Saturday, January 07, 2006

Truthiness is nuttiness

Linguists Vote 'Truthiness' Word of 2005

The Associated Press
Friday, January 6, 2006; 10:47 PM

A panel of linguists has decided the word that best reflects 2005 is "truthiness," defined as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. More.

[The article goes on to quote someone who says that unless we get truth and facts together "we're not going to make much progress." Quite so. Facts are what make statements true. That is, a declarative or indicative statement needs a "truth-maker" or state of affairs to which it corresponds in order for that statement to be true. If there is no truth-maker, the statement is false. Truth is not a quality of gender, skin pigment, consensus, power, or expert opinion. It is a quality of statements that reflect or represent reality.

Years ago, Charles Fair wrote a book called The New Nonsense (1974) in which he lamented the rise of "willful personal belief." This, in essence, is "truthiness"--one takes something to be true simply because one chooses or wants it to be true. It is "true for me." That makes truth mighty easy--and terribly cheap. Let's apply it: I am the greatest living philosopher, or so I wish. And it is thus true. What a relief. What a crock!

For more on what truth is, see my book, Truth Decay, especially chapters three and four.]

1 comment:

Craig Fletcher said...

It doesn't seem as though most people stop and think deeply (just for a minute!) about what truth really means. What does "truth" really mean? Maybe the definition from Webster's dictionary would help:

(1)The state of being the case. The body of real things, events, and facts

(2) The property of being in accord with fact or reality.

So knowing that truth has a direct correlation with facts and reality, can it be that propositions that contradict each other are simeltaneously true (such as contradictory religious beliefs)? No, either they are all wrong on a given doctrine or teaching that they contradict each other on, or only one is right.

Can it be that a proposition that aligns with facts and reality is objectively true, despite its' implications or how it "makes us feel"? Of course. How intolerant of me to say so.