What, exactly, is “truth”? When we say that a statement is “true,” what do we mean by that? What sort of relation does the truth have to our thoughts, and what sort of relation do our thoughts have to the truth? Finally, how does the truth exist? Is truth a property of a thought, or a property of a being, or both together, or something else entirely?
Those are the questions that I’d like to take up in this post, and to try to answer.
To begin with, then:
A truth is a thought that is in agreement with reality.
For instance, the thought, “I exist,” is true. For I do exist. Hence, the thought, “I exist,” is in agreement with reality. For it is in agreement with the reality of my own existence.
In general: a thought “x is y” is true, if x is y.
A falsehood is a thought that is not in agreement with reality.
For instance, the thought, “I do not exist,” is false. Etc, etc, etc.
Not all thoughts are true or false.
For instance, the thought, “a tree,” is neither true nor false. It just is.
In order to be true or false, a thought must put one thing together with another.
For instance, the thought, “this human being,” is neither true, nor false. Likewise, the thought, “mortal,” is neither true, nor false. But when these two are put together, as in the thought “this human being is mortal,” or as in “this human being is not mortal,” then the resulting thought must be either true, or false.
Hence, in order to be true or false, a thought must put one thing together with another.
If a thing is not a thought, then it cannot be either true, or false. It can only be, or not be.
For instance, a rock is not true, or false. It just is. Likewise, a griffon is not true, or false. It just is not.
Of course, the thoughts which describe this rock, or that griffon, must be either true or false. But the things themselves – the things as they exist apart from the thoughts of them – are neither true nor false. They just are, or are not.
Hence, if there were no thoughts, then there would be no truth. There would be beings, and reality – but not truth.
For instance, if all thinking beings were to cease to exist, all at once, then there would still be rocks, and stars, and trees, and living beings. But there would not be any truth or falsehood. For there would not be any thoughts which could be either true or false.
A person might say: “But isn’t it true that, if all of the thinking beings in our universe were to disappear, then there would still be rocks and trees and stars left over? So, it seems as if there would still be truth, after all.”
But, this would not be a truth that existed in that universe. In our minds – in our universe – there is the thought, “there would still be rocks and trees and stars in a universe like that,” and that thought – the one in our universe – is true. But in that universe, where our minds do not exist, there would be no thoughts that could be either true, or false. There would just be the beings in that world, and nothing more.
From the above, it follows that being is prior to truth.
By “x is prior to y,” I mean that x can exist without y, but y cannot exist without x.
Hence, being is prior to truth. For there can be being without truth, but there cannot be any truth without being – since truth is just the agreement between a thought and reality.
Likewise, it follows that thought is prior to truth. For there can be thought without truth (“a tree”), but there cannot be truth without thought.
Likewise, it follows that there could only be an eternal truth if there is always at least one thinker who is thinking a certain thought which is always true.
For instance, “2 + 2 = 4” could only be an eternal truth if there is always at least one thinker who is thinking that “2 + 2 = 4.” But, if there is a period of time in which no one is thinking that thought, then there would be no meaningful sense in which it is “true,” during that period of time, that “2 + 2 = 4.” Likewise, then, with all other mathematical or logical truths.
Finally, it remains to say what, precisely, a “truth” is.
Earlier, I said that a thought “is” true if it is in agreement with reality. But, the truth is not a property of a thought, nor is it a part of a thought.
For, if the world outside of me changes, then one of my thoughts may cease to be “true,” even if that thought does not change in any way whatsoever. For instance, if I am thinking that “it is raining outside,” then my thought will become “false” once it ceases to rain outside – even if that thought does not change in any way whatsoever, in and of itself. But if “truth” was a part or a property of a thought, then a thought could not cease to be “true” without changing in some way. For if “truth” was a part, then that part of the thought which is “truth” would have to be replaced by some different part, in order for the thought to become false; or, if “truth” was a property, then that property of the thought which is “true” would have to be replaced by some different property, in order for the thought to become false. But, neither of these things are the case. For a thought can cease to be true just by a change in the objects that it “agrees” with, even if the thought itself does not change in any way at all. Thus, “truth” is not a property or a part of a thought at all.
But likewise, for the reasons given above, a “truth” is not a part or a property of a being. For if there were no thoughts, then there would be no truth.
Hence, if the truth was a property or a part, then it would have to be a property or a part of a thought.
But, it is not.
Therefore, the truth is not a property or a part of anything at all.
It remains, then, that the “truth” is just a certain kind of relation – namely, the relation of agreement between a thought, and reality (or the relation of agreement the thought that agrees, and the reality that is agreed with). But “truth” would not itself be a property, or a part, of either of the terms of the relation, or of anything else at all. For a relation is not a property, but a relation between properties. (Just as “double” is not a property of this line, but a relation which this line has to that line, in virtue of the length of each – which length is a property, and a part of its being.)
Hence, then, the truth is just the relation of agreement between a thought and an object, without being a property of either.
That much, then, about what the truth is, and about what it means to say that a thought is “true,” and about the relation between our thoughts and the truth, and about the way in which “truth” has an existence in the world.