-classical correspondence theory thus only makes sense within thesetting of a metaphysics that includes such facts. Hence, it is noaccident that as Moore and Russell turn away from the identity theoryof truth, the metaphysics of facts takes on a much more significantrole in their views. This perhaps becomes most vivid in the laterRussell (1956, p. 182), where the existence of facts is the“first truism.” (The influence of Wittgenstein's ideas toappear in the Tractatus (1922) on Russell in this period wasstrong, and indeed, the Tractatus remains one of theimportant sources for the neo-classical correspondence theory. Formore recent extensive discussions of facts, see Armstrong (1997) andNeale (2001).)
Consider, for example, the belief that Ramey sings. Let us grantthat this belief is true. In what does its truth consist, according tothe correspondence theory? It consists in there being a fact in theworld, built from the individual Ramey, and the property ofsinging. Let us denote this Ramey,Singing>. This fact exists. In contrast, the world (wepresume) contains no fact Ramey,Dancing>. The belief that Ramey sings stands in therelation of correspondence to the fact Ramey,Singing>, and so the belief is true.
But it must not be assumed that intelligent thinking can play no partin the formation of the goal and of ethical judgments. When someone realizesthat for the achievement of an end certain means would be useful, the meansitself becomes thereby an end. Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationof means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimateand fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations,and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems tome precisely the most important function which religion has to performin the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authorityof such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merelyby reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerfultraditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments ofthe individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, withoutits being necessary to find justification for their existence. They comeinto being not through demonstration but through revelation, through themedium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them,but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly.
What’s the nature (or even the point) of truth-telling here? [One student] wrote that the most important thing ever to happen to him was…the night he and his pals got drunk and knocked down the mailboxes in the neighborhood. The easiest thing would have been to dismiss him out-of-hand. But I asked him if this was indeed what he wanted to write about—he did—so I asked him to tell me more about that night.
Much of the contemporary literature on truth takes as its startingpoint some ideas which were prominent in the early part of the 20thcentury. There were a number of views of truth under discussion at thattime, the most significant for the contemporary literature being thecorrespondence, coherence, and pragmatist theories of truth.
Perhaps the most important of the neo-classical theories for thecontemporary literature is the correspondence theory. Ideas thatsound strikingly like a correspondence theory are no doubt veryold. They might well be found in Aristotle or Aquinas. When we turnto the late 19th and early 20th centuries where we pick up the storyof the neo-classical theories of truth, it is clear that ideas aboutcorrespondence were central to the discussions of the time. In spiteof their importance, however, it is strikingly difficult to find anaccurate citation in the early 20th century for the receivedneo-classical view. Furthermore, the way the correspondence theoryactually emerged will provide some valuable reference points for thecontemporary debate. For these reasons, we dwell on the origins of thecorrespondence theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries atgreater length than those of the other neo-classical views, beforeturning to its contemporary neo-classical form.
Vaz’s essay made me cry, Jane. I’ve never had a “Killing Fields” event like the young man from Cambodia, nor am I a surfer dude from California (though my middle-class upbringing from Texas sounds similar to #2). The whole essay conveyed the central truth in the the final line … why stories matter.
We might be embarrassed about the whole truth or maybe we just don’t want to tell how we handled the situation so we remove our part or change our part from the truth.
We will be much briefer with the historical origins of the coherencetheory than we were with the correspondence theory. Like thecorrespondence theory, versions of the coherence theory can be seenthroughout the history of philosophy. (See, for instance, Walker(1989) for a discussion of its early modern lineage.) Like thecorrespondence theory, it was important in the early 20th centuryBritish origins of analytic philosophy. Particularly, the coherencetheory of truth is associated with the British idealists to whom Mooreand Russell were reacting.
Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict betweenreligion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertiononce again on an essential point, with reference to the actual contentof historical religions. This qualification has to do with the conceptof God. During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution humanfantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of theirwill were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenalworld. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favorby means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught atpresent is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphiccharacter is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the DivineBeing in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.