Epistemology

In Defense of Correspondence

I don’t know from where I got the following argument. I’m not even sure it’s any good. Here it is anyway.

Some preamble: There are three broad theories of truth. According to a correspondence theory of truth, a statement is true if and only if it in some way corresponds to, or is in harmony with, a state of affairs. In contrast, a coherence theory suggests that a statement is true iff it does not contradict other statements which are part of a set of statements. Finally, according to a pragmatic theory of truth, statements are true when they are useful/beneficial when believed. 

Now, here’s the argument.

Assume that the correspondence theory is false. Then the following statement must then be false: 

a statement is true if and only if it corresponds to state of affairs

However, if false, it cannot be because it does not correspond to reality (since, according to the statement, the correspondence theory is false). If it is not false because it does not correspond to reality, then it must be false because it does not cohere with other beliefs or because it has no utility. 

However, it does have utility (it is the basic assumption of most people making claims. It would also be very useful in this case – discerning the best theory of truth). It is also consistent with a set of beliefs that includes a coherence theory of truth. 

Thus, it must be false because it does not correspond to reality. 

But now we have a contradiction. Thus, the correspondence theory of truth is true!

Of course, the options provided don’t exhaust the possible theories one could adopt. One might be a deflationist about truth. Nonetheless, it packs a punch against traditional theories. Or, does it? What objections can one raise?

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.

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