Truth and True

July 25, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

A friend on FB (Sachin) tagged me, among others, to a post, in which he posed the following two questions:

“This says that “Truth” and “True” not the same. Then other questions coming to my mind,

1. How do you differentiate Truth/True from “Reality” and “Fact”?

2. When we discuss JTB Account in Epistemology, what do we refer to: “Truth” or “True”.”

It refers to the following picture:

Pic 1                                                                                                                                                          

First let’s take Sachin’s questions:

He mentions four concepts “Truth”, “True”, “Reality”, and “Fact”.

The Context

Our concepts and language functions in a context. By context here I mean the background ideas, assumptions, beliefs and so on. The four concepts mentioned by Sachin here require a background to understand, discuss and talk about.

We have to necessarily imagine a “mind”, which is thinking about these concepts. These concepts are part of the content of that mind. We cannot deny the existence of at the least one mind, that is our own. Which means at the least one mind which is asking this question ‘exists’.

Let’s be a little graceful and without any justification grant ‘existence’ to other minds with whom we are in conversation. As far as we know there are about 6 billion more wandering about this earth, with whom we can potentially be in conversation.

Pic 2: This shows us

Reality:

The first question we can ask in this context is: are these minds ‘real’, that is do they ‘actually exist’? We assume or believe they do. This is one part of reality. But these minds have ideas, thoughts, images, and so on as their contents. What these ideas are about? What these images are of? Is there anything ‘outside’ these minds? Existing independently of them? Most people believe ‘yes’.

The central meaning of reality is ‘the state of the world as it is’. The totality of all existence. Some people believe that ‘yes, there is a world outside our minds, but we do not know it as it is’. That is, the picture of this world we make in our minds does not exactly match with it as it exists, but is mediated, formed, by our minds. In this sense the reality is the totality of existence ‘as it appears to us’. These two are varieties of reality about actual existence outside our minds.

Pic 3: we are within this somewhere

But there can also be a reality1 that we construct in our minds. For example, Euclid geometry can be seen as a reality constructed through axioms, postulates, definitions, and proven theorems. There is nothing of this which we can call material outside our minds which we experience. All of it is inside our minds but still something of this is independent of our minds. “Independent” here only means ‘which we cannot imagine as we please, it has its own rules’. For example,

If A=B, and B=C, then A=C.

You can deny the italic underlined part of this (A=B, and B=C), but if you do accept it, then the bold part (A=C) can not be denied.

Reality: 1. “The state of the world as it is”.  2. “The state of the world as it appears to us”.

Reality1: Coherent axiomatic system we construct in our minds.

Fact:

A part of reality under our consideration or focus, as it is. As it actually is.

Pic 4

[The picture is from Epistemology: the theory of knowledge by Daniel Cardinal, Jeremy Hayward,
Gerald Jones]

True:

Let’s consider a statement: “There is a tree in front of my house”. We say this statement is ‘true’ when there is actually a tree in front of my house; if there is none, we say it is ‘false’. We designate a statement true or false. Thus, the term “true” is used to express epistemic status or appraisal of a statement. In other words, ‘true’ expresses is epistemic status of a statement.

Truth:

Property of the content of a statement. Property of a proposition. When the claim made through a statement matches with reality we say, ‘it expresses the truth’. Otherwise, we say ‘what it expresses is not a truth’. The nature of truth in Reality (refer above) and Reality1 differs. This is complicated and admits varieties depending on what is being discussed. In the above proposition (There is a tree in front of my house) it refers to the world outside my mind, for realists, at the least. But there can also be mathematical truths, which refer to axiomatic systems. Truth is that which a true proposition indicates.

The Picture

As far as my understanding goes this picture can be used to make some points with discussion.

However, in itself it is somewhat misleading. What is called TRUTH (C) in the picture I would call ‘fact’ or ‘part’ of reality. A and B are two different perceptions from two different stand points. The issue of true and truth arises only when these two perceptions are articulated in language, through statements. Before that they are just perceptions, from two stand points. Neither true, not false.

Pic 5

Roughly speaking the two corresponding statements could be:

A: “It is rectangular”.

B: “It is circular”.

Where “It” refers to the object C, that is a cylinder.

Recall, the term ‘true’ we use to designate an epistemic status to a statement. Both statements A and B are false. As a cylinder is a three-dimensional object, while a rectangle and a circle are two dimensional. Therefore, they do not match with the reality.

These statements can be modified as below:

A1: From my standpoint it appears to be rectangular.

B1: From my standpoint it appears to be circular.

Now both statements are true. Because what they express corresponds (matches) with the reality as it appears. Notice, now the issue is ‘matching with the perception’ and not with the reality itself. 

One may go further. As one can argue that:

P1: The object appears rectangular from one standpoint. and

P2: Appears circular from another standpoint forming exact right angle (between the lines of sight from both standpoints).

P3: Only a cylindrical object can fulfill both conditions P1 and P2.

Therefore, P4: This object is a cylinder.

Now, P4 is true, what it expresses is the truth. Because it matches with the reality.

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25th July 2022