Has Truth a Future?

outoferrorGeorge Steiner, wrote “Has truth a future?” (1978) It is a remarkable question because how could truth not have a future?

Steiner does write about truth and he seems to mean knowledge. He uses “truth” for “knowledge”. That is not as strange as it sounds, most of us do use “truth” when we mean “knowledge”. If we want to know the truth about something, we could also say that we want to know all about something. That is confusing.
Why is that confusing? Critical Rationalism wants us to make a clear difference between truth and knowledge. Truth does exist, but we cannot know if our knowledge is true. That is, in a nutshell, the word of critical rationalism about truth and knowledge.
You will understand that confusing “truth” with “knowledge” will make it difficult to understand the critical rationalist view.

“If this isn’t 100% true, it’s true enough to be interesting—and maybe helpful.” ( Kurt Vonnegut, 1951 in: Look at the Birdie)
Vonnegut writes about an idea (in Letter from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., to Walter J. Miller, 1951). The idea could be true or it could be not 100% true. Vonnegut uses true as a quality. And Vonnegut could be a critical rationalist when he writes this statement. We cannot know if our knowledge is true, but we could try to use it until experience does teach us our knowledge is not true.

Truth is a very complicated subject. You should read Wikipedia about truth and think about how people ever in a matter of fact way could talk about truth. Wikipedia mentions (today) seven theories about truth. What does it mean if a judge does want you to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 😉 According to what definition of truth?


3 thoughts on “Has Truth a Future?

  1. Certainly can’t argue with Kurt Vonnegut:-) I’ll need to read more on critical rationalism after a class I signed up for at Stanford called “Organizational Analysis”>> https://www.coursera.org/course/organalysis << The culture of organizations and their flimsy 'truths' fascinate the medical patient in me though I thing the more valuable analysis would be through Primatologist Frans De Waal's view from "Our Inner Ape." He doesn't talk about 'truth' but he does mention trust which I think might be truth as it exists in a live setting subject to change and new inputs / evidence. Truth out-on-the-road so to speak.

    I've added more of Kuhn at Diigo. Some people see so clearly all a person can do is quote them and just stand in the glow of their thinking.

  2. Thank you for Kuhn in Diigo.
    This combination of truth and trust is exiting. In English the words do resemble but in other languages they do not, in Dutch truth is waarheid and trust is vertrouwen.
    All Germanic languages besides English have introduced a terminological distinction between truth “fidelity” and truth “factuality”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth)
    In a psychological sense the truth of the words of a person could make the person trustworthy, there is a connection.
    Someone could try to convince or persuade a person with arguments about the truth of a statement, and if this someone is trustworthy and the arguments are convincing that person could believe it. But one could not fully proof the truth of the statement.

  3. Growing up in California near a university me and my friends were presented truths from a huge spectrum of beliefs. There was a street preacher named Holy Hubert who would come to our high school lunch area bringing his wreckage of a wife claiming she was saved by Jesus. Intellectually it was a silly proposition but by seeing them together the truth of this saving and his love and commitment were hard to separate.

    Yesterday I went to the doctor’s with my wife. My wife talked to the doctor for quite a while and learned quite a few “facts” about my condition. It may be because the doctor was female they got along? For me the truth of the conversation and my condition is much more emotional and I found the doctor’s neutral facts to be disrespectful of my need to feel like I’m part of the conversation and part of my healing. To me, truth is in the behavior and interaction of connected humans and trying to abstract me into object of the doctor’s reasoning makes her an unreliable source of information.

    So I guess I believe what she says is waarheid but I don’t vertrouwen her conneries (sorry about the French but Google translate doesn’t give a Dutch word for bullshit:-)

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