Climate change, Russian election meddling, fake news, and impeachment have put philosophy on the front line in the 'the War on Truth.' The war was bleakly declared on TIME magazine's cover, the first without any image since the magazine's founding in 1923, signifying the war's seriousness in a rapidly evolving 'post truth era.' Philosophers in the USA did not make any direct public response to TIME's question, feeling enough had already been written on truth. Socrates still upheld the quest for truth as the most noble pursuit, and it continues to be the primary objective of philosophy to this day. Since the TIME cover, fake news has got much worse, and Trump has withdrawn the USA from the Paris Accord. This article explains how truth isn't dead, but it has rather given itself Hemlock poisoning, just as Socrates did after his political exile. Can formal logic resurrect truth from its deathbed?

TIME cover, 3/23/17
TIME cover, 3/23/17

Abstract

- In a culmination of two years work, this article explains the difficulties of formally defining truth in the 21st century and attempts an answer from the perspective of the Oxford school of philosophy. It defines meaning in 'post-truth narrative' as arising from deliberate widening of epistemological gaps. Then it examines a unified schema of truth definitions and semantics within a Hegelian dialectic, concluding that it is more fruitful to consider the merits of statements that are meaningful in more than one paradigm, rather than to evaluate truth from any single metaphysical foundation.

Contents

Preface: What is Formal Logic?

Due to widespread confusions about this article's title, I am required to start by stating the two premises of formal logic as defined by Leibniz in the 17th century, and still accepted by the Western schools of modern philosophy:

  • All our ideas are compounded from a very small number of simple ideas, which form the 'alphabet of human thought.'
  • Complex ideas proceed from these simple ideas by a uniform and symmetrical combination, analogous to arithmetical multiplication.

That means formal logic does not only encompass an algebraic system ('propositional logic'), but also semantic interpretation of ideas (as expressed in any language, including propositional logic and natural languages) in order to perform truth evaluation. This article refers to individual assertions, premises, and conclusions as statements. Formal logic provides truth evaluation both of statements and propositions, with propositions containing multiple statements leading to a conclusion from premises. In this article, assertions are single statements that are not part of a proposition.

Formal logic remains the backbone of the scientific method, so one of its fundamental ideas is empirical verification, the act of observing the apparent material world to ascertain the truth of a statement about it.

The Meaning of Truth in a 'Post-Truth Era'

The post-truth era is signified by various techniques to 'change the truth.' One such technique in politics, on both sides of USA's partisan divide, is to make rhetorical assertions that create a 'narrative' without proof of truth at the time of the narrative's assertion. Then empirical evidence is sought as proof afterwards, giving rise to a dual meaning for ‘post-truth’ in the post-truth era.

An example: Obama Wiretapping Trump's Phone

Was this Tweet true because Trump was certain evidence would be found later?
Was this Tweet true because Trump was certain evidence would be found later?

President Trump held that he was telling the truth because he had heard the assertion and believed it certain that evidence will be found, regardless that he had no evidence at the time. FOX TV withdrew the claim he had heard, but he continued to hold that he knew Obama had wiretapped him, because he was certain other evidence would be found by virtue of superior intuition. Time after time, new evidence was claimed (the British 'GCHQ' intelligence service was 'wiretapping' for Obama, incidental data collection was found, etc). There was massive counter-evidence (GCHQ does not share data internationally, separate CIA/FB!/Congress investigations found no proof Obama received anything, etc). But Trump continued to state publicly his original assertion was true for months, and many still believe him.

However much one might attempt to dismiss Trump's assertion, it is not so easy, because of the complexities of formal definitions on what 'truth' actually is. As his statement cannot be proven false just because no evidence is found, Trump can continue to claim it's true, and its truth can rationally appear meaningfully true to some people.

On the other hand, if future evidence eventually proves his original statements true, such ratification of his assertion could be justifiably considered accidental. Moreover, his assertions damaged the relationship between the USA and UK, and have taken up a considerable amount of time of effort by important people who really had better things to do. It's therefore fair to say, on basis of more than one metaphysical interpretation of truth, that his original statement has very little merit. Most current logicians do not use the word 'merit' in this context, so it's carefully explained in the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis leading to this article's conclusion.

Narrative as Deliberate Widening of Epistemological Gaps

One can actually find a basis for its rational meaningfulness of post-truth narrative in formal logic–A fact that has made post-truth conceptions more successful than many expected. One advanced thinker on the semantics of truth, Donald Davidson,. describes why we can accept statements as true prior to their validation, directly derived from his metaphysical position, absolute anomalous monism (which holds there are only ideas, or mind, or matter, or phenomenological experience, or language, but it cannot be known which actually exists). Davidson deduced that truth is ultimately undefinable, yet even so, through our ability to reason meaningfully, truth can be known. His doctrine of knowledge (or epistemological theory) has transpired to produce extremely powerful rationales, and it enables some new explanations which have not previously been considered in depth with regards to the post-truth era.

In particular, this doctrine holds that people possess knowledge of truth, but do not know that they know the truth until after evidence is observed. This is a deduction from the observation that truth can only be empirically verified after after the statement is made. An easy way to understand this is to consider facts we are certain are true, but for which direct evidence will not be available for some time. For example, we can know that the sun will rise tomorrow; however, we do not know that we knew that until after the sun has risen the following day. So before the sun rises, we can meaningfully state that we know the sun will rise tomorrow, and the statement is true despite empirical proof of the sun rising not yet being available. This relatively new perspective on semantics creates an epistemological gap between any statement and its truth evaluation.

If the following day is cloudy and the sun can't be seen, the claim may still be defended as necessary according to the laws oh physics, introducing semantic interpretation into the epistemological gap too. Because people already believe facts for which there is no evidence yet, such as the sun rising tomorrow, claims of truth for OTHER facts that have no direct substantiation can appear meaningfully true, when in actuality, judgment should be suspended.

In formal logic,
semantic interpretation and empirical observation
create an epistemological gap
between a statement and its truth evaluation,
during which the assertion might appear meaningfully true
even if empirical proof is not known at the time of assertion.

This epistemological gap can be exploited by those wishing to propagate fake news and false beliefs by widening the epistemological gap as much as possible, thus enabling more circulation of false claims during longer periods of doubt. Of course, not everyone agrees with Davidson's method of interpreting truth semantics, most frequently because of differences in metaphysical foundation. So even logicians themselves are in dispute about this answer.

Resurrecting Truth from its Deathbed

A lack of depth in understanding the nature of truth has perhaps become the most serious problem in the USA. But historically, most people are totally disinterested in understanding the philosophical nature of truth, but instead only wish to prove their own view irrefutable. Even concepts like the above abridged perspective so far provided on the epistemological gap is far more than most people are willing to tolerate unless they are required to learn them for school. So I discussed making philosophy mandatory in Universities with many professors. Almost all of them cringe at the thought of having to teach such difficult concepts to unwilling students. Many said philosophy is impossible to learn by someone who doesn't want to learn it, because its dialectical nature requires a sustained, active engagement of the mind.

As things are, we are likely to be stuck in the post-truth era, wherein many similar truths are claimed with equally little merit, for decades. In the interim, we are likely to see a general resurgence of pseudoscientific sensationalism on topics such as 'flat earth' theories, claims that the lunar landing was fake, etc.

To reverse the tide, philosophers would need to provide simple directives and formulae (axioms>) to the world, in secondary schools, in politics, and in science. Philosophy itself is a part of science, providing the backbone of reason which enables the scientific method to work at all. But each scientific discipline makes progress because it can lean on simple axioms from other disciplines. For example, chemistry can explore the nature of molecules without needing all the details of subatomic physics. But philosophers have failed to provide the necessary simple axioms on the nature of truth to the public, making it easy, in another instance, for climate-change deniers to spit in the face of the massive evidence for global warming.

The first step in ending the war on truth should therefore be defining truth in a simple way. But it's not so simple, because there are different ways to evaluate truth, and to do so for natural language, statements require semantic interpretation,.

Towards a Unified Schema of Formal Truth

An attempt to define formal truth in a single, unified schema inevitably becomes aHegelian dialectic, that is, the thesis engenders an antithesis, which in synthesis with the original thesis creates a new thesis. The new thesis is an improvement over the original, depending on how well the antithesis covers all objections, but it still will have antithetical objections. Current formal logic schools each pursue separate theses and debate their antitheses, but make no attempt an synthesis. This means that philosophy, as a science, will not be able to resolve this dilemma for some time. Currently, no single person, nor even single philosophical school, will be able to achieve consensus on the best solution. To establish this fact empirically, a Hegelian dialectic on the nature of truth across all formal logic schools follows.

Thesis: Introduction

Formal logic is a field of philosophy wherein truth is found by evaluating the truth value of statements and propositions according to a "theory of meaning" (here referred to as semantics). A descriptive framework follows that is essentially commensurate with the thinking of Russell, Whitehead, Moore, Wittgenstein, Ramsay, Tarski, Carnap, Ayer, Strawson, Quine, Putnam, Searle, Sartre, Mendelson, Austin, Kripke, Popper, Kuhn, and Davidson. All of these thinkers advance rationaldoctrines based on various premises, with differing degrees of roots in prior writing by Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Kant, Frege, Leibniz, Boole, and Husserl. Here is Aristotle's ‘Square of Opposition’ which has remained the basis of truth tables in all logic for ~2,400 years.

Aristotle's ‘Square of Opposition’ is the Foundation of Formal Truth
Aristotle's ‘Square of Opposition’ is the Foundation of Formal Truth

While modern thinkers discuss the relative merits of each doctrine, they do not hold their own premises to be dogmae (principles that are incontrovertibly true). Instead, they work communally to define how much truth can be understood via reason. As such each of their doctrines are considered a school that differs in belief but work together towards a common goal, the quest for truth.

A Simple Taxonomy of Formal Truths

Across schools of philosophy overall, the following kinds of truth definitions exist, which also can vary within each school depending on the proposition's type. Note that this summary cannot capture the details of each thinker's views, rather instead referring to them in general; and also, not all doctrines include all types of truth definition, depending on their metaphysical basis, as outlined in "Theories of Meaning" and the antithesis below.

  1. Logical

    Via formal definitions of logical systems, these truths are established by syntactic consistency with core axioms. The core axioms themselves describe the formal systems, and so truths of this kind are necessarily true, in accordance with syntactic rules which are themselves formally defined as logical propositions. The most frequent examples are mathematical equations. These propositional systems can also define rules of deduction and inference without introducing meaningfulness and causality. In all such cases, the process of evaluating a statement's truth value only requires syntactic analysis after assuming a semantic interpretation within one metaphysical system to be correct.
  2. Empirical

    These must be determined via ratification, by observation of material objects, states and events, as long as the statements describing material objects, states, and events are logically coherent. If the observation verifies the statement, then the result of the observation is the statement's truth value. The specific and exact nature of truth itself depends not only on facts or data, but also on the epistemological factors relating the proposition to the material world in different metaphysical systems, most predominantly in the theories that define the relation of subject and predicate to objects, states, and events in the physical world. These theories always add semantics to the syntactic relationships within which 'Internal' states, resulting from consciousness, may also be evaluated empirically. The nature of consciousness itself is defined by the chosen metaphysical system.
  3. Causal

    These again first must be generally consistent within the rules of propositional calculus, so they must not contain any syntactic fallacies of deduction or inference. These are the most complicated forms of truth to evaluate, in particular because in the absence of perfect knowledge,causal relationships cannot ever be proven necessarily true. They can only be proven not to be false. That is because, in propositional logic, Aristotle’slaw of excluded middle holds that any proposition is either true or false; but in the statements of causality in real-world language, there need be no excluded middle. Hence, proving that a statement of cause is not false does not imply that it is necessarily true. Metaphysical factors also influence the relation of the subject and predicates in the cause, to the subject and predicate of the result.
  4. Scientific

    Most commonly believe they know that the sun will rise tomorrow, usually because of many empirical observations of prior days where the sun did rise, leading to the logical deduction that it will rise again tomorrow in the same manner. Logically, one cannot know whether the belief is true that the sun will rise tomorrow until after the event has occurred. But in most cases, when sufficient empirical validation of many prior similar events has occurred, it is loosely assumed true that the same future event will occur again in the same circumstance. This axiom of probabilistic certainty is the foundation of prediction in much scientific theory. The extrapolation of this axiom is the creation of the scientific method, which is designed to define the minimum number of observations necessary to corroborate a theory. As per the rules for causal truth, theories can only be corroborated and not be proven true; but modern scientific theory might still call a theory 'true' based on the axiom of probabilistic certainty.
  5. Contractual

    These.are special cases of self-generating truths, such as promises, statements of intent, contracts, and some statements of belief, which all become both existent and true by their own statement. One should be aware these kinds of truth have limitations. For example, after making promises, it becomes true that promises were made, but the truth of the promise itself remains an indirect proposition, and still must be determined within the rules for the three basic forms of truth described above.
  6. Intrinsic

    These are truths about states and events which are not directly observable except by the self, including physical sensations, emotions, beliefs, desires, and intents. For example:
    1. Theology
      strives to define that which cannot ultimately be proven.
    2. Morality
      strives to define that which is good or bad for an individual.
    3. Ethics
      strives to define that which is good or bad for a society.
    4. Law
      strives to define that which is right or wrong.
    5. Metaphysics
      strives to define what is real..
    In all these fields, the absolute truth of the assertions they make is undefinable. However within each of these fields, it is possible to evaluate the propositional consistency of statements within the formal systems on which they are based; and from that, to evaluate the truth of their propositions empirically, within different doctrines of the field. But when propositions across different doctrines contradict each other, it is not possible to evaluate which are true or false in absolute terms. It is only possible to demonstrate when the claims by each doctrine are coherent within the same doctrine, and therefore can only be evaluated as truthful within context. Note that this applies to metaphysics itself, and there are different metaphysical premises in different doctrines of truth.

Natural-language statements usually combine two or more truth types. For example, the statement "there are three trees" relies on syntax from the first system to determine the nature of the number, and combines it with empirical evaluation from the second system to count the number of objects.

Theories of Meaning

While one might initially believe the meaning of truth to be intuitively obvious, the semantics of truth are complex. According to all modern logicians, truth is the result of evaluating a proposition, but the relation between truth and the proposition itself can be different depending on epistemological considerations on what is actually happening when we try to determine what exists. This starts with the issue as to whether one believes that tautological propositions are true before any person evaluates them; in which case, the truths must exist independently in some 'abstract space' independent of material reality. That introduces metaphysical considerations, such as whether the mind and ideas can exist independent of material reality and physical laws.

While one might initially think semantics only applies to propositions about intrinsic phenomena, metaphysical beliefs expand into a foundation for all statements, because their evaluation is itself an act of the mind which involves reason, knowledge and belief, which are themselves intrinsic states and events. For example, if you believe reality is no more than a machine operating on laws of material physics, then the notion that we can actually decide what is true or not at all would be illusory, because all such beliefs would simply be a product of mechanical operations that could be deceiving us into false beliefs (enter 'The Matrix', a movie which graphically reincarnates Descartes' 'malignant demon' for the computer age). Moreover, even the term 'semantics' itself could paradoxically be meaningless (a disturbingly frequent criticism of this article, in fact), rendering the entire endeavor of formal reason completely pointless. There's a dazzling multitude of subtly different metaphysical resolutions on this issue, which I can only paint here with the coarsest of brushes:

  1. Mind/Body Interpretations

    Classical realists hold that Platonic ‘ideas’ do exist independent of perception, and truth is discovered by cognitive correlation. Modern realists state only external material reality exists, and abstractions are simply known by common sense (as a result, many modern philosophers refer to classical realism as idealism). Dualists hold that there separate domains of physical materiality and conceptual ideas, both of which exist, and some hold tautologies are a priori true (are still truth regardless whether they are considered). Monists hold the known reality is only physical, or only exists in the mind, or something else. Some monists hold that truth can only be known phenomenologically (via experience). Other monists follow Wittgenstein's idea of logical positivism, which holds that language is the only thing which can be absolutely known. Such different perspectives change what is actually known when a truth is ‘discovered.’ For example, deflationary theorists extrapolate from logical positivism to hold that truth by correlation is all that exists, leading many skeptics to the popular post-modern idea of truth nihilism, although they are often unaware that such ideas rationally derive from logical positivism and instead believe themselves realists.
  2. The Nature of Object Properties

    Regardless how and whether propositional truth does exist independently of physical reality, a priori or not, empirical and causal truths may be properties attached to the proposition which are not ‘discovered,’ but rather ‘assessed.’ These latter cases introduce the meaningfulness of incorrect assessments, and how exactly something can be meaningful if its truth is beyond simple binary evaluation, such as for example, propositions which refer to non-existent objects (unicorns, Santa Claus, etc) or which contain metaphors. Thus the semantics of truth are not so simple, and become involved with metaphysical decisions defining the nature of reality, meaningfulness, and the definition of knowledge itself.
  3. Desire

    The meaning of desire is strongly influenced by metaphysical views on mind/body distinctions, particularly in Eastern thought, discussed further in the antithesis.
  4. Causality

    Some hold that there is no causality without intent, and that it is otherwise simply a logical inference or deduction. The second main position is that intent does not really exist either, but is only an apparent phenomena created by the physical workings of the world. The third main group say one or both of those ideas are reductionist, and so do not give complete meaning to the notion of causation. Variances possible involving intent alone make mostjustifications no more than possible interpretations.
  5. Intent

    If Intent it is held not to be an illusion, is usually the single most controversial phenomenon in a theory of meaning, not only because it isintrinsic as mentioned above, but moreover, its metaphysical basis involves belief in free will, a subject of hot contention for religious reasons. Western philosophers have some ways to scope definitions of intent so that theories of meaning can exist without religious antagonism, no one has found any way to actually disprove the theological views. Here is a good point to move to the antithesis, which renders further refinement of the above taxonomy and semantic theory rather moot at this time.

Antithesis: on the Impossibility of a Single Unified Schema

When I first proposed a unified schema, it met with considerable objection. While I have the done the best I can to incorporate all the criticisms, it has so far been impossible to satisfy all critics simultaneously. A change for one is disliked by another.

Syntactic Objections

Part of the problem is different terminology in different schools, especially in propositional logic. For example, some say all 'statements' (as defined above) are propositions, and others say a proposition is the truth value of a concluding statement that is derived from premise statements by deduction or inference (which is the definition I use here, to simplify distinction of causation). Some refer to all statements which are not evaluated by inference or deduction as 'assertions,' because the individual is trying to put a new interpretation into the minds of others by making the assertion. That is, the act of making a statement is conflated with the statement itself.

Syntactic definition is therefore necessary to saying anything meaningful, requiring me at least to define my own terms, however naive they appear to any one school.

Semantic Objections

A deeper problem lies in differences in metaphysical basis leading to conflicting semantic interpretations. For example:

  1. Idealogical

    Some object to the primary ideas about formal logic as stated for the Oxford school of philosophy. For example, some hold that Mathematics cannot be derived from propositional logic alone, because it must also rest on Platonic 'ideal forms.' Some others believe there is not a domain of mind and there is only material reality, hence they hold that Mathematics must be entirely derived from propositional logic. Most feel such differences pedantic, but nonetheless, the conflicts render it impossible to create a unified hierarchical taxonomy of truth types upon which everyone will agree.
  2. Evaluational

    Non-Aristotelian systems indicate that the union of A and B does not necessarily consist of exactly what would exist if A by itself, and if B by itself, are combined. The binary nature of Aristotelian-based systems therefore can produce nonsensical results. It may be because the combined set is not sufficiently complete, or because the asserted dichotomy is artificial. While formal logic can define propositions cogently nonetheless, non-Aristotelian systems can assess truth values beyond the scope of of Aristotelian logic.
  3. Propositional

    Some say different syntax is necessary because, for example, natural-language statements must contain implied inferences and deductions to be meaningful, therefore, all statements should always be called propositions—Especially if the fundamental premise is the existence of God, which leads to heated fervor on this subject from both theists and antitheists. Regardless any theological debate, some believe all statements are propositions anyway, making truth evaluation of natural language contentious across different schools.
  4. Eastern

    1. Vedic
      A frequent objection is that ANY statement all all must be not only an assertion but also a command, because it distracts the audience from considering the sublime. I am required to reply, apologetically, the title does state this article is about formal logic, which some do find sublime.
    2. Buddhist
      In Buddhist philosophy, any statement which does not add to dharmic knowledge is meaningless, because it increases karmic delusion, within which everything is meaningless. As per The Four Noble Truths, all good statements reduce suffering which arises from desire. Hence, good statements are either true or false, but all bad statements are meaningless. Buddhism does not require belief in any God or supernatural event, but it still unavoidably links ethics into its notion of truth, creating a significant problem for a unified theory.

After long reflection and two years of debate on these and many other conflicts of opinion, I no longer believe it is possible to formulate a single unified truth schema. No matter what one tries, one philosophical school or another will object to the perspectives placed on its own views by other schools. I am not the first to encounter this debate by any means. In the past century even the greatest philosophers have been forced into cynicism on their own views, not the least of whom is Wittgenstein, who started by proposing a unified schema, but ended up believing truth to be no more than a 'language game' per se. From the perspective of late Wittgenstein thought itself, there are multiple general theories of truth, each of which deny each other semantically. It may still be possible to synthesize all existent theories into a unified schema via a pataphysical approach, which would include the contrarian views of different metaphysics, but that is not simple enough for general dissemination.

Such schisms partly explain why philosophy has not been able to resolve 'post truth' and 'fake news' problems to the satisfaction of the general public so far. Even so, it may be possible to determine a hermeneutic resolution without actually formulating a unified schema, by adjusting general expectations on how much truth really can be stated at all, and without falling into cynical or nihilistic positions.

Synthesis: a Resolution Considering 'Merit' rather than 'Truth'

From the above summary, it is clear that a great deal of dispute exists on the nature of truth, which is greatly to the advantage of rhetoricians wishing to persuade others that their opinions are "The Truth." In reality, most of those asserting that they know 'the truth' are not attempting to state the truth at all. Instead, they are making assertions about truth to persuade others to their point of view. If pressed, they justify this simply by claiming their belief is true in a circular manner, so this does not define any knowledge of truth at all, but rather is a religious belief (whether they themselves acknowledge the existence of religion or not).

With sufficient qualification as to one's preferred metaphysical and semantic foundation, it is nonetheless possible to make statements that are true within context of that metaphysical belief. There always exist alternate possibilities. Indeed, according to truth nihilism, there is actually no such thing as 'truth' at all. So according to the school of formal logic, assertions of a person that some fact is undeniable truth remain an opinion, in all cases without exception.

Rather than considering truth from any single perspective, It is more fruitful to consider the merit of statements, propositions, assertions, etc. across more than one metaphysics. If semantic interpretation is more unambiguously framed within any presumed premises and resulting rules for each of those metaphysics, and the alternative systems assign the same truth value, then its truth may be said to have greater merit.

Hence, in modern metaphysics, the merit of a statement should be held more fruitful to evaluate than the truth of a proposition.

Evaluating merit, rather than truth, resolves the current dilemma posed by the post-truth era. As much as propositions may be found to be true after they are claimed to be true, this is only meaningful in a restricted metaphysical system. A pataphysical view overcomes the limitation.

Notwithstanding, there are still many other ways that deceivers can distort truth, for example, logical fallacies. If one method of deception is removed, they will look to others. So this is only a start to ending the war on truth, given that it could ever be expressed and taught in an accessible way to the people of this great nation.

Conclusion

A deliberate widening of an epistemological gap can at least help explain how the post-truth era is evolving. Yet despite more than a century of work by modern logicians attempting to define formal truth, different schools of philosophy still make a plethora of objections to any single schema for truth evaluation. Hence it is fair to say truth has 'given itself Hemlock poisoning.' A merit-based evaluation of truth across multiple paradigms may still be possible.

The main objection to the synthesis' assertion is from those who believe only one metaphysical system can be real. The antithesis already encompasses this objection, and ultimately it is has not been found possible to prove absolutely that there is only one metaphysical system. Hence the objection remains as a belief only, and it may be reasonably held that the synthesis' assertion is sound, even if not likable to all..

Going forward, I would have to agree with this analysis, kindly sent me by one reviewer.

"Stating this in terms of propositional logic:

  1. Given a range of truth-defining systems N, a statement has greater merit if it is found to be true in a greater number of those systems. Let's call this an N-score; for each truth-defining system N(x), if the statement Y is true, the N-score is increased by one.
  2. The merit of a statement (its N-score, in effect) is more useful to evaluate than the truth value in any given specific metaphysical system.

In that case, for any given set of truth-defining systems, some of them may be close enough in fundamentals (A-S, let us say) and yet different in detail (T-Z, for example), such that weighting each of them separately in looking for the "merit" of a statement would skew your results. There are ways around this, but they are non-trivial, especially when dealing with issues of moral or philosophical importance.

{One danger is ...} this could evolve rapidly towards a consensus definition of truth, which may be useful in many circumstances, but has places where its value is severely limited. Scientific exploration, for example, has many a minority hypothesis has been proven true over time."

We generally agree. The calculus for such an N score is complex.

Other Pertinent Philosophical Work

First, of note, In December 2019, the National Science Foundation officially called philosophy to the front line in the war on truth. The NSF announced grants for philosophers to work with the government, Facebook, schools, and other entities to help end the conflict. Philosophers now face a formidable challenge.

  • Plato: the Gorgias

    Most people who have written me seem unaware that Plato first defined the problem about 2,400 years ago, in his 'cave' allegory.The parent section of this blog, Plato's Cave, provides more detail already.
  • Frankfurt: on Bullshit

    The best known modern work is On Bullshit (Harry Frankfurt, 1986). It seems largely rhetorical and contains no definition of the problem in formal logic. Frankfurt renamed his book in a revision called 'On Truth' in 2006, but people who like his work have mostly ignored that and still talk about bullshit.
  • Blackburn: on Truth

    The most recent notable work on the subject may now be Simon Blackburn's (2018), which discusses correspondence and coherence theories, deflationism, and the like. It is available for ~$10 from Amazon. The book seems to be a coincidentally similar expansion of an original draft I shared on this topic in 2016, but this article had not evolved into a dialectic then. Dr. Blackburn describes formal logic far better than I can, but it astonished me a Cambridge Fellow had reached the same conclusion on the quest for truth (expressed in mildly different ways), totally independently. That goes to show, despite what they say, that Oxford and Cambridge philosophers can have some kind of shared mind, regardless of differing positions on the mind/body distinction!

About the Author

Ernest Meyer is a retired Oxford philosopher and US citizen now living in Chico, CA. Due to spam registration is required for contact via this server. Then after login there is a contact form in the top menu. You may also reach the author on Facebook, here.