Which of the theories of truth—Correspondence, Coherence, or Pragmatic—is the strongest?
The correspondence theory of truth “is that true statements [or propositions] are true in virtue of their matching up with or corresponding to the way things actually are in reality.”
“According to the coherence theory of truth, a proposition is true if and only if it coheres with the set of beliefs that a person holds.”
The pragmatic theory of truth is simply defined as being “truth that works.”
The Correspondence Theory Is Stronger
Understanding the meaning of truth is a controversial topic that is believed to be self-defeating. However, there are three theories of truth that assist philosophers in defining the definition of truth. Both the coherence and pragmatic theories of truth are strong; however, the correspondence theory of truth is stronger and is more accepted worldwide.
Correspondence Theory of Truth
The correspondence theory of truth “is that true statements [or propositions] are true in virtue of their matching up with or corresponding to the way things actually are in reality” (Cowan and Spiegel, 2010). This is the most accepted theory among scientist because it requires the individual to provide proof or scientific research to back up their claim. Scientific research has evolved our society, in that we now know more than we have ever before; denying the use of the scientific method to try to prove a belief is wrong.
According to the correspondence theory, “truth is defined simply in terms of a proposition’s accurately expressing or describing a fact about the world.” We base our knowledge off of facts. Critics have used this concept against this theory because the word fact is controversial; in that we can be mislead to believe something is a fact. An example would be that we originally thought the world was flat and at that time that was believed to be a fact. With further research, we soon discovered that our world was a sphere and not a flat surface. This discredited the previous fact and credited the new fact. However, discovering new facts and discrediting old ones is a part of the correspondence theory of truth, in that it used scientific research to discover a new fact that is believed to be true.
Coherence Theory of Truth
“According to the coherence theory of truth, a proposition is true if and only if it coheres with the set of beliefs that a person holds” (Cowan and Spiegel, 2010). This theory states that truth is based on what the individual believes. However, this is different for everybody, in that our beliefs are based on our past experience that others don’t experience.
According to this theory, there can be more than one belief as long as both of these beliefs do not contradict one another. This is referred to as logical consistency, in that these beliefs or propositions need to be consistent. The “coherence [theory of truth] involves some kind of inferential or explanatory relationship between beliefs in the system” (Cowan and Spiegel, 2010). This is in reference to whether or not the proposition that is believed to be true is logically possible. In accordance to this theory, truth is what the person believes it be, as long as it coheres with that person’s beliefs. Two different individuals can believe two different things as long as it holds up with what they personally believe. Therefore, this theory is flawed, in that the concept of allowing a proposition to hold true to the individual, allows it to not be consistent and contradicts another proposition.
Pragmatic Theory of Truth
The pragmatic theory of truth is simply defined as being “truth that works.” However, it really isn’t that simple. This theory believes that “a proposition is true if and only if it is useful to the believer in achieving desirable results” (Cowan and Spiegel, 2010).
This theory is contradicting, in that it allows more than one truths to be true at the same time, whether or not they contradict one another. An example would be an individual believing that they are the smartest person in the world. According to pragmatism, if that person thinks that they are the smartest, then that person is the smartest, and no questions are asked because that is the truth. What if another individual believes that they are the smartest individual in the world? Well, according to pragmatism, this person is the smartest in the world because they believes it. Both of these individuals can not be the smartest individual in the world at the same time. This is where pragmatism is majorly flawed and weak.
In conclusion, only God knows which theory of truth is stronger, because we truly do not know. Perhaps all of the theories are wrong or they are all equally correct in their strengths to attempt to prove what knowledge is. To the best of my knowledge as an open-minded individual I believe that both the coherence and pragmatic theories have flaws functioning in our society; the corresponding theory of truth is indeed the more reliable theory.
Cowan, S. B., & Spiegel, J. S. (2009). The love of wisdom, a christian introduction to philosophy. (pp. 264-267). Nashville: B&H Academic.