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Language And Truth

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Posted by Harvey on August 1, 2003 21:04:23 UTC

My problem is that I don't understand why you seem to think the concept of truth applies to anything other than language. It's so clear to me that statements are the only things that can be true, yet I'm unable to understand why you can't see that. I can only imagine we are talking about entirely different concepts.

The problem with saying that truth applies to language is what then is the bearer of the truth-value? Is it sentences? What kind of sentences? Sentence-tokens or sentence-types? Which tokens and which types? What about the context of a sentence (context-free or context-dependent)? What about propositions? Where does the meaning of propositions come from in order for it to be true or false?

My view doesn't have this weakness. I can state that the bearer of truth-value can be just about anything as long as the bearer meets a level of satisfaction by those who encounter the bearer. In the case of a reader, they may encounter a sentence such as "snow is white". In which case, the bearer of the truth-value is an indicative sentence "snow is green" and the reader who encounters it might be unsatisfied by the truth of the sentence and say "I disagree that this sentence is true". The same reader might read later that the author says that everything he wrote as being green should now be understood as white. In which case the reader would form a different perception of "snow is green" as meaning by the author as "snow is [translating...] white". In which case the reader can now say that the proposition (what was actually meant by the author) is 'true' - snow is actually white.

At no point is a satisfaction viewpoint of truth committed to the bearer of truth-value being part of language, part of an act, or part of a scientific theory, etc. All 'truths' are contextual and all bearers of truth-values are contextual. The bar that every truth bearer must accept is to be satisfactory to the interpreter of that truth-bearer. If the interpreter is overall satisfied with the context and content of the truth bearer's truth-value, then truth is assumed by the interpreter.

I suspect part of the problem is that people tend to mix up 'true' with 'real'. I notice it's quite common for those two words to be interchangeable in almost any sentence, which is kind of strange for me as I always assumed they were not synonymous. I always took it that "true" applies to language and "real" applies to whatever it is the language is referring to. More often than not, when you refer to 'truth' in your posts it sounds to me like you're thinking about 'real' instead.

My view is that when we say "'Jack and Jill went down the hill' is true", what we are saying is that Jack and Jill went down the hill should be considered as knowledge about reality. Hence, truth bearers (sentences, propositions, beliefs, theories, etc) having truth-values that are believed to be true is equivalent to saying it is knowledge about reality in a given context. Also, truth can be said to be equivalent to reality in that when talking (or thinking, or instinctually reacting) in terms of truth we are talking (or thinking, etc) about what we believe our truth bearers say accurately about reality, and therefore for all practical purpose we can substitute the talk of the thing (or the thought of the thing, etc) with the thing itself. For example, if I say "the reality is you have to face the facts that I'm telling you". In this case, I have substituted the reality of the thing, with the (believed) truth of the thing that I am telling you is knowledge if you just accept the 'facts' (as I believe them to be). There's nothing wrong per se with making our truth bearers holding truth-values as being equivalent to reality, just as long in a philosophical sense we understand the Kantian advice to separate Ding an sich with our beliefs, language, etc, which are referring to Ding an sich.

In my head, the conundrum between 'true' and 'real' is the very thing that made Wittgenstein say we shouldn't talk about things that cannot be talked about. For whereas 'true' can be formally defined in a language, 'real' cannot. Within the framework of language, 'real' is completely isomorphic with 'true'. It takes a conscious being to know the difference, and the difference cannot be expressed in symbols of any kind.

My view to this is that one cannot talk about Ding an sich with any authority other than from the point of view of their own overall satisfaction.

With the above, I confess my inability to explain that which cannot be explained. Either you know what I'm talking about or you don't. If you do, there's nothing I need to tell you. If you don't, there's nothing I can tell you. Either way, silence is the most sensible thing I can offer.

I guess because I'm so used to distinguishing between so many philosophical positions, that I don't think there is too much new under the sun. There are always small deviations of an existing viewpoint that can be discovered, but generally we can reference others to our particular viewpoint if we know enough of what's been published. My ideas fall in line toward internal realism and holistic accounts of truth. If you know the name of the 'family' of ideas from which you are from, then it is very easy for me to understand your position.

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