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the true truth-source
Let us accept the concept of truth-sources. What is the true source of truth? And which are false sources?
On closer inspection, we find that the question is nominal: it contains a word which lacks a definition. For the first occurrence of “true” (as an adjective) it is not known which truth-source to consult.
Thus the true source of truth is unknowable. Which is why we already called truth-sources personal and private.
We might also consider the choice of truth-source to be a "First Mover". Once made, almost everything else follows from it.
Lastly, we are interested in the history of truth: What definition of truths have been accepted through history? But we are not primarily concerned whether these truth-claims were correct, or even defensible.
And we will break with three common conventions in epistemology:
The Tarskian tradition of taking the notion of truth in formal languages as a point-of-departure for an analysis of the notion of truth in natural language. 1
Taking sentence-truth as a model for an analysis of truth.2
Restricting the analysis of truth to Empiricism and Rationalism. 3
It is conventional wisdom that fundamentalism is a backward truth-source. Be that as it may, it is also a democratic and equalitarian. For in fundamentalism, all literate people are equally apt at finding truth.
In the Christian fold, the protestants have fundamentalist roots. (Below we will see that Catholicism, on the other hand, is authoritarian.) But given the equalitarian nature of fundamentalism, it should come as no surprise that protestant churches are governed by a college of laymen.
So if there is a grand history of mankind, and if that history progresses towards democracy and equality, then fundamentalism represented a giant leap forward.
The concept of truth in formalized language has been investigated at length; and has yielded disquotational and/or correspondence definitions. Usually implicitly, it has been assumed that these definitions can be extrapolated to natural languages. The justification for this is probably somewhat Platonic: that formalized languages are more perfect than natural language, and an investigation of truth in natural language is bound to fail, but that formalized truth should be applicable in natural language just the same. This notion of truth holds that a sentence is true iff (if and only if) it describes a state of affairs that obtains. It applies very well to scientific discourse, where an obtaining state of affairs can either be verified empirically or rationally. However, I have two objections: relevance and justifiability. Relevance. The use of natural language is not restricted to scientific discourse. It is used for religious, moral and political discourse. In these realms, it is mostly impossible to verify whether a state of affair obtains, either empirically or rationally. Are we then to conclude that are no truth-claims in these realms? That is, indeed, the common way out; but it defeats the purpose of investigating truth in natural language. Justifiability. It seems that natural language precedes formalized language. This is certainly the case in human life, where children use their command of natural language to acquaint themselves with mathematics and other formalized languages. It is arguably also the case in mathematics itself, where natural language is needed to define and/or understand the primitive or undefinable notions of formalized languages. ↩
It is entirely natural to restrict an investigation of truth to sentences, when this applies to scientific discourse; for within science, it is reasonably undisputed what it is for a state of affairs to obtain. And states of affairs are expressed in sentences. Still, even in science the situation is not as simple as suggested above. The physicist encounters anomalies, id est the measurements that deviate from the general pattern. Even though these measurements are obtained by following the right procedures, he is justified in disregarding them. It is unthinkable that a mathematical theorem, which is derived by the right procedures but which does not match the general pattern, would be disregarded. Physical measurements are treated differently from mathematical theorems, because the former are derived empirically and the latter are derived rationally. It would appear that the truth of a sentence is not merely determined by the sentence itself, but also by its source. In natural language this is more prevalent than in formalized language. Consider another example: "God exists." People differ in whether they believe this sentence is true. In a Quine-like analysis, this difference of opinion can only be due to different meanings of “God” and “exists”. In fact, even when consensus had been reached about these meanings, consensus is not necessarily achieved on “God exists”. Some claim this sentence to be unproved because it can not be verified empirically. Others claim that it is true because it is written in a holy scripture, or because to them it would be absurd if it is not true. ↩
The reader may balk at the thought of taking holy scriptures as a source of truth. Science restricts itself to Empiricism and Rationalism and does just fine, thank you. But let us investigate whether science is justified in doing so, and what that justification may be. ↩