The concept of truth and belief has changed dramatically through the centuries.
The truth is verifiable and meaningless unless put in a context and conclusions can be drawn from it. On the other hand, belief is a thought based on truth, or on given facts. It is changeable, as people’s opinion may vary from time to time and it is not credible unless supported by evidence, or truth. Furthermore, belief cannot be proven to be true as it in an opinion based on truth. Truth and belief complement each other as belief without truth does not exist and truth without belief is impossible as some thought is always required.
Different philosophers had dissimilar perspectives on these concepts. For instance, Plato (424-347 BC) thought that truth may be found in an abstract “Ideal” and that the world we perceive through our five senses provides us with an incomplete and inaccurate version of the truth. He also believed that the truth may only exist in the abstract, in the way mathematical concepts exist and that trying to understand the truth by solely observing the natural world may be incredibly misleading. He also stated that the other arts were created to only confuse us, tricking us.
Aristotle (384-322 BC), on the other hand, had completely different views on the subject. He thought that nature, combined with logics could aid us to express true statements on the natural world and comprehend two things: the nature of essences (why something is) and the nature of causes (why something occurs). Unlike Plato, he believed that the other arts were created in order to help us and expand our perception of truth. Furthermore, he thought that argument is essential to reach understanding because through arguing the truth and falsity of the assertions becomes increasingly apparent.
Epicurus (341-270 BC) states that sensations inform us about the outside world and that sensation by itself is never wrong. He also thought that mistakes are committed when we make judgments about the world solely based on the information we receive through out senses. This means that we cannot judge something before knowing more about it, before we have facts and certainties.
Thomas Aquinas (1225- 1274) states that “The true is not a state that limits. If it were, one could not say: “It is true. Therefore it is.” For one cannot say that a thing is white simply because it has white teeth. (…)“
He is also of thee opinion that we cannot judge something based only on what we perceive through our senses. Through the quote he states that truth doesn’t have limits, as beliefs contribute to it, therefore, truth without beliefs may not exist.
In the 20th century, Neoclassical theories were developed which all attempted to answer the question “ what is the nature of truth?”. Various theories were created, the most important three being the correspondence theory, the coherence theory and the pragmatic theory.
The essential idea of the correspondence theory is that what we believe or say is true only if it corresponds to the facts. If it does not, then our beliefs are false.
An example would be the statement “I am sixteen years old”. According to the theory if I am sixteen, I must have been born sixteen year ago. The coherence theory says that true statements are those that cohere with our other justified beliefs. According to the theory I am sixteen if ‘I was born after 1998’ or the fact that ‘I am not in middle school’.
Finally, the Charles Sanders Peirce, the ‘creator’ of the pragmatist theory states that “truth is the end of inquiry”.
This theory states that true beliefs are certain not to conflict with successive experience and that they meet our needs better than the other alternatives.
For instance, “I am sixteen years old” only if it’s convenient for me to believe I am sixteen years old and this justifies my actions.
“Thomas Aquinas.” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 9.3 (1875): 327. Web. http://www.truthdefined.com/PDFs/Aquinas-Truth-Q1.pdf
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