Article

Truth

Pascal Engel

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0120
Truth

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The problem of the nature of truth is Janus-faced. On the one hand, it seems to be so metaphysically profound that it is forever hidden to us and not worth caring about, as Pontius Pilate’s jesting question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), implied. On the other hand, truth seems to be, as René Descartes said, “so transcendentally clear that it is impossible to ignore” and thus not really necessary to investigate philosophically. What can be simpler, as Aristotle said, than “to say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”? At the same time what can be more complex than spelling out why there is this mysterious relation of truth between words and things? The very attempt to say what this property of truth is seems to take us to the highest reaches of metaphysical thought and to raise almost all of the issues of philosophy: those of the nature of knowledge, of the mind’s dependence on or independence of reality, and of language and its relation to the world. Indeed, philosophers have elaborated a number of complex theories of truth, from the classical correspondence theory to the coherence and pragmatist theories. But even a “simple” or, in modern terms, “deflationary” or “minimalist,” theory of truth is not so simple to spell out.

Article.  6411 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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