Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Argument from Truth: Gordon Clark style

A redated post.

In the late Ronald Nash's Life's Ultimate Questions, he presents an argument from truth for the existence of God which he claims to derive from Augustine but was put into a numbered-premise format by Gordon Clark.

1. Truth exists.
2. Truth is immutable (unchangeable).
3. Truth is eternal.
4. Truth is mental (pertaining to mind or minds).
5. Truth is superior to the human mind.
So 6. Truth is God.

Note that this collection of premises can be formulated into a valid argument (using the modus ponens pattern) as follows:

1. If 1-5 is true, then God exists.
2. 1-5 is true.
So 3. God exists.

This seems to be a different argument from truth from the argument from truth that I developed in CSLDI. Is this a legitimate way of defending theism?

50 comments:

Johnny-Dee said...

I worry that this argument would prove too much. Consider, for example, the following characteristic of truth: truth is a property of propositions. Should we then infer that God is a property of propositions? I think this move can be repeated ad nauseum to prove many absurd things about God, if we accept the Gordon Clark argument.

Will Hawthorne said...

So take the following argument:

(1) God is a concrete substance.
(2) Truth is a relation (or at least, it's not a concrete substance).
(3) Leibniz' law.
(4) So God is not identical to truth.

I wonder which premise Clark would deny.

The modus ponens version (the one you formulated, Vic) is better. But it seems like it would be an uphill battle defending it. What sorts of sub-arguments could one advance in favor of its first premise?

Ilíon said...

argument:
1. Truth exists.
2. Truth is immutable (unchangeable).
3. Truth is eternal.
4. Truth is mental (pertaining to mind or minds).
5. Truth is superior to the human mind.
So 6. Truth is God.


Somewhere recently on the internet I read this argument, in the expanded version -- even to the conclusion, stated exactly as "Truth is God". As I recall, the author of the the page was explicitly quoting someone. (For all I know/remember, it may have been Gordon Clark being quoted). Unfortulately, I have no idea where I encountered it; others may have been interested in reading the original argument working through these points.


VR: "Is this a legitimate way of defending theism?"

Other than that I (personally) detest the term "theism," I think it is. At least, in general; I'm sure it matters quite a bit how one fleshes out the argument.

For instance, point 3) might be a real problem: what, exactly does one (anyone, actually) mean in saying, "Truth is eternal?" Do any of us have a consistent understanding of what we ourselves mean by the word 'eternal?' (I'm sure the answer is emphatically "No.") And, unless the person advancing this argument explains exactly what he means by the term within the context of the argument, might not others easily misunderstand what it is that they think they are or are not argeeing to?

And, at the same time, I will admit to a certain unease at the phrasing of the conclusion ("Truth is God"). I think that we Christians ought to say "God is Truth" -- even as we acknowledge that this formulation is quite inadequate to "capture" God's essence. That is, I think that the formulation "Truth is God" is potentially more misleading (considered in isolation fror the full argument) than is the formulation "God is Truth."

I suspect that the danger in misunderstanding of either formulation is due to the fact that we human beings in our day-to-day thought and speech tend to equivocate between the *concept* 'truth' and specific truth(s) and/or truth-claims.

This leads to the thought that if should be the case that this argument contains such an equivocation, and cannot be re-formulated to exclude the equivocation, then, of course, it's not "a legitimate way of defending theism."

Ilíon said...

(Boy, am I slow in thinking as writting out my thoughts! When I started writing up that post, there were no other comments.)

Hallq said...

No. Just no.

Presumably, where premise 6 is coming from is the idea that anything immutable, eternal, pertaining to mind, and superior to the human mind is God. But to say that God "pertains to mind," rather that is a mind, stretches the definition of God considerably--one might say beyond recognition. Also, while it makes sense to talk of one mind being superior to another, I don't know what it means to say something pertaining to mind is superior to something that actually is a mind.

Mark Frank said...

This argument is the kind of thing that gives philosophy a bad name. It is playing games with abstract words and giving them all sorts of uses that they never have in ordinary discourse. No one, other than philosophers, ever says "truth is ....." as though it were something you could discover like the nature of the Sun or the sixth perfect number.

I last studied philosophy seriously in 1972. Since then it seems that linguistic philosophy has fallen into disrepute. I have some sympathy with this - much of it was dry and pedantic. However, we shouldn't forget why it was so popular. It was in reaction to just this kind of meaningless playing with words.

Ilíon said...

Hallq "Presumably, where premise 6 is coming from is the idea that anything immutable, eternal, pertaining to mind, and superior to the human mind is God."

No, that's not it.

You have to go all the way back to point 1) "Truth exists."

The argument is cumulative. I'll try to flesh it out, as best I remember it, this evening.

Point 5) "Truth is superior to the human mind" is the realization that this 'Truth,' whatever it is, is not dependent upon any human mind.

Ilíon said...

Ah, there is a good chance that this is where I encountered this argument, Wittenberg Door: Truth as Proof for God's Existence , which links to here: Gordon Clark’s Argument for the Existence of God from Truth

Alan Rhoda said...

Well, it's a lousy argument as stated, but there's another argument in the neighborhood that might lead somewhere in the direction of theism:

1. Truth consists in the correspondence between a mental representation and the reality it represents.
2. Necessarily, mental representations exist in a mind.
3. There is a comprehensive truth - a complete representation of all of reality.
4. Therefore, there exists a Mind that contains an accurate representation of all of reality (i.e., there exists an omniscient being).

Now, this argument is not perfect - why, for example, must all representations be mental? - but it's better than Clark's, I think.

Ilíon said...

Whether or not Wittenberg Door is where I encountered the argument, the content of the second link is the fleshed-out version of it I'd read.

Had the readers of Mr Reppert's blog been interested in discussing this argument in depth (rather, than as seems obvious to me, brushing it off without serious thought), I think that we could have fleshed it out very like Nash does as quoted.

Regardless, rather than relying on my faulty memory, you now have Nash's explanation of it, if you're interested in reading it.

Alan Rhoda said...

Ilion,

I did look at Nash's commentary and presented my modified argument because I didn't find Nash very convincing.

I have no problem with (1). As for (2), I think it's false. Since truth supervenes and being, and since being changes (there is real becoming), it follows that what is true changes. Note that my denial of (2) does not entail a pragmatic theory of truth. It's based on the good old-fashioned correspondence theory.

(3) is problematic as well. Given the falsity of (2), truth cannot be eternal. What is correct is to say that truths about the past are persistent - if something has happened then it will henceforth always be the case that it has happened. But truths about the present and future do not persist because they will eventually become past. Thus, if the world will someday perish, then when that day comes it is no longer true that the world "will" someday perish. Instead, what will then be true is that the world "has perished".

I'm sympathetic to (4), but more needs to said to show that there cannot be non-mental representations.

(5) looks plausible to me when glossed by Nash as the claim that truth cannot be subjective and individualistic. To express that I would simply say "truth is objective". But Nash also tries to derive (5) from (2), (3), and (4). Since I have doubts about (2) and (3), especially, I don't see those as good foundations for (5).

Cuitlamiztli Carter said...

No, because how would one assume that truth is God? From theism, God is not the same as truth. If something exists, it's true, and of course in theism anything other than God would have its existence as a result of God, but if we equate God with truth, well - I'm true. I exist. There are true things that can be said about me. So am I God? Truth is what makes me possible, and if God is true, it's not because He is the same thing as truth, it's because He exists and therefore lines up with reality, and is true. There's no reason to attach personality to the process as this argument attempts to do.

I also disagree that truth is mental. This implies that someone with an active consciousness has to perceive something for it to exist. If some sort of mega-virus struck Earth and ended all life, would truth cease to exist because there was no mind to detect it? Maybe truth would be irrelevant because there'd be no observers, but would it cease to exist?

Will Hawthorne said...

Since truth supervenes and being, and since being changes (there is real becoming), it follows that what is true changes.

Well, the first conjunct of the antecedent is highly controversial, but that's another issue.

The main problem with Clark's argument is that truth is identified with God. As long as Leibniz' Law is true, any property of truth not shared by God, or vice versa, would be sufficient to show that the argument is unsound.

This may be, in part, why Vic reformulated it in modus ponens. But when it comes to the modus ponens version, it's difficult to tell what kinds of auxiliary arguments could be employed in defense of the first premise.

Anonymous said...

People: We are missing the essential points of Dr. Clark's AFT! First and foremost, let us not forget that this argument is actually Agustinian. To attempt to refute it as simply as some have, I would remind them to go back and do their homework...That is, read Augustine's On The Freedom of The Will (book 2).

Regarding P1, Clark argues that that the skeptic to 'objective' truth ends in self-referential absurdities. No doubt, from the very existence of the Law of Non-contradiction, Moreover, "Johnny-dee's" correct assumption that "truth is a property of propositions" actually presupposes an ontological object of truth that he ironically leaves out of the equation. FYI: To argue as Mr. Dee does, that therefore should we "infer that God is a property of propositions" is a bit absurd. It's putting the proverble "cart before the horse."

Lastly, may I add that to challenge the notion that 'truth' is 'eternal' is to affirm that there are no 'necessary truths' like the laws of logic. If truth is not eternal, then the gig-is-up and 'truth' is as the Analytic Philosophers say it is...A Postmodern notion constructed by the community from which it is only a pragmatically usful fiction.

Anonymous said...

I think it's obvious that the argument is sound. When you deny any of the premises you self destruct.

The conclution is that God is truth. Deny God's existence and you deny the truth. Deny the truth and you self-destruct.

Truth exists

Deny it and you show that it does exist

Truth is eternal

If truth were to die then it would be true that truth has died it cannot die.

Truth Is Mental. The existence of truth presupposes minds. Without a mind truth could not exist. The object of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning a significance; it is a thought. There is a mental nature to truth. If you were to fly to mars and see this true statement you would assume that there was intelligence on the planet. This statement contains words and meaning. It contains information about a man named George Bush. And information pressuposes intelligence:

George Walker Bush was elected president in the Uninted States of America and re-elected as president in the year 2004. All triangles have three sides. Knowledge presupposes minds.


Truth is superior to the human mind. Unchanging truth cannot be subjective or individualistic. Some truths are not only necessary but universal. They are true in all places whether or not we are aware of it. Therefore truth must transcend human reason because the human mind is finite and mutable and subject to error.Since truth is unchanging, eternal, and mental then truth must exist in an eternal mind. There must exist a Supreme Reason. A personal living God.

George Walker Bush was elected president of the United States in the year 2000.This was true yesterday and the day before that and it will be true tomorrow, the next day, the next day. It’s unchanging it stays the same. It’s always true. (eternaly true)

It’s true that if God didn’t exist then it would be true God doesn’t exist. God knows that if God didn’t exist then it would be true God doesn’t exist.

2+2=4. God knows 2+2=4

If God is all powerful then God knows that God is all powerful.

If God is omnipotent then God knows that God is omnipotent.

It’s true that something cannot be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense. God knows that something cannot be true and not true at the same time and in the same sense.

There must exist an eternal personal God. And since that is true it’s always true. It will always be true. Eternaly true. Always. Forever.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand the conclusion: God is the correspondence relation between the world and propositions? That is an interesting reductivist account of God.

Clayton said...

The argument as stated is not terribly convincing. JD blew it out of the water in his first comment and I have no idea how to fix it to get around the difficulty he raises.

I have no idea what 5 means, but whatever it means it is consistent with the idea that truth is inferior to God. As for 4, it is false unless idealism is true. (The parenthetical remark is not a restatement of 4. Consider a non-representational painting that is about minds and mentality. It is not itself mental but pertains to mind or minds.)

We do have some idea of what it means to say that truth is eternal. If the proposition that p is true, there are no times such that it is not true.

Some have denied this because of cases involving future contingents, but note that those who think that future contingents lack truth-values will deny 2. (I think I'm in total agreement with Alan.)

Problems a plenty.

One quibble about something Alan wrote:
Since truth supervenes and being, and since being changes (there is real becoming), it follows that what is true changes.

I can respect where you are coming from. I don't have a view about being and becoming, but I think you've made a mistake about the logic of supervenience. You've essentially written that if X supervenes on Y, if Y is F, X is F. That's not so. If X supervenes on Y, that is consistent with saying that Y is more fundamental than X. Let 'F' be '... is more fundamental than X'. If X supervenes on Y, that is consistent with saying that X can be realized without Y. However, Y cannot be realized without Y. So, it wouldn't follow from the fact that X supervenes on Y that X is such that it cannot be realized without Y. The visible supervenes on the invisible.

Brandon said...

I think John right at the beginning put his finger precisely on the weakness of the argument: namely, that nothing in it can be motivated without a well-developed theory of truth -- and there are theories of truth, indeed, common assumptions about truth, that will leave the argument in ruins. So the argument can't stand on its own, and shouldn't be expected to do so. But the sort of view of truth it presupposes -- one that's Platonic, at least in a broad sense -- is not a weak position, but one that can be made very attractive, and Clark's argument can be seen as plausibly arguing for a natural corollary of it. It's plausible to someone like myself, with a decidedly Thomistic view of truth; I wouldn't expect Clayton (for instance) even to bat an eye at it. It would be, and was, a powerful argument if everyone's Neo-Platonist; it remains so if everyone's Aristotelian, although more subtly; but most people today are nominalist, and have a very deflationary account of truth.

Kristofer Rasmussen said...

This is problematic. First, western theism also pro-offers God as being omnibenevolent and omniscient. This argument offers neither; nor do I think that the quality of goodness is one that can be predicated of truth. Furthermore, it has the same problems that western theism raises, specifically how something transcendent may become immanent and yet remain immutable.

Clayton said...

Brandon,
C'mon, I'd bat an eye.

I'm actually curious about the argument's logical form. Doesn't the inference from (1)-(5) to (6) assume the following suppressed premise:

(SP) If anything is immutable, eternal, mental, and superior to the human mind, it is God.

I can't think of any good reason to accept (SP) and no idea how the argument would work without it. The 'is', after all, cannot be the 'is' of identity. It has to be predication.

Brandon said...

I'd assumed that the argument is a pattern-matching argument that's not supposed to be monotonic; and thus would not require acceptance of (SP), but simply a lack of other likely candidates with such a combination of properties. (If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....)

Jason Pratt said...

Ronald Nash passed on? Huh, didn't know that... (As the saying goes, if y'haven't heard it, it's still news. {s})

I first ran across this in Nash's Faith and Reason years ago; Nash respected it but thought something Plantinga was working on (at the time) would prove a superior formulation.

For what it's worth, JD, Nash actually addresses the topic of propositionalism in his followup comments to Clark's argument--though not your particular formal critique, as it happens.


Cuit: you've confused truth with fact. A common confusion, but they aren't quite the same thing. (This doesn't necessarily help the argument as it stands; just pointing out the clarification.)


3rdAnon: {{I'm not sure I understand the conclusion: God is the correspondence relation between the world and propositions? That is an interesting reductivist account of God.}}

This, by the way, illustrates the difference between truth and fact. {g} However, let us go the ontological distance and substitute "the world" with "fundamental reality". The statement that God is Truth (notice the reversal of predication there--more in line with the scriptural statement that doubtless inspired Clark and Augustine to give this argument a try, "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life") would amount, in terms of final ontology, to: God is the [positive] correspondence relation between final reality and propositions [about that final reality]. For this to be intrinsically true about God, God (singularly) would have to be multiple Persons (Who as Persons could have propositions about the single final reality of themselves) in a correspondence relationship as the final reality.

That's at least binitarian orthodox theism.


Let's try the argument then from 3rdAnon's direction:

1.) Some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between final reality and at least some propositions about final reality exists.

2.) In at least one way this correspondent relationship must be immutable.

3.) In at least one way this correspondent relationship must always obtain.

4.) This correspondent relationship of final reality to propositions about final reality must have the quality of mentality.

5.) This correspondent relationship of final reality to propositions about final reality must be objectively independent to all other reality, including to human minds.

If 1 through 5 is true, then what follows as a composite conclusion?


Clayton: {{I can't think of any good reason to accept (SP)}}

If you mean that you can't think of any good reason to accept that something exists which has characteristics of being immutable, etc., then the problem is not really with SP but with grounds for believing one or more of claims 1 through 5.

Accepting the characteristics hypothetically, however, what is your problem with SP? It's a compressed syllogism, as far as I can tell: if an entity with G-set characteristics exists then entity G, previously asserted to have G-set characteristics if it exists, exists.

JRP

Clayton said...

Hey Jason and Brandon,

Brandon, I appreciate your point, but it seems like a pretty big leap from there is an x such that x is I, E, M, S to x is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing.

Jason, that's why I think there's little going for SP.

Brandon said...

I'm not sure there's any need to make the leap. After all, not everyone attributes omnipotence, omniscience or 'omnibenevolence' to God; and in an existence argument, it's rarely necessary to prove every feature of the thing.

Jason Pratt said...

Clayton,

I agree that Clark's AfT (or maybe any AfT) is limited in its results (if it works at all), but that in itself is no reason to reject the results. It only means that if the entity thus formally detected has other characteristics, this particular argument can't detect them. Perhaps other arguments could.

There's a due caution about overreaching the results of an argument; and I'll suppose that this is what you were actually trying to complain about in the SP, since otherwise you could only be complaining that accepting the argument requires accepting that the argument, if successful, succeeds at what it purports to succeed at. {s} (i.e., but the whole thing also requires one to accept the tacitly unstated principle that a successful argument succeeds!)

Or, if what you meant was that the term "God" necessarily requires for its meaning a number of doctrines not directly touched by Clark's argument, then I would have to disagree with that, too.

However, if you thought that people applying the conclusion were also supposing that the same conclusion detected characteristics not touched by the argument, then my first observation is that I don't recall anyone in the discussion so far claiming the AfT directly arrives in its result at omniscience (for example) as a property (though possibly someone did and I've just forgotten it); but otherwise I would agree with the warning about overreaching the result.

JRP

Clayton said...

Right, I think it is an overreach. I mean, there are additional problems with each of the premises, but in addition, the logic of the initial presentation of the argument was obscure. If what you mean by 'God' is really just an x that is I, E, M, and S so be it. But, I thought 'God' meant God and thought it was essential to the concept of God that being picked out was omnicompetent. Not only have we not gotten to omnicompetence, we do not have grounds for saying supernatural, creator, much less an agent or subject of experience. (In fact, it seems that 4 rules that out on many views since nothing can be a property of propositions while (a) having a perspective and (b) having purposes.)

Jason Pratt said...

{{Not only have we not gotten to omnicompetence, we do not have grounds for saying supernatural, creator, much less an agent or subject of experience.}}

Not from that argument, no. (Though if truth is not a subject of experience in some way, then as agents ourselves we are in no position to make truth claims. Which is a position that will quickly have to be discarded for any discursive purpose. {g} Be that as it may.)

I, however, don't require any particular argument to accomplish everything. I'm a systematist. Indeed, I can ramble on for a good 200 pages, making decisions about what I ought to believe metaphysically, without having once made a decision in favor of (or against) most of the doctrines mentioned so far in this thread that might pertain to 'God'. Nevertheless, those topics and decisions do turn out to be important elements in orthodox trinitarian theism, or so I find. (For example, if I decide I should reject ontological dualism or any similar proposal of multiple-limited-numbers of Independent Facts, then I have taken a position that is an element in orthodox trinitarian theism, even though it's also an element in very many other metaphysical sets, including naturalistic atheism.)

It's a question of putting the pieces together in a logically progressing series of arguments. For what it's worth, I don't use the AfT, per se, in that sequence of arguments. But that, in itself, doesn't mean that I think it's intrinsically worthless as an argument. If I decided to use it, or some better variant thereof, I would have a certain number of conclusions to believe about some entity; and then I would check to see whether those conclusions lead to topical corollaries that lead to further conclusions about that entity (as one potential line of argument integration.)

It's a pretty normal process, I think, for inferring multiple characteristics of any entity (where possible.)

JRP

Mike Darus said...

It seems that the statement, "God is truth." is much different than, "It is true that God exists." or even "God is truthful."

Anonymous said...

"1. Truth exists."

This only means that some thngs can be said to be true.
Truth is not an object or entity, let alone a deity.
Lousy argument.

Jason Pratt said...

I'm reasonably sure that Clark and exponents of the argument don't stop at element 1 for inferring that "truth is an object, entity or some kind of deity".

Also, you might have noticed (but apparently didn't) that I've already reformulated the argument along the lines of 3rdAnon's critique, where the first element corresponds (except with more precision) to your "some things can be said to be true".

JRP

Anonymous said...


Also, you might have noticed (but apparently didn't) that I've already reformulated the argument along the lines of 3rdAnon's critique, where the first element corresponds (except with more precision) to your "some things can be said to be true".

1.) Some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between final reality and at least some propositions about final reality exists.



No I hadn’t noticed it. Thanks for pointing it out.
This does not correspond to what I was saying. What #1 asserts is a correspondence theory of truth. I don’t believe in the correspondence theory of truth. It is not true.

You’ve also introduced the term “final reality”. I don’t know what that really means. What is wrong with plain old “reality”?

Your reformulation may be more precise, but it is a gross distortion of what I was saying.

Another example of my point:
Evil exists. What that means is that people do evil things. It doesn’t mean that there is some kind of force or spirit that roams through the world and is called “evil”.

Sorry, but I fail to see how your reformulation would lead one to take this argument seriously. Unless, perhaps, they already believed in things like a final reality?

Still looks like a lousy argument to me. Though I do prefer the original to yours because it is clearer and more precise.

Jason Pratt said...

Anon,

The AfT is a type of ontological argument, where the topic is ultimate basis of reality (whatever that happens to be). That might or might not be "plain old reality", depending on whether naturalism or supernaturalism (respectively) is true; and I don't think it would be right for me to beg the question in favor of one against the other in advance. As it happens, this argument doesn't (in itself) arrive in favor of either naturalism or supernaturalism; some types of Buddhists would be entirely comfortable with the result, for example.

Obviously, the propositions presented in any version of the argument would have to be established for agreement instead of merely asserted as if they were self-evident premises (since they aren't); and as a matter of procedure, proponents of the argument (like Clark and Nash) do analyze each proposition on its own merits. Some of that was done piecemeal in the comments above, but not very thoroughly.


{{This does not correspond to what I was saying. What #1 asserts is a correspondence theory of truth. I don’t believe in the correspondence theory of truth. It is not true.}}

So, for example, you don't believe there is any positive and accurate correspondence between your proposition about what #1 asserts and what #1 asserts? If there is no possibility of that, then why would I pay any attention to you at all, once I realize that?

I am not especially concerned with defending “a correspondence theory of truth” (which my #1 might or might not be indicative of). I am however concerned with affirming that people can possibly have actively (and not merely accidentally) accurate understandings of factual states and relationships.


{{Your reformulation may be more precise, but it is a gross distortion of what I was saying.}}

Pardon me, then, for suggesting that you might be capable of doing anything more than merely saying that some things “are true”. {s} My “at least some propositions” leaves open the possibility that you yourself might have some positive and accurate correspondence between your propositions about reality and reality (including final reality, whatever that may be), in a personally responsible and commendable fashion.

If you wish me to close that off...? Then for your own sake, I will refuse to do so. I will, however, point out the consequences of closing that option off.


{{Another example of my point: Evil exists. What that means is that people do evil things.}}

I have no disagreement with that; nor with your followup sentence. (I might or might not have disagreements with your rationale behind those claims, but for the moment that is beside the point.) I do point out that in order to take your second and third sentences seriously, though, whether for agreement or disagreement, I will have to affirm element #1 in regard to the reality you are discussing.


{{Sorry, but I fail to see how your reformulation would lead one to take this argument seriously.}}

Possibly that is because you are trying to reduce it back to ‘some abstraction is roaming around as an entity’; which I already agreed was the wrong way to go about it. Instead of jumping ahead, perhaps you should stick with the claims in progression. In which case, by denying #1, there is no reason at all to continue with any further claims--or with any claims about accuracy of truth claims at all (inasmuch as you expand the topic from ‘final reality’ to reality, period.) As I have noted, this will immediately involve self-refutation on your part, such as in your own claims about what various claims (such as #1) ‘mean’.

You ought at least to be willing to accept element #1 (applied to reality broadly if not particularly??), because you certainly expect readers to grant #1 in your favor: that you may possibly be accurate in your truth claims about reality (broadly and/or particuarly).

JRP

Anonymous said...

jason,
So, for example, you don't believe there is any positive and accurate correspondence between your proposition about what #1 asserts and what #1 asserts? If there is no possibility of that, then why would I pay any attention to you at all, once I realize that?

The original premise stated: “Truth exists.”

I observed that “truth exists” simply means that some things can be said to be true.

This is your reformulation:
Some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between final reality and at least some propositions about final reality exists.

I don’t think your reformulation corresponds to what I said about the original premise “Truth exists.”



I am not especially concerned with defending “a correspondence theory of truth”


Then you should refrain from claiming things like “a true proposition corresponds with final reality.”


I am however concerned with affirming that people can possibly have actively (and not merely accidentally) accurate understandings of factual states and relationships.


People can determine whether or not things are true. Do you agree?




In which case, by denying #1, there is no reason at all to continue with any further claims--or with any claims about accuracy of truth claims at all (inasmuch as you expand the topic from ‘final reality’ to reality, period.) As I have noted, this will immediately involve self-refutation on your part, such as in your own claims about what various claims (such as #1) ‘mean’.



I deny the correspondence conception of truth. That is clearly what you were presenting in your reformulation of #1.
I do not deny that we can say that some things are true. That is all that the original premise #1 “Truth exists” means.

You might find W. Kunne’s book “Conceptions of Truth” to be of some interest. In it is a thorough discussion of the various conceptions (including Object-Corrspondence and Event-Correspondence) of truth.


Randy

Jason Pratt said...

Randy,

{{I don’t think your reformulation corresponds to what I said about the original premise “Truth exists.”}}

Obviously neither did I, or I would not have described my own reformulation, in comparison with “some things can be said to be true”, as “except with more precision”. My previous comment went into more detail about my reformulation’s relationship with the statement “some things can be said to be true”, in terms of how my reformulation of “Truth exists” also improves on the statement “some things can be said to be true”.


The quote from me, with which you began your most recent comment (“So, for example, you don’t believe there is...”), was directed to your claim that my reformulation (identified by you as a correspondence theory of truth) is not true. Replying that you don’t think my reformulation corresponds to what you said about the original premise, is quite beside the point.

Anon: “I don’t believe in the correspondence theory of truth. It is not true.” This was written in regard to my reformulation, thus implying that you don’t believe #1 as reformulated is true. For reference again, my reformulation of element 1 was “Some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between final reality and at least some propositions about final reality exists.”

My subsequent discussion was in context of this: that (apparently) you denied that some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between reality (final or otherwise) and at least some propositions (such as your own propositions, for example) about reality (final or otherwise) exists.

If, however, you did not mean to deny that you could possibly have a positive and accurate correspondent relationship between your own propositions about reality (for example) and reality--then that might be worth clarifying!


{{Then you should refrain from claiming things like “a true proposition corresponds with final reality.”}}

I was simply leaving open the possibility that someone else might show up to formally challenge whether my reformulation was or was not a correspondence theory of truth. (Thus my parenthetical qualifier, which you didn’t bother to include in your quote.) i.e. I’m not interested in debating whether #1 is or is not representative of a correspondence theory of truth.

I do note, however, that the moment you claim that my statement #1 corresponds to one thing and/or not to another, you’ve tacitly affirmed its truth. This can’t help but look a little ironic. {g} I am not very much interested in whether #1 is properly categorized as a correspondence theory of truth; but I am very much interested in your continual tacit affirmation of #1 (at least in regard to your own truth claims.)


{{People can determine whether or not things are true. Do you agree?}}

Considering that you have routinely been making truth claims and expecting me to agree that you might possibly be accurate in making those truth claims, I would say we both agree with that statement. (Assuming by ‘things’ you mean ‘statements’ or ‘claims’ or anyway some active personal affirmation of that sort.)

You could not even possibly be accurate about making any of your own truth claims, though, unless some positive and accurate correspondent relationship between factual reality (at whatever level or levels) and at least some propositions about factual reality (such as your own propositions) exists.

Which (with the focus on “final reality” as a particular topic) is what my #1 stated.

So long as you identify my statement as a correspondence theory of truth and also deny “the correspondence theory of truth” (where that includes all such within that category), then by deductive syllogism you have to be denying my #1 is true. Once you do that, though, there are logical consequences which follow in application to your own attempts at truth claims, too--which you nevertheless expect us to take seriously as being possibly true as to facts.


{{I do not deny that we can say that some things are true.}}

Obviously no one would deny that, who affirms that language can be spoken or typed or whatever. There is a major difference, though, between merely saying that some things are true and “determining whether or not things are true” (as you put it in your question). I can lie, or make raw assertions, all day long, without either of those actions counting as determining whether or not “things are true”.


What you have avoided discussing in your reply (whether on purpose or by accident), is whether you expect me to accept that your own propositions about reality may possibly correspond accurately to reality in a fashion that you are positively responsible for. You obviously do expect me to accept this; but you haven’t yet admitted that you expect me to accept this. I’m going to keep pointing out that you expect me to accept this, though. And I’m going to keep pointing out that every time you expect me to accept that your truth claims may be accurate as the to facts, you’re affirming and not denying my #1.

JRP

Randy said...

Jason,
"I do note, however, that the moment you claim that my statement #1 corresponds to one thing and/or not to another, you’ve tacitly affirmed its truth. This can’t help but look a little ironic. {g}"

What is ironic is that you confuse the notion of one statement corresponding to another statement with the correspondence theory of truth and then try to poke fun at me for using the word "correspondence".

I am not very much interested in whether #1 is properly categorized as a correspondence theory of truth; but I am very much interested in your continual tacit affirmation of #1 (at least in regard to your own truth claims.)

You err in thinking that there is only one conception of truth. The fact that I believe people can make true statements does not require me to accept your faulty concept of what is the truth.


What you have avoided discussing in your reply (whether on purpose or by accident), is whether you expect me to accept that your own propositions about reality may possibly correspond accurately to reality in a fashion that you are positively responsible for. You obviously do expect me to accept this; but you haven’t yet admitted that you expect me to accept this. I’m going to keep pointing out that you expect me to accept this, though. And I’m going to keep pointing out that every time you expect me to accept that your truth claims may be accurate as the to facts, you’re affirming and not denying my #1.


You appear to be oblivious to the fact that there are different conceptions of truth. I would strongly urge you to read the book I recommended. At least it would help you to understand why I reject your version of #1, even if you don't agree with me.

Edward T. Babinski said...

At what point and by what means can a person epistemologically assure themselves that they have arrived at THE truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Have you studied Godel's theorem and how it relates to logic as well as mathematics, and raises questions concerning how any formalized system of truth raises deep underlying questions that that system by itself cannot answer?

Ilíon said...

Ah!

If we can't have the whole truth, then we can't have any truth?

Annie said...

I find it absurd that anyone seriously thinks these mind f*cks PROVE anything about theism or a god.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that something could exist, be immutable, eternal, mental, and superior to the mind, but not be God.

The number two seems to me to be immutable, eternal, and mental in the sense that it is something we use to calculate mathematically. To call it suprerior to the human mind seems to me an inadequate comparison, so I wouldn't affirm 5 of the number 2. But of course, the number two is not God.

So I have serious doubts about this argument.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Anonymous used the 2000 election as an example of eternal and immutable truth, saying (approximately) that George W. Bush was "elected" president. Unfortunately, were that the best arguement for the existence of Absolute Truth, I would be compelled to swell the ranks of the reletavists. Bush was NOT elected president in 2000 - he was installed, in what basically amounted to a coup, by a biased and partisan Supreme Court, in defiance of the actual results of the election (a Gore victory).

Now THAT statement is eternally true.

Joshua Blanchard said...

Three comments.

(1) I do not think this is a legitimate way of defending theism. It seems to amount to a choice. If that's how we want to define the concept of God, then God exists.

(2) For the argument to really work, God has to have no more than the traits ascribed to Truth. If he has more than those characteristics, and furthermore if other things have the characteristics ascribed to Truth, then the argument doesn't necessarily show that God exists.

(3) At best this argument might work as a reductio argument to show how silly the philosophical concept of God is.

Victor Reppert said...

Bob: If "being elected President" means "winning the vote in the Electoral College," which is what the Constitution says, then Bush was elected in 2000. The Constitution says nothing about how the electors are supposed to be selected, just that they decide it.

So it is technically true to say that Bush was elected President in 2000.

Pedantic? Yes.

Jason Pratt said...

P1.) All men are mortal.
P2.) Socrates is a man.
C1.) Socrates is mortal (from P1, P2.)


For the argument to really work, though, Socrates has to have no more than the traits ascribed to all men in P1, and no more than the trait ascribed to him in P2. If he has more than those characteristics, and furthermore if other things have the characteristics ascribed to all men in P1, then the argument doesn't necessarily show that Socrates is mortal.

At best this argument might work as a reductio argument to show how silly the philosophical concept of Socrates' mortality is. Feh! :P

JRP

(PS: or, not. YMMV, as they say on the internets. {g})

Hiero5ant said...

Two guys come across a box by the side of the road. It appears to be empty except for a stone sitting on the bottom.

The first guy says, "there is one thing in the box." The other guy says, "no, there is a stone in the box, and there is sitting in the box, so in fact there are two things."

I suppose the second guy would find the premise "truth exists" to be plausible, too.

UnBeguiled said...

Four guys come across a box by the side of the road. It appears to be empty except for two stones sitting on the bottom.

The first guy says there are two stones in the box. The second guy says there are three things in the box: stone one, stone two, and a pair of stones. The third guy says the second guy is nearly right, there are three things in the box: stone one, stone two, and the fact that there are two stones in the box. The fourth guy says there are four things in the box: stone one, stone two, the fact that there are two stones, and the fact that the fact about the stones is true.

Anonymous said...

Victor Reppert wrote:

"It seems to me that something could exist, be immutable, eternal, mental, and superior to the mind, but not be God.

The number two seems to me to be immutable, eternal, and mental in the sense that it is something we use to calculate mathematically. To call it suprerior to the human mind seems to me an inadequate comparison, so I wouldn't affirm 5 of the number 2. But of course, the number two is not God.

So I have serious doubts about this argument."

This, however, assumes abstract objects exist, which is highly debatable. For example, see here - http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5985

Doug Benscoter said...

Dr. Reppert, I wrote a similar piece here: http://dougbenscoter.blogspot.com/2009/08/augustinian-influence-on-gordon-clark.html

My view on the matter is that the objectivity of truth would give us something like the God of Plato (an abstract Form) - that is, unless truth is necessarily a concept of the mind. If we defend a form of conceptualism, which is alluded to in premise (4) of your argument, then we have the tools for a theistic argument (and not merely a Platonic one).

What would result is not that God is identical to truth per se, but that truth must be grounded in the mind of God. This, I think, is immune to any of the parodies common to broader ontological arguments. We might reformulate the argument as follows:

1. Truth is either contingent, necessary and mind-independent, or a necessary concept of the mind.
2. Truth is not contingent or mind-independent.
3. Therefore, truth is a necessary concept of the mind.

(3) would imply theism once it is in conjunction with the premise that truth cannot be the concept of just any mind. For, the minds of contingent beings (like you and I) do not exist by necessity (true by definition). This means that truth must be the concept of a necessary mind, e.g. God.

Jason Pratt said...

Hiero, UnB, and Anon:

Actually, I agree with the thrust of Hiero and UnB's criticisms (and Anon's suspicion that abstractions don't have supernal existence).

Which is why I suggested a substantial revision of the argument (hypothetically employing 3rdAnon's relational definition of truth) back here, up above in this thread.

JRP

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me how 'being true' is a natural property?

Another words--->“It is true that snow is white” does NOT express the same thing as the assertion U: “Snow is white.” U is an assertion about the state of affairs in the world; namely, snow being white. T is not directly about snow. Rather, T is a statement about an assertion—U itself—and says of U that it has truth."

jreb said...

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