Truth / Truth-Telling: A Core Value
I’ll start with what will doubtless sound a stupid question: are we, or are we not, better off knowing what is true, or at least part of the truth?
Of course we are! No one needs a “theory of truth” to see this and understand it. Not even philosophers!
Acting on a false idea or belief will often get you into trouble. Maybe not right away — but sooner or later. All thinking people know this. Not all of them face it.
What is truth (Pilate asked, and philosophers have echoed)?
Just the facts of reality. Sometimes right in front of our noses, sometimes not.
Some facts of reality are disclosed in experience, that is. Others are inferred through reason, some uncovered through some combination of these two, and a few arrived at by selected other means.
The results include truths of immediacy (one might call them), logical and mathematical truths, scientific truths, historical truths, truths about ourselves and our psychology (human nature), basic truths about systems that underwrite many of the others, moral truths, religious truths (some claim), and perhaps more. Naturally some of these overlap with and augment others.
There is merit, that is, to the motivating idea behind a classic such as G.E. Moore’s “In Defense of Common Sense,” however turgidly written that was! Here is one hand. Here is my other hand. One rests on my desk. The other is typing. Both exist independently of my perception of them, as does the desk and the keyboard I am typing on. Therefore the “external world” exists, and I know this. No Cartesian rabbit holes of methodological doubt are necessary since I’ve no Peircean positive grounds for doubt.
Other truths of immediacy:
It is true that two people live in my apartment at this particular time and place.
It is true that I ate an orange with my breakfast this morning.
Other kinds of truths:
All sentences that contain contradictions are false. It is true that seven plus five equals twelve, that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square…