Table of Contents
Two question now come to the fore:
- Historically, which truth-sources have existed?
- How did these truth-sources influence the history of man?
We will answer the first question in this chapter, and consider the second question throughout the remainder of this book.
The lists below holds the sources of truth, both contemporary and historical, that the author has encountered. (Which is not to say that the list is complete.) For each truth-source, we will give an explanation in natural language, and a definition in a pseudo-formal notation.
For an atomic sentence P:
Empiricism identifies sensory perception as a source of truth.
P is true == P is verified by sensory perception.
Rationalism identifies human reason or intuition as a source of truth.1
P is true == P conforms with some-one's intuition.
Fundamentalism identifies holy scriptures as a source of truth.
P is true == P is written in a holy scripture.
Authoritarianism identifies an authority as a source of truth. 2
P is true == An authority contends that P.
Subjectivism identifies personal feeling as a source of truth. 3
P is true == Some-one feels that P.
Coincidentialism identifies coincidence as a source of truth. 4
P is true == Coincidence indicates that P.
Finally, there is a truth-claim called postmodernism. It stands apart from the above truth-claims in several ways.
First of all, one might say that the above six truth-claims identify sentences as truth-carriers. By this, I mean that a sentence is either true or not true. Postmodernism does not speak of true or false sentences. Rather, it stresses context. One might say that Postmodernism identifies narratives as truth-carriers.
For a narrative N:
- Postmodernism identifies acceptance a source of truth.
N is true == Other, generally accepted narratives do not contradict N.
The existence of intuition is illustrated by mathematical proofs like the Pythagorean Theorem. Surely this theorem holds for any number of orthogonal triangles that could be checked empirically. Yet, this does not constitute proof. The proof needs to employ an appeal to intuition, which goes beyond empiricism. ↩
People may be identified as authorities for many reasons, good and bad. My daughter is still at the precious age where she accepts me as a source of truth. Surely authoritarianism remains a prevalent doctrine at any age. No modern scientist has verified every detail of his field himself; everyone accepts certain ideas on authority. ↩
When people claim to know because they "feel it is so", or simply because they "know it". To this source of truth we may refer to as subjectivism. ↩
An example of coincidentialism is provided by ancient priests, who told fortune from the appearance of the intestines of birds. ↩