A Path to a Conception of Symbolic Truth

by Małgorzata Czarnocka (Author)
©2017 Monographs 224 Pages


This book deals with correspondence truth, and offers an explanation of correspondence as a symbolization of reality. The author analyses those basic elements of known correspondence truth theories which are the cause of their inadequacy. She focuses on the theories which try to modify the strongest classical theories and shows that these theories are unable to free themselves from seeing correspondence as copying (mirroring). The book presents a «symbolic» correspondence truth theory claiming that correspondence is a specific kind of symbolisation in a Cassirer-close sense, and correspondence truth is neither a copy, nor any other imitation of reality, but its symbol.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Approaching the Truth Issue
  • The Truth Issue and the Problem of Knowledge
  • The Correspondence Theory and Other Conceptions of Truth
  • Symbolism and the Nature of Truth
  • Metaphilosophical Assumptions
  • Part I. Correspondence Truth – Current Research
  • Chapter 1. The Fundaments of Modern Correspondence Truth Conceptions. The Truth Theories of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • 1.1 Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Elucidation of Correspondence Truth
  • 1.2 Bertrand Russell on Truth and the Correspondence Relation
  • 1.3 The Character of Modern Correspondence Truth Conceptions
  • Chapter 2. Leszek Nowak’s Relative Truth Conception
  • Chapter 3. Verisimilitude. The Problem of Metaphysical Nature of Correspondence Truth
  • 3.1 Karl Popper’s Resolution of the Truth Issue in Science
  • 3.2 Verisimilitude and Change in Science
  • 3.3 Accusations against the Verisimilitude Conception
  • 3.4 Verisimilitude and the Metaphysical Nature of Correspondence Truth
  • Chapter 4. Partial Truth. Newton C. A. Da Costa and Steven French’s Conception
  • 4.1 Between the Pragmatistic and Correspondence Approaches to Truth
  • 4.2 The Conception of Partial Truth
  • 4.3 The Convergent Model of the Development of Science
  • Chapter 5. Approximate Truth Theories
  • 5.1 Ryszard Wójcicki’s Truth Theory and the Fussiness of Reality
  • 5.2 Approximation Truth Which Acknowledges Measurement Error
  • 5.3 Approximation Truth and Absolute Truth
  • Chapter 6. The Analytic Method and the Character of The Conception of Truth
  • 6.1 The Analytic Method and the Status of Common-sense Knowledge
  • 6.2 The Analytic Method and the Search for the Nature of Truth
  • 6.3 Investigating the Nature of Truth
  • Part II. The Symbolic Nature of Correspondence Truth
  • Chapter 7. An Investigation of Correspondence Truth — Method and Assumptions
  • 7.1 Focusing the Study on the Correspondence Relation
  • 7.2 Metaphysical and Epistemological Realism
  • 7.3 Analysis of Perception as the Basis of Examining Correspondence Relation
  • Chapter 8 An Analysis of Perception
  • 8.1 The Categories of Sensuous Experience
  • 8.2 The Subject of Perception
  • 8.3 Representation and Language
  • 8.4 The Physical Perception Phase beyond the Subject
  • 8.5 The Subjective Physiological Phase
  • 8.6 The Consciousness Phase
  • 8.6.1 Concept and model
  • 8.7 Transformation of Perceptual Models into Observational Sentences
  • 8.8 The Model Approach to Knowledge
  • Chapter 9. The Correspondence Relation — Symbolisation
  • 9.1 The Formation of the Correspondence Relation
  • 9.2 Correspondence and the Subject
  • 9.3 Correspondence — the Relation
  • 9.3.1 The arguments of the correspondence relation
  • 9.4 Correspondence and Symbolisation
  • 9.4.1 The symbolic nature of correspondence and correspondence truth
  • 9.5 The Characteristics of Correspondence Truth
  • 9.6 Symbolic Realism
  • Bibliography
  • Series Index

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Approaching the Truth Issue

This book deals with correspondence truth, i.e. truth which connects knowledge and reality or, more illustratively, is an epistemic window to reality for the cognitive subject. The starting point and basis for my reflections is the general concept of correspondence, which is fundamental for correspondence understanding of truth. I suggest an approach to the nature of correspondence truth which differs from what contemporary correspondence theories propose, mainly in the way the correspondence relation is identified.

All existing correspondence truth concepts are based on common-sense beliefs about the sense of truth which are generally accepted as obvious. In terms of content, basing philosophical concepts on such common-sense beliefs and their subsequent refining and honing to “smooth out all burrs and bumps” — as analytic philosophy typically does — cannot take us beyond the common knowledge about truth. Hence, this approach to the truth issue is unable to throw any essential light on the nature of truth.

In a certain respect the way in which this book tackles the problem of truth is ambivalent. On one hand, I believe that the concept of correspondence truth, which says that truth is a link between a (true) sentence and reality, is the most valuable underlying idea of truth, although not in, but rather against the utilitarian sense. The acceptance and advocation of this idea and the pursuit of truth as correspondence truth is an essential sign of selfless humanity which strives for cognition for intellectual and not utilitarian purposes, which do not exhaust human longings and needs. Entwined in a vast stream of dependencies, humans who recognise the idea of correspondence truth are not guided solely by their own interests, do not enclose themselves in groups which think identically (i.e. accept the same “truths” by pragmatist consensus), but, regardless of social and cultural pressure and personal gain, strive to attain reality cognitively and simultaneously remain as objective as possible. The pursuit of pragmatic truth, so fashionable in today’s era marked by absurdly overgrown and degenerated pragmatism, is in fact a tribute to self-centred, narrow and summary practicality which sometimes takes on a vulgar tone.

On the other hand, I believe and will attempt to demonstrate that the correspondence truth concepts produced by modern philosophy postulate an erroneous ← 9 | 10 → correspondence relation. The picture these concepts present is not only simplified but plainly inadequate, as it is based on rather naive illusions about cognitive accessing reality.

This book has two parts — one is critical, the other constructive. In the first part I critically analyse elements of major contemporary correspondence truth concepts from a standpoint based on the accepted hierarchy of truth-related issues. This part is neither an overview, nor a full and ordered presentation of the existing approaches to correspondence truth; I deal only with those basic elements of known correspondence truth concepts (and the meta-theoretical methods by which they are generated) which are the cause of their inadequacy. These interrelated elements include the applied philosophical method, the sources of each concept’s content and the ways in which they postulate correspondence as a special kind of relation. In this manner I analyse the two contemporary classics Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose theories, together with that authored by Alfred Tarski, the third father of today’s view on correspondence truth, have provided the groundwork for understanding correspondence truth from the time they first appeared. I almost completely bypass Tarski’s theory: first, because it has been exceptionally well covered and discussed in the literature of the subject; secondly, because its interpretations vary from correspondence versions to redundancy versions of a deflationary type.

I then move on to those of the more recent concepts which try to salvage the correspondence truth idea by diversely modifying the strongest classical correspondence theories. In selecting the concepts which modify the contemporary classics, I especially focus on those which have been authored by philosophers of science — mainly because the philosophy of science is where most of the theories which modify the classical vision of correspondence truth originate from. The role of the philosophy of science in “stripping” correspondence truth from absoluteness is predominant because the recognition of the nature and appropriateness of change in scientific knowledge requires a changed vision of truth.

The basic modern correspondence truth theories as well as their modifications emerged from broadly-understood analytic philosophy. I show that it is the analytic method which inescapably leads to philosophical concepts that differ in no special way from commonplace beliefs. Because of the method they use, analytic truth theories are unable to free themselves from seeing correspondence as imitation (mirroring) which is at most surprisingly specialised in imitating structures, that is in logical terms, in isomorphism and homomorphism. ← 10 | 11 →

The Truth Issue and the Problem of Knowledge

This book’s primary aim is to offer an explanation of the relation between knowledge and reality; this relation is the essence of correspondence truth. Scientific truths are basically the same in nature as the truths of any knowledge, hence research on both categories is conducted identically on the basic level. Or rather, such research is identical provided it passes over the detailed procedures of obtaining truths which are typical for science — especially the so-called exact sciences — and the specifics of their articulation in specialised scientific languages. Consequently, the reflections below are general in character and concern various kinds of cognition, despite some of the examined truth conceptions belonging to the philosophy of science.

In my general belief the philosophy of science should be freed from its specific philosophical ghetto, or, in other words, from the periphery1 on which it has found itself for two reasons — because of the restrictive programme propounded by the neopositivists, on one hand, and, on the other, the disdainful and even exceptive stance adopted by those anti-scientistic thinkers who usurp for themselves the sole right to philosophical depth. Both this self-isolation of a considerable number of philosophers of science2 and the disregardful attitude adopted by some science-alien philosophers are based on false assumptions.

Many of the issues the philosophy of science deals with transcend the specifics of the phenomenon of science. This philosophy mainly addresses general philosophical problems, eternal themes in which epistemology intertwines with ontology. It also occupies itself with anthropological issues related to its view of man as a specific form of being that strives for a cognitive grasp of what exists beyond it. The philosophy of science also addresses axiological issues, which, if one delves into the matter deeply enough, cannot be limited to purely cognitive values. This is precisely what the issue of truth is — the fundaments of this cognition-related sphere are clearly related to basic philosophical problems. ← 11 | 12 →

If we follow the standard claim that truth is a necessary value and condition of knowledge, then the problem of the nature of truth also addresses the nature of knowledge. Based on this assumption, explaining the nature of truth provides an explanation of the nature of knowledge. If we limit our insight into truth to correspondence truth, the truth issue will also be a matter of representation, or the relation between knowledge and metaphysical reality. Considering that “correspondence” is another term for representation, answering the question about the relation of representation will also reveal the essence of correspondence truth. The problem of representation is a philosophically fundamental issue which involves two basic questions, one ontological, the other epistemological: about what reality is, and about how it can be accessed in cognition.

The approach adopted in the present book is a selective “nudging” on truth. It is mainly focused on one issue — the correspondence relation. I believe this relation merits the utmost attention as it is the main constituting factor of correspondence truth — a fact which is banally obvious but still sometimes ignored. Hilary Putnam writes: “To say that truth is ‘correspondence to reality’ is not false but empty, as long as nothing is said about what the ‘correspondence’ is.”3

The Correspondence Theory and Other Conceptions of Truth

I do not intend to join the ongoing extensive debates between the defenders of correspondence truth and supporters of non-classical truths conceptions. Argumentative battles with absolute opponents of correspondence truth (today chiefly the neopragmatists) are not crucial to upholding (or, indeed, salvaging) the correspondent understanding of truth. Besides, the opponents of correspondence truth seem to be losing some of their original polemic zeal. Key here is a revision of the basically false beliefs about correspondence truth and proposing a correspondence truth theory devoid of at least some of the shortcomings present in current conceptions. I am sure such a theory is impossible to construct by cautious modifications of the classical theories, i.e. by its aspectual weakening, as practised by the most recent philosophy.

Another reason why I have decided to ignore the debates between supporters of various truth concepts — especially between advocates of correspondence truth and pragmatic truth — is that this debate is not quite rational. None of the truth conceptions present in the philosophical discourse today or in the past are epistemologically or metaphysically necessary. The various grasps of truth ← 12 | 13 → (as correspondence, coherence or usefulness) are not imposed by the ontic nature of the world and it is pointless to ask which of them is correct, adequate and unconditionally right. Conceptions of truth emerge in a chain of dependencies from the general principles which determine the mode of human existence in the world, especially the way in which humans define the conditions of their existence. These principles among others determine the character of cognition, hence also truth which is held to be the main cognitive value.

The correspondence truth idea is implied by human existence in the world as the existence of someone who contemplates the world, who wishes to penetrate it out of curiosity driven by a non-pragmatic, selfless openness to the world. Considered a primal feature of human nature and present in children and animals (which seems to confirm its primal character), curiosity is the forerunner of intellectual needs which are important for themselves and the achievement of intellectual goals, and not for only practical ends. However, intellectual needs are tied to emotional needs. The unknown and incomprehensible evokes fear, anxiety and panic, which are a drastic influence on awareness. Overcoming the existential fear of the unknown, hence alien world entails the mental discovery of this world, or its cognition. Cognition, which familiarises the world by creating images of it, reduces fear as cognition removes man’s sense of alienness towards the world. Another aim of cognition is to overcome man’s loneliness in the world — and it is precisely alienness which appears to be one of the main sources of loneliness.

Cognition determined by the described existence mode involves the intellectual domestication of the world, i.e. its expression in a way that is accessible to the nature of both object and subject. The aim is to grasp the world as it is, not to change, use technologically or subjugate it, i.e. process it in keeping with one’s own needs and demands. The concept of reality-representing cognition and the related idea of truth as the correspondence of knowledge to reality is aligned with precisely the intellectual and not the pragmatic mode of human existence.

If, however, we were to assume that the basis of human nature and human activity is man’s wish to rule over the world, to make it nothing more than a reservoir of goods (sometimes real but largely illusory and imposed by ideology), to transform it in line with his goals and needs, and if we also assume that the world is able to adjust to human desires, conditions and demands (which must be implied by an appropriate ontology), then this approach to the world is best served by a pragmatistic recognition of cognition and a pragmatic conception of truth. A totally pragmatic human being is a human being who is either devoid of intellectual needs or suppresses them; the essence of intellectual need is co-created by selflessness. It is a human being whose horizons are filled only by his/her ← 13 | 14 → egoistic (in the individual, collective or generic sense) interests and practical needs, which constitute his/her humanity and existence mode through his/her alienation and, in effect, loss of subjectivity. In this case human nature is formed by human needs and not vice versa. This is a human being for whom “to have” completely annihilates the “to be” existence mode in the sense proposed by Erich Fromm.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (October)
Epistemology Truth Correspondence Symbolisation Ernst Cassirer Analytical philosophy
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 224 pp.

Biographical notes

Małgorzata Czarnocka (Author)

Małgorzata Czarnocka is Full Professor of Philosophy and editor-in-chief of two academic journals. She works at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Her research interests include: epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophical anthropology.


Title: A Path to a Conception of Symbolic Truth