Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Truth is also sometimes defined in modern contexts as an idea of "truth to self", or authenticity.
Truth is usually held to be opposite to falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also suggest a logical, factual, or ethical meaning. The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy, art, theology, and science. Most human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life. Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. To some, truth is viewed as the correspondence of language or thought to an independent reality, in what is sometimes called the correspondence theory of truth.
Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians. Language is a means by which humans convey information to one another. The method used to determine whether something is a truth is termed a criterion of truth. There are varying stances on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define, identify, and distinguish truth; what roles do faith and empirical knowledge play; and whether truth can be subjective or if it is objective in other words, relative truth versus absolute truth.
1. Definition and etymology
The English word truth is derived from Old English triewþ, treowþ, trywþ, Middle English trewþe, cognate to Old High German triuwida, Old Norse tryggd. Like troth, it is a -th nominalisation of the adjective true Old English treowe.
The English word true is from Old English West Saxon getriewe, treowe, cognate to Old Saxon gitrûui, Old High German gatriuwu Modern German treu "faithful", Old Norse tryggr, Gothic triggws, all from a Proto-Germanic *trewwj- "having good faith", perhaps ultimately from PIE *dru- "tree", on the notion of "steadfast as an oak" e.g., Sanskrit "taru" tree. Old Norse tru, "faith, word of honour; religious faith, belief".
Thus, truth involves both the quality of "faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, veracity", and that of "agreement with fact or reality", in Anglo-Saxon expressed by sōþ Modern English sooth.
All Germanic languages besides English have introduced a terminological distinction between truth "fidelity" and truth "factuality". To express "factuality", North Germanic opted for nouns derived from sanna "to assert, affirm", while continental West Germanic German and Dutch opted for continuations of wara "faith, trust, pact" cognate to Slavic vera "religious faith", but influenced by Latin verus). Romance languages use terms following the Latin veritas, while the Greek aletheia, Russian pravda, South Slavic istina and Sanskrit sat have separate etymological origins.
2. Major theories
The question of what is a proper basis for deciding how words, symbols, ideas and beliefs may properly be considered true, whether by a single person or an entire society, is dealt with by the five most prevalent substantive theories of truth listed below. Each presents perspectives that are widely shared by published scholars.
Theories other than the most prevalent substantive theories are also discussed. More recently developed "deflationary" or "minimalist" theories of truth have emerged as possible alternatives to the most prevalent substantive theories. Minimalist reasoning centres around the notion that the application of a term like true to a statement does not assert anything significant about it, for instance, anything about its nature. Minimalist reasoning realises truth as a label utilised in general discourse to express agreement, to stress claims, or to form general assumptions.
2.1. Major theories Correspondence
Correspondence theories emphasise that true beliefs and true statements correspond to the actual state of affairs. This type of theory stresses a relationship between thoughts or statements on one hand, and things or objects on the other. It is a traditional model tracing its origins to ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. This class of theories holds that the truth or the falsity of a representation is determined in principle entirely by how it relates to "things" by whether it accurately describes those "things". A classic example of correspondence theory is the statement by the thirteenth century philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas: "Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus" "Truth is the adequation of things and intellect", which Aquinas attributed to the ninth century Neoplatonist Isaac Israeli. Aquinas also restated the theory as: "A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality".
Correspondence theory centres heavily around the assumption that truth is a matter of accurately copying what is known as "objective reality" and then representing it in thoughts, words and other symbols. Many modern theorists have stated that this ideal cannot be achieved without analysing additional factors. For example, language plays a role in that all languages have words to represent concepts that are virtually undefined in other languages. The German word Zeitgeist is one such example: one who speaks or understands the language may "know" what it means, but any translation of the word apparently fails to accurately capture its full meaning this is a problem with many abstract words, especially those derived in agglutinative languages. Thus, some words add an additional parameter to the construction of an accurate truth predicate. Among the philosophers who grappled with this problem is Alfred Tarski, whose semantic theory is summarized further below in this article.
Proponents of several of the theories below have gone further to assert that there are yet other issues necessary to the analysis, such as interpersonal power struggles, community interactions, personal biases and other factors involved in deciding what is seen as truth.
2.2. Major theories Coherence
For coherence theories in general, truth requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system. Very often, though, coherence is taken to imply something more than simple logical consistency; often there is a demand that the propositions in a coherent system lend mutual inferential support to each other. So, for example, the completeness and comprehensiveness of the underlying set of concepts is a critical factor in judging the validity and usefulness of a coherent system. A pervasive tenet of coherence theories is the idea that truth is primarily a property of whole systems of propositions, and can be ascribed to individual propositions only according to their coherence with the whole. Among the assortment of perspectives commonly regarded as coherence theory, theorists differ on the question of whether coherence entails many possible true systems of thought or only a single absolute system.
Some variants of coherence theory are claimed to describe the essential and intrinsic properties of formal systems in logic and mathematics. However, formal reasoners are content to contemplate axiomatically independent and sometimes mutually contradictory systems side by side, for example, the various alternative geometries. On the whole, coherence theories have been rejected for lacking justification in their application to other areas of truth, especially with respect to assertions about the natural world, empirical data in general, assertions about practical matters of psychology and society, especially when used without support from the other major theories of truth.
Coherence theories distinguish the thought of rationalist philosophers, particularly of Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, along with the British philosopher F. H. Bradley. They have found a resurgence also among several proponents of logical positivism, notably Otto Neurath and Carl Hempel.
2.3. Major theories Pragmatic
The three most influential forms of the pragmatic theory of truth were introduced around the turn of the 20th century by Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Although there are wide differences in viewpoint among these and other proponents of pragmatic theory, they hold in common that truth is verified and confirmed by the results of putting ones concepts into practice.
Peirce defines truth as follows: "Truth is that concordance of an abstract statement with the ideal limit towards which endless investigation would tend to bring scientific belief, which concordance the abstract statement may possess by virtue of the confession of its inaccuracy and one-sidedness, and this confession is an essential ingredient of truth." This statement stresses Peirces view that ideas of approximation, incompleteness, and partiality, what he describes elsewhere as fallibilism and "reference to the future", are essential to a proper conception of truth. Although Peirce uses words like concordance and correspondence to describe one aspect of the pragmatic sign relation, he is also quite explicit in saying that definitions of truth based on mere correspondence are no more than nominal definitions, which he accords a lower status than real definitions.
William Jamess version of pragmatic theory, while complex, is often summarized by his statement that "the true is only the expedient in our way of thinking, just as the right is only the expedient in our way of behaving." By this, James meant that truth is a quality, the value of which is confirmed by its effectiveness when applying concepts to practice thus, "pragmatic".
John Dewey, less broadly than James but more broadly than Peirce, held that inquiry, whether scientific, technical, sociological, philosophical or cultural, is self-corrective over time if openly submitted for testing by a community of inquirers in order to clarify, justify, refine and/or refute proposed truths.
Though not widely known, a new variation of the pragmatic theory was defined and wielded successfully from the 20th century forward. Defined and named by William Ernest Hocking, this variation is known as "negative pragmatism". Essentially, what works may or may not be true, but what fails cannot be true because the truth always works. Richard Feynman also ascribed to it: "We never are definitely right, we can only be sure we are wrong." This approach incorporates many of the ideas from Peirce, James, and Dewey. For Peirce, the idea of ". endless investigation would tend to bring about scientific belief." fits negative pragmatism in that a negative pragmatist would never stop testing. As Feynman noted, an idea or theory ". could never be proved right, because tomorrows experiment might succeed in proving wrong what you thought was right." Similarly, James and Deweys ideas also ascribe truth to repeated testing which is "self-corrective" over time.
Pragmatism and negative pragmatism are also closely aligned with the coherence theory of truth in that any testing should not be isolated but rather incorporate knowledge from all human endeavors and experience. The universe is a whole and integrated system, and testing should acknowledge and account for its diversity. As Feynman said, ". if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong."
2.4. Major theories Constructivist
Social constructivism holds that truth is constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific, and that it is in part shaped through the power struggles within a community. Constructivism views all of our knowledge as "constructed," because it does not reflect any external "transcendent" realities as a pure correspondence theory might hold. Rather, perceptions of truth are viewed as contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender, are socially constructed.
Giambattista Vico was among the first to claim that history and culture were man-made. Vicos epistemological orientation gathers the most diverse rays and unfolds in one axiom - verum ipsum factum - "truth itself is constructed". Hegel and Marx were among the other early proponents of the premise that truth is, or can be, socially constructed. Marx, like many critical theorists who followed, did not reject the existence of objective truth but rather distinguished between true knowledge and knowledge that has been distorted through power or ideology. For Marx, scientific and true knowledge is "in accordance with the dialectical understanding of history" and ideological knowledge is "an epiphenomenal expression of the relation of material forces in a given economic arrangement".
2.5. Major theories Consensus
Consensus theory holds that truth is whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group. Such a group might include all human beings, or a subset thereof consisting of more than one person.
Among the current advocates of consensus theory as a useful accounting of the concept of "truth" is the philosopher Jurgen Habermas. Habermas maintains that truth is what would be agreed upon in an ideal speech situation. Among the current strong critics of consensus theory is the philosopher Nicholas Rescher.
In the Islamic tradition, this principle is exemplified by the hadith in which Muhammad states, "My community will never agree upon an error"
2.6. Major theories Deflationary
Modern developments in the field of philosophy, starting with the relatively modern notion that a theory being old does not necessarily imply that it is completely flawless, have resulted in the rise of a new thesis: that the term truth does not denote a real property of sentences or propositions. This thesis is in part a response to the common use of truth predicates e.g., that some particular thing ".is true" which was particularly prevalent in philosophical discourse on truth in the first half of the 20th century. From this point of view, to assert that "2 + 2 = 4 is true" is logically equivalent to asserting that "2 + 2 = 4", and the phrase "is true" is completely dispensable in this and every other context. In common parlance, truth predicates are not commonly heard, and it would be interpreted as an unusual occurrence were someone to utilise a truth predicate in an everyday conversation when asserting that something is true. Newer perspectives that take this discrepancy into account and work with sentence structures that are actually employed in common discourse can be broadly described:
as disquotational theories, to draw attention to the disappearance of the quotation marks in cases like the above example, or
as minimalist theories of truth.
as deflationary theories of truth, since they attempt to deflate the presumed importance of the words "true" or truth,
Whichever term is used, deflationary theories can be said to hold in common that Its true that. is to agree with, accept, or endorse the statement that its raining."
2.7. Major theories Redundancy and related
According to the redundancy theory of truth, asserting that a statement is true is completely equivalent to asserting the statement itself. For example, making the assertion that Snow is white is true" is equivalent to asserting "Snow is white". Redundancy theorists infer from this premise that truth is a redundant concept; that is, it is merely a word that is traditionally used in conversation or writing, generally for emphasis, but not a word that actually equates to anything in reality. This theory is commonly attributed to Frank P. Ramsey, who held that the use of words like fact and truth was nothing but a roundabout way of asserting a proposition, and that treating these words as separate problems in isolation from judgment was merely a "linguistic muddle".
A variant of redundancy theory is the disquotational theory which uses a modified form of Tarskis schema: To say that "P" is true is to say that P. A version of this theory was defended by C. J. F. Williams in his book What is Truth? Yet another version of deflationism is the prosentential theory of truth, first developed by Dorothy Grover, Joseph Camp, and Nuel Belnap as an elaboration of Ramseys claims. They argue that sentences like "Thats true", when said in response to "Its raining", are prosentences, expressions that merely repeat the content of other expressions. In the same way that it means the same as my dog in the sentence My dog was hungry, so I fed it, Thats true is supposed to mean the same as Its raining - if you say the latter and I then say the former. These variations do not necessarily follow Ramsey in asserting that truth is not a property, but rather can be understood to say that, for instance, the assertion "P" may well involve a substantial truth, and the theorists in this case are minimizing only the redundancy or prosentence involved in the statement such as "thats true."
Deflationary principles do not apply to representations that are not analogous to sentences, and also do not apply to many other things that are commonly judged to be true or otherwise. Consider the analogy between the sentence "Snow is white" and the character named Snow White, both of which can be true in some sense. To a minimalist, saying "Snow is white is true" is the same as saying "Snow is white," but to say "Snow White is true" is not the same as saying "Snow White."
2.8. Major theories Philosophical skepticism
Philosophical skepticism is generally any questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of knowledge or belief which ascribe truth to their assertions and propositions. It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality moral skepticism, religion skepticism about the existence of God, or knowledge skepticism about the possibility of knowledge, or of certainty. Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.
Philosophical skepticism comes in various forms. Radical forms of skepticism deny that knowledge or rational belief is possible and urge us to suspend judgment regarding ascription of truth on many or all controversial matters. More moderate forms of skepticism claim only that nothing can be known with certainty, or that we can know little or nothing about the "big questions" in life, such as whether God exists or whether there is an afterlife. Religious skepticism is "doubt concerning basic religious principles ". Scientific skepticism concerns testing beliefs for reliability, by subjecting them to systematic investigation using the scientific method, to discover empirical evidence for them.
2.9. Major theories Pluralist
Several of the major theories of truth hold that there is a particular property the having of which makes a belief or proposition true. Pluralist theories of truth assert that there may be more than one property that makes propositions true: ethical propositions might be true by virtue of coherence. Propositions about the physical world might be true by corresponding to the objects and properties they are about.
Some of the pragmatic theories, such as those by Charles Peirce and William James, included aspects of correspondence, coherence and constructivist theories. Crispin Wright argued in his 1992 book Truth and Objectivity that any predicate which satisfied certain platitudes about truth qualified as a truth predicate. In some discourses, Wright argued, the role of the truth predicate might be played by the notion of superassertibility. Michael Lynch, in a 2009 book Truth as One and Many, argued that we should see truth as a functional property capable of being multiply manifested in distinct properties like correspondence or coherence.
2.10. Major theories Most-believed
According to a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views which was carried out in November 2009 taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students 45% of respondents accept or lean towards correspondence theories, 21% accept or lean towards deflationary theories and 14% epistemic theories.
3.1. Formal theories Logic
Logic is concerned with the patterns in reason that can help tell us if a proposition is true or not. Logicians use formal languages to express the truths which they are concerned with, and as such there is only truth under some interpretation or truth within some logical system.
A logical truth also called an analytic truth or a necessary truth is a statement which is true in all possible worlds or under all possible interpretations, as contrasted to a fact also called a synthetic claim or a contingency which is only true in this world as it has historically unfolded. A proposition such as "If p and q, then p" is considered to be a logical truth because of the meaning of the symbols and words in it and not because of any fact of any particular world. They are such that they could not be untrue.
Degrees of truth in logic may be represented using two or more discrete values, as with bivalent logic or binary logic, three-valued logic, and other forms of finite-valued logic. Truth in logic can be represented using numbers comprising a continuous range, typically between 0 and 1, as with fuzzy logic and other forms of infinite-valued logic. In general, the concept of representing truth using more than two values is known as many-valued logic.
3.2. Formal theories Mathematics
There are two main approaches to truth in mathematics. They are the model theory of truth and the proof theory of truth.
Historically, with the nineteenth century development of Boolean algebra mathematical models of logic began to treat "truth", also represented as "T" or "1", as an arbitrary constant. "Falsity" is also an arbitrary constant, which can be represented as "F" or "0". In propositional logic, these symbols can be manipulated according to a set of axioms and rules of inference, often given in the form of truth tables.
In addition, from at least the time of Hilberts program at the turn of the twentieth century to the proof of Godels incompleteness theorems and the development of the Church–Turing thesis in the early part of that century, true statements in mathematics were generally assumed to be those statements that are provable in a formal axiomatic system.
The works of Kurt Godel, Alan Turing, and others shook this assumption, with the development of statements that are true but cannot be proven within the system. Two examples of the latter can be found in Hilberts problems. Work on Hilberts 10th problem led in the late twentieth century to the construction of specific Diophantine equations for which it is undecidable whether they have a solution, or even if they do, whether they have a finite or infinite number of solutions. More fundamentally, Hilberts first problem was on the continuum hypothesis. Godel and Paul Cohen showed that this hypothesis cannot be proved or disproved using the standard axioms of set theory. In the view of some, then, it is equally reasonable to take either the continuum hypothesis or its negation as a new axiom.
Reconsidered assumptions about the essence of truth arose in the wake of Godels incompleteness theorems. Martin Heidegger pointed out that truth may be essentially a matter of letting beings entities of any kind, which can include logical propositions be free to reveal themselves as they are, and stated:
Truth” is not a feature of correct propositions which are asserted of an" object” by a human" subject” and then are" valid” somewhere, in what sphere we know not. Rather, truth is disclosure of beings through which an openness essentially unfolds.
Godel agreed that the ability to perceive the truth of a mathematical or logical proposition is a matter of intuition, an ability he admitted could be ultimately beyond the scope of a formal theory of logic or mathematics and perhaps best considered in the realm of human comprehension and communication, but commented:
The more I think about language, the more it amazes me that people ever understand each other at all.
3.3. Formal theories Tarskis semantics
The semantic theory of truth has as its general case for a given language:
P is true if and only if P
where P refers to the sentence the sentences name, and P is just the sentence itself.
Tarskis theory of truth named after Alfred Tarski was developed for formal languages, such as formal logic. Here he restricted it in this way: no language could contain its own truth predicate, that is, the expression is true could only apply to sentences in some other language. The latter he called an object language, the language being talked about. The reason for his restriction was that languages that contain their own truth predicate will contain paradoxical sentences such as, "This sentence is not true". As a result, Tarski held that the semantic theory could not be applied to any natural language, such as English, because they contain their own truth predicates. Donald Davidson used it as the foundation of his truth-conditional semantics and linked it to radical interpretation in a form of coherentism.
Bertrand Russell is credited with noticing the existence of such paradoxes even in the best symbolic formations of mathematics in his day, in particular the paradox that came to be named after him, Russells paradox. Russell and Whitehead attempted to solve these problems in Principia Mathematica by putting statements into a hierarchy of types, wherein a statement cannot refer to itself, but only to statements lower in the hierarchy. This in turn led to new orders of difficulty regarding the precise natures of types and the structures of conceptually possible type systems that have yet to be resolved to this day.
3.4. Formal theories Kripkes semantics
Kripkes theory of truth named after Saul Kripke contends that a natural language can in fact contain its own truth predicate without giving rise to contradiction. He showed how to construct one as follows:
Next, define truth for all sentences that predicate truth or falsity of a member of the second set. Imagine this process repeated infinitely, so that truth is defined for The barn is big ; then for The barn is big is true"; then for The barn is big is true is true", and so on.
Then extend the definition of truth to include sentences that predicate truth or falsity of one of the original subset of sentences. So The barn is big is true" is now included, but not either This sentence is false" nor The barn is big is true is true".
Begin with a subset of sentences of a natural language that contains no occurrences of the expression "is true" or "is false". So The barn is big is included in the subset, but not The barn is big is true", nor problematic sentences such as This sentence is false".
Define truth just for the sentences in that subset.
Notice that truth never gets defined for sentences like This sentence is false, since it was not in the original subset and does not predicate truth of any sentence in the original or any subsequent set. In Kripkes terms, these are "ungrounded." Since these sentences are never assigned either truth or falsehood even if the process is carried out infinitely, Kripkes theory implies that some sentences are neither true nor false. This contradicts the principle of bivalence: every sentence must be either true or false. Since this principle is a key premise in deriving the liar paradox, the paradox is dissolved.
However, it has been shown by Godel that self-reference cannot be avoided naively, since propositions about seemingly unrelated objects can have an informal self-referential meaning; in Godels work, these objects are integer numbers, and they have an informal meaning regarding propositions. In fact, this idea - manifested by the diagonal lemma - is the basis for Tarskis theorem that truth cannot be consistently defined.
It has thus been claimed that Kripkes system indeed leads to contradiction: while its truth predicate is only partial, it does give truth value true/false to propositions such as the one built in Tarskis proof, and is therefore inconsistent. While there is still a debate on whether Tarskis proof can be implemented to every similar partial truth system, none have been shown to be consistent by acceptable methods used in mathematical logic.
4. Folk beliefs
The truth predicate P is true" has great practical value in human language, allowing us to efficiently endorse or impeach claims made by others, to emphasize the truth or falsity of a statement, or to enable various indirect Gricean conversational implications. Individuals or societies will sometime punish "false" statements to deter falsehoods; the oldest surviving law text, the Code of Ur-Nammu, lists penalties for false accusations of sorcery or adultery, as well as for committing perjury in court. Even four-year-old children can pass simple "false belief" tests and successfully assess that another individuals belief diverges from reality in a specific way; by adulthood we have strong implicit intuitions about "truth" that form a "folk theory" of truth. These intuitions include:
Capture T -in: If P, then P is true
Normativity: It is usually good to believe what is true
Noncontradiction: A statement cant be both true and false
False beliefs: The notion that believing a statement doesnt necessarily make it true
Release T -out: If P is true, then P
Like many folk theories, our folk theory of truth is useful in everyday life but, upon deep analysis, turns out to be technically self-contradictory; in particular, any formal system that fully obeys Capture and Release semantics for truth also known as the T-schema, and that also respects classical logic, is provably inconsistent and succumbs to the liar paradox or to a similar contradiction.
5.1. Notable views Ancient history
The ancient Greek origins of the words "true" and "truth" have some consistent definitions throughout great spans of history that were often associated with topics of logic, geometry, mathematics, deduction, induction, and natural philosophy.
Socrates, Platos and Aristotles ideas about truth are seen by some as consistent with correspondence theory. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated: "To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy proceeds to say of Aristotle:
Separately Nietzsche suggested that an ancient, metaphysical belief in the divinity of Truth lies at the heart of and has served as the foundation for the entire subsequent Western intellectual tradition: "But you will have gathered what I am getting at, namely, that it is still a metaphysical faith on which our faith in science rests - that even we knowers of today, we godless anti-metaphysicians still take our fire too, from the flame lit by the thousand-year old faith, the Christian faith which was also Platos faith, that God is Truth; that Truth is Divine."
5.2. Notable views Heidegger 1889–1976
Other philosophers take this common meaning to be secondary and derivative. According to Martin Heidegger, the original meaning and essence of truth in Ancient Greece was unconcealment, or the revealing or bringing of what was previously hidden into the open, as indicated by the original Greek term for truth, aletheia. On this view, the conception of truth as correctness is a later derivation from the concepts original essence, a development Heidegger traces to the Latin term veritas.
5.3. Notable views Whitehead 1861–1947
Alfred North Whitehead, a British mathematician who became an American philosopher, said: "There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil".
The logical progression or connection of this line of thought is to conclude that truth can lie, since half-truths are deceptive and may lead to a false conclusion.
5.4. Notable views Peirce 1839–1914
Pragmatists like C. S. Peirce take truth to have some manner of essential relation to human practices for inquiring into and discovering truth, with Peirce himself holding that truth is what human inquiry would find out on a matter, if our practice of inquiry were taken as far as it could profitably go: "The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate, is what we mean by the truth."
5.5. Notable views Nishida 1870–1945
According to Kitaro Nishida, "knowledge of things in the world begins with the differentiation of unitary consciousness into knower and known and ends with self and things becoming one again. Such unification takes form not only in knowing but in the valuing of truth that directs knowing, the willing that directs action, and the feeling or emotive reach that directs sensing."
5.6. Notable views Fromm 1900–1980
Erich Fromm finds that trying to discuss truth as "absolute truth" is sterile and that emphasis ought to be placed on "optimal truth". He considers truth as stemming from the survival imperative of grasping ones environment physically and intellectually, whereby young children instinctively seek truth so as to orient themselves in "a strange and powerful world". The accuracy of their perceived approximation of the truth will therefore have direct consequences on their ability to deal with their environment. Fromm can be understood to define truth as a functional approximation of reality. His vision of optimal truth is described partly in "Man from Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics" 1947, from which excerpts are included below.
the dichotomy between absolute = perfect and relative = imperfect has been superseded in all fields of scientific thought, where "it is generally recognized that there is no absolute truth but nevertheless that there are objectively valid laws and principles". In that respect, "a scientifically or rationally valid statement means that the power of reason is applied to all the available data of observation without any of them being suppressed or falsified for the sake of a desired result". The history of science is "a history of inadequate and incomplete statements, and every new insight makes possible the recognition of the inadequacies of previous propositions and offers a springboard for creating a more adequate formulation." As a result "the history of thought is the history of an ever-increasing approximation to the truth. Scientific knowledge is not absolute but optimal; it contains the optimum of truth attainable in a given historical period." Fromm furthermore notes that "different cultures have emphasized various aspects of the truth" and that increasing interaction between cultures allows for these aspects to reconcile and integrate, increasing further the approximation to the truth.
5.7. Notable views Foucault 1926–1984
Truth, says Michel Foucault, is problematic when any attempt is made to see truth as an "objective" quality. He prefers not to use the term truth itself but "Regimes of Truth". In his historical investigations he found truth to be something that was itself a part of, or embedded within, a given power structure. Thus Foucaults view shares much in common with the concepts of Nietzsche. Truth for Foucault is also something that shifts through various episteme throughout history.
5.8. Notable views Baudrillard 1929–2007
Jean Baudrillard considered truth to be largely simulated, that is pretending to have something, as opposed to dissimulation, pretending to not have something. He took his cue from iconoclasts who he claims knew that images of God demonstrated that God did not exist. Baudrillard wrote in "Precession of the Simulacra":
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth - it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. - Ecclesiastes
Some examples of simulacra that Baudrillard cited were: that prisons simulate the "truth" that society is free; scandals e.g., Watergate simulate that corruption is corrected; Disney simulates that the U.S. itself is an adult place. One must remember that though such examples seem extreme, such extremity is an important part of Baudrillards theory. For a less extreme example, consider how movies usually end with the bad being punished, humiliated, or otherwise failing, thus affirming for viewers the concept that the good end happily and the bad unhappily, a narrative which implies that the status quo and established power structures are largely legitimate.
6. In medicine and psychiatry
There is controversy as to the truth value of a proposition made in bad faith self-deception, such as when a hypochondriac has a complaint with no physical symptom.