Correspondence theory of truth, but no correspondencePosted: 03/01 -09
“The objection that may well have been the most effective in causing discontent with the correspondence theory is based on an epistemological concern. In a nutshell, the objection is that a correspondence theory of truth must inevitably lead into skepticism about the external world because the required correspondence between our thoughts and reality is not ascertainable. Ever since Berkeley’s attack on the representational theory of the mind, objections of this sort have enjoyed considerable popularity. It is typically pointed out that we cannot step outside our own minds to compare our thoughts with mind-independent reality. Yet—so the objection continues—on the correspondence theory of truth, this is precisely what we would have to do to gain knowledge. We would have to access reality as it is in itself, independently of our cognition of it, and determine whether our thoughts correspond to it. Since this is impossible, since all our access to the world is mediated by our cognition, the correspondence theory makes knowledge impossible (cf. Kant 1800, intro vii). Assuming that the resulting skepticism is unacceptable, the correspondence theory has to be rejected.” [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Correspondence Theory of Truth]
I adhere to correspondence theory, and I accept the ensuing skepticism. As I’ve explained before, skepticism is not nihilistic, just agnostic. The above argument is absolutely brilliant, but not in the way intended (as a refutation of correspondence theory). Instead, it should be used in favor of the fictionalist response to skepticism.
In case anyone recalls the contradicting things I’ve said about correspondence theory in the past, I have a confession to make: I discovered only this past autumn that I’ve held an embarrasingly misunderstood version of it ever since I first learned about it. I thought it always implied the positive assertion that reality in fact does correspond to (some of) our thoughts in some sense. But of course, it doesn’t. One can adhere to correspondence theory and deny the possibility of actually achieving correspondence. This is my position. It’s good that I finally got this cleared up, because relating to correspondence theory makes my position a lot easier to communicate.