File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9810, message 32

Date: Wed, 07 Oct 1998 09:23:55 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: truth again

Hi all,

This has got to be really quick.

Ruth you argue:

>I mean, look: either 
>(a) structures in nature have a "truth," which is something other than their
>particular, determinate character; or
>(b) structures in nature have a "truth" and it is identical to their
>particular, determinate character; or 
>(c) structures in nature have a particular, determinate character, which we
>may or may not claim to know.  
>It seems to me that you are plumping for (b), here, while I (I'll let Heikki
>and Caroline speak for themselves) am holding out for (c).

No I hold out for c as well, becuase if you look closely c implies b, but
adds an important epistemological component.  In c you say structures in
nature have a particular determinate character, what you pull back from is
to say that this constitutes their alethia. Am I with you so far? You then
go on:

>Here's why I'm as yet unconvinced that the shift from (c) to (b) represents
>an epistemic gain.  

I've never claimed it does, I've said it makes judgements intelligible, but
more importantly, the thesis is ontological.

First begin by noting that, in so far as the "truth"
>posited in (b) has the same referent as "...their particular determinate
>character," it's redundant.  (And one could, I suppose, just leave it at

MMhhh. I think a few zillion posts ago I held out this particular
possibility (although I would take issues with the idea that it is
redundant); remember I say tomatoes you say tomatoes, but we refer to the
same thing. Somehow though, although on the one hand you seem to say this
is ok, on the other you say it is not????

>Indeed, from the perspective of (b), the choice between (c) and (b) is
>really a question of whether or not it is a good idea to change our name
for "the way x is."  

Well actually not. The term  alethia has a long history. It's not
particularly new, more forgotten (which is ironic since a more correct
translation of Alethia would be to remeber). The word 'Alethia' comes from
the Greek word meaning Truth. This is not "truth" as opposed to "false," as
we have come to know it, but rather truth as in something worth
remembering. Alethia is used by Heidegger the same way it was defined by
the ancient Greeks; "revealing." The move from this to our current
understanding of truth comes with the Romans who translated it to
"veritas." Again, "veritas" in English is used to mean "truth" which can be
understood as "correctness and representation." 

That is, instead of calling it "x's character," say, or
>"x's nature," is it a better idea to call it "x's truth?"  This decision
>about re-naming is all that can be at stake, because from the perspective
of (b) the terms all have the same referent.  

We agree. So at least we all agree (perhaps not Howie), that things have a
way of being, now we are arguing about whether or not to call this way of
being their alethia, yes?

>Here again I would say no, on balance it is *not* a good idea to change
>names, or even to use both interchangeably ("character, nature or
structure" and "truth"), as the mood strikes. 

Well, it is clearly not as the mood strikes. See above about the etymology
of the word truth.

 This for three reasons, one ontological,
>one political and one epistemological.  The ontological reason to insist
>that the term "structure" cannot be properly re-named "truth" is that, in
my view, structures in nature would exist in the absence of human beings,
>whereas, in my view, anything that can meaningfully be called "truth"
would not.  

Well hardly gets to the heart of the issue. Moreover, structure is not
called the alethia of things, but structures have an alethia, the sematic
difference is important. Moreover, I sense that you may be wrongly
conclusing that this alethia is an unchanging essence of things. This is
not my view, and couldn't possibly be a CR perspective properly understood
(an open constantly changing pluriverse etc..)

the political reason is that it is easy to sound dogmatically
>absolutist, even when you're not, when you use this language.  

How? Why? we have been over this. I find the reverse the case. Alethia is
the truth beyond every and any truth claim it is the truth of things which
necessitates a constant search for its uncovering, but which makes any
claim to have uncovered it, questionable. It forms a logical and
philosophical barrier to anyone claiming the absolute truth. For alethia is
of things not propositions. Without truth there is no injustice as Geras
put it somewhere. But non-one is today denying the existence of truth of
course (I'm being ironic here, because quickly following this comes
Clintonesque obscufations about "this depends what we mean by truth".)

The epistemological reason not to regard truth as, even in part, given by
>(because identical to) real structures in nature, is that to do so makes
it seem as though the difficult questions about theory choice, or
methodology, and about rationality more generally, have been thereby
settled, when they haven't been.

I'm not sure how you infer this last one Ruth, certainly not from anything
I have said. Anyway, even putting that aside, this formulation has an air
of Kantian transcendental idealism/positivism about. As well, I might add
(and to say this of someone on this list is indeed to go into dangerous
territory) coming close to the episetnmic fallacy. For form the many, and
substantial epistemological problems we face in uncovering the truth of
things, you are drawing ontological conclusions. Which I might add,
interesting though Howie's paper looks seems to me to be the same problem
he has.

>I don't actually know what you mean here.

Alethic truth is an relational between a claim and that which is claimed it
is the nature of things themselves. It is a truth of things not
propositions. Tobin, you will have to tell me what would constitute, for
you a nonpropositional theory of truth. Since of course, I can only
articulate such a theory in propositions. But this doesn't mean that truth
itself can only be propositional anymore than the things to which we refer
are only letters strung together. So I don't really follow your argument.

>It's because, as I said above, I think that the concept of "truth" is not
>properly a predicate of natural phenomenon.  It flunks my "Would it still
be here if there weren't any people?" test. 

Hold on here. We agree, that reality has a particular determinate
character, yes? a character that would still be here if we were not, yes? A
particular determinate character that would be despite the fcat that there
would be no propositions of it?

>Nope.  My view is that (a) there are natural structures; (b) there is a
>regulative concept, "truth," which concept expresses something like the
idea that a statement <p> is true iff p; 

Ah, <p> is true iff p, so waht is the nature of p if there were no thruth
claim of p. The iff is important here as it refers to some aspect of p that
is irreducible to any aspect of <p>.

 (d) the best if not only
>reason why any given criterion for adjudicating between competing theories
>ought to be exercised is because it is thought that to do so, on balance,
>tends to produce theories that can be said to be true; (e) there are
>theories that, so far as we can tell, are true.  

Yes, on your reading I agree. On my reading, they could all be false. I
think I have a stronger notion of fallibilism  thatn you are willing to
embrace. On my reading, everything we think of as true might well turn out
to be not true. 

>So.  On my reading the nature of things has nothing to do with us, and
"the truth about the nature of things" is an unfortunate formulation that
blurs >(a), (b), (c) and (e).

So things have a nature independent of us, and I call this their alethia,
you call it; "the nature of things", or "their particular determinate nature".

>>Well of course there couldn't be a concept of truth, if there were no
>>people. But that doesn't mean there would be no such thing (however
>>defined) anymore than the lack of a concept of reality means that there
>>would be none.
>Well, this is the argument.  There was a similar one about the concept of
>pi, too, remember?  (Though for the record I don't think that pi and truth
>are the same kinds of concept...)

What about reality, does it go when the concept goes? 



Dr. Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales
telephone: +44 (0)1970-621769
fax      : +44 (0)1970-622709

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