Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Truth" and grammatical confusion

Some time ago I came to realise that much confusion occurs in discussions about "truth" because of bad grammar. People attempt to define "truth", they ask whether "truth" exists, whether we can know "truth", and whether there is "ultimate truth" or just preference, each having their own "truth". But to use the word truth in these ways is to abuse it grammatically [1].

Things become clearer when we look at the adjective true. Only statements that are making claims about reality can be deemed true or false. Thus, I am a male is 'true', it is a true statement. But if someone was to claim that I am a women, then their statement, their claim, would be 'false'. 'Truthfulness' and 'falsity' are linguistic phenomena alone. The problem occurs when people begin to use truth as a synonym for reality. To say that "reality is truth" may sound cool but it is problematic grammatically. Reality cannot be true, it just is. Only statements about reality can be true or false. You cannot point to something (a non-descriptive action of communication) and say "that is true" [2].

[1] I now face the problem of arguing that we should follow some proper grammar and not just move with the times, accepting the new usage. I find the new usage unhelpful however, which is why I wish to return to its tradition grammatical use.
[2] Unless you point to a statement of course.

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