The Nature of Truth: An Essay

The Nature of Truth: An Essay

by Harold H. Joachim



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The Nature of Truth: An Essay by Harold H. Joachim

THE question "What is truth?" is one which every philosopher ought to face, although, unfortunately, since Pontius Pilate's rather ill-timed introduction of it, it has become unfashionable to ask it. Mr. Joachim has done very well in undertaking a serious and careful discussion of the nature of truth. The advocates of any system of philosophy are too apt to assume its fundamentals as indubitable, and devote themselves to the mere development of consequences. This course is attractive, both because it is easy, and because it seems to achieve more in the way of positive construction. But, so long as disagreement on fundamentals persists, the development of consequences must appear as in the main waste labor to those who do not accept the premises. Mr. Joachim's book is valuable as an attempt to establish some of the fundamentals of the Hegelian philosophy; and, whether wholly successful or not, such an attempt is almost sure to be a help in defining the issues, and in suggesting ways of deciding them.

The book discusses three different theories of the nature of truth, and then proceeds to discuss error. The first theory of truth, which is the one the plain man would naturally adopt, is that truth consists in the correspondence of our statements or beliefs with the facts. This view is open to criticism from many points of view. Mr. Joachim criticizes it on the grounds that the "correspondence" involved supposes a collection of distinct " facts," which gives too atomic a view of the world, and that there is not really such a separation of judgment and outside fact as the theory supposes. In this criticism, he assumes that everything is modified by its relations to everything else, so that no two things are really independent, and that you cannot speak quite truly about anything without speaking the whole truth about everything. The assumption that everything is modified by its relations to everything else, being rejected by the second theory of truth which Mr. Joachim examines, is defended in the course of the examination of this theory.

The second theory (which is held by the present reviewer) maintains that truth is primarily a property of facts, which are something external to minds and to mind. "That the earth goes round the sun," it says, is true, independently of whether anyone thinks so, and independently of even the mere notion of its being thought. The belief that the earth goes round the sun, according to this theory, is true in a derivative sense, namely the sense that it is a belief in a facts; but the fact itself, the actual revolution of the earth round the sun, is something quite different from the belief in the fact.

This theory, as Mr. Joachim points out, stands or falls with the view that "experiencing makes no difference to the facts." If I see a banker's clerk descending from a 'bus, my seeing him does not turn him into a hippopotamus, but leaves him just what he would have been if I hadn't seen him. This is denied by Mr. Joachim, on the ground that experiencing a fact is a relation to the fact, and that everything is modified by its relations. The view that everything is modified by its relations, is, of course, in one sense obviously true. But the sense in which it is assumed by Hegelians is not the sense in which it is obviously true. What they mean may, I think, be roughly expressed as follows. Suppose A is the father of B. Then, if you try to think of A without at the same time thinking of B, you are not really thinking about A at all, since paternity to B is part of A's nature. You are thinking instead of an abstraction, in which you have omitted paternity to B, which is essential to the real A. Similarly, if A, instead of being a person, is some fact which B knows, you cannot think of A without at the same time thinking of B, since "being known to B" is part of A's nature. ....

-The Independent Review, Vol. 9

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532795923
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 04/16/2016
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.39(d)

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