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Correspondence Theory Notes

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This is an extract of our Correspondence Theory document, which we sell as part of our Metaphysics Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge students.

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Are there any areas of discourse for which a correspondence theory of truth is satisfactory?
In this essay, I will argue that criticisms surrounding the correspondence theory of truth tend to focus entirely on the correctness of conceptual schemes. From this I will argue that if we invoke Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions, and consider the former satisfactory once a conceptual scheme is satisfactory, we see that correspondence theory is, at least at this stage, an adequate tool for discourse about truth. I ought first to say that to assert something's truthfulness, one means that it corresponds with the relevant facts, seems an intuitively strong hypothesis. However, the debates surrounding the correspondence theory of truth rather centre around the question of whether it actually is a theory of truth. In other words; does it actually do any work? I doubt many would argue against the claim that truth, in some sense, means correspondence with facts; however this alone does not necessitate that it in any way elucidates the concept. Rather, it provides us with a synonym. In the same way that explaining that a composer is a songsmith doesn't clarify any better what it is to be a composer, to call truth correspondence with facts doesn't clarify what it is for something to be true. One thing correspondence theory does tell us is something that I think we would intuit anyway; that truth appears to be in some sense dyadic, in terms of the relationship between truth-bearers and facts. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem to key us in to the meaning of 'truth'. For correspondence theory to be taken seriously it requires that "corresponds with the facts" is something more than just a long-winded synonym for "truth". It must introduce some relation to worldly elements; to things we call facts. However, it is difficult to see how this could be done. Firstly, there's the problem of representation. This stems from Berkley's famous remark that "an idea can resemble nothing but another idea". Whereas Locke claimed that ideas represent things outside the mind, Berkley asked how one could possibly know such a thing. One could not possibly understand anything by saying that it goes on outside the mind. We are, as he has it, locked in the theatre, without any idea as to which characters on the stage are representative. The very idea of comparing a representation, such as 'truth', with a (mindindependent) world is hopeless, because one simply cannot conceive of such a world. Secondly, there are doubts about the correspondence relation and even facts themselves. If facts are thought of as structures, they are modelled on complex things. Hence the claim they are, in some sense, out in the world. But things seem to admit of multiple descriptions whereas facts don't. In every case in which it looks as though one has found a way to describe a fact differently, I would suggest it is just some relevant event(s) being differently described. So if you can't model facts on things, then it's difficult to see how truth-bearers can have relations to facts. But in that case what could be the correspondence relation?
There are further problems with the claim that facts are, so to speak, 'things'. How many facts are there? Are we to count negative facts? If so, there are surely an infinite number, of the form 'there aren't two dogs in this room', 'there aren't three dogs in this room', 'there aren't n dogs...'. Is there a significant difference between the fact 'there is a snake in this room' and 'there is not a dog in this room'? In any case, it is notoriously difficult to imagine where it is that we're to locate these facts. Of direct difficult for the exponent of the correspondence theory, is the question of whether we're happy to accept the ontology of there being as many facts as there are things that are true. One could perhaps argue that the one is a subset of the other, but then this just introduces the further question of how one is to differentiate between which ones count.

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