They don't exist outside the mind. Some philosophers say beliefs are "dispositional. So a belief, simply, is a proposition that a person accepts as representing the way the world actually is. Beliefs can be about false propositions and thus be "wrong" because the person accepts them as true.
This is a critical distinction. While a proposition has to be true or false, beliefs can be about true or false propositions even though a person always accepts them as being true.
Some philosophers attempt to define truth "mind-independently. Truth is viewed as independent of our minds and they seek a definition of it that captures this. Other philosophers have developed theories that keep people at the center. That is, truth and belief are considered together and are inseparable. I will try to make the relevance of the "epistemic" vs. Knowledge is belief in a true proposition that a person is justified in holding as true.
The conditions under which a person is justified is complicated and there are many theories about when the conditions are met. Theories of knowledge attempt to describe when a person is in a "right" cognitive relationship with true propositions. I describe some theories of knowledge and some of the challenges in understanding when a person knows in an article for Philosophy News called " What is Knowledge?
The main idea behind this view is that a belief is true if it "coheres" or is consistent with other things a person believes. For example, a fact a person believes, say "grass is green" is true if that belief is consistent with other things the person believes like the definition of green and whether grass exists and the like. It also depends on the interpretation of the main terms in those other beliefs. The claim "grass is green" would not cohere with other beliefs because you have no beliefs that include the concept "grass. As you can see from the above description, coherence theories typically are described in terms of beliefs.
This puts coherence theories in the "epistemic" view of truth camp noted above. This is because, coherence theorists claim, we can only ground a given belief on other things we believe. We cannot "stand outside" our own belief system to compare our beliefs with the actual world. If I believe Booth shot Lincoln, I can only determine if that belief is true based on other things I believe like "Wikipedia provides accurate information" or "My professor knows history and communicates it well" or "Uncle John sure was a scoundrel".
These are other beliefs and serve as a basis for my original belief. Thus truth is essentially epistemic since any other model requires a type of access to the "real world" we simply can't have. As philosopher Donald Davidson describes the situation, "If coherence is a test of truth, there is a direct connection with epistemology , for we have reason to believe many of our beliefs cohere with many others, and in that case we have reason to believe many of our beliefs are true. Arguably the more widely-held view of truth stemming from a broader rationalist tradition in philosophy , philosophers who argue for the correspondence theory hold that there is a world external to our beliefs that is somehow accessible to the human mind.
More specifically, correspondence theorists hold that there are a set of "truth-bearing" representations or propositions about the world that align to or correspond with reality or states of affairs in the world. A state of affairs just is a particular way the world or reality is. When a proposition aligns to the world, the proposition is said to be true. Truth, on this view, is that correspondence relation. Notice that on this view, propositions about reality are different from beliefs we may have of reality.
We believe propositions--I believe that the moon has craters. What follows the "that" is meant to signify the proposition that a person believes.
So truth on this view is when the proposition matches reality. The correspondence theory only lays out the condition for truth in terms of propositions and the way the world actually is. This definition does not involve beliefs that people have. Propositions are true or false regardless of whether anyone believes them.
Just think of a proposition as a way the world possibly could be: "The Seahawks won Super Bowl 48" or "The Seahawks lost Super Bowl 48" -- both propositions possibly are true. True propositions are those that correspond to what actually happened. You'll notice that this definition does not include a belief component.
What corresponds in the mind to what is outside it. The awkward case of 'his or her'. It was in this spirit that the 19th-century American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce said:. The position is true by means of confirming the predictions. Russellian propositions are states of affairs: the false ones are states of affairs that do not obtain, and the true ones are states of affairs that do obtain.
That is, unlike the coherence theory, the correspondence theory describes truth in terms that are independent of beliefs humans may have. This has the distinct advantage of separating truth from the messy business of belief and knowledge but may warrant complaints of being impractical. Postmodern thought covers a wide theoretical area but informs modern epistemology particularly when it comes to truth. Postmodern theories of truth are difficult to articulate in strict terms because postmodern theorists tend to eschew hard and fast definitions. But we can provide some insight here.
Put in simple terms, postmodernists describe truth not as a relationship outside of the human mind that we can align belief to but as a product of belief. We never access reality because we can never get outside our own beliefs to do so. Our beliefs function as filters that keep reality if such a thing exists beyond us. Since we can never access reality, it does no good to describe knowledge or truth in terms of reality because there's nothing we can actually say about it that's meaningful. Truth then is constructed by what we perceive and ultimately believe.
I'm inclined to earmark the foundation of postmodern thought with the work of Immanuel Kant, specifically with his work The Critique of Pure Reason. In my view, Kant was at the gateway of postmodern thought. He wasn't a postmodernist himself but provided the framework for what later developed. Kant makes a foundational distinction between the "objects" of subjective experience and the "objects" of "reality. The noumena for Kant are things in themselves ding an sich. These exist outside of and separate from the mind.
This is what we might call "reality" or actual states of affairs similar to what we saw in the correspondence theory above. But for Kant, the noumena are entirely unknowable in and of themselves. However, the noumena give rise to the phenomena or are the occasion by which we come to know the phenomena. This is the world of rocks, trees, books, tables, and any other objects we access through the five senses. This is the world of our experience.
This world, however, does not exist apart from our experience. It is essentially experiential. Kant expressed this idea as follows: the world as we know it is "phenomenally real but transcendentally ideal. The noumena are "transcendentally real" or they exist in and of themselves but are never experienced directly or even indirectly.
For example, suppose you look at an apple. You see a specific shape and color. These all are your experiences of the apple. After all, how could we know that our experience is of the real apple? Perhaps another person would see a slightly different color when she looks at the apple. Or if you just had something very sweet, the apple will taste more sour but if you had something very sour, the apple might taste more sweet.
Rather, we can say that the phenomena—the colors, shapes, and taste—that we experience is for us and very real for us.
Instead, we should describe the apple in just those terms. The noumena are given form and shape by what Kant described as categories of the mind and this 'ordering' gives rise to phenomenal objects. This is where it relates to truth: phenomenal objects are not analogues, copies, representations or any such thing of the noumena. The noumena gives rise to the phenomena but in no way resembles them.
Scholars have spent countless hours trying to understand Kant on this point since it seems like the mind interacts with the noumena in some way. But Kant does seem to be clear that the mind never experiences the noumena directly and the phenomena in no way represents the noumena. We can now see the beginnings of postmodern thought.
It's not like a photograph which represents a person and by seeing the photograph we can have some understanding of what the "real person" actually looks like. Rather to use an admittedly clumsy example it's like being in love. We can readily have the experience and we know the brain is involved but we have no idea how it works. By experiencing the euphoria of being in love, we learn nothing about how the brain works. On this view then, what is truth? Abstractly we might say truth is found in the noumena since that's reality.
But postmodernists have taken Kant's idea further and argued that since we can't say anything about the noumena, why bother with it at all? Postmodernists just get rid of this extra baggage and focus solely on what we experience. Further, everyone's experience of the world is a bit different--we all have different life experiences, background beliefs, personalities and dispositions, and even genetics that shape our view of the world. This makes it impossible, say the postmodernists to declare an "absolute truth" about much of anything since our view of the world is a product of our individual perspective.
Some say that our worldview makes up a set of lenses or a veil through which we interpret everything and we can't remove those lenses. Interpretation and perspective are key ideas in postmodern thought and are contrasted with "simple seeing" or a purely objective view of reality--something postmodernists reject as impossible. We only have interconnected beliefs and for each individual, that's what truth is. We can see some similarities here to the coherence theory of truth with its web of interconnected and mutually supported beliefs.
But where the coherence theory holds that coherence among beliefs gives us reason to hold that what we believe corresponds to some external reality, postmodernists reject that. In postmodernism there is nothing for our beliefs to correspond to or if there is, our beliefs never get beyond the limits of our minds to enable us to make any claims about that reality.
Postmodernism differs from radical subjectivism truth is centered only in what an individual experiences by allowing that there might be "community agreement" for some truth claims. The idea is that two or more people may be able to agree on a particular truth claim and form a shared agreement that a given proposition is true. To be clear, it's not true because they agree it maps or corresponds to reality. But since the group all agree that a given proposition or argument works in some practical way, or has explanatory power seems to explain some particular thing , or has strong intuitive force for them, they can use this shared agreement to form a knowledge community.
When you think about it, this is how things tend to work.
A scientist discovers something she takes to be true and writes a paper explaining why she thinks it's true. Other scientists read her paper, run their own experiments and either validate her claims or are unable to invalidate her claims. These scientists then declare the theory "valid" or "significant" or give it some other stamp of approval.
In most cases, this does not mean the theory is immune from falsification or to being disproved--it's not absolute. This shared agreement creates a communal "truth" for those scientists. This is what led Richard Rorty to state the oft-quoted phrase, "Truth is what my colleagues will let me get away with.
Philosophers are supposed to love wisdom and wisdom is more oriented towards the practical than the theoretical. This article has been largely about a theoretical view of truth so how do we apply it? Most people don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about what truth is but tend to get by in the world without that understanding.
That's probably because the world seems to impose itself on us rather than being subject to some theory we might come up with about how it has to operate. We all need food, water and shelter, meaning, friendship, and some purpose that compels us to get out of bed in the morning. This is a kind of practical truth that is not subject to the fluidity of philosophical theory.
Even so, we all contend with truth claims on a daily basis. We have to make decisions about what matters. Maybe you're deeply concerned about politics and what politicians are claiming or what policy should be supported or overturned. Is there absolute truth? How do we find truth for ourselves? In a world with countless voices claiming to have the right answer to any question, it can be challenging to separate truth from opinion.
Here are some ways to move forward with faith in your search for truth. Learning is a lifelong process. What holes in your faith and understanding need filling?
Think of specific questions before you start searching for answers. Sometimes what you ask may be a mere starting point on a journey of understanding, but at least it gets you moving in a direction. As you look for truth, turn to trusted sources for guidance—whether that means a mentor in your life, an insightful public figure, or a book. There are countless resources available to you that can help you advance in your journey. As you come upon new information, it helps to contrast it with what you already know to be true, or to view it through the lens of your beliefs.