The subject of truth is one of the most important topics in the field of philosophy. Furthermore, when compared to other topics covered in philosophy, this one is one of the most broad. For many years, truth has been a major topic of discussion in its own unique way. This is demonstrated by the fact that a large number of philosophical issues are related to truth in some way. This relationship can take two forms: it can rely on truth theories or it can imply truth propositions.
Truth, like knowledge, is a difficult concept to define. Individuals almost always seem to depend on it in almost every moment of everyday and despite it being extremely close to us is extremely difficult to define in a definite manner. This is because whenever one believes they have pinned down the correct definition of truth, another counterexample ends up showing insufficiencies (Habermas). Numerous philosophers have developed their separate definitions of what truth is and more often than not, the definitions are received with skepticism and disbelief.
The question of something being true in many cases applies to a certain belief, with the key question being whether a belief is true or not. In this respect there are two definitions of truth that stand out. These definitions are founded on the coherence view of truth and the correspondence view of truth which are the two most prominent views defining what a truth is. According to the coherence view of truth, a belief can be deemed to be true if it ‘coheres’ or follows other things that a person believes to be true (John 41). The implication in this case is that a fact that a person believes to be true can only be regarded as true if the particular belief follows up on other things that the person believes. For example, a fact an individual believes, say “roses are red” is true if the belief is consistent with other things the individual believes in, say the definition of red, if roses do exist etcetera.
On the other hand, the correspondence theory of truth posits another definition of truth. It is worth noting that this theory consists what is, arguably, the generally accepted view of truth. Philosophers who adhere to the correspondence theory posit that another world external to our beliefs does exist and it is somehow accessible to the human mind. More specifically, a collection of representations that bear the truth about the world do exist and they align to or correspond with the reality of the world (Habermas). Therefore, when a belief or proposition aligns to the reality in the world, it is thus said to be true. For example the proposition: “Arsenal Football Club won the Champions League in 2013” would only be true if indeed Arsenal did win the Champions League in 2013, which they did not, and false if they did not.
In philosophy, the question of justification is addressed in the theory of justification which is an essential component of epistemology which essentially aims at understanding how propositions as well as beliefs can be justified. Epistemologists are thus more inclined to focus more on the wide variety of epistemic features governing belief. These comprise the following: rationality, warrant, justification ideas and probability. As such, justification can be described in lay terms as simply the reason why an individual is inclined to hold onto certain beliefs.
There is an inherent relationship that connects knowledge and belief. That is, knowledge demands factual belief and therefore, when a belief is in doubt, justification is required. Based on this premise, it would be correct to conclude that justification mainly focuses on beliefs, theories of justification are mainly focused on justifying propositions and statements (John 41). Nonetheless, the fact that factual belief is a key component of knowledge is not enough to sufficiently capture the nature of knowledge. Success in the formation of a belief is just as important as the successful achievement of the objective of true belief. The implication here is that not all beliefs described as true necessarily constitute knowledge and only those beliefs that have been arrived at in the right way can be deemed to be a real constitution of knowledge. This leads to another question, what is the right way? In this case, sound reasoning and collective evidence are what make the right way and are what justification is all about.
Relationship between truth and justification
As per the discussion above, it would be true that there is a definite relationship between truth and justification. This relationship can be drawn from the question of what constitutes knowledge. Since knowledge is an inherently broad topic to discuss, a broad characterization of the subject is needed to break down this question. Epistemologists resort to seeking an all-inclusive approach in analyzing the concept of knowledge (John 43). This is where the relationship between truth and justification becomes evident because they form part of the sufficient conditions which determine whether an individual knows something or not.
The inherent relationship between truth and justification is founded on belief as a major of component of knowledge. As per the discussion above, justification and truth are important tenets associated with belief. A belief is deemed to be true if it corresponds to what is accepted in reality whereas justification is evidence that dictates why someone might hold a certain belief. As such, it would be sufficient to conclude that truth is dependent on justification. That is truth requires justification (Habermas). While someone might state something they believe to be true, their version of what ‘true’ is might stand to be invalidated if a premise is not established to back up their claim, that is, a belief or proposition would not be philosophically true/valid if it cannot be justified. For a belief to be deemed as beyond simple faith or guesswork, an objective reason should be provided. It can either be empirical or deductive in nature.
How is truth related to our finding out or knowing the truth?
The relationship between truth and finding out or knowing the truth and be deduced from the notion that there are two key ‘truth values’. That is, something is either true or false. In this case, the nature of something, an element or an assumption being true is based on ‘truth value’. Truth value implies that a belief or a proposition is true if and only if it succinctly tallies to reality, if it does not correspond to reality, it is false (John 42). Truth is therefore an absolute entity in finding out or knowing the truth because as a factor for determining whether something is true or not, it is not relative to individuals, times, culture or place.
What is the role of experience in truth and in justification?
Perceptual experiences form the main premise upon which justifications about our beliefs are founded. This essentially leads to the question, how do our experiences about the world in general justify our beliefs about the external world. In this respect, experience plays a major role in truth and justification because it is from experience that we can draw conclusions about what is true or what can be justified (Habermas). Furthermore, it is from experience that we can determine what to base justifications about certain beliefs upon.
Habermas, Jürgen. Truth and justification. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
John, Jeffrey St. “Truth and Justification.” Argumentation and Advocacy 41.1 (2004): 41-44.