According to Wiki:

Coherence theory of truth regards truth as coherence within some specified set of sentences, propositions or beliefs. There is no single set of such "logical universes", but rather an assortment of perspectives that are commonly discussed under this title.

I am not sure I am understanding this correctly. Does it mean, for adherents of such a theory, that there is no context independent truth but that the veracity of a proposition is highly context dependent in that it should cohere with the rest of that context? If a proposition violates the existing assumptions that exist within that context, is it regarded as false? In other words, are only propositions that serve to advance that context considered true?

If my assumed understanding outlined in the above paragraph are accurate, can you please explain how that is "truth"? In my view, that is not truth but stretching models of reasoning to confirm an existing bias (or context). It seems like a philosophical platform for "alternative facts".

Please (dis)confirm my (mis)understanding.

  • 1
    Yes, your understanding is more or less correct, although Wikipedia's description most closely matches perspectivist coherentism rather than coherentism generally. To other coherentists (like Davidson) when it comes to truth the "specified set of sentences" is supposed to contain all of our observation sentences, all linguistic conventions, etc., so it is not context dependent because it absorbs all contexts. Even in perspectivism, "there is not a relativity of truth but rather a truth of the “relative”", as Deleuze and Guattari put it.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:05
  • Sooo then... alternative facts
    – amphibient
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:08
  • Could be, but such "post-modernism" dispenses with "truth" altogether, in favor of "post-truth". What perspectivists have in mind is that someone like Anne Frank, who lived through German occupation, deportation to Auschwitz along with her entire family, mass killings, typhus epidemic, etc., has a unique perspective on truth that can not be represented or faithfully absorbed neither into anybody else's, nor into some impersonal "objective" view. Hence the "truth of the relative".
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:19
  • "perspective on truth" shouldn't be the same as truth itself. It's one's own subjective conceptualization thereof.
    – amphibient
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:22
  • Either "subjective conceptualization" is part of the "whole truth", or the notion of truth is deficient. Most objectivists usually choose the first option, and try to show that personal perspectives can be somehow incorporated into an overarching "view from nowhere". Life philosophers, like Nietzsche, existentialists, etc., argued, convincingly to many, that such incorporation is implausible, hence the rise of perspectivism and relativism.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


I've written at least one other answer on coherentism and correspondence which I'll incorporate as reference, but this question is somewhat different.

The relative attractiveness of coherence and correspondence accounts of truth is mostly going to hinge on the answer to the following question:

Do we have unmediated access to the "out there"?

If your answer is essentially, yes, then correspondence theories of truth are going to be very attractive. On such an account, we are sufficiently equipped to directly access the world that is out there and we find truth when the beliefs in our head correspond to what is out there.

Moreover, if your answer is a strong yes, then coherence is going to seem pretty incoherent as an idea of truth. In essence, this is because we can skip the games we play in our heads and just get "to the things themselves."

If your answer is essentially no or a dim yes, then coherence becomes more important as a way of defining truth. In other words, am I striking bedrock, when I look out into the world or am I just hitting my own concepts. If I think that everyone has a frame through which they look at the world and this frame colors their ability to perceive reality, then it makes a lot more sense to view "truth" as that which matches the frame rather than that which matches the out there.

To make things a bit more concrete, when I go to the zoo and look at a giraffe, what is happening?

  1. I experience photons striking my eyes in various wavelengths?
  2. I see a giraffe-1 (I possess an idea of the giraffe and match the shadow I see to it)
  3. I see a giraffe-2 (I see the giraffe and intuit the form of giraffeness from it)
  4. I see a giraffe-3 (I bring an idea of giraffe and am told this fits the bill by the label)

View 1 seems very compatible a correspondence account, because all we have are scientific measurements involved. You also don't a giraffe, which seems like a bit of a problem vis-a-vis our every day experience.

View 2 is Plato. Sure, we get giraffes. We also get great correspondence theory. We also have a large number of entities (Ideas) and questions about how we possess these.

View 3 is Aristotle. We're empirically getting the same forms. But how do we intuit these forms? We do get correspondence -- does the thing I see match the form from my previous experience.

View 4 gets us closer to coherence. This is a giraffe because we've agreed to giraffe as the name for this sort of thing and truth is to correctly call things giraffes that everyone else does (coincidentally, there's an interesting feature of the Japanese word for giraffe キリン -- it refers to both the common animal and a mythical beast).

In a weird way, view 1 about science often jumps back to view 4 in many other domains.

Maybe to just try and get at it another way, if you think we bring categories to things, then it's a lot harder to maintain this optimism. Thus, people often present Hegel as a coherentist (though I would argue he's a complicated sort of realist).

tl;dr - correspondence theories require an optimism about our access to the world as it is; coherence theory does not. Usually if people go for coherence, it's because they have an epistemology or theory of mind where we don't get access to the thing themselves.

  • Our unmediated access to the "out there" is called science, facilitated by technology
    – amphibient
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:17
  • The only legitimate "frame" on which truth is contingent, in my concept of it, is the semantics of the language. I can't accept culture as a valid context of truth because I deem humans obligated to overcome the subjectivities of traditionalist fads in their pursuit of truth
    – amphibient
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:21
  • My answer merely attempts to explain what coherence means in this context. I am not trying to defend it except to say it has more merits than you might think. As such, I will respond to two features in your comments. First, with respect to science, unless things have changed a lot since my undergraduate days, we sure didn't get unmediated access to the "out there" with any experimental setup I ever saw. Similarly, what we seem to be able to accomplish does not scale very well past the reductions of physics and chemistry (is love really just a chemical?)
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:43
  • Oh I know. I wasn't trying to contradict you like that. I love the answer
    – amphibient
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:44
  • 2
    Second, "the semantics of language" is actually probably one of the places that works best for the coherentists. Automated translation is still basically impossible (despite google's inroads in recent blog posts), and this seems to indicate that different languages frame the world in pretty different ways.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:45

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