This blog summarizes seven different approaches to justifying the truth.
The question of what is true resides at the very core of philosophy, especially the Greek tradition that was so powerfully shaped by the trio of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Socrates was responsible for founding the modern approach to philosophy.
Indeed, I would argue he essentially launched what we can call “formal epistemology”. This is the systematic way of addressing the questions of “How do we know?” and “In what sense are one’s claim to knowledge really justifiable?” We can appreciate the difficulty in finding truly justifiable knowledge when we consider that Socrates was considered the wisest man in the land in large part because he realized he “knew nothing”.
Since Socrates’ time, there have been many different approaches to developing knowledge systems that are justified by more than one’s subjective impressions and wishes. Here are seven different approaches that attempt to ground the justification of truth.
Seven Approaches to Finding Truth:
1. The Foundational Approach.
This attempts to ground knowledge in deductive certainty. The most obvious systems that work from foundational truth claims are those in logic and mathematics. Consider, for example, that 1 + 1 = 2 is true by definition and mathematical proofs are derived from deductive logic. Perhaps the most famous foundationalist approach in philosophy was advanced by Rene Descartes, who argued for a substance dualist view of matter and mind that was in part grounded to the foundationalist truth claim, “I think; therefore I am”.
2. The Coherence Approach.
This approach emphasizes the way concepts link up with one another and proceed to offer a clearly understandable view of the world and how one knows about it in a way that is comprehensive and ordered. A good example of coherence is when one achieves a sense of insight so that one’s perspective shifts and a number of pieces fall into place. Metatheories like the Unified Theory of Knowledge are often justified based on the coherence that they are able to achieve.
3. The Correspondence Approach.
A famous quip regarding the emergence of modern empirical natural science from the rest of philosophy is that the scientists “got up out of their armchairs” and actually looked through microscopes and telescopes to see what was there. That is, they developed an empirical focus on data collection, and developed methods that tested or corresponded models that generated hypotheses that could then be examined to see if the data lined up with the predict the expected state of affairs.
4. The Phenomenological Approach.
When we think of data, where does it reside? Does it reside in the world or do empirical sense impressions reside inside the perceptions of the observers? This is a powerful consideration. It was Immanuel Kant who embraced a phenomenological approach that divided the world into that which we can experience and the thing-in-itself. Other philosophers like Husserl developed a full philosophy based on phenomenology.