On one end, let there be the correspondence model of truth, that S is true if and only if S corresponds to the appropriate fact.

On the other, let there be the identity model, that S is true if it IS the fact it is meant to refer to. (There is an article in the SEP about this position.)

Both models have been variously doubted, but there also seem to be reasons for them. Is it possible that there might be an intermediary position, which has a belief/proposition as true if it is materially constituted by, but not identical to, an appropriate fact? This would make true beliefs like Statue, which is composed from Lump without being just Lump.

EDIT: iow, would a constitution model be able to incorporate what is "good" in the correspondence/identity models?

EDIT 2: I am not sure how this model would work, as the identity model that inspired it is also unclear to me. Depending on how separate we think beliefs and facts are, it seems that true beliefs are different in essence from the facts they tag, at least if we refer to things besides beliefs. But whatever this essence is, perhaps it can overlay a fact like intentionality can overlay a lump of clay and make it a statue, and so a true belief would be "constituted by" the fact it covers?

  • Okay, I'm seeking clarification. Is this a homebrew model of truth based on this entry in the SEP, or do you have literature to which I can be refered?
    – J D
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 19:30
  • I've never seen a constitution model of truth, but I have gone down so many well-traveled roads that I suspect I just haven't seen it, not that it's not out there. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 4:53

2 Answers 2


The statue is essentially whatever we see as the statue.

The lumps of clay are essentially what we see as the lumps of clay.

Thus, the idea that the statue is made of the lumps of clay is essentially an idea, our idea.

If I see something as a statue, I will believe I speak the truth if I say "There is a statue". Hence, our view of truth as correspondence between what we say and what there is, except that this is not necessarily what there is, only what we see and thereby think that there is.

This explains why it is possible that different people disagree as to what is true.

And it is a fact we all accept as true that it is possible that different people disagree as to what is true. Thus, we have to accept either that we alone know what we are talking about, or that it is possible that we don't know what we are talking about.

We all usually believe that we alone know what we are talking about when we talk about our own mind, what we feel, what we remember, what we see.

For the world outside our mind, we usually believe that it is possible that we don't know what we are talking about in at least some cases, and possibly in most cases. We can also accept that we never know anything about the world outside our mind and that we only have beliefs.

In this last case, problem solved. We don't need any theory of truth. We can choose to speak truthfully or falsely about the contents of our own mind and there is nothing mysterious or fuzzy about this. And then, whatever we say about the world outside our mind is just what we believe, and we have to accept that we don't know whether what we believe corresponds to the world outside.

If we want to claim that it is possible to know that we speak the truth about the world outside, then we are condemned to try and rationalise this claim. This is what some philosophers have been trying to do for the last 3,000 thousand years, without much success, and most philosophers seem to believe that this is a lost cause.

The statue is essentially whatever we see as the statue.

The lumps of clay are essentially what we see as the lumps of clay.

The idea that the statue is made of the lumps of clay is essentially an idea, our idea.

We can speak truthfully of our ideas, but that in itself does not imply that we are speaking truthfully about the world outside where we believe the statue and the lumps of clay are. "Does not imply" because we only believe that the statue and the lumps of clay are in the world outside. Further, probably most philosophers nowadays admit that the statue is not anything in the world outside, that it is essentially within our mind. They also usually accept that we only know our own mind and nothing of the world outside, not even that it exists to begin with. We can only believe.

Still, some philosophers want to rationalise the idea that we can know things in the world outside, and this requires some disgraceful contorsions. In particular, this requires that we ignore the idea that we can only be said to know if it is not possible that we should be in error, and that this only happens when we talk about the present contents of our own mind, as such, which is not much.

  • So would a constitution model collapse into a correspondence model, on your view? Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 15:00
  • 1
    @KristianBerry There is no "constitution model of truth", except in your imagination. The notion of "material constitution" refers to the nature of things, for example whether a status is the same thing as the lumps of clay it is made of. Thus, there is only a tangential relevance to the question of truth. Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 17:14
  • So you can't change the identity model and say beliefs are true when materially constituted by facts instead of when materially identical to them? I'm not saying this model is correct, but it seems possible. Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 17:36
  • Icymi plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-identity Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 21:16
  • @KristianBerry I don't know what it means for a belief to be "materially constituted by facts" or to be "materially identical to facts". I also don't know what it can possibly mean that "truth-bearers are not made true by, but are identical with, facts" (SEP). Could you edit your question to explain that? Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 10:11

Short Answer

There is no material-constitution model of truth because the material constitution is an ontological consideration, whereas truth the concern of epistemology. Is it viable for material constitution to inform a theory on belief, knowledge, and truth? I don't see why not, particularly because ontology and epistemology are tightly bound, but there is no mention of such a theory in several sources such as EOP, SEP, and IEP If there had been one, it might have come from the Berlin and Vienna circles whose members were driven to show that our material reality translated directly into abstract truths without the intervention of much if any metaphysics.

Long Answer

After long consideration, let's start with a quotation from IEP: truth:

Propositions are abstract entities; they do not exist in space and time. They are sometimes said to be “timeless”, “eternal”, or “omnitemporal” entities. Terminology aside, the essential point is that propositions are not concrete (or material) objects.

Ah, so the primary constraint in the minds of many philosophers is mind-body dualism which seems to stick to thought like white on rice. Closely related to Speakpigeon's claims, for instance, are those of George Berkeley that (from WP: subjective idealism):

"only minds and mental contents exist. It entails and is generally identified or associated with immaterialism, the doctrine that material things do not exist. Subjective idealism rejects dualism, neutral monism, and materialism; indeed, it is the contrary of eliminative materialism, the doctrine that all or some classes of mental phenomena (such as emotions, beliefs, or desires) do not exist, but are sheer illusions.

You, on the other hand, seem to seek some permutational intuition of conflating the material with the abstract in some regard possibly because you are a critic of some version of dualism such as that of Descartes. If you expect a materially constitutive theory of truth, such a theory would have to relate how mereological concerns inform epistemic methods granting beliefs the imprimatur of truth.

Let's go back to the Aristotelian Four Causes. Certainly, material cause undergirds the notion of material constitution long before mereology as a word was coined and seems to underscore the idea that physical entities are defined in some manner by their attributes. But nowhere in the consideration of material constitution (at least in our SEP article) in the general definition or description of the relation, does the notion of truth or methods raise its head SEP: material constitution :

what is this relation of material constitution? Some insist that constitution is identity, on the grounds that distinct material objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time. Others argue that constitution is not identity, since the statue and the lump differ in important respects. Still others take cases like this to motivate revisionary views about the nature of persistence, parthood, modality, identity, or existence.

And how modality (necessity and contingency of truth) relates to truth is a consideration seemingly taken to the extreme by logical positivism which sought to eliminate metaphysics and skip right to a material for the basis of truth. And by their own admission, the program failed spectacularly. So, is there a material-constitution theory of truth? Not called as such, but perhaps to be found in some form among the works of logical positivism.

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    I don't say, argue or imply in any way, in my answer here or anywhere, that "only minds and mental contents exist". I also don't believe that. Thank you to rectify your answer accordingly. Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 8:40
  • @Speakpigeon Culpa me est. Will do... DONE!!!
    – J D
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 19:18

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