Minds do not create truths or falsehoods. -Bertrand Russell
At Rivendell, our very first module of study has been the subject of “Veritology” AKA the question of “What is Truth”? This means that we are working with a subject that most of us put very little time and interest in. What does it mean for something to be “True”? What does it mean for something to be “false”?How does a simple defining of terms help out your ability to tell truth from lies?
Well, most of us don’t answer these questions because of a lack of philosophical training. This lack of philosophical training often adds up to a lack of deeper thinking and understanding. We never consider the true implications of certain things.
This includes Truth. It turns out that there are right ways, and wrong ways to determine something’s truthfulness.
Testing Truth Claims:
You see, here’s the basic idea. We all believe that our own opinions and assumptions are true. That’s something that almost every human being believes. If we don’t think that our own opinion is correct, then there’s no reason to believe it.
Here’s the problem with that: How do we know what we know? How can a person test what they believe, in order to see if it is true? How can we know if our ideas really are real?
Introducing the Correspondence theory of Truth:
That’s where we need the idea of “the correspondence theory of truth”. This idea has had a history with Western thinkers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. In the late 19/20th century, Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a long essay on this subject, defining the aspects of these ideas. In his process, Russell has one particular question.
We are not asking how we can know whether a belief is true or false: we are asking what is meant by the question “Whether a belief is true or false”. It is to be hoped that a clear answer to this question may help us to obtain an answer to the question what beliefs are true, but for the present, we ask only “what is truth?” and “what is falsehood?”
From here, Russell lays out a very simple system of claim testing. Every part of reality is part of a system. This system has specific laws and ideas that rule it (IE the laws of Gravity, the laws of friction and energy) These simple laws give us an outline for reality. However, we also have a list of “facts”.
These facts are the basis for our understanding of anything. These are the things that simply are. We have, for a fact, the existence of the chair we’re sitting in, we have the fact that humanity needs air. However, there are also opinions alongside these facts. These facts act as the catalyst for our true beliefs. They reveal to us what we believe.
But how can we know if our opinions are actually accurate and true? That’s where correspondence theory comes in. In order for one’s beliefs to be true, they must directly correspond with the facts.
The word correspond is one that has slowly dissipated from our national vocabulary. Diplomats talk about having correspondants in foreign countries for information and details. These relationships are direct connections, that allow the person to engage with the other, but not befriend them.
So, a Correspondence between facts and beliefs is a direct connection that proves one’s own belief. In other words, if reality matches with your beliefs, then you’re right.
Can you say “That’s an Obvious Answer?”
Does this statement about philosophy shock you? The very idea that in order for something to be true, it must match reality? It shouldn’t. Almost all Americans and Westerners believe this concept naturally. We’re trained to look at reality in light of it’s correspondence with our beliefs. That doesn’t remove the importance of acknowledging it. Knowledge IS power. It helps you to think beter, do better, be and better.
Russell and his past philosophers never discovered anything new. However, the magic of Russell’s statement is that he explains our basic assumptions in a way that encourages us to think more about life.
So, I hope that this simple article does one thing: Teaches you to appreciate truth. While we are all on a journey towards finding Truth, I pray that this simple conversation will give you a deeper understanding of what it means for something to be True.
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