There is a common mistaken idea that whatever one has learned, or believes, is knowledge, but most of what people have learned and believe is not true. What they have is not knowledge, but superstition or credulity. If what one has learned and believes is not the truth, it is not knowledge.
Unfortunately, one of the most common untrue things most people believe is what truth actually is. The meaning of truth has been completely corrupted by all religion, most philosophy, and almost everything taught in academia today.
What Truth Is Not
Truth is not an entity, a thing, or substance. It does not exist physically or ontologically. The religious often refer to truth as a thing, with expressions like, "ultimate truth," or, "absolute truth," or just, "The Truth," as though it had independent existence. There is no such thing as, "the truth."
This misunderstood meaning of truth is not restricted to religion. Most philosophers also refer to truth as thought it either exists on its own or has some independent meaning of its own. Modern views of truth in academia, like those of the post modernists and logical positivists either deny there is truth at all or relegate it to a kind of, "logical state."
The Hypostatization Of Truth
The wrong views of truth are all examples of hypostatization (or reification), the fallacy of regarding that which only exists as a concept as though it had material existence as a thing or substance or had meaning on its own. Truth has no existence at all except as a concept and has no meaning separate from the human mind.
What Truth Is
"Truth." is a concept for a specific quality or attribute. That attribute pertains to statements that asserts something about something else. Such assertions are technically called, "proposition," but in every day language, they are simply statements, or sentences, that make a claim about something, such as a thing being a certain kind of thing (that fruit is an apple), or having some quality or characteristic (that apple is red), or doing something (that apple is spoiling), or having some relationship to something else (that apple is next to the pear). Any such statement or proposition is true if what it asserts is actually the case (the fruit really is an apple, is red, is spoiling, and is next to the pear), or is false, if what is claimed is anything other than what is claimed. "True," is the attribute of every proposition which asserts what is so and every such true proposition is an example of, "truth." [Please see the philosophy chapter, "Epistemology, Propositions."]
This intentionally simple explanation of what truth means is necessary to avoid all the wrong ideas usually associated with truth. There is no such thing as some mystic, "The Truth," or, "ultimate truth," or, "absolute truth." Truth is only a quality or attribute and, like all qualities, does not exist independently of those existents they are the qualities of. Since the existents truth is a quality of are propositions, which only have epistemological (psychological) existence, truth only exists epistemologically. Like all concepts, truth is a concept created by the human mind and has no existence independent of human consciousness.
Truth may be described as the attribute or quality of propositions that correctly describes reality or any aspect of it.
[NOTE: It must be emphasized that truth does not, "do," anything. Truth is only the attribute of propositions which describe things, and it is true propositions that describe reality, not truth itself.]
Suppose you are very thirsty and find a bottle containing a colorless, odorless liquid. The liquid in this bottle is either water or a deadly poison. If you choose to drink the liquid one of two things will occur, your thirst will be pleasantly quenched or you will suffer excruciating pain and die.
Reality is what the liquid in the bottle actually is. Truth is whatever correctly describes that liquid. If the liquid is poison, only a statement (proposition) that says, "the liquid in the bottle is poison," is true. If you believe (faith or intuition) the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die. If you take a vote of everyone (consensus) who has an opinion about what is in the bottle and they all say it is water, if you drink it and it is poison, you will die. If you feel very strongly (instinct, conscience) the liquid is water, if you drink it and it is poison you will die. If every authority, (expert, teacher, guru or high priest) in the world declares the liquid in the bottle is water, if you drink it and it is poison you will die. If the liquid in the bottle has always been water in the past (induction, statistics), if you drink it and it is poison you will die.
Truth is not determined by what one believes, feels, how many people agree with or believe something, what any authority or expert declares, or how often something is observed or has always been true. Truth is determined by reality. It is determined by what is so, no matter what anybody, or how many, believe, feel, think, or agree something is true. In this illustration, the truth is determined by what really is in the bottle and only a statement that correctly describes that is the truth.
Truth is not something established by consensus, popular opinion, peer review, or polls. Truth is determine by only one thing, reality itself, and is identified by discovering what that reality is. There is no other kind of truth.
Reality is all that is, or all that exists, and has the nature it has, whether anybody knows what that existence is or what its nature is or not.
Reality and existence refer to the same thing, but they are not the same concept. They identify the same thing; but, the intention or purpose of that identification is different. Existence refers to all that there is, without explicit reference to the nature of that which exists or the manner (mode) in which it exists. Reality also refers to all that there is, but, explicitly or implicitly, includes in its meaning, the nature or mode of existence of the existents it includes. Thing exist no matter what their nature is. Things are real only if their nature is specified (or implied) and they really have that nature.
[The nature of reality is discussed in detail in the philosophy chapter "Metaphysics" and see. "3. Factual Truth," section below.]
Truth Cannot Be Denied
The word, "truth," is use in different ways, suggesting truth has different meanings, which is used by philosophers and academics to imply no truth can actually be known with certainty. Behind all the different uses of the word truth, however, the same essential meaning is tacitly assumed. It is worthwhile to examine some of the ways we use, and misuse, the word truth.
False Dichotomies of Truth
- The "Ultimate" Truth
It is sometimes said that no one knows the ultimate truth. To be fair, and to be perfectly honest, what is exactly meant by, "the ultimate truth," sometimes referred to as "absolute truth," is not certain, because those who use it seem to mean something slightly different on different occasions. In general, it seems to mean one of two things, either "all possible truth," or some "ultimate truth," upon which all other truth depends or from which all other truth is derived. "All possible truth," also has variations and can mean, for example, "the sum of all possible truths," or, possibly, "a general concept subsuming all truths."
None of these ideas are valid, but they are instructive. Behind these ideas of an ultimate or absolute truth, however they are conceived, is the idea of truth itself. We must first know what we mean by truth if we are going to know what an ultimate or absolute version of it would be.
Also significant is the fact that these notions of ultimate or absolute truth are almost always used negatively, as in, "well, we can never know the complete truth," or "absolute truth is infinite and cannot be comprehended by finite minds." These attempts to repudiate the possibility of knowing truth assume there is a complete truth or an absolute truth, which we cannot know, but that assumption tacitly admits we know what truth, itself, means (even if we cannot know what it is). If we do not know what truth means, how could we know what is meant by absolute or ultimate truth or that what we know isn't it?
- Approximate Truth
The idea of approximate truth is another way of repudiating our knowledge of the truth. It assumes there is some actual truth, ("the really true truth"), which we can never quite know, although we may be able to come very close to it. Expressions like, "well, that is probably true," or, "very nearly true, " or, "but we can never be certain it is exactly true," all imply our knowledge of truth is always only approximate.
But an approximation means there is a target or point at which the approximation aims. If the point or target is unknown, it is impossible to know how close one's approximation is. How can a concept be approximately true, if what would be exactly true is unknown. If we cannot know what truth is exactly, we cannot know what it is at all. There cannot be approximate truth.
There are some things which can obviously only be known approximately or incompletely, and when we are talking about such things there is nothing wrong in saying we can only know them within certain limits. In all such cases we must know what perfect knowledge in the case would be if we could know it, to know that the knowledge we do have is nearly complete or accurate to some degree. In this case, incomplete knowledge consists of some part that is known and some part that is not. The part that is known is complete and true.
The most common example of so-called approximate knowledge are cases of precision where exact measurement is not possible. In most cases, it can be known that the exact measurement must lie within a certain range, less than X but more then Y, and whether a thing is or is not within those limits can be known certainly and is therefore true or not true.
It is when this same argument is made about truth or knowledge in general that it cannot be correct. When Newtonian physics is repudiated as not being true because relativity replaced it, for example. Except for cases of very great velocities, masses, or forces, Newtonian physics is always correct. Relativity corrects it only for extreme cases which are very well defined.
A much worse version of the fallacy of, "approximate," truth was foisted on philosophy by the notions of, "induction," and, "statistics."
- Factual Truth
Our common idea that truth is about facts is not incorrect, but facts themselves are not truth. While we must be careful not divorce the meaning of truth from facts or existence, which ultimately determine what is or is not true, our idea that a thing is true if it is a fact or if it exists is not quite correct.
Facts are anything that exists or is actually the case independent of whether we or anyone else knows what exists or how things are. The box either has something in it, or it is empty. Whether anyone knows whether there is something in the box or not, cannot change the fact.
Ideas are the mental identification of things, like "box," and "empty," or, "world," "parent," "phoenix," and "Santa Claus." When we think, "empty," for example, we mean the state of a containers content that in the case of empty is, "no content." "Empty is a fact, a quality pertaining to things that can contain other things. But, just thinking empty is neither true or false. Not until we think, "empty," about something, like a box or our stupid neighbor's head, is what we think "empty" about, either true or false.
The kind of ideas we intend by words like these are called "simple apprehensions." They identify, "facts," single things or classes of things, like, entities, events, qualities, relationships, or even other ideas, without thinking or saying anything about them.
By themselves these simple ideas of facts are neither true or false, but often seem like they are. This is because we often think these ideas with an implicit "suffix" "...exits," "...is," or "...is a fact." When we think "world," for example, we imply "the world exists," because we know it does, but this is more than just the idea "world," means. We think ideas like "world," is true, and "parent" is true, but we think words like "phoenix" is false, and "Santa Claus," is false. They are, however, neither true or false, until we say something about them, such as, "there is a phoenix in the world of fiction," which is true, and, "Santa Claus' parents are purely imaginary," which is also true. Of course, if we say Santa Claus lives in the blue house at the corner of Main and Chestnut, it is untrue, and not just because he actually lives at the North Pole.
We think "world" and "parent" are true because we think of the world and parents as facts, but we think of the phoenix and Santa Claus as false because we think they are not facts, but fictions, which they are.
But fictions, like Santa Claus and the phoenix, are facts, just not facts in the same way the world and parents are. Another way we can say this is that the world and parents exist in one way, and that Santa Claus and the phoenix exist, but in another way. The world and parents exist as things we can actually see. They have the same kind of existence we have. We cannot see Santa Claus or a phoenix, because they do not have the same kind of existence we have, they exist only as ideas. They do not exist materially (ontologically), they only exist psychologically (epistemologically).
Material facts are all those things we usually think of as facts, like the world, rocks, trees, cities, grocery stores, music, and chemicals. These are all things we can actually see, hear, feel, that is, we directly perceive them, or we can learn about them from our direct perception.
Psychological or epistemological facts are all those things that exist exclusively as the product of human consciousness, i.e. the human mind, and include all concepts, all knowledge and all knowledge methods like language, mathematics, and logic, and all intellectual disciplines, history, the sciences, geography, all literature, art, invention, and technology.
Everything that actually exists, materially or psychologically, is a fact. Every proposition that correctly identifies a fact, an existent, or any attribute, action, or relationship between existents, is true.
Philosophers have outdone themselves developing wrong explanations of truth. Unfortunately these wrong views now dominate all of academia as was well is all popular views in the press and media. There are two areas of such perversions of truth. The first area is the false dichotomy of truth that devides truth into two impossible contradictory categories.
The problem with all these false dichotomies of truth is that they divorce knowledge that is certain from knowledge of reality. Any knowledge that is certain, according these dichotomies, will be true, no matter what the facts of reality are, but any knowledge we have about the facts of reality are contingent on the way things are right now, our means of being aware of them, and the limits of our knowledge about facts in general so can never be certain. [Please refer to the section, "False Dichotomies Of Propositions," in the chapter, "Epistemology, Propositions."]
The second area of corruption of truth by philosophers are all the absurdly false ideas of what truth actually is.
False Theories of Truth
In many ways the various 'theories' of truth are more damaging to an understanding of truth than the false dichotomies. The false dichotomies at least tacitly admit the validity of an essential meaning of truth. Most of the theories of truth undermine the validity of truth itself.
- The Correspondence Theory of Truth
The Correspondence Theory of truth, of which there are several varieties, emphasizes the relationship between truth and reality which can be confused with the real meaning of truth. The confusion is in making the relationship between propositions themselves, and reality, as though there were some direct relationship, alignment, agreement, or correspondence between propositions, (or truth itself), and reality. There is no such relationship, alignment, agreement, or correspondence.
In philosophy's own language: "correspondence theorists hold that there are a set of 'truth-bearing' representations (or propositions) about the world that align to or correspond with reality or states of affairs in the world. ... When a proposition aligns to the world, the proposition is said to be true. Truth, on this view, is that correspondence relation."
The immediate and obvious problem with this view is that what constitutes a correspondence (alignment or agreement) relationship is never really explained. It get's worse.
One description of the correspondence theory based on its history, states: "First proposed in a vague form by Plato and by Aristotle in his Metaphysics, this realist theory says truth is what propositions have by corresponding to a way the world is. The theory says that a proposition is true provided there exists a fact corresponding to it. In other words, for any proposition p,
"p is true if and only if p corresponds to a fact.
"The theory's answer to the question, "What is truth?" is that truth is a certain relationship—the relationship that holds between a proposition and its corresponding fact."
A proposition does not, "correspond," or, "relate," to facts. A proposition is, "about," facts. A proposition only describes or specifies a relationship between facts. There is no direct relationship between facts and propositions.
The facts are the aspects of reality a proposition specifies the relationship between. Those facts are existents (material or epistemological), attributes, (qualities and characteristics of existents), events, (actions and behavior of existents), and relationships (between existents).
[NOTE: Attributes, events, and relationships are also existents identified by concepts, like all other existents. They do not exist independently of the existents they are the attributes and behavior of or relationships between, but they do exist, and are facts.]
There is never any, "fact," of reality any proposition, "relates," to. A proposition does not relate or correspond to anything, it merely states what some relationship is between two facts. If the relationship described is as the proposition states, the proposition is true. There is no other meaning of the word, "true."
There is one version of the correspondence theory attributed to Thomas Aquinas: "Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus," (Truth is the equation of thing and intellect), or "A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality". A generalized version of this view states, "truth-bearing items (judgments or propositions) have subject-predicate structure and a judgment is true if and only if its predicate corresponds to its subject term." This absurd view means no proposition is true except tautologies. It is the same mistake made by Kant and all false dichotomy views of propositions.
- Identity Theory Of Truth
This theory was originally held by Moore and Russell. According to the identity theory, a true proposition is, "identical," to a fact. That theory is so obviously meaningless, that Moore and Russell both abandoned it coming to the even more absurd position there could be no such thing as a false proposition, thus there were no propositions at all.
All other theories of truth are equally absurd, because they all abandon the only basis of truth, the real existence which all truth describes, adopting in its place some form of "authoritarian," basis of truth, as though it were established by some kind of dictate, mandate, or agreement rather than evidence.
- Coherence Theory of Truth
The coherence theory of truth says that a proposition's truth consists in its fitting into a coherent system of propositions. There is one aspect of the coherence theory that is right, and one aspect that is wrong.
What is right with the coherence theory is, non-contradiction. What is wrong with the coherence theory is, rationalism.
Since the truth of any proposition is ultimately determined by the facts of reality, and since there is only one reality, no proposition that correctly describes any aspect of reality can contradict any other proposition that describes that same aspect. Within the body of knowledge and within the context of any proportion, every proposition must be in agreement, or, "non-contradictory."
It is reality itself, however, that determines whether a proposition is true, not its agreement with other propositions. Any system or hypothesis that is based on anything other than real evidence is nothing more than conjecture or invention—an attempt to describe what is true by means of reason without evidence. It is classical idealism which is nothing more than formalized superstition or mysticism, no matter how, "scientific," or, "philosophical," the language it is couched in might be.
- Pragmatic Theory Of Truth
The pragmatic theory of truth was first enunciated by C.S. Peirce, and most famously advocated by William James. James wrote, "An idea is 'true' so long as to believe it is profitable to our lives."
This view of truth is so obviously wrong, even when modified by James to mean, "a proposition's being true consists in its being useful in the widest possible sense, and in the longest possible run," it reduces the meaning of truth to, whatever works, for now, and is the least trouble being believed. The irony of James' view of truth being its utility is that pragmatism, itself, is totally useless.
- The Consensus Theory Of Truth
There are endless varieties of this perverse notions of truth which all assume truth is determined by the number of people who believe or agree with an idea. This idea that truth is determined by consensus is then turned around to imply whatever determines what most people believe or hold to be true is the basis of truth.
The prevailing views of almost all so-called authorities today are based on some version of the consensus theory of truth; from the academic lie that truth in science and technology are established by, "peer review," to the assertion truth is established by a, "consensus," of self-identified "scientists," and, "experts." It would not matter if every scientist in the world agreed that something is true. Historically, every idea that has dominated world opinion because all authorities agreed with it were wrong. If consensus has any value at all, as a rule of thumb, the more people who believe and agree with some idea the more likely it is to be untrue.
There is hardly a wrong idea that is not put over by means of appeals to consensus. Every policy and or program promoted based on polls, surveys, statistics, or, "democracy," itself (it's what the majority wants or believes)—but none of them are true.
All of education and public media is dominated by post modernist views of truth determined by convention, culture, and social/economic conditions, and is put over by the whole of cultural Marxist, "critical theory," and the perversions it spawned including, "critical thinking," and, "critical race theory."
Perhaps the worst versions of the consensus theory of truth were promulgated by philosophers, beginning with Hume and Kant, expanded by the logical positivists and linquistic analysis and culminating with the insane nonsense put over by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who said the meaning of words is determined by however they were used in language. And worse, that whatever words "stand for," had to be determined by some kind of agreement or consensus. [See, "Epistemology Mistakes."]
There are other even worse theories of truth, like the, Deflationary Theory Of Truth
, and the Semantic Theory Of Truth
, but it is not wrong theories of truth that matter. The only reason to review the wrong views of truth is to illustrate the lengths to which philosophers and ideologists will go to deny knowledge and repudiate the truth.
The Simplicity Of Truth
Truth is not some arcane mysterious thing which requires profound philosophical discussion to explain and understand. All such complexities are intentionally introduced to obfuscate and repudiate the truth.
Truth is a very simple concept. Most people know exactly what they mean by truth or true, when they use these words. Everything we know and think, explicitly or implicitly, depends on the concept of truth.
The unforgivable assault on the human mind, intelligence, reason, and knowledge throughout history, and especially today, [See the section, "Hatred Of The Truth," in Ideology—Hatred Of Reality), while carried out on a number of fronts, is especially vicious in its attack on the concept of truth. The attack, for the anti-intellectuals has not been without success. For many years now, those successfully indoctrinated in our institutions of higher learning have emerged with no clear idea of what truth is, and are themselves, the enemies of it. Today, the destruction of the concept of truth is completed at a much earlier age, and few, if any, highschool graduates believe there is really truth, much less have any concept of what it is.
The consequences are obvious. What likelihood of honesty is there in a society where no one knows what truth is? How much progress is there likely to be in science, technology, or medicine where no one knows what the truth is? What kind of government are you going to get when none of those running for office and none of those voting for them knows what the truth is? How does one get a fair trial where neither the judge or jury know what the truth is? How does a teacher teach or a student learn if neither of them knows what the truth is, or how to find out what it is?
What scam, con, or fraud cannot be put over if no one can be certain what the truth is? The assault on truth has only one purpose, to make it impossible for those being defrauded and deceived to defend themselves.