The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


The correspondence theory of truth assumes that the definition of truth is in the world.

However, one can object that everything is ultimately in the mind and therefore the definition of truth is inside us. It is pointless to look for a definition in the world. Idealists (as opposed to materialists) believe this. This leads to a different theory of truth: truth can no longer be defined as the correspondence to the facts of the worlds, but has to be defined as the correspondence with the facts of the mind. The "coherence theory of truth" defines truth as coherence with the system of beliefs in one's mind: the statement "Snow is white" is true if the fact asserted by this statement this is coherent with all the other facts that are believed to be true.

Truth is defined by the set of coherent statements that make up a whole system of beliefs.

Any cosmological theory, for example, is of this kind: the truth of a statement about black holes cannot be verified (because we cannot travel into a black hole and not even get close to one) and therefore it only depends on whether it is coherent with the other "truths" of Physics.

Idealists believe that this is the only definition of truth that makes sense in general: we can never be sure of the world, therefore we can only assess whether a statement is coherent or not with our beliefs.

The US philosopher Charles Peirce pioneered the "pragmatist" approach to meaning that roughly says: the meaning of an idea consists in its practical effects on our daily lives. If two ideas have the same practical effects on us, they have the same meaning. He then defined accordingly: truth is the effect it has on us, and that effect is "consensus". Truth is not agreement with reality, it is agreement among humans. That agreement is reached after a process of scientific investigation. At the end of each such process, humans reach a consensus about what is "true" (e.g., that the Earth is not the center of the universe, that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, that Everest is the highest mountain on Earth).


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