By Nicholas Unwin (auth.)
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It is better that what we think and say be false. In general, what really matters, it seems to follow, is not truth, but pragmatically conditioned empirical adequacy; and it is the latter not the former that we should aim at. It may be protested that we are not obliged to take these outlandish possibilities seriously. There are all sorts of sceptical scenarios that may be possible in principle, it may be said, but which nevertheless do not deserve our attention. Yet in a way, this is exactly the point.
But this is inconvenient. What we actually do is use the word ‘true’ in a particular sort of way. Thus we may amplify an earlier statement by saying ‘That is actually true’, for example. We emphasize the word ‘true’ and this appears to add some important extra ingredient to what is said. Yet there is a paradox here, for it is unclear how there can be any such extra ingredient. If ‘p’ is a truth-apt sentence, then it will imply ‘
is true’, and quite regardless of the force with which it is invested.
All that is being demanded is that the resulting beliefs and assertions be redescribed in a subtle way. And it must be remembered that all we really needed to assume here is that the Martians are logically possible. But does the Martian scenario really undermine the legitimacy of truth-aiming attitudes to this extent? The suspicion may be that we are still confusing alethic and evidential norms. It may be conceded, for the sake of argument, that there are serious epistemological problems here, and that different creatures are ideally warranted in believing incompatible things – with no hope of eventual convergence.
Aiming at Truth by Nicholas Unwin (auth.)