The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence … William of Occam propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have real existence. … The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man.

Richard Weaver

Definition of Truth

Impartial Truth =df an intellectual, relational, unified, reliable, universal aspect of reality that we humans can discern in a limited but useful manner.

Idea

As discussed in Chapter 17 and 18, children learn to construct complete sentences and make true-false judgments at a young age. Their judgments are not always correct, but they do make judgments. For most children, the percentage of correct judgments is high enough to make this talent distinctly useful. They exercise their true-false talent long before they study the definition of truth or become interested in elemental theory.

True-false tests in elementary school provide data we can use to establish that: true-false talent is something more than accidental happenstance. We can legitimately conclude that the success of these tests point to a real distinctions between True and false. Through monitored observation we can establish as a credible root claim that most youngsters can manage these tests with fair success.

The talent required for school children to do simple true-false tests is normal. The tests provide examples to illustrate human true-false talent in action. Most of us have had some direct experience with tests of this nature.

If children can take true-false test, it seems fair to deduce that they have the capacity, in a limited manner, to distinguish true from false. If they did not have a capacity to make true-false distinctions, true-false tests would not be possible. They possess a true-false talent. They have the ability, under certain circumstances, to distinguish true from false.

The ability to know there is a difference between true and false is a skill distinct from the ability to say that: proposition P is true. It is a plus tenet that: our ability to affirm the truth or falsity of a proposition is a distinctly different talent from our ability to recognize the meaning of and difference between the ideas of true and false. This distinction is important in developing well formed elemental theory. In affirmative thinking we use these distinctions regularly by way of implication. This distinction is not difficult to understand, but it does take time and effort to concentrate on the problem long enough to get the point. Unless pointed out by a teacher, most of us rarely reflect on the difference.

There are several steps in making true-false distinctions. For a mature understanding of the scope of our true-false talent, we need to understand each step of the process. However, without analyzing the process, elementary school children can exercise their true-false talent in a limited, but none-the-less real, manner.

What applies to children applies to adults even more so. Normally developed adults with an informal education can understand the meaning of true and false. Within the realm of their expertise, normal adults can tell the difference between true and false in many instances. There are vast variations in knowledge, intelligence, and motivation among adults. As a result, some are much more skilled than others in making true-false distinctions, but all who are functioning in a responsible role in society can do it to some degree.

Following this evidence, we justifiably conclude that:

There is a real distinction between true and false

We humans, as we mature, develop the talent to recognize the distinction the distinction between true and false to a limited extent.

If so many people can recognize the distinction, we are justified in deducing with firm surety that there is a distinction between true and false.

The talent to tell true from false is not mere introspective feeling. It is something that can be observed, charted, and tested. It would be possible to set up experiments to discover at what age children can first make true-false distinctions and to find which children are unable to do it. Studies could be done on how true-false features are handled in other cultures. It would be particularly interesting to study how primitive people use yes-no, true-false and how aware they are of what they do. It would also be informative to study the ways other cultures present true-false distinctions in their educational systems and how this affects the way students view society when they become adults. Limited though it is, the human talent to distinguish true from false is part of the observable data in the study of human nature and should be a major factor in studies analyzing human behavior.

To advocate a more thorough examination of our true-false talent means becoming more consciously aware of what is already going on. This is not a discovery of something new. All normal mature people use their true-false talent continuously and, to some degree, are liminally mindful of the process. By focusing on this talent in a deliberate manner we do not create new skills, but become more aware of the existence and function of skills we already possess.

In all likelihood, our earliest ancestors made true-false judgments many generations before terms meaning true and false came into general use in their language. A probable scenario is that primitive people reached the stage where they had experience with true-false propositions. Next came words for yes and no, true and false, right and wrong. Later, the idea truth developed and a word with a metaphorical similarity was used to express the idea of truth.

In today's scholarship, we have no way of knowing how much time was required to reach the stage where people could talk about truth in the impartial way we often use the term truth in modern English discourse. We could gain hints of how these ideas developed by conducting a comparative study of the history of languages, particularly comparing the languages of technically developed civilizations with those more primitive societies where the people have no formal education. Perhaps such a study has been done.

At any rate, we can safely assume that people were making true-false judgments before they had a word for true or false. At some point, a person used a term to refer to a proposition he/she assumed to be true as true --in their own language of course, not English. We can assume this person took a word already in use and, without being critically conscious of the process, gave an old word a new meaning. People in contact with this person found the new symbolism convenient and adopted it. The practice spread and became common coinage.

In all likelihood, after an awareness of true-false distinctions became ingrained in the rational style of a group, the people involved spoke simply of true and false (in their own language). After awhile, some thinker realized that true propositions have something in common, that:

All true propositions are true.

We can guess that this insight was not the result of critical studies but rather an idea a person developed in his/her workaday thought processes. This new thought was very intriguing. Once spread about, others were also intrigued, picked a term to symbolize this idea and it eventually worked its way into the rational style of the group. This could have, and probably did, happen without self conscious critical design. Once people began to refer to this or that statement as true, it is a short step to speaking of truth in general. Just as different languages developed their own words for water, so did they develop their own words for truth. In Greek, one word for truth is A-letheia. In Latin a word for truth is Veritas. In German a word for truth is Wahrheit.

Whether or not things happened in this order is secondary to the argument here. It is a probable scenario. From a plus point of view, in the development of language, it is normal to assume that: experience with true propositions precedes the abstraction of the idea truth.

In the plus definition system, the term truth refers to: that quality which true propositions hold in common. Because the word truth also has numerous other meanings in philosophy, plus analysis uses the term impartial truth to refer to truth as defined in the plus system. In the present context, truth and impartial truth are equivalent.

The term impartial truth, unless otherwise indicated, refers to that quality which true propositions have in common. This is not a new view. Often what people in normal discourse mean when they speak of truth is that quality which true propositions hold in common. This approach to truth in not often explicitly defended by prominent philosophers, but it is normal in commonsense discourse.

For us humans to abstract the idea impartial truth, it is first necessary to have experience with true propositions. Since this is the natural order of learning (first we have the experience then we abstract the idea) it is probable that this is how the idea of truth first came into human language. People used a handy term to symbolize that which true propositions have in common.

Question: Do true propositions have something in common?

Answer: Yes. All true propositions are true.

If we think about it, it is easy to see that: all true propositions are true. If it is true that all true propositions are true then all true propositions share something in common, that is, they are all true. Figuring this out is so easy, that it is annoying to be forced to state it out in words.

That all true propositions share the quality of being-true is so obvious that we easily overlook it. Quick as a wink the idea truth, symbolized by whatever word is used in the language we speak, enters our vocabulary and we proceed with our life unaware that we have reached a new plain of philosophical potential.

Intellectual Majesty

In the course of human development, once the idea of truth enters our thoughts, something new begins to happen. The idea of truth introduces us to an awe inspiring intellectual majesty that has the power to move even the hardest heart. Once we get a glimmer of what truth really means, we can never be the same again. It is not necessary to engage in critical philosophy in order to be moved by the notion of truth. Most of us do thinking along this line but rarely put it in words. It is part of the unspoken elemental thinking we do. [See Hidden Essay]

In developing a definition of truth, it helps to understand that: when we talk about truth as an idea, we refer to a different kind of mental act than when we talk about distinctions between true and false. Just as we abstract the idea fruit after experience with individual apples, oranges, pears, grapes, cherries, etc., so do we abstract the idea truth after experience with numerous propositions we have good reason to believe are true.

Truth (impartial truth) is a concept we abstract from personal experience with true-false propositions. It is a high order abstraction we make and comprehended in the standard manner of abstracting concepts.

We abstract the idea truth in much the same way we abstract any concept. First we have experience with true propositions. We probably notice them by contrasting them to false propositions. At a point in our thinking, we detect that true propositions have something in common, that is: all true propositions are true. Many people go through the same process. The natural rational response is to give this common experience a name so we can talk about it.

Once the idea with a name is accepted in the language, learning encourage the experience and the experience encourage learning.

As said, people probably used true propositions long before they developed a word for truth. Someone used an analogous word for the new idea, others picked up on it, and soon it was in common use. The word, of course, also continued with its old meaning.

Originating this way, terms symbolizing the idea truth are shaded with ambiguity. The term has its old meanings and its new meaning. People become adept at deciding which is which form the context.

Only after many generations did anyone even think of trying to define truth. Even at this stage, the science of definition was undeveloped. Because the science of definition was in a primitive stage, the original definitions of truth were often haphazard.

We abstract and symbolize the idea truth in much the same way as we abstract all ideas. However, the idea truth has implications far exceeding most every other idea. The idea truth has an inherent importance that raises it to a plane of value at the apex of our rational experience. It is a plus tenet that: the idea of truth is the corner stone of philosophy. Understanding fundamentals about truth is necessary to developing a critical appreciation of our intellectual talents and to critically discover the guidelines of sound rational thinking. Truth is essential to knowledge. If there were no truth we would have no knowledge.

Truth (impartial truth) is a high order abstraction that has a special place in the world of abstractions. Measured by significance in practical human affairs, it is the apex of all abstractions. Being able to make true judgments and to rationally apply our knowledge to the way we live is a defining element in our existence as human beings.

Because truth is so fundamental in human affairs it follows that: mistakes made in our understanding of truth have more far reaching consequences than mistakes in the understanding almost any other idea. For example a mistake in the understanding of discipline can have painful consequences for particular individuals when the idea of discipline is misused. The misuse of discipline however is an instance of the misuse of truth. Truth is a broader generalization than the idea discipline. Truth has a distinct application to all propositions involving the idea discipline whereas the idea discipline does not apply to all that is involved in the idea truth.

Definition

Having noticed that truth refers to that quality which true propositions hold in common is only the first step in developing an appropriate definition of truth. After coming in contact with such a magnificent idea, naturally we want to know more. Philosophy, the love of wisdom, develops out of our curiosity about truth. We want to know what else is there to learn other than truth refers to that quality which true propositions hold in common. Plus root theory explores the idea truth by developing a definition.

Of course there is no way that plus theory can put together a complete and perfect definition of truth. However, it is possible to posit a definition that seems appropriate and then try it on to see how it fits.

From this point of view, the plus system holds that the following definition of truth is fitting and works to promote sound rational thinking. Not only is it fitting, but contrary definitions do not fit.

To keep meaning as clear as possible, plus theory refers to truth as defined for this writing as impartial truth. The plus definition of impartial truth expresses qualities that all true propositions share in common.

Definition of Impartial Truth

Impartial truth =df an intellectual, relational, unified, reliable, universal aspect of reality that we humans can discern in a limited but useful manner.

Impartial

Plus theory uses the term impartial truth to distinguish the plus definition from other definitions of the word truth. Impartial truth is independent of human knowledge.

Many people use the term objective truth to mean basically the same as impartial truth is used in the plus system. In affirmative elemental theory objective truth is the common term.

The plus system uses impartial truth to avoid the ambiguity in the term objective. Over time, the terms object, object of knowledge and objective have been used in so many contrary, inappropriate, and contradictory ways that the terms have become overwhelmingly indeterminate. Plus discourse tends to avoid terms involving the word 'object'. Fresher words have more explanatory value.

Intellectual

In plus definitions, the term intellectual refers to the capacities and skills we use in abstracting concepts, developing understanding, making judgments, affirming or denying propositions, sharpening analytical skills, and acquiring knowledge. Using intellectual talents, we, symbolize ideas, form propositions, figure reasons, deduce conclusions, design priorities, set goals, and make predictions. (Our predictions don't always pan out, but that doesn't stop us from trying.) Intellectual gifts make it possible for us to use our reason and to think rationally. (Chap 4 p 5). Using our intellectual talents we are able to distinguish the idea of truth from material objects, mental images & physical forces.

Chapters 4-7 discuss intellectual talents and introduce the idea of balanced realism, which distinguishes physiological from intellectual thinking. Impartial truth is an intellectual abstraction, not a physiological perception.

Relational

Relational means that the truth of an individual proposition is always relative to the meaning of the terms employed. Every proposition is a judgment and consists of a relation of at least two terms. Every student who has been through school should know this point inside and out. If you don't understand this simple actuality, you were cheated in your education.

The truth of any proposition is in the relation of terms, not in the terms standing alone. (see chapters 18 & 19) Consequently the truth of a proposition is relative to the meaning of the terms. This is often what people mean when they say, "truth is relative." According to plus root theory, it is true that: truth, considered from a relational point of view, is relative. If a mother says, I plan to take my baby to the doctor to get her shot., the mother does not expect the doctor to put a gun to the baby's head. There is more than one meaning in that sentence. The truth value of the sentence is relative to the interpretation.

However, the idea "impartial truth" is not relative. It is crucial in understanding impartial truth to be able to distinguish between the idea of truth (that which all true propositions hold in common) and the truth of individual propositions. To carry on an intelligent discussion about the relativity of truth we need to keep these differentiations clear. From one point of view, truth is relative. From another point of view, truth is not relative If a philosopher can't be clear about these different points of view, he should take down his shingle. Part Three of this book expands on this thought.

Unified

Unified means impartial truth is internally harmonious. Internally harmonious means that genuinely true propositions are identical with themselves, do not contradict one another, and are logically compatible. Unified implies acceptance of the intellectual laws of identity, non-contraction, and excluded middle. These three laws are often called The Basic Laws of Thoughts. It is a tenet of plus root theory that: the basic laws of thought are implicit in impartial truth, sound rational thinking and civil discourse. However, for this tenet to be philosophically defensible, the basic laws of thought must be properly stated and interpreted. Those philosophers who reject the basic laws of thought usually rely on a straw men arguments. First they present a distorted version of the basic laws of thought. Next they refute the distorted version—which is easy because the distorted version is obviously silly. They then proceed as if they have refuted all interpretations of the basic laws of thought and postulate inverse ideologies that lead to calamities. This deep underlying root error is common in modern ideology. It is the originating source of many difficulties we face today. It is a major problem that is ignored by almost everybody. I will return to this problem again in later chapters.

Reliable

Reliable means that: true propositions remain the same through time. The reliability of impartial truth results from being unchanging. This is something we know very well in our commonsense liminal level of acumen. This point has already illustrated (chapter x p x). We will return again to the importance of this aspect of impartial truth in later chapters. All true propositions share this quality.

Universal

In plus definitions, universal means that true propositions are true for all people. Impartial truth belongs to all equally. Impartial truth is a unifying aspect in reality. No one owns it or has a right to claim a monopoly. The pursuit of truth is a universal investigation. Our quest for truth unites all people of the world. No matter what language we speak, we all partake in the same respect for impartial truth.

Reality

Reality, plus defined, means that which exists as it exists. So interpreted, fantasy is a part of reality because fantasy is a real activity we engage in. Illusion is a part of reality. Illusion is very common in our intellectual lives. Lies and deception are a part of reality. When we are deliberately deceived it is a real event. Error is a part of reality. As we mature, we all make mistakes and suffer real consequence. Physical objects are a part of reality. The bird sitting on my knee is a real bird. Ideas are a part of reality. My idea of reality is a real idea. All that which exists, physical and intellectual, is an aspect of reality. Impartial truth is an aspect of reality, not the whole.

Aspect of Reality

The term 'aspect of reality' emphasizes that impartial truth is only a part of a larger existence. Impartial truth is not the whole of reality. From a plus point of view: BEING and TRUTH are not equivalent. BEING is a broader category than TRUTH. For example, errors are real. We human beings really do make intellectual mistakes. An intellectual mistake is a false or misleading answer to a question. It is not unusual for humans to believe as true a proposition that is not true. The error is real. Error is an aspect of reality. Truth is an aspect of reality. They are not the same. Reality is a broader category than truth.

Reality, in its core meaning, includes both intellectual and physical being. Impartial truth is an aspect of intellectual reality, not the whole of it. However, we can only understand reality insofar as we are able to abstract ideas. We can only expand our understanding as we form our ideas into judgments, reason to new conclusions, and learn from experience. From the point of view of our understanding, truth encompasses reality. People with poorly developed elemental skills sometime get reality and truth mixed up.

Human Discernible

Humanly discernible means that aspects of impartial truth are knowable to humans in limited degrees. Although our human knowledge is limited, we have the ability to comprehend a many individual truths with varying degrees of certainty. Each true proposition that we begin to understand and incorporate in our body of knowledge is an aspect of truth that we discern. It is a basic tenet of plus root theory that: we do not have to know all truth in order to know some truth.

Limited

Limited means incomplete, not absolute, and subject to error. Our knowledge is not only limited in scope, it is limited in the very structure of the way we learn. Being aware of our limitations pushes us to be humble, keeps us alert, and helps us avoid error. From an plus point of view it is important to emphasize our limitations so we do not slip into the fallacies of absolutism and/or subjectivism. Remember that it is our knowledge that is limited, not impartial truth. It is a basic tenet of plus root theory that: human knowledge and impartial truth are not identical.

Useful

Useful means that we humans can learn bits of impartial truth, apply aspects of impartial truth to our lives, and work toward making improvements. These improvements are not absolute because human knowledge of truth is always limited. Although limited, the amount of truth we humans can learn is awesome and vast. If we can develop the wisdom we need to arrange the truths we know in prudent priorities, we can make genuine progress and achieve comity in society.

Truth is useful both propositionally and conceptionally. Propositional truth is important. The river is frozen solid enough to bare the weight of myself, my horse, and my wagon. Under some circumstances the truth or falsity of this proposition can be a matter of life or death.

Contemplating the idea of impartial truth is also important. As we grow in understanding those qualities true propositions hold in common, we are in a position to advance our knowledge in matters that really count. It is awe inspiring to ponder the implications of this human ability we all share.

Distinguishing the truth of individual propositions from the idea of impartial truth also explains how it is that we can discover truth and still continue seeking truth. The idea impartial truth refers to all true propositions, whether we know them or not. Each true proposition we discover expands the content of our body of knowledge which influences the way we live and helps expand our appreciation of truth. If we love truth, we will continuously seek to expand our body of knowledge in such a way that we become more wise and more worthy of this marvelous gift.

Each truth we find expands our body of knowledge. As our body of knowledge expands, the wiser we become. As we become wise, we more and more realize the great gap that exists between our personal body of knowledge and the vast expanse of impartial truth. If we can break away from the confines of our own conceit, we develop a hunger to learn. When we reach this stage, each truth we learn feeds our appetite for more. In this manner we learn truths and continue to seek truth at the same time. There is no contradiction here.

Variegated

Variegated means that the content, degree, and quality of impartial truth learned by humans varies considerably according to time, place, & person. Everybody knows some truths, but which truths people know and how profoundly they understand what they know, varies considerably from person to person. In technical societies, we specialize.

Wisdom is the ability to keep propositional truths in proper proportion to one another. A wise person not only knows truths of great worth but also knows how to put one truth in relation to another and how to put truths into practice applying first things first. To develop wisdom, a person must also develop the virtue of honesty and practice charity. This idea is not new but has been implicit in philosophy since its beginning.

Wisdom does not depend on technical expertise or formal education. Very wise individuals have lived in all cultures and all ages of mans history.

Many definitions of truth differ from the above. However, from a plus point of view, the above definition corresponds to the core meaning of the term truth as used in ordinary language and commonsense conversation. It is a definition that fits well with our normal use of the term truth.

People in their commonsense mode of thinking and in civil discourse, assume a meaning of truth very similar to impartial truth as defined above. They may critically define truth in a contrary manner but when engaged in civil discourse, people intuitively and liminally grasp how to use impartial truth. An inappropriate definition of truth does not eradicate our use of impartial truth. However, a misformed definition of truth can be a stumbling block.

A main thesis of plus root theory book is that: adequately correcting root errors is the most promising way to advance our abilities of progress in peace. Reworded, this says we do not have to fix every root error or even fix one absolutely. All we have to do is fix problems adequately enough to handle the situation in question. Since root errors come in degrees from serious to insignificant, and since we in the world today already possess many well-developed skills of sound rational thinking, often all we need is a little improvement in rational theory to make dramatic leaps forward in our abilities to solve problems in a constructive, non-violent manner. It thus follows that adequate improvement in crucial epistemological matters is all we need to make notable advancements in present day quality of living. Because we only need a small mount of improvement, we are justified in maintain great hope for the future.

It is a plus tenet that: essentially mistaken interpretations of truth are extremely serious root errors. It follows that: adequately correcting mistaken notions of the essence of truth, can bring forth tremendous improvement. This is so important that by simply upgrading our understanding of impartial truth we could reduce the bad effect of numerous negative ideologies throughout the world.

From a plus point of view, it is the business of philosophers to clarify the meaning of truth, show the rest of us how to embrace truth, and make the process attractive. This is what philosophers, lovers of wisdom, should do!

Do they? We need to look into this problem more thoroughly.