Accounts of truth

Correspondence theory of truth is not that truth is having a tree in your head and a tree in the world, since if it did then any animal that saw an object would also know truth, but “truth” is superfluous to the experience of cats or birds or elephants. Correspondence theory means that mind knows its own ideas and so raises the question of how they stand to reality.

Even on this account it’s puzzling to ask what mathematical or logical truth is. Granted we are aware of our ideas, what is the “reality” to which they relate? We might explain triangles as idealized abstractions from triangular objects, but what about hypercubes? Even physical truths are sometime relative to ideal entities that can’t exist in reality, and if moral truths are grounded in nature they are still relative to normative ideals.

In light of this sort of complexity the temptation is to see truth as simple conformity to an axiom, though this only gives us truth where it there is no ultimate conformity to contradiction, since otherwise all we don’t have truth but refutation. But what’s ultimately unsatisfying in the idea is that  loses sight of truth as discovery. The mathematical, logical, dialectical and real corresponds to the real at least so far as to be right about any of them for the first time is to discover something new.

That the real is the discovered suggests Heidegger’s claim of truth as a-leithia or the dis-covered, but just what is this “discovery” advancing into? If we take a cue from math the truths we discover at the lower and more intelligible levels (say, the Euclidean) prove to be about relationships that are more universal and abstract. Truth in the Euclidean, representational world is a participation in the per se relations that are non-representational. Physics also advances from sensible to imaginable to purely intelligible relationships.

On this account, truth is the dis-covery of subsistent mind, whether this happens piecemeal (which is how it happens now) or is given all at once (which is the promise).


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