TOK. Lecture 4: The nature and value of truth. What is truth?. Like the questions “What is knowledge?” and “What turns a true belief into knowledge?” asked in lectures 2 & 3, the question “What is truth?” is a conceptual question.. ID: 241838
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Theory of KnowledgeTOK
Lecture 4: The nature and value of truthSlide2
What is truth?
Like the questions “What is knowledge?” and “What turns a true belief into knowledge?” asked in lectures 2 & 3, the question “What is truth?” is a conceptual question.
We can’t answering it by drawing up a list of truths.
Rather, we need to work out what conditions need to be met for a statement or belief to count as true.Slide3
The democratic theory of truth
The democratic theory says that a statement or belief is true if and only if everyone (or at least the majority of people) take it to be true
Problems with the democratic theory:
Couldn’t everyone believe something that was false?
this theory lead
Relativism about truth is
idea that a statement could be true for one individual (or the members of one group) but false for another individual (or the members of another group).
Do we want to say that a statement is true for the members of a given cultural group if and only if all (or the majority of the)
of that group take it to be true
The pragmatic theory of truth
The pragmatic theory of truth says that a statement is true if and only if a person’s believing it helps them to achieve one or more of their goals.
Leads to relativism: the idea that statements could be true for one person but not for another.
Problematic for other reasons
there seem to be
many false statements such that
believing them will help someone achieve one of their goals.
A belief that “
The job interview is at 10am” when it is really at 10:30am, and the bus that would get me to the interview by 10:20am has broken down.
A belief that “
There are no cigarettes in the glove-box of my car” when there are cigarettes in the glove-box of my car, and I want to quit smoking.Slide5
The coherence theory of truth
The coherence theory of truth says that a belief is true if and only if it coheres with (fits into) a coherent system of belief.
Like the pragmatic theory, the coherence theory of truth seems to lead to relativism
Couldn’t my belief system be just as coherent as yours despite the fact that we believe different things?
This may be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage depending on where you stand vis-à-vis relativism.
The coherence theory is also
susceptible to the “coherent fairy story” objection
Couldn’t my beliefs cohere with each other despite the fact that my belief system as a whole bears no (or very little) relation to reality?Slide6
The correspondence theory of truth
theory says that a statement or belief is true if and only if it corresponds to (matches up with/agrees with) reality.
Seems to line up pretty well with our common-sense ideas about truth.
Seems to match up to what scientists mean by “truth”.
It is not really clear what it is for a statement (a chunk of language) to correspond to – or fit with - a state of affairs (a chunk of reality).Slide7
The value of truth
According the late 19
Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, truth has become something of a religion for
modern, western man.
Nietzsche claims that
modern man has killed God (that’s OK, we created him anyway) and erected truth in the place of God.
Nietzsche is at least right about our placing great value on truth.
But, isn’t Nietzsche wrong about our love for truth being akin to a religion?
Calling it a religion makes it sound irrational.
But isn’t the value we place on truth completely rational?Slide8
Truths that are clearly valuable
A true belief about the location of one’s car keys is clearly better than a false one.
A true belief about the location of the ATM machine is clearly better than a false one.
A true belief about the weather is clearly better than a false one.Slide9
Truths that are clearly detrimental
But hang on, doesn’t it depend on the context?
A true belief about the location of one’s car keys
could be worse than a false one if you are drunk.
A true belief about the location of the ATM machine
could be worse than a false one if you are a compulsive gambler on a gambling binge.
Could a false belief about the weather ever be better than a true one?Slide10
The Oppenheimer problem
seems to be very good at uncovering truths about the natural world.
Sometimes we assume that scientific truths are so valuable that uncovering them has to be a good thing.
Oppenheimer, the scientist whose work made nuclear weapons possible, came to doubt this idea.
What do you think?Slide11
Journal entries for this week
Which theory of truth do you think is the best, and why?Slide12
Discussion questions for this week
Is the fact that a theory of truth leads to relativis
m an advantage or a disadvantage of that theory?
Can you think of another case in which a false belief is more advantageous than a true one?
Should scientists think about the possible consequences of their work? Or, should scientists be motivated solely by a desire to uncover truths about the workings of the natural world?Slide13
Reading for next week
Theory of Knowledge Course Companion
from the beginning of chapter 2, How do we know? (page 31), to the end of the section on sense perception (top of page 32)Slide14Slide15Slide16Slide17Slide18Slide19
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