15. The Correspondence Theory of Truth
0. Historical and Biographical Matters.
• Bertrand Russell (18721970)
o Why I am not a Christian
1. Our question: not what is true? But: in what does truth consist?
• We’re not talking about truth in the sense of giving a list of which beliefs are true
– we’re asking what it is for a belief to be true, in what does truth consist?
Analyzing what the concept of truth is
2. The simple answer: correspondence.
For a belief to be true is for it to correspond to reality.
3. Two problems:
a) Correspondence between what and what?
i) Beliefs and reality (refinements needed)
• My belief that:
o “The monkey is on the carpet”
If an only if
The monkey is on the carpet
• My mind
o Idea of monkey
o Idea of carpet
o Idea of spatial relationship between monkey and
• Outside world
o Real monkey o Real carpet
o Real spatial relationship between monkey and
• We’ve been talking about ‘my belief being true or false.
• But of course ‘my belief ‘ is true (or false only if the belief is true (or false)
• My belief is a private, internal thing, belonging to me, one of the contents of my
• But that private thing is true only if a public thing the belief is true.
• (Otherwise we’re into a world of extreme relativism about truth)
ii) Propositions & states of affairs
Let’s get on top of some technical language here:
• The monkey is on the carpet
• The simian is on the mat
• Le singe est sure le tapis
• Der Affe sitzt auf dem Teepich
• La scimmia e sul tappeto
Represented within the sentence (or any one of the sentences)
These five different sentences all express one and the same proposition.
Ultimately it is the proposition that is true or false.
Your sentence or my sentence, your belief or my belief, is true only because the
proposition is true.
And notice that a proposition is not a thing out there in the physical world, nor does it just
exist in my mind, unlike your own personal beliefs. It is public – shared.
Mind Ideal World (?) Physical World
My belief (private world) The belief Monkey
The proposition Carpet b) States of affai