Truth again…

puzzle-1152794_960_720What do we learn from pragmatists about the notion of truth? Actually, the theory that truth is an epistemic notion cannnot be right, at least so I think. Putnam wrote in his last years a great deal about that point. But he also wrote about why metaphyisical realism in a specific sense is still wrong. The sense he means, is that there must be one and only one single correct description of the world. So you can be a realist in your metaphysics without being a metaphysical realist in that sense.

Explaining truth with phrases like “correspondence with reality” will not bring us anywhere. Correspondence with reality is not really a clearer notion as the notion of truth itself. And even correspondence with reality can mean something different in a different context. For example, it should mean somehting different when we talk about truths in mathematics, or if we talk about truth in physics. So Rorty is right, when he claims, that there no essence of truth, that can be put in a definition. But contextualism does not imply that there is nothing interesting to say about truth.

And I think that is an important lesseon that we can learn from the american pragmatists. We cannot look at a notion in isolation. We must see in which context we use it and what this implies. We can use the notion of “truth” like we use the notion of “forniture”. Chairs, tables, a bed, all of these are furniture. But there is no definition of “forniture” that fits all pieces of forniture to have. Still we can know and inquier if something is forniture or not. And there are some commonalities. Likewise there are commonalities between all the uses in different context of the notion of “truth”. For example, that truth is not an epistemic notion. In mathematics that means: truth is not proveability. In ethics this means: truth is not general acceptance.

That is a philosophical insight that is worth having.


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