Correspondence Theory of Truth

Philosophy is a fascinating spread of ideas that gives us the opportunity to understand the world around us. It presents in so many forms, through debates, literature, science, online discussions, and challenging opposing theories to improve your own thinking and the discourse around you.

There’s a particular theory that I came across recently called the Correspondence Theory of Truth. It’s a rather traditional model which goes back at least to some of the classical Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. When I first read about it, I was introduced to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, where he said, “To say that that which is, is not, and that which is not, is, is a falsehood; therefore, to say that which is, is, and that which is not, is not, is true.”

It was at that point I lost the will to live. No, I didn’t understand it much either, to be frank, and I consider myself at least reasonably intelligent. As a result, I’ve forced myself to go somewhat deeper into the theory to try and break it down into language that, at the very least, I can follow without wanting to rip out the pages from Metaphysics and use every single one as kindling for a very large bonfire.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth states that propositions can only be true if the facts and ideas that they are stating correspond to reality. People can only say that the sky is blue, for instance, if the sky really is demonstrably blue. Bertrand Russell uses another example; “A cat is on a mat” is true if, and only if, there is in the world a cat and a mat, and the cat is related to the mat by virtue of being on it. If any of the three pieces (the cat, the mat, and the relation between them which correspond respectively to the subject, object, and verb of the statement) is missing, the statement is false.

While different philosophers have been trying to debunk this intuitive and the basic idea for a long time, the Correspondence Theory of Truth looks better than the objections to it.

Some philosophers object to the Correspondence Theory of Truth because they more or less point out that reality, as it is perceived by humans, is not objective in its own right. The sky may seem to be blue, but the sky is a concept as perceived by humans, and ‘blue’ is a mental object that exists in the minds of humans. They deny that a reality made of mental objects could possibly be objectively real. However, in order to even analyse the truth of the Correspondence Theory of Truth, people are using mental objects and their own minds. People are doing this all the time anyway. There is no way of getting around this, so humans have no choice but to trust our senses and perceptions of reality. Deconstructing reality beyond that point creates a situation where people cannot even really use their own brains, which is not going to help anyone find the truth. The objections to the Correspondence Theory of Truth eat each other.

The reality that humans perceive is more complicated than it seems. As humans acquire tools that allow them to detect things that were beyond human senses, that much is obvious. However, even the act of questioning whether the reality perceived by humans is real or not requires the use of human perceptions and biases. The perceptions, biases, and mental objects that create reality for humans still have value. If there is a reality beyond that, it almost seems like it isn’t going to functionally matter for humanity’s purposes. Humans experience the world through mental objects, and the Correspondence Theory of Truth helps humans understand the reality that is lived by humans. It functionally describes truth.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth encourages reasoning based on empirical evidence. People can only say that the sky is blue if the sky is blue. In other words, given the definition of ‘sky’ and the definition of ‘blue,’ people must look for evidence that the sky is blue in order to agree that it is. Empiricism is a philosophy that has a long track record of helping humanity understand the world. Empiricism and rationality force people to examine their own biases, which can allow people to compensate for the problems that might arise with constructing reality out of mental objects. Encouraging the endless skepticism involved with the objections to the Correspondence Theory of Truth does not help people understand the world. People need to make some prior assumptions in order to think anything.

The objections to the Correspondence Theory of Truth are rooted in skepticism and the largely useless observation that humans have an inherently biased view of reality. The human view of reality involves mental objects and frames, but objecting to the Correspondence Theory of Truth also requires mental objects and frames. People cannot escape using them, which makes it fundamentally useless to try to think without them and perceive truth without them. It makes more sense to encourage the empirical approach to reason, and the Correspondence Theory of Truth does that. People can only accept claims as true if they correspond to evidence-based reality, which is a way of modelling the world that makes sense according to human needs and even human limitations. The human perception of the world is flawed, but it has value, and the Correspondence Theory of Truth can help people understand it.

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