What is truth?

Truth is a proposition or a series of propositions the meaning of which corresponds to reality.  For example,

  • the proposition George Washington is the current president of the United States does not correspond to reality. It is therefore false.
  • The proposition George Washington was the first president of the US does correspond to reality and is therefore true.


Terms, Propositions, & Arguments

What is a proposition?

A proposition is a judgment composed of a subject term and a predicate term. Consider the proposition given in the previous question, George Washington is the current president of the United States. The subject term is George Washington; the predicate term is the current president of the United States. Study this for more.  Clarke writes:

In order to break up a Proposition we have only to ask ourselves:

    1. What is it of which we are speaking? and the answer to this question will give us the subject of the proposition.
    2. What is it that we affirm or deny of it? and the answer will be the predicate;

while the copula is always some person singular or plural of the verb to be with or without the negative.

Consider the proposition Horses neigh.

That of which we are speaking is Horses.

That which we say of them is that they are creatures that neigh.

The proposition in logical form would be Horses are neighing creatures.    source


What is a copula?

This is some form of the verb to be which joins subject and predicate; cf this. It is the equivalent in mathematics to an equal sign.


What are the different kinds of propositions?

There are categorical, hypothetical, and disjunctive propositions.

  1. A categorical proposition takes the form of All A is B or George Washington is the president of the US.
  2. A hypothetical proposition takes the form of If A, then B or If George Washington is the president of the US, then the country will be prosperous.
  3. A disjunctive proposition takes the form of Either A or B or Either George Washington is the president of the US or Franklin Pierce is the president of the US.


How are categorical propositions further subdivided?

Categorical propositions are further subdivided into A, E, I, and O propositions; study this.

  • A proposition – All S are P
  • E proposition – No S are P
  • I proposition – Some S are P
  • O proposition – Some S are not P


Why are propositions so important?

Because just as terms make up a proposition, so an argument is made up of propositions. If we want to argue persuasively, then we must understand propositions which are the building blocks of truth.


What is an argument?

An argument is drawing a conclusion from one or more propositions; i.e. The weather forecast predicts rain and the sky is cloudy. Therefore, I will bring my umbrella to work with me today. From the two propositions about the weather and the cloudy sky, the conclusion is drawn that an umbrella should be taken to work. This is reasoning.


What are the three exercises of the human mind which correspond to terms, propositions, and arguments?

The human mind has three such exercises which correspond to each of these: cf Whately or Clarke.

  1. Apprehension is what the mind does to a term. We see a cow and we understand it. Some says “book” to us, and an idea corresponding to that term arises in our mind.
  2. Judgment is what the mind does to a proposition. We judge whether the proposition is true or false. If it is true, we give it our assent or agreement and vice versa.
  3. Reasoning is what the mind does to an argument. We bundle propositions together to support a given point or course of action.


Would you identify each of these components in an argument?

Sure, consider this argument or syllogism.

  • All men are mortal;
  • Socrates is a man;
  • Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The terms are “men,” “Socrates,” and “mortal.”

There are three propositions. They are “All men are mortal,” “Socrates is a man,” and “Socrates is mortal.”

The entirety is an argument or a syllogism.


What is the difference between an argument and a syllogism?

They differ only in form. A syllogism is an argument laid out in propositions as in the previous question.


Truth & Theology

Why must the question of truth be settled before we can begin a study of theology?

If there is no such thing as truth, then what progress can we possibly make in trying to know the truth about God?


Who are those who assert that no proposition can be true or false?

These are the skeptics who assert that there is no such thing as absolute truth.


What is meant by “absolute truth”?

Absolute truth is a term used to mean that a given truth is true for all peoples of all times and places. A thing cannot be true in Mexico but false in Germany. Some people assert that truth is relative; i.e. that something can be true for you but not for me.


It seems that the term “absolute truth” is redundant.

It is indeed. Truth is reality. Truth is not like taste where one person can like chocolate while another is disgusted by it. If it is true for me that Jesus was born in Bethlehem than it is also true for you. Some people use the term objective truth which again is just saying that truth is not determined by our subjective response to it.


What do you mean when you say that truth is not determined by our subjective response to it?

I mean to say that a given proposition is true or false completely regardless of whether we believe it or not or whether we like it or not. We might not like it that Russia invaded Ukraine last spring but regardless of this, it is still true. You can vigorously deny the law of gravity but all the same, if you jump off a building, you’re going to fall.


What do the skeptics teach?

This is primarily something growing out of postmodern movements. These people teach that truth is relative to individuals; hence, you have your truth and I have mine.


How is this disproven?

Because it is self-defeating. People who assert the skeptical claim that there is no objective truth just need to be asked if this is true? Is skepticism true? If it is, then it is false.


Why else is the question of truth so important to a study of theology?

Because theology is a study of God; and if there is no God, then there can be no truth.


Why is this?

Because all truth begins in a mind; so if there is truth in the world, then it must have begun in the Creator’s mind.


Why must all truth begin in a mind?

Because only in this way does it have meaning. Imagine two scenarios. In both scenarios, you enter a room and see a row of scrabble blocks arranged such that the words “Call your mother” are spelled out.

Now in the first scenario, your friends tell you that they inadvertently bumped the box of scrabble letters, and they fell out all over the floor. It is completely by chance that the letters happened to have formed the sentence “call your mother”. Your friends insist that none of them arranged the letters this way; it was purely an accident.

In the second scenario, your friends tell you that they arranged the letters in this way.

In the first scenario, you would never think that you were being told to call your mother. You would simply marvel at the coincidence of these letters landing in this way. In the second scenario, you would read the letters, understand their meaning, and act accordingly. This is the point; in the second scenario, the sentence originated in a mind and thus it has meaning and conveys information. The letters in the first scenario, however, did not originate in a mind and thus have no meaning or information in them at all.


So if there is no God, then there is no truth or meaning in the world. But what about people? People have minds and can create truth.

If there is no personal creator who created personal beings then there is no ultimate mind behind all of our individual minds.  In fact, our minds don’t exist.  We have a brain but no mind. Truth can only come from a mind, not just a brain.


What is the difference between the brain and the mind?

The brain is a material thing consisting of millions of neurons and chemical reactions. Our mind is an immaterial thing consisting of our intellect, will, and emotions.


Is there science to support this distinction?

A person’s soul is not empirically testable so in that sense, it is not accessible to the scientist. For all that, however, consider the results of this experiment:

While under a local anesthetic, an epileptic’s scalp was lifted away, and the cranium opened to allow the surgeon direct access to the brain tissue. Using an electrical probe, he touched that part of the brain which made the right hand move or twitch. As the hand moved, he said to the patient, ‘You just moved your hand.’ The patient replied, ‘I didn’t move it, you did.’ Evidently the man’s self-awareness was not directly related to his brain. The surgeon then directed the patient to will in his mind not to let his right hand move. The patient agreed to resist moving it in his mind and, as the hand began to twitch due to the application of the electric probe, the patient’s left hand reached over and stopped the right hand from moving. The physician could control the brain and make it move the right hand, but the mind of the patient, which transcended the brain, moved the left hand to stop it. If the patient’s mind and brain were identical, then the surgeon would have been able to control the patient’s mind as well as his brain. In reality, the patient’s mind was free from the physician’s manipulation of the brain. Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists, chp 7.

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