Truth

Dr Adam Stewart-Wallace

TruthWhat is it for a statement to be true? Is it required that it correspond to an external reality, or merely that it cohere with our own belief system? What does our conception of truth mean for our chances of attaining it? If truth requires the fitting of our judgements to a mind-independent world, then do we have any reason to suppose we ever succeed in achieving knowledge?

These are some of the questions that this course will address. It will present some of the main historical and contemporary philosophical theories of truth, and incorporate the work of many of the great philosophers from whom these theories derive, from Aristotle through Nietzsche to Wittgenstein. Other questions to be asked will include:

  • Is truth sometimes, always, or never relative?
  • If so, relative to what?
  • Is truth in one domain, for example physical science, the same as truth in other domains, for example ethics?
  • Can we know any truths?
  • Are there any unknowable truths?
  • What sorts of thing can be true? Statements? Beliefs? Artworks?
  • What is the relation of truth to meaning?
  • Is the truth merely what it is useful to believe?
  • What is the relation of truth to authority?
  • Is there anything important to be said about truth per se at all?

Questions about the nature of truth bear on several fields of philosophy. These include epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of logic and language, ethics and aesthetics. This course will range broadly over a variety of inter-related issues, and should appeal to those with a wide range of interests, both philosophical and otherwise.

This course is aimed at: Undergraduate-level students with or without a background in philosophy. All key concepts will be explained, and it is the express intention of this course to give participants an informed introduction to the philosophy of truth which they can then develop with regard to academic philosophy or other disciplines.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: None.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: The course will develop critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.

Core reading

Please note that the purchase of this volume is highly recommended.

  • Lynch, M., (ed.), The Nature of Truth, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001 (Selected readings)

 Assessment:

1 Final Exam: 50%

1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)