Join to Simply Philosophy online community. Open your mind, post your thoughts, think critically!
Ethics / Philosophy

Truth in Speech

In the previous two posts, I have discussed the issue of both trust and wisdom in speech. But deception and lying are different ways of avoiding or denying the truth. It is that issue that I am considering now. Only communications can be true or false. So it is obvious that the issue of truth is unique to speech. There are two questions that need to be answered: the nature of truth and the value of truth. Truth is intrinsically good and it is saying of what it that it is.

Truth is good because it is intrinsically good. Knowledge of the truth is good simply because of what it is. It is also instrumentally good in many ways. For example, truth is required for our education, health, political life and vocation. In fact, there is no area of our life that knowledge of the truth does not benefit us in some way. So the goodness of truth cannot be in question.

Truth is saying of what is that it is. For example, if God exists, then it is truth to claim that “God exists”. If God does not exist, then it is not true. Truth is always about something. So when we claim that “God exists”, our claim is about God. But suppose that God does not exist. Then our statement cannot possibly be true, because truth is never about something that does not exist. This means that we cannot claim that “unicorns have one horn”. There are no such things as unicorns. So that means that all statements about unicorns are false.

This previous statement has an exception though. If we were to say that “in popular fiction, unicorns have one horn”, then that statement is true. The difference between the two statements is that the first refers to unicorns as if they actually existed in the world while the second statement refers to unicorns as imaginary creatures belonging to a particular imagination. There are no unicorns in the real world. There are unicorns in popular fiction. That difference is the reason why the first statement is false and the second statement is true.

True statements add one concept to something. The statement “God exists” claims that existence is true of God. The statement “trees are plants” claims that being a plant is true of trees. These statements are true insofar as what they refer to actually is the way that the statements claim. So “God exists” is only true if existence is true of God and “trees are plants” is only true if being a plant is true of trees.

These means that there are several ways for a statement to be false. The first way is if the subject of the statement does not exist. The second way is if the predicate of the statement (what is said of the subject) is not of the subject. But there are other ways as well. The statement may lack a predicate or a subject. In this case, no claim is made. This may be because the statement is meaningless or a single concept.

Next, I will discuss the various ways to pervert speech in general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>