I've been trying to learn about the multiple theories of truth and I've taken a look at the popular Stanford article. The first section has this to say about the neo-classical theories of truth:

These theories all attempt to directly answer the nature question: what is the nature of truth? They take this question at face value: there are truths, and the question to be answered concerns their nature.

This confuses me. My understanding was always that "truth" is the nature of things. Truth is the way things are. How do we ask the question, "What is the nature of truth?" It is like asking, "What is the nature of the nature of things?" If anyone could provide me with some insight I would appreciate it.

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    It may just answered or elaborated on your concern right after your quote: In answering this question, each theory makes the notion of truth part of a more thoroughgoing metaphysics or epistemology. Explaining the nature of truth becomes an application of some metaphysical system, and truth inherits significant metaphysical presuppositions along the way. In summary truth emerges only after more thorough philosophy is gained, from East to West everyone has their own intuitive idiosyncratic notion of truth, thus its nature is highly dependent on ones' entire metaphysical or epistemic system. Feb 13, 2022 at 4:38
  • That is the "natural" understanding of Truth: a statement is True if things are the way it says they are, if it corresponds to facts. See Correspondence Theory of Truth. Feb 13, 2022 at 9:33
  • It looks like you are thinking of "truth" as a sort of ephemeral, unattached stuff. In philosophy, truth is more specific; truth is a property of certain kinds of things such as sentences, propositions, beliefs, etc. Truth has to be attached to something. Think of "what is the nature of truth" as "what is it that makes a proposition true?" or "what sort of thing makes a belief true?" Feb 13, 2022 at 11:49
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    For a specific example, say you posted a question, then received some answer(s) and even accepted one. On a correspondent surface, it seems it's true you found an answer for your question. But for someone else if they see you still think/act in old ways/habits when cases applicable to said question arise in other situations, it's perhaps more true that you didn't find an answer for the said question. There's no inconsistency here though the truth of the same proposition in dependent on different people. For some like Heidegger truth is extremely hidden without any easy correspondence... Feb 13, 2022 at 18:44
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    There are two main types of truth in epistemology: objective truths & contingent truths. Objective truth is a constant which never changes. Once a proposition is true it is always true forever. The same goes for propositions that are false. They will forever be false if they are objective. Now you are probably thinking most truths are not like that! That is why there are contingent truths. These truths are temporary. They can be true today and be false a day later. The weather could be snowing today and not snowing tomorrow. The truth will alternative true to false at various points in time
    – Logikal
    Feb 14, 2022 at 1:32

2 Answers 2


Well, the truth itself is the way things are, and like you're saying, there isn't so much we can do to further define that. It just is.

But there's a second consideration, which is that humans make claims about the way things are. These claims may be considered as sequences of characters, or noises, or perhaps patterns of mental activity. And we call some of these claims true, and other claims false. So, what grants this attribute of truth, to a sequence of characters or noises? That's the question of truth that philosophers are mostly concerned with.

If the dog is out in the yard, (an actual, true state of affairs), then the verbal claim, "The dog is outside," is true. There's some relationship between the verbal claim (coming out of your mouth), and the actual state of affairs (in the yard); what is that relationship?

Personally, I subscribe to the perspective that a claim is true if a reasonable person would eventually settle on it, if he were able to investigate all the relevant evidence pro or con, and think for long enough.

  • I see. So are you essentially saying that this is more a discussion of how people try to reach and express Truth more so than what exactly it is? Feb 14, 2022 at 1:11

As a follow up to causative 's excellent answer, which pithily gets to the gist of the matter, here is a pretty succinct outline of the overwhelmingly and timelessly prevalent traditional correspondence theory of truth, as well as its two most traditionally popular competitors:

The Correspondence Theory of Truth: The Correspondence Theory of Truth is probably the most common and widespread way of understanding the nature of truth and falsehood. Put quite simply, the Correspondence Theory argues that “truth” is whatever corresponds to reality. An idea which corresponds with reality is true while an idea which does not correspond with reality is false. It is important to note here that “truth” is not a property of “facts.” This may seem odd at first, but a distinction is being made here between facts and beliefs. A fact is some set of circumstances in the world while a belief is an opinion about those what those facts are. A fact cannot be either true or false, it simply is because that is the way the world is. A belief, however, is capable of being true or false because it may or may not accurately describe the world. Under the Correspondence Theory of Truth, the reason why we label certain beliefs as “true” is because they correspond to those facts about the world. Thus, the belief that the sky is blue is a “true” belief because of the fact that the sky is blue. Along with beliefs, we can count statements, propositions, sentences, etc. as capable of being true or false.

Especially after Kant’s distinction between noumena (things in themselves) and phenomena (the world of appearances; perceptions and apperceptions), in his Transcendental Idealism (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-transcendental-idealism/), and the purported failure of traditional “Realism” (tout court, or in this or that domain), it became impossible to make/have non-inferential/mediated claims/beliefs about an “objective” world (noumena/things in themselves), a so called view from nowhere. So, competing theories about the nature[lessness] of truth were developed, the most traditionally popular of which were:

The Coherence Theory of Truth: The Coherence Theory of truth is probably second in popularity to the Correspondence Theory even though it often seems to be an accurate description of how our conception of truth actually works. Put simply: a belief is true when we are able to incorporate it in an orderly and logical manner into a larger and complex system of beliefs or, even more simply still, a belief is true when it fits in with the set of all our other beliefs without creating a contradiction.

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth: The Pragmatic Theoryof truth determines whether or not a belief is true or not based on whether it has a useful (pragmatic) application in the world. If it > does not, then it is not true. As with Coherence Theory, truth in this > sense is nothing to do with the way the world ‘really is’ but is just a function of whether an idea can be used as a model to make useful predictions about what is going to happen in the world. As a result pragmatic truths can only be learnt through interaction with the > world: we don’t discover truth by sitting alone in a room and thinking about it.

But particularly over the last Century+ there have developed many increasingly "deflationary" theories of [no longer capital T] truth (including Causative’s preferred theory, developed by C.S. Pierce, and elucidated further by Hillary Putnum):

Deflationary theories of Truth: Deflationism about truth, what is often simply called “deflationism”, is really not so much a theory of truth in the traditional sense, as it is a different, newer sort of approach to the topic. Traditional theories of truth are part of a philosophical debate about the nature of a supposed property of truth. Philosophers offering such theories often make suggestions like the following: truth consists in correspondence to the facts; truth consists in coherence with a set of beliefs or propositions; truth is what is acceptable in the ideal limit of inquiry. According to deflationists, such suggestions are mistaken, and, moreover, they all share a common mistake. The common mistake is to assume that truth has a nature of the kind that philosophers might find out about and develop theories of. The main idea of the deflationary approach is (a) that all that can be significantly said about truth is exhausted by an account of the role of the expression ‘true’ or of the concept of truth in our talk and thought, and (b) that, by contrast with what traditional views assume, this role is neither metaphysically substantive nor explanatory. For example, according to deflationary accounts, to say that ‘snow is white’ is true, or that it is true that snow is white, is in some sense strongly equivalent to saying simply that snow is white, and this, according to the deflationary approach, is all that can be said significantly about the truth of ‘snow is white’. Philosophers looking for some underlying nature of some truth property that is attributed with the use of the expression ‘true’ are bound to be frustrated, the deflationist says, because they are looking for something that isn’t there. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-deflationary/.

(Also see, inter alia for instance, Lynch’s Truth in Context, and Blackburn’s Truth a Guide https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Context-Essay-Pluralism-Objectivity/dp/026262155X

Is it any wonder that we live in a “post-truth” world amongst a plethora of competing “alternative facts,” where, “chimera” like “reality,” “the world,” “objective facts” etc. are no longer non-naively believed to constrain what can be claimed or believed? Where "knowledge" itself is up for grabs.

  • Perhaps I am confused but I often wonder why we posited 'beliefs' at all and didn't simply stick with facts. If we don't know something, we should say, "I don't know" and if we turn out to be wrong, well, we were wrong.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:20
  • @Scott Rowe I "believe" that I comprehend each and every one of your terms, and even how they fit together in your sentences, But without more [preciser?] context, your comment is more of an enigma to me than anything else. Are you asking why we do not always use/say, "I don't know" period. And eliminate the "...yet/but I believe..." part" If so, why so, what would be the benefit of such a linguistic custom/norm. Sounds to me that it would be even more of a conversation stopper than inserting, say, God as one's authority for claiming to know something.
    – gonzo
    Feb 25, 2022 at 21:09
  • Sorry, I guess this is why I should stay out of Philosophy. I regret having been a bother.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 25, 2022 at 22:50
  • @Scott Rowe A "bother", cmon, bro, chill. Was my response to your comment too "pedantic?" or what? Your comment was very interesting to me. Give me a break. We may both learn something. "Bothers" in the case of considering what it means to "exist" or "know" are two of my favorite things to ponder. Just give me a clue as to what you mean by "I often wonder why we posited 'beliefs' at all and didn't simply stick with facts." Who's "we," and what do you mean by "facts." We talking "objective facts," or the whole standpoint (my truth/your truth) situated knowledge thing?
    – gonzo
    Feb 26, 2022 at 1:50
  • Ok, I mean Beliefs in the large sense, things like Religion. Philosophy and Math churn out a lot also: ideas that can't really be verified, what Science calls 'unfalsifiable', or casually: "not even wrong". If people are uncomfortable with the inevitability of death, I empathize, but creating a bureaucracy is not the answer. If we 'know' something, say it. I guess this is reminiscent of Stoicism? I only have one belief that I accept "without sufficient evidence".
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:57

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