I've recently read a book in which a certain sentence sparked a question in my mind:

"the Platonic philosophy is a search for truth, the certain truth. Such truth... is necessarily static" (emphasis mine)

This popped a question to my head - is there a concept of "truth" (as in, objective metaphysical truth) that thinks of it as a dynamic idea rather than static, an ideal. Of course, I do not mean subjective truth, as it is obviously dynamic, but rather an objective truth that talks about a changing world, a "dynamic theory of forms"/"theory of dynamic forms" so to speak. Has anyone proposed such theory?

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    Isn't Hegel's Notion just the thing? Truth is Historical – Conifold Sep 30 '18 at 22:22
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    Sounds like you want evolutionary idealism with spontaneity in place of Hegelian predestination. Traditional names are Peirce, Bergson and Whitehead. Peirce's "effete mind, inveterate habits becoming laws" is probably the closest. – Conifold Oct 1 '18 at 21:49
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    "My philosophy resuscitates Hegel, though in a strange costume", his main point of divergence is exactly Hegel's "necessitarianism" about evolution. Kiblinger's Peirce and Kauffman gives a short review of Peirce's relation to Hegel. You'll also be happy to know that he admits Schelling's influence in The Law of Mind. – Conifold Oct 5 '18 at 21:26
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    Where is the reference to the book quoted in the question? Title, author? – Bread Nov 13 '18 at 22:50
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    Go back to Aristotle. – Gordon Nov 14 '18 at 5:25

As has been mentioned Peirce would be very relevant. Check out his semiotics of 'First, Second and Third' and how it relates to the Holy Trinity. An expensive book by Andrew Robinson God and the World of Signs: Trinity, Evolution, and the Metaphysical Semiotics of C. S. Peirce is the best I've read on this topic. The 'First' would probably be your static truth.

I don't quite understand the idea of a 'theory of dynamic forms' in connection with truth. A theory is not truth and a knowledge of truth would have to be in part a knowledge of dynamic forms.

I know of no theory for which absolute or upper-case Truth is not static. The idea doesn't seem to make sense.

  • I just want to understand, you do make sense of "theory of dynamic forms", but not of "theory of dynamic truth"? And thanks for the reading material! – Yechiam Weiss Nov 13 '18 at 16:37
  • @YechiamWeiss - True enough. I couldn't make sense of 'dynamic truth'. – PeterJ Nov 14 '18 at 12:24
  • I'll try to explain, and let me know if I need to make it clearer in the question. The "Truth", i.e. the metaphysical, objective truth (and let me know if that's a term that troubles you) is most often being referred to as static - meaning one, unchanging, detached from historical or physical influences, truth. A dynamic Truth, instead, would be for example postmodernism - where the objective truth would be the same as the subjective truth. And another example would be the answer below this one, talking about Jesus as a changing truth. – Yechiam Weiss Nov 14 '18 at 18:02
  • @YechiamWeiss - Okay, thanks. For me a metaphysical truth is unchangeable and true in every possible universe but I suppose relative truths (London is the capital of England, say) might be called not-subjective and dynamic. I've never come across anyone who argues that metaphysical truths can vary with time or place. – PeterJ Nov 15 '18 at 12:52
  • and I fully understand you. I would only like to entertain you with this idea. Also, a dynamic truth that vary with time and space is merely one option; you think of metaphysics like Kant, but perhaps you could think of it as dynamic as well (like a theory of dynamic forms). – Yechiam Weiss Nov 15 '18 at 16:05

Christians form their theoretical framework around truth in verses like this one:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life." -Jesus

Having truth anchored in reference to a person, rather than any other thing (such as a definition, a framework, a philosophy, a principle, a society, an agreement, etc.) would guarantee that the truth remains as dynamic as the unfolding of reality as time passes.

I guess that this kind of a basis for truth is not objective, since it refers to a person, Jesus. But it is universal with regards to all of us, since the person anchoring truth is the same person no matter which one of us is contemplating truth.

  • Assuming said person is enchored in reality; but given Jesus connection to God (going with the assumption Christianity is correct) it is difficult to address Jesus as a being that really "changes" (in context of "truth") over time. I'll go further and claim that taking this verse as you did would be anachronistic; it rather seems like Jesus meant the truth he speaks, during that time (which was a static truth), is the Truth. I don't (necessarily) disagree that if we anchor truth to a person we'd get dynamic truth; I'm simply not sure there's been a real attempt at doing so. – Yechiam Weiss Nov 13 '18 at 18:11
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    @YechiamWeiss, it is necessarily true, under Christianity, that Jesus changes over time, as all humans do. Going further, he even said that he doesn't know when the second coming will be but that this is known by God the Father only. (Matthew 24:36)... obviously Jesus will learn this later: a change that occurs after his ascension. – elliot svensson Nov 13 '18 at 18:16
  • This makes sense. A person can perform a free act which can change things. I was thinking of referencing Plotinus' One which I think was also dynamic because it was more than a Platonic form, but that answer would be similar to the one you have provided. +1 – Frank Hubeny Nov 13 '18 at 18:55

Short answer: Yes, by many philosophers!

I will try to provide a short (and obviously not exhaustive) intellectual history of such theories.

One of the first modern authors who elaborated on the punchline of Hegel that knowledge is necessarily historical was Wilhelm Dilthey with his philosophy of life (1883). He basically was the first author explicitly writing about historical a priori (a term not used by him and nailed decades later by Foucault in his Archaeology of Knowledge, 1969). His work has been systematically applied by Georg Misch in his Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie. Eine Auseinandersetzung der Diltheyschen Richtung mit Heidegger und Husserl, Leipzig 1930 (3. Aufl. Stuttgart 1964). Dilthey's work was very influential in intellectual circles in Germany and ended up in hermeneutical writings by e.g. Ernst Cassirer (Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 1923-29), Helmuth Plessner (The Levels of the Organic and the Human, 1928), Heidegger (Being and Time, 1927), and Gadamer (Truth and Method, 1960), all of which bind human understanding to dynamic cultural development, both phylogenetically (individual life, single generation) and ontogenetically (over the course of history).

While Dilthey was among the first, there is another huge tradition in modern philosophy that purported dynamic concepts of truth and ultimately ended up in postmodernism: Classical pragmatism. Starting from Peirce (1878/79), continuing with Wiliam James' pluralistic universe (1909) and Dewey's concept of "experience" (Experience and Nature, 1928), they all have in common that meaning and truth are dependent on the particular pragmatic context and experience of individual life-worlds (even if all of them have idealistic tendencies in some writings).

This ultimately led to late Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations, 1953) and all the traditions starting from there (see e.g. Rorty vs. Putnam!). For some essays regarding this, see Mike Sandbothe & William Egginton (eds.) (2004): The pragmatic turn in philosophy: Contemporary engagements between analytic and continental thought. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Another quite famous and influential intellectual line came from Marx/Engels (rejecting the idealistic drive of Hegel) to Horkheimer and Adorno (Frankfurt School) with their Negative Dialectics, 1966 (acknowledging the materialistic dialictics, rejecting the absolute outcome). From there, Habermas (Theory of Communicative Action, 1981) and Honneth (The Struggle for Recognition, 1992) are the main successors.

Bergson and Whitehead are rightly mentioned as contemporaries outside of any particular tradition as well by @Conifold in his comment to the question. They have influences everywhere.

Interestingly, all authors mentioned were quite fond of Hegel's basic insights, with a tendency to condemn him because of the Absolute.

Therefore, if you like, aspects of Hegel's work (the Owl of Minerva...) set off an anti-idealistic concept of dynamic truth in many contemporary traditions. And they are still chewing on the problems this brings for an evaluation of sciences and philosophy.

  • I understand your meaning here, but I'm not entirely sure that's the kind of "dynamicism" I meant. I'll think about it. – Yechiam Weiss Nov 16 '18 at 13:12
  • Ok, I think I understand my issue here. This, yet again, present philosophers that talk about a dynamic change in our capabilities of knowledge of the truth, but not a dynamic change of the truth itself. The only ones who might have talked about that change are perhaps Bergson and Whitehead, although I'm yet to be fully convinced they indeed talk about it. – Yechiam Weiss Nov 16 '18 at 15:05
  • @YechiamWeiss: The problem you have here is really something I cannot see: Obviously, if truth is dependant on context, it is historically dynamic. None of the positions speaks of capabilities of knowledge in relation to The Truth anymore. Truth itself becomes a historical, dynamic notion. What can be more fitting than the term historical a priori?! What you seem to indicate is a dynamic, yet ideal/absolute concept of Truth, which IMHO constitutes a contradictio in adjecto, i.e. is a confusion of thought since it necessarily would be meaningless. – Philip Klöcking Nov 16 '18 at 17:32
  • In other words: They all defended some kind of objective, metaphysical truth by at the same time contextualising metaphysics and objectivity. I do not see any other way of coherently dealing with dynamic truth. – Philip Klöcking Nov 16 '18 at 20:00
  • @YechiamWeiss Would we call it 'the truth', if it could change without a concomitant contextual change? - Well, maybe in Politics. – christo183 Nov 17 '18 at 6:28

Do you not elude to the answer in the question? By association? A dynamic truth could be What was said by Socrates, “I am the wisest man alive in that i know one thing, that I know nothing”. Sure this is a static truth but it is also a dynamic one, in which all things known over time are not static. And perhaps this is true of all of us going through life in that what we begin knowing, and being sure of, becomes either irrelevant or even completely false as we age and experience the wonder of life.

Philosophy itself really is a dynamic truth in that what is considered axioms of logic might not apply as easily in this new world we are evolving in. And every generation not only reapplies what has been learned but uses historiography to relate the past to the present. And by doing this the truth becomes a living concept.

But I do want to add one other aspect, that truth to me really is only a static understanding in relevance to the subject of the question. And that truth to me is a simple understanding that requires little argument. And perhaps only a “sophist” might need to manipulate such truths as it applies to their arguments.

  • What you're talking about is epistemic truth, not metaphysical one. – Yechiam Weiss Nov 14 '18 at 5:38
  • We like our references here, they give context to you answer and provide a reader the opportunity of further research. There is an section on answering in philosophy.stackexchange.com/help. - Welcome to the SE! – christo183 Nov 14 '18 at 5:47
  • I understand. I was dwelling on the word “dynamic” as it applies to what can be encompassed by the statement and less about the accepted definition of it. – Robus Nov 14 '18 at 15:29

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