A diverse and varied collection of philosophical theories
, and inquiries
seeking to answer this family of questions "What is truth
?", "What makes
true beliefs true"?, "What is the difference
between truth and falsity
?", "How do we know
true sentences are true?", etc. etc..
Most theories of truth attempt to provide answers to these questions and related questions, including: "What sort of things
entities) can be true (and false)?", "Is truth objective
, or relativistic
?", "Is truth knowable?", "Is truth divine
, or natural
?", etc. etc..
There are almost as many theories of truth as there are schools
of philosophy. The most popular theories of truth advanced by philosophers in the Western
tradition are these, including some of the famous philosophers who were instrumental in their development:
- Correspondence Theory (Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein (early)) -- in which the general claim is that a sentence 'P' is true if and only if that sentence corresponds to a fact or state of affairs P that exists)
- Semantic Theory of Truth (Alfred Tarski, Donald Davidson) -- in which truth is formally defined as a semantic property of sentences, its definition generally being a sentence 'P' is true if and only if P, the semantic theory succeeds the correspondence theory in basically re-stating that truth is a function of correspondence, but without carrying the extra conceptual baggage of "facts" and "correspondence" that the correspondence theory relies upon
- Coherence Theory of Truth (Baruch Spinoza, Otto Neurath, Hilary Putnam) -- in which truth is a relational property held amongst a wide range of sentences, so that the truth of a sentence 'P' is accounted for in terms of the truth and falsity of other sentences in the language in which 'P' stands in a certain relation.
Sometimes classified as a subset of these theories are also Postmodernist Theories of Truth including sociological (Bloor), simulacrul (Baudrillard, DeBord), differential (Lyotard), and genealogical (Nietzsche, Foucault) analyses -- generally these theories of truth focus less on the nature of truth and more on the function of truth in human lives (see the paragraph below).
- Pragmatic Theory of Turth (Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Richard Rorty) -- in which truth is defined in terms of practical success or the utility of beliesf. Like the postmodernist theories named above, pragmatism is often also seen as working against the traditional theories of truth.
- Deflationary Theories of Truth (Gottlob Frege, Paul Horwich) -- generally acknowledge that 'The sentence 'P' is true' is equivalent to asserting that P and are sometimes called disquotational or minimalist theories of truth because, in short, truth is a redundant property in our language.
Although I have included names like Friedrich Nietzsche
, Michel Foucault
, and Richard Rorty
on the above topography
, it can also be argued that their conceptions of truth do not approach the 'theories' proferred by the epistemologists
and analytic philosophers
populating the nearby geographies. In addition to the trend in philosophy that contemplates the nature
of truth, there is also the trend that argues that truth has no nature, it is varied, and mixed. Foucault, for example, tries to historicize truth and treat it as another concept that can be traded back and forth in exchanges of power. Rorty, on the other hand, tries to tie truth to the complex human practices and discourses in which it makes its appearance, thereby eliminating the redundant
extrapractical theory that philosophy may produce.