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Correspondence theory

Is truth the most practical theory?

We've all heard: "here are the facts, this is the truth!" in American law movies. But what is the truth? Is there one general truth or are there different truths that can be applied? We believe that the real question is: "is the truth the most practical theory?" In time two definitions of truth have appeared to philosophers: one is the truth as correspondence with reality and the other is pragmatic truth. The first one was advocated by the authors of the Cercle de Vienne who wanted to establish a language common to all scientists which would describe the facts without ambiguity but this is inconceivable if you consider the language turn. Putnam tells us that there can't be facts witout values to base them on. You can take for example that three or four hundred years ago the world was explained totaly differently because science was based on other values. What can make you believe that in a few years everything we believe in now won't be considered crap? So Tarski tried to define truth with metalanguage. Next to the Cercle de Vienne there's Tarski who also sees the truth as correspondence with reality. Tarski looks for a semantic definition. He start with intuition and then uses metalanguage. For example he says 'it snows' only if it 'snows'. Everything between brackets is metalanguage and defines the fact that it snows. But with a little logic you get to a contradiction. He thus defines his proposition differently but then you get an absurdity. He tries to save his definition but it gets so difficult that he gives up. He then tries another way again but fails. From all this failing he concludes that one of the characteristics of everyday language is its universalism. To explain why it is impossible to define truth with everyday language is that we would have to introduce too many corrections and things like that that would transform a normal sentence into a entire essay. Nevertheless he believes that it is still possible to create a language without contradictions. We believe that Tarski can't define truth because he thinks that there is only one truth. We think that he's wrong and that there are different truths in function of the public. Moreover he sees truth as correspondence and thus for him there is a distance between the subject and the object and we disagree with that. The second definition, the pragmatic one, holds in count the language turn. Pragmatism is represented by Rorty and Putnam who see subject and the object as one entity. For them every person in the world interacts with other persons and so creats a sort of giant blanket formed by different colors in which every person represents a color. But you can't really say where one color stops or another begins. Despite their resemblances Rorty and Putnam disagree on certain points. Indeed Rorty has an ethnocentric view of the world; he thinks despite all the truths there may be, his is the best. But he defends himself from being a fundamentalist because he stays open to the people surrounding him.

So what is the most practical truth for an engineer? A practical truth for him is a truth that is useful for him. It is a truth that allows him to solve everyday problems. Moreover it has to answer the requests that have been established by the people who asked him to solve the problem so it also has a part of subjectivity. Contrary to Tarski who believse that there's an absolute truth we think that every one of us has his own truth because like all pragmatists we think there is now subject-object distinction. An engineer has to see his problem at two levels. The first level is to solve the problem in the point of view of a technician who wants the best product. The second level is the sociological level. Indeed he has to observe the environment, the economic resources and the surrounding people's welfare. So as Rorty says the engineer has his own particular truth. We could therefore believe that when he makes his decision he will be more a technician or sociologist but that is wrong. We believe that he will take a decision that will mix a little bit of everything and he will try to make the best compromise he'll be able to come up with. So the truth for the engineer will be the most practical for him with all the subtleties that make him the way he is.

When you look at Rorty and Putnam's theories you see a lot of similarities. Still there is one little difference which is the base of Putnam's theory and that is what the argument is about. Putnam aims to suppress all forms of dichotomy whether it is philosophical or not. Because of this he is often indecisive. Putnam defines truth with some criteria but this criteria have to be objective but our criteria are specific to our era therefore they're subjective whatever we do. This is why Rorty says that the truth is particular and not universal as Putnam says. But to this Putnam replies that there is an internal objective truth that will put itself into place by the confrontation of different views. Rorty still defends himself from being a relativist because besides the fact that there are many truths he thinks that his truth is the the best. But he isn't a fundamentalist either because he stays open to dialogue. Another difference between these two philosophers is the idea of Rorty. According to him there are interactions between different groups and communities so there's also between their visions of truth. But Rorty and Putnam also agree on some things as for example the fact that we can only se the world trough 'glasses'. Indeed as humans we can't get 'out' of the world and try to see the objective truth. So for them man and the world create together man and the world. This is in total agreement with Putnam's theory which erases all distance between value and facts and by there the distance between object and subject. To explain this Putnam takes the example of brains in a bottle. If we were just brains in a bottle would we know it? For him we wouldn't because we can't come out of our vision system of the world because subject and object make one. Let's now come back to what allows Putnam to say that an objective internal truth can emerge from a group of truths that would be equivalent. In pragmatism objectivity itself doesn't exist but Putnam by his own thinking has found this truth. The objective of this work is to find a link between the object and the subject. Here lies the difference between Rorty and Putnam. For Rorty this objectivity is impossible to find but for Putnam it is possible. For Putnam there are objective values such as justifications (a theory is true if it is undisputed). Now by objective values it is possible to find a objective truth and therefore it is likely that an objective truth will someday will come out of the lot. This way both philosophers come to the same conclusion, a universal truth, but by very different ways. Putnam has a universal truth, doesn't pretend to have the best one, but believes that some day the 'good' truth will come in front. On the other hand Rorty has a very ethnocentric vieuw of the truth, he believes that has truth is the best one. But he also believes all the different views of the world are related and therefore stays open to dialogue.

What we have done until now is showing the the views of Tarski and the Cercle de Vienne are wrong because they keep the distance between the subject and the object which is impossible to admit when you've acknowledged the language turn. Further more we said we agree with the points of views of Rorty and Putnam which are mainly that the subject and the object create the subject and the object, and that we think through our language, and most of all that there is no absolute truth that we as human could define. The difference between Rorty and Putnam is that Putnam still keeps a universal view of the truth while Rorty sees different particular truths. Therefore some people say Putnam is a scientist but that is wrong because he proposes a universal but internal truth. Others call Rorty a relativist but this is also wrong because Rorty defines himself as an ethnocentric and can therefor not be a relativist. But he is not a fundamentalist because he stays open to dialogue with other people.

Before we conclude and take our position let's look at what we did to get there. At first we met our tutor we explained us the great lines of current philosophy (language turn, distance subject-object, different views on truth). After we read our texts and summarized them, after some lessons of our tutor we've been able to pull out a problematic and some important points to clear. In the end we found out that a theory that is more justified than another is therefore not more true but perhaps more practical. So we decided to adopt the pragmatic view of the truth. This is a first classification but we also decided to reject the Cercle de Vienne because they reject the language turn while we believe that this is important. So the only thing we had to do now was to decide with who we agreed from Rorty and Putnam. Rorty believes in a particular truth for each and every one of us while Putnam believes in objective universal truth. After a discussion among the groupe we decided to take a position close to Rorty's vieuw. Let's make it clear once more that pragmatists refuse the truth as correspondance with reality. Like Hegel the pragmatists believe that men and the world create men and the world. They refuse the idea of a universal truth and say that the truth is particular to every person but they also believe that every truth is related. This view of a world with different degrees of truth seems more likely to us. Rests the answer to the question is there a practical truth for the entire human kind? For us there isn't. Indeed we believe that there is a practical truth a certain cummunity at a certain period but it isn't applicable to all human kind. But we still should be aware of not falling in relativism. With a notion introduced by Rorty we believe that the door is open to a future where another truth will be hold in count maybe it'll be ours maybe not.

by: Jorg Van Eyck, Nicolas Petteau, Renauld Duyckaerts, Asmahan Safi, Damien Delepine, Thibaut Theunissen, Franz IsraŽl, Laurant Van Sintjan.



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