All truth comes from the God of Truth. Who can deny but that there are found many excellent and divine morall truths in Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, etc.: and to condemn all pel-mel will be an hard censure…

Charles Chauncy

Truth Respect

Truth respect, as here stipulated by definition, is an intellectual disposition in which we esteem impartial truth, avow the limitations of our own knowledge, and accept that these convictions do not stand in contradiction to each other. Defined in this manner, truth respect has three distinct parts, 1. impartial truth; 2. limited human knowledge; 3. non-contradiction between 1 and 2.

In commonsense thinking, we (the vast majority) in varying degrees, accept these three basic presuppositions about truth and knowledge as a matter of course.

In the first place we understand that truth-as-truth is impartial. That is to say, in commonsense thinking we know that truth is internally harmonious, universal, reliable, and independent of our knowledge of it. In the second place, we also know our own personal knowledge, while reliable in many circumstances, is also limited, mutable, easily infected with mistakes, and in a continuous process of development. Added to that, in a third step of commonsense thinking, we understand that impartiality of truth and human limitations are simultaneously true. That is to say, impartial truth and partial human knowledge complement and do not contradict. Whether we critically appreciate it or not, the three truth assertions just mentioned underlie sound reasoning, normal conversation, and day by day courteous business. These three root verities taken together are implied in the term ‘truth respect’.

Truth Respect is not unusual. It is the approach used by most of us most of the time in practical matters when we are not in the grips of totalitarian dispositions. When in a commonsense frame of mind, using experience and our own insight, we naturally respect truth and assume others share our esteem.

Strange to say, although truth respect is a frame of mind we commonly share with others, it is a point of view not often critically defined or discussed. It is simply assumed. Being that it is primarily assumed and not articulated and/or logically justified, when truth respect is under attack, we don’t know what to do. In general, we are at a loss when required to defend the natural respect we have for truth, because we are not clear in our mind about what it is that we are respecting.

Truth respect develops from acceptance of the three basic verities mentioned above. Insofar as we accept all three, we integrate respect for truth through all levels of thinking. By promoting truth respect in both commonsense and critical philosophy, these three root values support and reinforce each other. In doing this, we avoid numerous underlying double standards and set the groundwork for sound rational thinking.

As an added bonus, a philosophy based on truth respect puts us in tune with everybody insofar as everybody has some commonsense and because impartial truth is the property of all people. Impartial truth is universal whether people acknowledge this reality of not. The more we critically understand the value the three basic presuppositions of truth respect, the more it belongs to all.

In one sense, truth respect is universal. It goes with commonsense and commonsense circles the globe. However, from another point of view, truth respect is suppressed. In a strange ideological down twist, many philosophers, who start out as if they are going to be unbiased and impartial, do not carry through. They slip into fallacies of absolutism and subjectivism and substantially undo their initial ideals.

By articulating the three basic truth verities as virtually certain and as profoundly fundamental, we resolve the misdirected reasoning that leads to errors of thought conceit. The more we do this, the more we are in a position to develop sound rational thinking. That truth and human knowledge are not identical is assumed in affirmative thinking and is an essential tenet of plus root theory.

All requirements of sound rational thinking presuppose the above mentioned assumptions of truth respect. Well developed authentic epistemology accepts and deliberately uses these postulations and in so doing enhances sound thinking on all fronts.

When negative oriented ideologies promote theories of truth and knowledge that contradict truth respect, their mistakes inject double standards into the roots of rational style. These buried double standards misdirect our abilities to manage the course of events. We wind our way into difficulties we otherwise could have easily avoided.

There is no way to over-emphasize the value of the three fundamental truth propositions underlying truth respect. These three principles are elemental postulations of sound rational thinking. In ordinary reasoning we assume them as we cultivate our commonsense. Well spoken affirmative theory adds the third dimension and endorses these same propositions deliberately and consciously.

In cultivating commonsense we presume and use these three postulations to enhance affirmative thinking and civil discourse. The plus system refers to these assumptions as principle "pegs" of sound rational thinking. For short, they are peg 1, peg 2, & peg 3. Taken together they are pegs of truth respect. These three basic principles are specific root values we must assume in discourse if are to solve problems in a peaceful, progressive, rational manner.

Peg 1: Truth Is Impartial

Truth in its full extension is an intellectual aspect of reality that is unchanging, internally harmonious, universal and without error. Impartial truth is the same for all.

Peg 2: Human Knowledge Is Limited

Human knowledge, as plus defined, refers to those items in our thought systems we believe to be true that actually are true. Human knowledge is limited and easily compromised by ignorance and illusion. Human knowledge varies from person to person and time to time; it is in a continual process of growth or decline. It is often in need of modification, and it is always in need of development.

Peg 3: 1 & 2 Are Simultaneously True

Pegs 1 & 2 do not contradict. Rather they are complementary and concurrently true.

The solution to the elemental problems of truth & knowledge is to accept with firm resolution that all three of the above primary elemental generalities are true. Accepting the set involves no logical contradiction because pegs 1 & 2 do not contradict each other. In actuality, they are logically complimentary and, like the tracks of a train, keep rational thinking moving smoothly in the desired direction.

Accept all Three Basic Principles

Rather than creating contradiction, if we accept with resolute surety the three basic principles of truth respect, we are in a position to resolve many contradictions of received philosophy. Tri peg truth respect opens the way for many advances in intellectual growth.

The three assumptions of truth respect constitute a set of primary elemental generalities. Understanding the complimentary relations of the three principles of truth respect facilitates intellectual development of sound critical philosophy. When we appreciate these three basic ideas we are in a better position to resolve the conundrums of paradox that haunt modern ideology.

Truth respect is the solution to problems created by though conceit. Truth respect is an attitude toward truth that is distinct from absolutism and subjectivism. It is the basis of resolving numerous philosophical difficulties created by sentimentalism, existentialism, fundamentalism, Marxism, etc.

Pegs 1, 2, & 3, taken together, deny the assumed (usually unsaid) minor premise of absolutism and subjectivism, that is, the hidden premise which equates truth with human knowledge. Truth respect emphatically maintains that we humans do not create truth. Instead we discover it through properly directed rational activity. We discover truth in limited increments. There is always more to find.

Most people intuitively understand that their personal knowledge is not identical with the limitless expanse of truth. This is one reason why people in the commonsense mode of thinking are easy to talk to. They are actively interested in learning and ready to hear all sides of a story. Truth respect supports and compliments honest commonsense and contributes to open minded views in problem solving.

On the other hand, when any of us slip into absolute or subjective modes we are hard to talk to. Our minds close shut and emotions open raw. Absolutism and subjectivism both, by different paths, lead to closed, narrow, or rigid thinking.

Truth respect, as the solution to the twin problems of absolutism and subjectivism, is not new. Plus root theory puts in words the ordinary, commonsense resolution of the problem of the relation of human knowledge to abstract truth (truth-as-truth) that humans have always been able to access intuitively and use liminally in commonsense discourse. Truth respect has often been expressed in philosophical language. The only new part here is the specified terminology and the focused emphasis on the three elemental assumptions of truth respect.

Odd to say, although many writers in critical philosophy at times deny one or more prerequisites of impartial truth, in most thinking most people presuppose some degree of truth respect in their discussions. This is the strangest of all possible strange contradictions. Presupposing truth respect while denying one or more assumptions of truth respect creates a mental doing and undoing that both builds and destroys in a seductive reversal that plays in and out of the intellectual life of the human story. Each person is the center of a drama as each of us tries to resolve these contradictions in our own belief systems.

In everyday thought and in honest business we assume the tri peg solution to absolutism and subjectivism. We know, in commonsense thinking, that learning is the process of bringing human knowledge closer to truth as it exists universally and objectively. We know in commonsense thinking that, in much of our learning, we are able to proximate truth and that we are justified in accepting many propositions with virtual certainty. At the same time, we understand that ‘what-we-think’ is not the same as ‘truth itself’. This is one of those deep seated elemental verities we know though logical intuition and normal insight but find difficult to express verbally in casual conversation.

Truth respect accepts heartily the true major premises of both absolutism and subjectivism. Affirmative thinkers, those who apply principles of sound rational thinking in their reasoning and discourse, enjoy the best of both worlds. A large percentage of people, without being explicit, accept the tri peg view of truth and apply basic principles of sound rational thinking in the much of their reasoning.

For example, most people most of the time will agree with the absolutists in defending the majesty of truth. They will admire the following words of Noah Webster (1758-1843), the compiler of the first comprehensive English dictionary. Webster said,

… truth is intellectual gold, which is as durable as it is splendid and valuable. [Harry Warfel, Noah Webster

Noah Webster (1758-1843)

… truth is intellectual gold, which is as durable as it is splendid and valuable. [Harry Warfel, Noah Webster p 304]

The demand for absolute truth is in inverse proportion to the possibility of providing it. The savage insists upon knowing everything with complete certainty about the universe, how it works and what it all means. The more civilized men become, the more skeptical do they become. And with skepticism they learn to overcome the fear of mental vacuum, of uncertainty about the truth of things and the meaning of their own existence. It requires courage to stand up in the face of the universe and say: I do not know.

Leonard Woolf

At the time Woolf wrote (1938) perhaps it did take courage to admit ‘I don’t know’. In the present rational style, (2000) the opposite is true and it takes courage to say ‘truth is unchanging’. Rational styles shift.

As implications unfold, the reasons for accepting pegs 1, 2, & 3 become more and more obvious. For example, the argument of change and correction supports the tri peg theory of truth and knowledge. A condensed version of the argument of change and correction is as follows:

Eg: The Argument of Change and Correction

  1. All corrections involve change.
  2. I made a mistake.
  3. The mistake should be corrected.
  4. Therefore, to correct the mistake a change must be made.
  5. To correct the mistake either I must change or truth must change.
  6. Truth will not change.
  7. Therefore, if the mistake is to be corrected, I must change.

We know in ordinary commonsense thinking that the above reasoning is valid and sound. If we really believed truth were constantly changing then, when we found a mistake, we could simply sit back and wait for truth to change to suit our pleasure, or even better, we could figure ways to speed the process and fix the world to be just the way we wanted it to be. But we don’t do that. In commonsense thinking most of us know that truth will not change to suit our pleasure. Using our logical rational insight, we figure that: when we discover a mistake, we do the changing to match the truth, not the other way around. Truth will not change to suit us. Most people know this.

Another argument that supports tri peg truth respect is the argument of absolute being. Most of us know full well at our commonsense level of thinking that we are not absolute beings and obviously cannot know truth absolutely. We reason, correctly,

Eg. Argument of Absolute Being

  1. Only an absolute being can know absolute truth.
  2. I am not an absolute being.
  3. Therefore: I can not know Absolute truth.

Here again, without spelling it out, normal people with a basic education are aware in commonsense thinking that they are not absolute and that they do not know absolute truth. The bulk of us clearly comprehend in everyday reasoning that our knowledge is limited and that if we are wrong, we are the ones who must change, not truth.

On the other hand, an Absolute Being who knows absolute truth will not have to change because such a being will never be wrong. If such a being exists, then this being will be more than human. Many people, when they speak of God, mean a being of a higher nature than man, a being who comprehends truth in a full wholeness that is above human capacity. To people of this belief, a search for truth is a religious journey toward God, who is the God of truth. This is not a new idea. It is a view deeply embedded in the Jewish and Christian understanding of God and permeates both the old and new testaments of the Bible.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways - - The heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55, 6-9

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to him, that recompense should be made him?

Romans 11, 33f

Three Modes of Thinking

Truth respect, absolutism, & subjectivism constitute three modes of viewing the meaning of truth as it relates to human knowledge. These assumptions establish values that seep into our minds. Once ensconced, they settle in as commitments that not only affect definitions (what is truth?) but also affect goals (where are we going?), prescriptions (how do we get there?), observation (what am I perceiving?) and even motives (why bother?).

The errors of absolutism and subjectivism are basic root errors because they are toxic to tap roots and damage the plant. These errors sway our understanding of truth, affect our views of knowledge and influence our abilities to connect thoughts in valid syllogistic form. Root errors are different in kind from empirical errors, which are mistakes in content. If you had a good logic teacher when you were in school, you know this distinction inside and out. If you didn’t have a good logic teacher, you missed something important.

Failure to distinguish the difference between human knowledge and impartial truth is a root error about as deep as they go. If you don’t understand this point, keep reading. It should clear up, especially after reading Part C on the roots of right reason.

Root errors of absolutism and subjectivism, when taken to extremes, establish contradictions at deep levels in our thought systems. If we seriously commit ourselves to either of these false ideas, we adopt intellectual postulations in opposition to logical intuition and sound rational thinking. Such oppositions create root double standards that damage our ability to cultivate candid commonsense and to understand ramifications of a problem.

If people are taught to believe that truth is in a process of continuous change, then conscious commitment to truth respect will begin to fade. People encouraged in this view tend to rearrange their priorities.

When truth is assigned a role subordinate to instinct and passion, then standards of honesty easily erode. There exists a correlation between our esteem for truth and our commitment to honesty. Those who follow lines of reasoning that justify thought conceit, often learn to place power, manipulation, expediency and chicanery where truth, honesty, fair play and good will should be. Hitler, steeped in subjective thinking, maintained that there is no truth, either in the moral or in the scientific sense. Martin Buber pointed this out when he wrote,

Eg. Hitler and Truth

To believe in nothing but his own power is for him (Hitler) the necessary principle of a leader.

Martin Buber

Jacob Frank concurred. He said,

Eg. Jacob Frank

All leaders must be without belief.

Jacob Frank

When impartial truth is denied, integrity fades and expediency magnifies. Politicians, who don a subjective rational style, concentrate on blending with the latest trend. Both subjectivism and absolutism undermine ethics in their struggle for public seats of power.

Mix

One of the strange qualities of the absolute, subjective and impartial modes of viewing ‘truth’ is that they are often found in the same person. Most of us, perhaps even all of us, slip from one mode to the other without being specifically conscious that we have shifted gears. When at our best, most of us mesh sound rational thinking with honest deliberation in comfortable strides. But, under pressure, all, but the exceptional few, shift into either absolutism or subjectivism, choosing one or the other according to temperament, background or mood at the time. When in the absolute or subjective mode we tend to become self-righteous, alienated, dictatorial, victimized (the companion of dictatorial) and/or self-destructive.

Emotion

Absolutism, subjectivism, and impartial truth respect, as defined, are not emotions. They are intellectual views of reality concerning the relation of truth to human knowledge and are dispassionate in the rationalization that supports the resulting convictions. However, strong emotion is not far away from either absolutism or subjectivism. The minor premise of absolutism and subjectivism (my basic knowledge is equivalent to truth) is heady business. To set up one’s own self as the standard of truth is exalting. It also imposes a feeling of great responsibility. It is easy for anybody to become fervently attached to either absolutism or subjectivism and not even realize the power that one hidden, unstated false premise is holding over their mental view of reality.

Truth respect also arouses emotion but, because it is realistic, it awakens positive emotions, such as feelings of good humor, good will, love of people, love of beauty, love of life, and so on. Sound rational thinking based on truth respect is wholesome. It promotes healthy emotions and a healthy way of life. Sometimes we don’t notice it because it feels normal and does not hurt.

Truth respect is healthy, but it is easily submerged under our own selfish passions and conceits. When this happens, correcting the problem can cause discomfort. The development of truth respect into well formed philosophical commitment can sometimes require painful confrontations and wrenching changes. A commitment to the basics of sound rational thinking does not instantly solve all problems. It does not resolve contradictions—it just makes us honestly aware they are there. Truth respect does not insulate people from grief. It is a realistic, but hopeful attitude. The more we appreciate the basics of sound rational thinking in our way of living, the more we can navigate over bumpy ground toward wholesome emotions that encourage improvement.

Affirmative Philosophic Statements

Many philosophers explicitly advocate, at one time or another, tri peg truth respect. Saint Augustine (354-430) in writing, On the Free Choice of the Will, expressed it when he stated,

But if this truth were on the same plane with our minds, it too would be changeable. For our minds at one time see more clearly, at another time less: and from this they show that they are changeable. While it (truth) is neither more true when it is seen by us, nor less true when we see it not: but entire and inviolate, it delights those who are turned to it by its lights, and those who are turned away it punishes by blindness . . . . there is something that is higher than our mind and our reason. Behold, you have it—truth itself. Embrace it if you can, enjoy it, and be glad in the Lord.

Augustine (354-430)

Eg. Shelley’s Heaven’s Light

Shelley in Adonais expressed the same idea briefly and beautifully when he wrote,

Heaven’s light forever shines, earth’s shadows fly.

Shelley

Eg. Romans

We can find many examples in the Bible.

God is true and every man a liar.

Romans

These examples state explicitly in words the idea of tri peg truth respect that is usually assumed implicitly in commonsense thinking.

It is interesting to note, however, that Augustine and Shelley did not always apply their insights about truth to their personal philosophy. St. Augustine, on many occasions, was absolute in his stance and Shelley was often dominated by subjective ideology, especially in his youth. They both stated the tri peg idea of truth respect very well but neither followed through to the point where they vigorously promoted truth respect consistently in practice. This inconsistency is not unusual.

Augustine and Shelley did what many do. In one frame of mind they affirmed the commonsense understanding of truth and knowledge. But then, in another context and in another frame of mind they undid one or more of the assumptions necessary to explicitly promulgate and employ what they previously affirmed. In a mixed, multi-liminal, split manner, they inserted contradictions in their philosophy that, because of hidden root errors, remained undetected—by them and by their followers.

At this point another deep trouble occurs. Let’s say Professor Starieye finds himself in disagreement with Augustine about several items. For the sake of argument, lets say Professor Starieye is right about the items at issue. At this stage, Starieye is making a positive contribution to general knowledge by refuting specific mistakes Augustine made. For one thing, Starieye disagrees strongly with Augustine’s opposition to theater. However, let’s say Starieye goes one step too far and decides that Augustine’s mistakes in regard to the value of theater were caused by his idea of truth, the idea defined as Peg 1, the impartial idea of truth. Starieye then jumps to the conclusion that Augustine’s idea of truth must be discarded and replaced by a subjective definition in order to be in favor of theater.

This is a logic warp in reasoning that has the problem backwards. Augustine made mistakes when he failed to apply his own vision of impartial truth to his own work.

Eg. Vit. C Analogy

  1. Doctor Muddle advocates vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
  2. Doctor Muddle refuses to eat food with vitamin C.
  3. Doctor Muddle develops scurvy and dies.
  4. Professor Starieye then concludes vitamin C causes scurvy.

When placed in this silly example, Professor Starieye is clearly wrong in his conclusion. However, in philosophical thinking flipped over fallacies of this ilk happen on many occasions. These logic warps work their way into public philosophy and cause endless trouble.

Precisely this sort of warped reasoning has happened to much philosophical discussion of truth. Although tri peg truth respect is the solution to problems of absolutism and subjectivism and is presupposed by vast numbers of philosophers in most of their liminal discourse, it is rarely acknowledge in a vigorous demonstration. Instead we have a situation where truth respect is well-accepted in commonsense reasoning, scientific research, and day by day business but is often denied in sophisticated dialectical theory. As a result, modern ideology is infected with double standards. On one hand, by employing liminal acumen and candid honesty, brilliance is added to brilliance and our modern philosophical writers thrill us with their comprehension and insight. On the other hand, by promoting various versions of invert ideology, ignorance compounds error and threatens our sanity. In this manner, elemental double standards become established in philosophical style and hamper the value of philosophy in up-grading negotiation policy and peaceful progress.

Elemental double standards are different from double standards in other subjects because elemental theory underlies our thinking processes as we solve problems. To complicate matters, we usually do not critically study elemental standards, single or double. Consequently, we easily pick up elemental contradictions in our personal thought systems without realizing we have them. Plus root theory refers to elemental double standards as root binds because they bind our thinking even though they are out of sight and underground.

Root binds do not eradicate commonsense. A thinker who adopts an elemental mistake in his philosophy does not necessarily incorporate the same error into his normal thinking. Consequently, he or she can become adroit at sound reasoning in major aspects of his or her life that depend upon commonsense skills.

Analyzing the rational acts of a philosopher who adopts in theory one or more serious root errors is a weird experience. His or her reasoning is often scintillating and sparkles with fresh insights that sometimes elevate but, at other times, collapse in absurdity. Said philosophers both rise and sink. In one way philosophers of this type (Hobbes, Nietzsche, Carlyle, Sartre, Sorel, Russell, Marcus, Brown, Eric Fromm, Watzlawick, etc.) improve society and in another they bend society in the direction of decline. Root errors in one place seem to have no bad effects, and yet in other areas can be devastating.

Williams James

William James (1842-1910), the American philosopher who popularized Pragmatism, provides several excellent examples of root binds. He is particularly interesting to study because of his well-publicized commitment to common sense—which was a promise he often kept. What is more, his over all purpose was wholesome. He aimed to heal some of the ‘splits’ he had noticed in philosophy and that he felt were miss-leading. To do this, James looked at philosophies of the past and divided them into groups of opposing extremes that he called the tender-minded and the tough-minded. [Pragmatism 1907, See White, Age of Analysis B58p136]

James, Opposing Extremes

Tender-Minded Tough-Minded

Rationalistic (going by principles) Empiricist (going by facts)

Intellectualistic Sensationalistic

Idealistic Materialistic

Optimistic Pessimistic

Religious Irreligious

Free-Willist Fatalistic

Monistic Pluralistic

Dogmatical Sceptical

William James developed Pragmatism as a way of mediating between opposite extremes. He wanted a philosophy that would unite theory and practice, that could heartily accept the scientific search for facts, that would promote religious commitment to a higher spiritual order, and that would spread common sense through the land. He wanted an American philosophy that was both scientific, moral, and practical. In this desire he was in tune with the mood and the needs of the nation. He became immensely popular in a short time.

William James is attractive because his goals are wholesome, because much of his writing exudes good sense, and because he was a nice man. He had high ideals and tried to live by them.

Unfortunately, his understanding of truth and logic were a disaster. He confused the concept "truth" with knowledge, opinion, understanding, verifiability, utility, and expediency. This created a hodge-podge of equivocation that turned logic (the science of right reason) into a farce. James was trying to put in practice some of the mathematical ideas of Charles Peirce, but — as most critics now acknowledge — James missed the point. Pierce was working on a pragmatism of meaning. James tried to sublimate Pierce’s calculus of meaning into a pragmatism of truth. Pierce, in his later life, made a serious effort to dissociate himself from James’s pragmatism.

Eg. Pragmaticism

In 1905 he (Pierce) changed the name of his own theory from pragmatism to pragmaticism, remarking that the term was ugly enough to render it secure from kidnappers.

.

Pierce did this to protect his theory, not because he was angry. He continued to appreciate the help James sent his way.

But this is off course. To enter into a satisfying critique of Wm. James’s idea of truth and logic, would require volumes of scholarly work that obviously does not fit here. To get an idea of what we are up against, let’s quickly look at a couple problems.

For starters, in developing his ideas, James not only confused truth with understanding, but he also confused the meaning of truth with the various ways humans have devised to test the truth value of specific propositions. He then went on to confuse verifiability with utility and ended up by equating truth with expediency. Concerning verifiability, he said in Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth,

Eg. Making Truth

James indicates, in this presentation, that ‘truth’ is made through ‘experience.’ This is a subjective view of truth. It comes close to explicitly equating truth with human knowledge. Without realizing what he did, in his modest way, James advocated the ultimate human conceit.

In the next step, James confused verification with utility. He seemed to believe that truth is verifiable when it is useful.

Eg. Utility

You can say of it then either that it is useful because it is true or that it is true because it is useful. Both these phrases mean exactly the same thing, namely that here is an idea that gets fulfilled and can be verified.

William James

In the next step, he identifies the ‘true’ with the expedient.

The true, to put it briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as the right is only the expedient in the way of our behaving. (James’s emphasis)

William James

William James was not an autocrat and was not trying to justify greed or tyranny or any such thing. To the contrary, James was a gentle, generous, good humored, well educated American who defended democracy and who wished to promote open-minded discussion. As I have already said, much of his writing exudes honest, cultivated commonsense and is a pleasure to read. Whole sections of what he says epitomize thinking that holds and respects coherence, and, to his credit, many of his ideas are still practical. It is a shame he entertained a seriously miss formed understanding of truth and logic.

James, of course, is correct when he asserts that ‘truth’ is useful. However, to go from this statement to equating truth with expediency is a different matter altogether. As every politician knows, lies are often more expedient than truth — and, if told well, lies can fuel a political career for life and longer.

James’s pragmatism was not as useful as it easily could have been if he had not adopted so many serious elemental mistakes about truth and logic in his overt critical system. Although he had, from traditional sources, sharpened his intellect and cultivated his commonsense in liminal thinking, he missed achieving genuine greatness because of the serious mistakes that infected his articulated understanding of rationality. He helped introduce a set of strange distortions about truth and logic into accepted academic rational style. He misunderstood the nature of abstraction, dressed out his thoughts with inappropriate, dysfunctional definitions, viewed verification in the wrong light, and failed to appreciate the sound rational thinking involved in fair play. He wanted to promote both theory and practice, but he belittled the value of the syllogism, which is the way humans unite theory and practice. These mistakes damaged his theory and created numerous root splits all through his writing.

The real tragedy of James’ theory is not so much what he did as what he didn’t do. What the United States needed at the time was an astute American Philosopher who saw the genius of our U.S. Founders and intellectually built upon their gift to us of respect for impartial truth the use of their well developed appreciation of sound rational thinking. The ideas of truth, reason, fair play, good will, conversation, etc. shared by Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Rush, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, etc. lent new insights into the possibilities of civil discourse. The founders of the USA held in common a rational understanding that was, in their time, unique in the history of mankind. They deserved American devotees who would bring their nascent ideas to fruit.

Instead Americans ideologists went to Europe for fundamental rational theories. Many American academics, since the time of Emerson, James, and Dewey, have substituted Hobbes for Benjamin Franklin, chosen Hume in place of John Adams, picked Kant rather than James Madison, preferred Hegel’s mystical opposition to Jefferson’s gently reasoned discourse and adopted Marx’s dialectic in preference to Alexander Hamilton’s political realism. We do not yet have an American philosopher who has adequately brought out the genius of the founders of our country.

William James did not intend to replace American candor with European sophistication. He wanted the opposite. But circumstance, such as his education in France, his love affair with Kant’s ‘transcendentalism’, his contacts with John Dewey’s Hegelian orientation, and so on, inclined him toward the anti-Aristotle dialectic of radical revolution that was sweeping European intellectuals off their feet in the 19th century. James missed the real treasure sitting on the steps of his front door. He tripped over the true American dream every time he walked the streets and failed to noticed it was there.

William James asked, "Does it make a difference?" Plus root theory answers, "Yes it does!" Ones interpretation of truth, reason, logic, and dialectic makes an enormous difference. It makes a difference in education, in entertainment, in goals, in what we see, in what we do, and in what we want. It makes a difference in how we evaluate each other and who we seek as friends, who we pick as leaders, who we designate as enemies, and even goes so far as to influence whether or not we feel a need to have enemies. When we become committed to sound rational thinking, we have no need for enemies.

Most important, our view of truth affects our abilities to negotiate mutually beneficial solutions to conflict and, consequently, sways our abilities to progress in peace. In a nuclear society, surrounded by technology of destruction, it is something we should consider. It makes a big difference.

From a basic commonsense point of view, the most useful definition of truth is the impartial definition, offered here as tri peg truth respect. It’s a shame William James missed the point.