Mini Symposium on Truth: Sartwell and Kaufman on Theories of Truth

by Daniel A. Kaufman

My discussion with Crispin Sartwell of Dickinson College on theories of truth.  Originally aired on the Sophia program, MeaningofLife.TV, February 12, 2019.

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  1. Fascinating discussion. In the first half I was a little reminded of the worm Ouroboros, eating its own tale; and I groaned a little when Sartwell introduced metaphysics… But as he elaborated his ‘system,’ and where he wanted to go with it, I realized that I would need to have a read of his book. Some undeniably interesting ideas.

    Thanks, Dan!

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  2. Enjoyable dialogue. I think Dan was right that the differences are a matter of basic temperament — and general outlook. I recall from previous dialogues that Crispin Sartwell has some kind of religious commitment (as I recall, Christian, specifically Quaker). His mention here of Kierkegaard and Emerson as figures he closely relates to would seem to comfirm this.

    Given such commitments (or at least general orientation) it is no surprise that he takes the line he does on truth. If you believe that values are fundamental to reality (Sartwell talks about the true and the real in moral/aesthetic terms) then you will naturally be more inclined to think that our minds can access and explore (metaphysical) reality and that natural language based systems can describe it.

    If, on the other hand, you see things in more skeptical and scientific terms then you will obviously be less sanguine about the possibilities of a priori metaphysical systematizing.

    Sartwell understands this and gave a good account of the reaction by Russell and others against German idealism. He wants a humbler metaphysics. Not having read his work, I cannot make a judgment on it.

    I want to say one more thing. Those who take the skeptical/scientific path are not necessarily locked into a particular view on the nature of fundamental reality. In other words, you can believe that we get our only reliable knowledge from ordinary observation and science while remaining agnostic about the fundamental questions.

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