The Voice of Truth
Can we recognize truth? Yes. How do we know that? Because in some cases we actually do and if we do it, we can do it. Let us then proceed with the following question. Is it possible that Truth be experienced? Answer, yes. Experiencing truth is a common everyday event. However, recognition and acknowledgment of this event has been radically misunderstood. The misunderstanding arises, first, in the failure to attend to it and second, in the failure to distinguish between the act of thinking and the thought itself. I will present an argument that will provide proof that we can and do experience truth precisely because truth is directly tied to that which we experience.
Cognition & Experience
We cannot have experience but for our capacity to think. Accordingly, thinking is a precondition for having experience. Thinking carries with it a connotation of a reality. That is, we have the capacity to be aware of what we are thinking as well as what we have thought. Events in thinking and experience are the moments of our mental make up. Experience or thinking events are both empirical and non-empirical in nature. They are not empirical in the sense that we have sensations of them, rather they are perceived and/or cognized by the mind. Thus, events in thinking or experience are direct. They are not to be regarded in the sense of Sensate Empiricism but rather in Radical Empiricism. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke provides an explanation for this position in the section on Ideas of Reflection. He held that all our ideas are ultimately derived from sensation or from reflection. For Locke, it is precisely these two sources that make experience possible. He postulated that sensation is a sense or perception originating from external objects and are thus conveyed into the mind. The other source which produces experience is what Locke referred to as reflection. He held that reflection is the perception of the operations of our own minds, such as perceiving, thinking, doubting, believing and willing. He stated that the ideas it (reflection) affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself.
Thinking is an event and an event is an individual. Intention or intentionality, is the minds attending to, or directedness on some thing(s). Thus, thinking can be considered a matter of having (instancing) an intentional property in the mind. Thinking has this property in that when we are in the act of thinking the mind is attending to or is directed on some entity other than itself. We think in concepts and propositions. Therefore, thinking is propositional in nature. Because this the case, let us begin by directing our attention to the proposition itself.
There are many contemporary philosophers who have postulated an entire theory of truth but have failed to provide an account of the proposition. In A Realist Conception of Truth William Alston, presents a very attractive theory of truth. However, Alston never provides an explanation of what the proposition itself, is. This I believe was a crucial mistake. Propositions are related to facts and facts are states of affairs. Mr. Alston explicitly refused to tell us how the proposition is connected with or related to the fact or state of affairs. Thus, I feel that while his theory is interesting and important, it is unfortunately, incomplete.
Below, I have provided a list containing the general features of the proposition. This list is, of course, not exhaustive. The list is only intended to provide a basic overview of what I consider the main features of the proposition.
General Features of the Proposition
The proposition is not located in space or time. This must be distinguished from sentences or events involving sentences. Sentences are located in space and time, as are utterances. While sentences have actual or real existence, propositions have ideal being. That is, propositions are universals.
The proposition is not identical with the sentence. The meaning or sense of an (indicative, informative) sentence is a proposition. While propositions may be expressed by sentences it is not essential to them that they be so expressed. There are for example propositional instances that can exist that are true or false even when no sentences expressing them exist. Further, different sentences can have as their sense, the same proposition.
The proposition is an entity that can be sensuously perceived as well as non-sensually apprehended by the mind.
The proposition is a public entity in that the same proposition can be grasped by many minds. Therefore, it is shareable. Further, the same proposition can be repeatable within the mind of a single person.
The proposition does not depend for its existence or character upon having been instanced by a thinker.
One not only grasps the proposition, one also has a propositional attitude toward or with the proposition. That is, one believes or doubts the state of affairs occurs which the content is held in the proposition. The state of affairs itself is before the mind. This is often expressed by stating that the proposition itself is the content of that which we believe or judge.
The description of a proposition does not essentially involve a reference to any one particular mind. Nor does it involve a reference to the act of thought with which it is involved. The truth value of the proposition is not affected by such involvement, unless it happens to be a proposition that refers to such involvement.
The proposition’s description essentially involves references to certain entities. That is, it describes the logical connection between proposition(s) and the content held therein. A proposition must consist of a more or less complex set of references, intentions and/or meanings as well as the mode of presentation in their combination.
The proposition is an entity that can be underivitively true or false. This does not apply to opinions or sentences; they are true or false only in light of their relationship with the proposition.
Propositions are made up of concepts. Concepts are not properties of the proposition, they parts of the proposition. Together they express the ofness or aboutness in acts of thinking. For example, consider the proposition; my keys are in my purse. Here the proposition being instanced in the thought (which itself is a fact) is related to a fact.
The proposition has a different kind of an object than does a concept. Propositions are related to facts and facts are states of affairs. Concepts are properties in the acts of thinking. Thus, the concept itself is a universal. In thought one understands the proposition, which consists of the component concepts and their relations, and may compare that to the corresponding observed state of affairs. Thus, one is able to determine the truth value of the proposition. What is commonly overlooked here is that what is public in the process of thinking is the verification of the universal proposition one thinks in. This is key in the experience of truth. More on this later.
Propositions together with their constituent parts, possess the quality of expressing the aboutness or ofness on that which the mind is attending to namely, concepts logically held in the proposition and their relations to the extrinsic objects or state of affairs which they are about or apply to. In short, there exists a relationship (intentionality) holding between a thought and its object. To more clearly develop an understanding of this relationship a brief discussion of the concept is in order.
Features of the Concept
As is well known, opinions vary widely as to what the concept is. Because they are an integral part of the proposition I shall offer some generally accepted features of the concept.
Concepts are entities which persons may acquire, and therefore, lack or have. Hence, there exists the possibility that concepts may be lost as well. (See ‘Disappointment’ below) While the concept is an intentional property of the thinking, it does not depend for its existence upon being instanced by a thinker.
A concept is, in most cases, an entity which applies to or is of some entity(s) extrinsic to itself. In other words, things fall under concepts. If a concept P (purse) applies to (or is the concept of) X (a particular purse), this essentially depends upon what characteristics X (a particular purse) has, namely, what its properties or relations are as they are brought over against and compared to the concept P (purse). That is, when a concept is brought over against its object, that which is being compared are the properties or relations which belong to whatever falls under the concept as it relates to that object.
A concept is a transpersonal entity. That is, it is public as well as objective, in the sense that many people can have one and the same concept. It is shareable by many persons, and repeatable within the experience of a single person. It is acknowledged here that this feature has and remains one of the most contestable points in philosophy.
Concepts are necessary; however, they are not the sole and sufficient constituents of human knowledge. This is because there is more to an act of thought than the concepts instanced in it.
The above referenced features of the concept are only intended to serve as a statement of minimal conditions which a satisfactory analysis of (the concept of) concept must meet. For example, if one states that concepts are not true universals then he/she has to ask, how can people share them? This can be illustrated as follows: When I think of my purse and my sister thinks of the same purse belonging to me we are both thinking of the property of the being of a purse which is exemplified or instantiated in the actual purse. That is, we have the same thing in common. This is precisely were the argument of language arises. This issue is of utmost importance and consideration, deserving more of a detailed discussion than I can provide here. Notwithstanding this acknowledgment, and in light of the features just mentioned, let us consider the concept and its object. However, before I venture into this discussion I feel it is important to briefly state my position on universals.
It is acknowledged here that the issue of the existence and nature of universals is a deep philosophical problem that has been discussed by many people who have taken on various positions on the topic. By universal I understand an entity (something that exists) to possess its own nature and properties. The universal is literally identical in many cases without continuity through space and time. In other words, the thing that characterizes a universal is, that its identity does not depend on continuity in the way a particular does. That is to say, if a particular is deemed to be the same there must be a certain kind continuity through time and space. The mark of the universal is that it can be the same in different instances without being spatially and temporally continuous with other instances. Even such a simple thing as the letters on this page in that they are all black; the color black is identical in each individual letter but is not spread between them. That is to say, the color is identical without reference to space and time. I do not feel, at least for our purposes here, there is a need to postulate any special metaphysical category beyond this. However, D. M. Armstrong offers a very promising account for this very important issue in his work entitled Universals.
Concepts & Their Objects
Concepts are entities that capture reality, they are universals. They are parts and not properties of the proposition. Because concepts possess the quality of expressing the ofness or aboutness directed on entities, namely properties of objects extrinsic to themselves, they are rendered intentional properties of the act of thinking. Recognition of this fact is critical. Concepts are not the same nor do they lend to or give properties to the entities which they express. That is to say, by Leibniz Law, for object A (the concept) and B (the object which falls under the concept) to be the same, it is minimally required that they share all properties. The extrinsic object which falls under the concept does not share a property of having aboutness, whereas the concept does have this quality. Therefore, because a concept has properties that the extrinsic entity does not, they are not the same. Failure to attend to this distinction has and continues to hold philosophers needlessly locked into a position of Constructionism. This problem might well be avoided if more would come to understand that the thought of some thing is not a property of that thing, it is a property of the thinking. That is to say, we can construct acts but we cannot and do not construct objects. Further, we do not construct acts by thinking about them, rather we are thinking in the act.
Relational Values of the Concept
Propositions can be true or false. Concepts cannot be true or false. This is so, because concepts have a different relation to objects than propositions have to objects. Concepts apply to objects, and objects fall under concepts. For example, Bessie falls under the concept of cow and the concept of cow applies to Bessie. It is true that concepts may or may not match up with the qualities or characteristics of extrinsic entities or states of affairs but they cannot do this alone. They must be and are bound up or held together with other concepts, namely, the concept of logical constants, which provides the ontological structure or status to the proposition.
On this line we move to that which is commonly referred to as the copula. This couples terms in sentences and correspondingly appears between certain concepts in the proposition providing for the propositional mode of presentation. It should be noted that distinctions should be made between (words and sentences) and (concepts and propositions) however, this would be too detailed for our purposes. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the logical form is the glue which holds the propositional constituents together into what we refer to as a logical proposition.
The relation between concepts held in the proposition is found or discovered when the concept located in the proposition matches up with qualities or characteristics of an entity. In other words, it is what the intrinsic, universally apprehended proposition, is about as it is brought over against and compared with the extrinsic particular entity that can be true or false. This synthesis constitutes the relation existing between the universal proposition and the particular state of affairs it expresses. It is in the relationship holding between the thought and its object that we find or discover the actuality and possibility of the experience of Truth.
Before I venture into the experience of Truth, some mention of abstract entities should be taken into account. This is one of the most perplexing problems in philosophy which is and should be examined in depth. I make mention of it here only for the purpose of pointing out the importance in making the distinction between intentional properties and other properties where cognition or thinking is concerned.
Experience: Abstract Entities & Intentionality
Abstract entities such as numbers and colors do not have the quality of expressing the aboutness of either themselves or entities extrinsic to themselves. Therefore, numbers and colors are not intentional properties. That is, there are concepts of numbers and concepts of colors, however, numbers and colors are not themselves concepts, rather they are expressed by concepts. For example, the concept of seven, applies to a group of seven but seven is not about a concept. The same applies to entities such as color. One can have a concept of blue which is about blue but one’s concept of blue is not blue itself. This is because blue is a color and not a concept. This distinction must be recognized and held onto particularly where experience is concerned. To think in concepts is to instance intentional properties of the corresponding properties and objects.
Intentional properties are the ofnesses or aboutnesses that belong to thinking events and in particular, mental events, perceptions, and by extension linguistic events. Failure to make the distinction between intentional properties and other properties has lead many astray in philosophy. This is seen in the philosophy of Frege. He failed to clarify the relationship between the thought (Fregian proposition), and the thinking. Failure to make this distinction kept Frege locked into holding the proposition in an objective position. On this note, let us call to our attention, the distinction between the thinking and the thought.
Thinking & the Thought
Just as we walk in steps, we think in propositions. We do not primarily grasp propositions as objects of the mind, rather we think in propositions. There is the relation between the act of thinking in a thought (Fregian Proposition) that must be distinguished from an act of thinking about a thought. We do not think about a thought except in logical reflection. As stated, the logical proposition (what one thinks) is a universal. An illustration of this can be my thinking that my keys are in my purse. My sister can share the same thought. The sense in which we have the same thought is not a particular event but rather a universal, namely a belief about particular keys being in a particular purse. Further, this proposition may well exist having no particular thinker thinking in it (in the act of thinking) or having a thought of it (in logical reflection). The universal proposition is that which is instanced in the act of thinking and can be thought about in logical reflection.
There exists a fundamental relation between what the proposition is about as it is brought over against its objects. This is the critical impasse where truth is concerned. Truth is not the property of the thinking it is a property of the proposition. This is so, because the laws of logical relations do not hold between acts of thinking but between propositions. Truth can be found by the thinking but is not fundamentally dependent on thinking. The problem of truth as it is related to experience arises when one fails to make the distinction between the thinking and the thought. This oversight or confusion arises in the failure to attend to the actual progression that takes place in the process of thinking, which for the most part, involves the structure of verification of the thought to its object. This is precisely where three independently existing realities are synthesized or fused together to establish the experience of Truth.
Fusion is defined here as the merging (correspondence) of different elements into a union. The three elements involved in the experience of truth are as follows:
|ONE||The Thought – Universal Proposition|
|TWO||The Perception – that which is of precisely the same state of affairs projected by the thought. It is a process which develops through time under the guidance of the thought.|
|THREE||The State of Affairs – the actual being of that which the thought is about.|
All three elements are different realities. The most effective way to illustrate fusion or correspondence between these elements is with descriptions of concrete cases, a chief feature of the Phenomenological approach to Truth. Description helps us to understand the roles truths as well as falsity play when we compare our thoughts and statements to what they are about. Comparison is the most natural feature in cognition and experience. It is something we constantly do. It is my belief that description will provide a clear illustration of the nature and correspondence between three independently existing realities which when matched up constitute the experience of Truth.
Truth is made present to us when we find something to be as we thought it to be. Having such experiences and being able to actually identify cases among them means that they can be described. Through a step by step description we will gradually observe how the thought guides us to its object. As mentioned early on, we experience truth each and every day of our lives. Below I shall offer two hypothetical cases, the first case is an illustration of disappointment a case in which a concept or belief is lost as a result of the thought’s not matching up or corresponding with its object. The second case is an illustration of the Experience of Truth.
I am a psychologist practicing in Los Angeles who recently had minor surgery to remove gallstones. After the operation, I remember having had a strange dream. In the dream I was moving into a grey space that seemed to get darker with progression. It was as if I had no body. The sensations of movement and sight seemed purely cognitive. Reflecting upon the dream made me feel very uneasy. There was a peculiar sense of loss. Something big was missing. I felt a radical sense of confusion. It was not anything I could explain or understand even with my knowledge of medicine. There was something different about me that day. Shortly thereafter, my doctor came in and told me that, during surgery, I suffered a heart attack, died and after sometime was revived. In that instant, the strange feelings brought about by the dream began to make sense. That is, I knew now that there was a reason behind this peculiar feeling. Something had happened to me that would change my life.
As an atheist I believed that there is no life beyond death and consequently no experience. That is, if I were in fact dead how could I have a memory of a dream? According to my atheistic belief, in death, I should not have been capable of dreaming, which itself is an experience. However, this was not the case, I did have an experience, it was a dying experience. I know this because, in reflection I re-cognized it.
Now, we cannot have experience but for our capacity to think. Accordingly, to think is to experience. Events in thinking are the moments of our mental make-up. Our thinking is such that we can recall experiences. The progression to death is an event, it is a dying experience. I know this because I could recall an event that supposedly occurred in the process of death. What this meant to me was that there is a possibility of experience beyond death. I do not believe that the experience is anything we can fathom with our limited capacities; it goes beyond the capacities as we know them. Consequently, what resulted in this experience was a loss of a belief.
The experience conflicted with the orientation of my original thought. Because the orientation of my belief was not as I thought it to be, I became dis-oriented. This disorientation was the cause of the strange sense of confusion and loss I was feeling after the surgery. To put it differently, the appointment of my thought or belief, was met in dis-appointment. I am now of the belief that the sense of loss I was feeling, even before being informed of the event, was the preconceived notion of a lost belief. Thus, a part of me was in fact missing. The experience created a difference in my life. With it something became true of me that was not there before (the dying experience) and something that was there before (my atheistic belief) has since been lost. The most fascinating thought that occurred to me as a result of this event is that I realized that there is one experience none of us can escape; it is the reality of the dying experience.
The local grocery store manager calls to tell me that a hard to find spice I ordered some time ago is now available. Here the store manager has given me a thought. Before I call my mother to see if she wants a bottle of the spice, I want to make sure that the manager’s statement is true. It is at this point that a cognitive progression of verification between the thought and its object, begins. Note that the series of references or aboutnesses here . . to the spice, the market, the arrival of the spice, my mother and the structure of their unification to form the thought, are essential parts of the thought. Without them the thought would not exist at all.
Now, there are many things in the universe that do not belong to this thought, one of them is the fact of the spice now being in the market. This reality exists independently of the one I have before my mind. The fact that these realities exist independent of one another is precisely what causes me to drive to the market to make sure the spice is there. Here, the thought proceeds to guide me closer to its object and will, at some point, determine whether or not that which it intended has been satisfied.
The thought has or supplies the power to actualize procedures which lead to the examination of its object. Within the structure of verification, which the thought brings about, I am fully conscious of each piece of the thought falling into place until there is nothing more to be actualized. To illustrate this, let us proceed further into the case at hand.
Upon my arrival at the market, I proceed toward the spice section and find that there are several bottles of the spice on the shelf, just as the manager said. I pick up a bottle of spice and examine it in detail. In this moment, I am not only consciously aware that the bottles are indeed there. I also know that the store manager’s statement, as well as my hopeful thought, match up with the realities they are about. This matching up is something I can reflect on and bring before my mind. Further, it was the gradual progression of my thought to its object which expressed the matching up structure for me which, in effect, allowed for an experience of truth or the fulfillment of that which my mind was attending to.
When I am in the process of verifying my thought, that the desired spice is in the market, I bring the matching up between my thought and its object into my field of intuition. That is, I find it to be there, I do not construct it. The match up is there while I am in my car driving to the market, it is there as I walk toward the spice shelf, it is there before I find it and would be there if I never find it. This is so, because the spice’s being on the shelf is an independently existing and radically different reality than my thought of its being there.
Finally, my finding the thought to be as I thought it to be (the spice’s being at the market) made Truth present to me. That is, the fusion of Truth is there, and in reflective verification I find it to be there. Satisfied, I place two bottles in the shopping cart, one for my mother, the other for me. As I proceed toward my car there is yet another thought guiding me to its object, namely, the belief that my keys are in my purse. If I find that they are there, I am satisfied, if not . . .
Can Truth be anything other than experienced? Answer, no… think about a case.
Kay Lynn Gabaldon