What Is Truth?

In commenting on a recent post, our reader and commenter Addofio, parsing the distinction between truth and opinion, says that “it all depends on what we mean by ‘true'”. Kevin Kim takes a good preliminary poke at the question over at his place.

Or, as my friend Anthony Bouza once explained it, in closing a commencement address:

Beauty is Truth,
and Truth is Beauty;

As Addofio says, it all depends.

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  1. Kevin Kim says

    Gracias para el link. Your take?


    Posted December 8, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Well, I must quibble about your example of the horse. Both propositions: “a horse is an an animal” and “a horse is a mammalian quadruped” are true, and I wouldn’t say, as you did, that the second is “truer” than the first. If truth is found in a proposition’s having a “truthmaking” fact in the actual world, then both are equally true.

    I will say, though — and this view has got me into some hot water over at You-Know-Who’s place — that propositions like “a horse is an animal” are not true or false at all in the absence of a mind to assign meanings to the terms involved.

    But now I see that Bob Koepp has made the same point in your comments thread, so I might just jump in over there.

    Posted December 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    By the way, here’s Tony Bouza on YouTube. He and his wife Erica have been friends of ours for the past fifteen years or so; they spend their summers in Wellfleet.

    He’s quite a character, and has had quite a life. Remember the movie Fort Apache, The Bronx? Tony was the Bronx’s police commander during those years.

    Posted December 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  4. Kevin Kim says


    Thanks. Re: the horse example, I offered a response to Bob on that point. I tend to think that calling both propositions equally true obscures the fact that one is a slightly more comprehensive description than the other.

    I think it follows that truth is dependent on minds if we grant that truth is the relationship between a proposition and reality. And yes, minds are what provide definitions: horses probably don’t go around thinking, “I am an animal.” Horses are just horse-ing, as some Zennists would say.


    Posted December 8, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink