Topic: what is truth

topics > philosophy > Group: meaning and truth

philosophy of science

analytic truth
empirical truth
information as facts
law of nature
Liar's paradox and Russell's paradox
meaning by language as a whole
meaning by use
metaphysics and epistemology
necessary truth
problems with analytic truth
problems with empirical truth
science as measurement
self reference
semantic truth; s iff p
sentences, propositions, and truth
skepticism about knowledge
what is a number


So what is truth? Or as Socrates asked, how can we distinguish truth from opinion or belief? He argued that truth was absolute, taught, explainable, and true. Truth can also be a priori (i.e., independent of experiences), necessary, analytic, or contingent. But these categories are not clear. And truth is a difficult concept.

Descartes argued that what is clear and distinct is true because God is not a deceiver. Many philosophers before and since have tried to build a system that identifies truth. These efforts have largely failed. But a belief remains that such a system exists. If it didn't, wouldn't meaning be groundless. Without something known, how can one build anything that is durable?

Perhaps system has nothing to do with truth. It may be useful but ultimately unimportant. That what one builds with system is system and not truth.

Perhaps language has everything to do with truth. That the two are somehow the same. That the foundation is life itself. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: true knowledge up

Quote: true knowledge, as opposed to opinion or belief, is fixed, instilled by teaching, explainable, and true [»pitkHF_1972]
Quote: science, correctly applied, has overwhelming persuasive force; e.g., an experiment can demonstrate that the world behaves as the experimenter hypothesized [»zimaJM_1968]
Quote: must have sufficient reason for the truth of a statement; known by itself, known by experience, known by proof, known by holy scripture [»ockhW_1310]
Quote: scientific literature is memory, continually rewritten; on how to think about a subject [»zimaJM_1968]
Quote: science is about knowledge, the rules of evidence, and how to distinguish truth from fraud or show [»feynRP11_1963]

Subtopic: kinds of truth up

Note: kinds of truth: a priori (independent of experience), necessary, analytic (by meaning alone), and contingent [»kripSA_1980, OK]

Subtopic: truth as evidence up

Quote: evidence is to truth, as the sap to the tree; science, knowledge, and meaning are dependent on evidence of the senses [»hobbT_1650, OK]

Subtopic: truth as communication up

Quote: we know when we know how to explain adequately; adding factors infinitely should take endless time
Quote: what a speaker means and what an element connotes to a hearer admit of enormous latitude [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: determine if an element has a meaning by its distributive set and contrastive set in the corpus [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: truth as language up

Quote: the notion of truth as applied to language is deeply interwined with translation; it is nonsensical to say that a conceptual scheme is largely true but not translatable [»daviD11_1974]

Subtopic: truth as method up

Quote: the search for truth is more precious than its possession
Quote: Descartes' method: accept only clearly evident truths, divide difficulties into parts, build up knowledge by degrees, and review everything [»descR_1637]
Quote: Descartes found a road to truth and asked others to join so that we might together advance further than a single individual could alone [»descR_1637]
Quote: the right answer may be incorrect; e.g., a random guess, took too long, not double checked [»holtAW_1997]
Quote: a stopped clock is always wrong even though the time is correct twice a day

Subtopic: truth through trust up

Quote: some truths are known only by trust; e.g., Rome is a big city, or this person is my mother
Quote: facts are supported by the great weight of authority and of public testimony; it is not credible that many should conspire to deceive
Quote: it is wrong to read the Scripture literally; especially when it contradicts sensible experience or necessary demonstrations [»drakS_1978]
Quote: one's private interpretation of speech is shared by others; otherwise speach is deception [»hobbT_1650, OK]

Subtopic: truth vs. common sense up

Quote: better to use common sense and simple reasoning than book learning, philosophy, majority opinion, logic, geometrical analysis, or algebra [»descR_1637]

Subtopic: truth as order up

Quote: the soul of a fact is its unexpected order
Quote: if a theory neatly fits the facts, accept what seem to be the facts as in fact the facts about the matter [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: Ockham's razor--plurality [of reasons] is not to be posited without necessity
Quote: human reason regards all knowledge as parts of a possible system and hence resists contradiction; but there is no system [»kantI_1781, OK]
Quote: nature does not act by means of many things when it can do so by means of a few

Subtopic: truth vs. infinite regress up

Quote: there is a definite beginning and the reasons for things are not infinite [»aris_322a]
Quote: where there is no first term, there is no explanation at all; no infinite regress

Subtopic: mathematical truth up

Quote: mathematics is independent of the existence of material objects; mathematical existence means free from contradiction [»poinH_1908, OK]
Quote: how can mathematics be so admirably appropriate to reality; by not being certain [»einsA_1923]

Subtopic: truth vs. perception up

Quote: the concept of truth is rooted in the senses, what is real; if the senses are untrue, all reasoning is wrong [»lucr_55]
Quote: time, space, and appearances are not in themselves things; they are representations of the mind [»kantI_1781, OK]
Quote: we attach meaning to perceived structures in the meaningless bits of computer memory and the meaningless traces of computer programs [»dijkEW2_1971]

Subtopic: truth vs. certainty up

Quote: to argue, every word must indicate one definite thing, a necessary connection; opposite statements are impossible [»aris_322a]
Quote: everything that one clearly and distinctly perceives is necessarily true [»descR_1641]
Quote: Descartes was mistaken because he put too much trust in his thinking; his followers perpetuate the mistake
Quote: knowledge is certain cognition of something that is true [»ockhW_1310]
Quote: to be certain of truth, analyze to the fundamentally true or prove that a contradiction will never occur; the latter can eliminate a long continuation [»leibGW_1686]
Quote: whenever defects are seen in the foundations, it is reasonable to doubt everything else that is built upon them [»galiG_1632]
Quote: ultimately, nothing can be said about the nature of knowledge [»plat_368]
Quote: science is the belief in the ignorance of experts; the greatest teachers of preceding generations are not infallible; need balance [»feynRP9_1969]

Subtopic: truth vs. nature up

Quote: it is impossible to understand the true and internal essence of natural substances [»drakS_1978]
Quote: can understand some properties of things whether they are near or far; e.g., learned the roundness of the moon before the earth
Quote: everything we know is an approximation to the complete truth about nature [»feynRP_1963]

Subtopic: overlapping threads of truth up

Quote: the strength of a rope is due to a vast number of overlapping fibers [»wittL_1958]

Subtopic: mathematical truth up

Quote: mathematical analysis is a language for learning the internal harmony of the world, the only true objective reality
Quote: objective reality is that which is common to many thinking beings; it can only be the harmony expressed by mathematical laws [»poinH_1905, OK]
Quote: all truths can be explained by numbers [»leibGW_1686]

Subtopic: logical truth up

Quote: A is true, if when we put A's value in place of A, a contradiction never occurs; reduce to simple primitives [»leibGW_1686]

Subtopic: truth as substitutivity up

Quote: 'A is the same as B' is a reciprocal relation that signifies that one can be substituted for the other in any proposition without destroying its truth [»leibGW_1686]
Quote: a module can replace another if it implements the same abstraction; without changing other modules

Subtopic: true vs. false up

Quote: the true is what can be proved or analyzed; the false is what is contrary [»leibGW_1686]
Quote: Kant's analytic truths and Leibniz's truths of reason are those that can not be false [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: some propositions are true and some are false; same as asserting and denying or nodding and shaking the head; this is done often [»wittL_1939]

Subtopic: true or false, law of excluded middle up

Quote: every proposition is true or false; if L is false, it is non-true [»leibGW_1686]
Quote: from truth, falsity never follows, but from an impossibility, anything follows -- not used [»ockhW_1310]
Quote: law of excluded middle; must either assert or deny; true or false [»aris_322a]
Quote: two of Frege's basic laws are excluded middle and reduction of implication; substitution rules are unstated [»fregG_1879]
Quote: a sentence is true if it is satisfied by all objects, and false otherwise; start with simplest sentential functions and then compound functions [»tarsA_1944]

Subtopic: truth vs. God, deception up

Quote: can know things because a perfect God is not a deceiver; similarly, our willing and understanding is perfect when it comes from God [»descR_1641]
Quote: one can know certainly and fully countless things about God, intellectual matters, nature, and mathematics [»descR_1641]
Quote: since God is not a deceiver, there must be a faculty for rectifying any falsity about the nature of particular things [»descR_1641]
Quote: one's private interpretation of speech is shared by others; otherwise speach is deception [»hobbT_1650, OK]

Subtopic: problems with truth up

Quote: computation and syntax are observer-relative; 0/1 depends on an interpretation [»searJR_1992]
Quote: 'true' is a difficult word associated with all sorts of puzzles; can't be ignored [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: everything in existence is conditioned, and still not dependent on an unconditioned and primal existence
Quote: nothing makes sentences and theories true; "My skin is warm" if true iff my skin is warm; no reference to a fact or experience [»daviD11_1974]

Related Topics up

Group: information   (46 topics, 1160 quotes)
Group: philosophy of science   (10 topics, 406 quotes)

Topic: analytic truth (51 items)
Topic: elements (22 items)
Topic: empirical truth (47 items)
Topic: information as facts (21 items)
Topic: law of nature (28 items)
Topic: Liar's paradox and Russell's paradox (25 items)
Topic: meaning by language as a whole (26 items)
Topic: meaning by use (58 items)
Topic: metaphysics and epistemology (99 items)
Topic: necessary truth (25 items)
Topic: problems with analytic truth (20 items)
Topic: problems with empirical truth (21 items)
Topic: science as measurement (36 items)
Topic: self reference (27 items)
Topic: semantic truth; s iff p (34 items)
Topic: sentences, propositions, and truth (23 items)
Topic: skepticism about knowledge (34 items)
Topic: what is a number
(55 items)

Updated barberCB 6/05
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