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One of my teachers says that there is no such thing as "absolute truth". Could

One of my teachers says that there is no such thing as "absolute truth". Could you tell me if she is correct in this statement?

Philosophers disagree about this, but I think there is such a thing as absolute truth.

We need to distinguish the question of truth from the question of knowledge. It may well be there there is no such thing as 'absolutely certain knowledge', something we believe to be true and that we couldn't possibly be wrong about. But whether we can know an absolute truth for certain or not, there could be such a truth.

We need to allow that there may be certain statements that are not absolutely true or absolutely false, because they do not have a crisp enough meaning. One way this might happen is if one of the words in the statement is vague. So, it may be that a statement like 'People with exactly 100 hairs on their head are bald' is neither absolutely true nor absolutely false. But it doesn't follow from this that there are no absolute truths, because it doesn't follow that every statement uses vague words.

There may be some areas where absolute truth is not to be had. Some people would say this about statements about ethics, others would say this about statements about beauty. But it doesn't follow that there are no areas where there is absolute truth.

So does this leave any a plausible examples of an absolute truth? Here is one: 'There are trees in Oregon'. Not the most exciting statement, but it's true, and not just for me. It's just true, absolutely. I leave it to you to come up with more interesting examples.

What is truth, and how can we know that it is not an illusion?

What is truth, and how can we know that it is not an illusion?

I'm with Richard here: the truth of a proposition cannot be an illusion. In an illusion, the proposition is false. But there might nevertheless be a sense in which truth could be an illusion, if we think that there are representations when in fact there aren't any. This is paradoxical territory, but for example there is a line of thought from Wittgenstein, articulated in Saul Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, according to which our thoughts do not have determinate content. No determinate content, no determinate proposition, so no truth. If that were the situation, but we thought that there was truth here, we might (truly?) say that truth is an illusion.

If everything so far found in reality has been captured in words, and words are

If everything so far found in reality has been captured in words, and words are built upon letters which are also a creation of man's imagination, is not everything a construction of the human mind to categorize the world, to make it familar and give it definition? Given that this is true, then are not most if not all philosophical questions (made up of our tools of language) redundant and pointless because they are rendered meaningless by the fact of their imaginary basis? So the only real questions of philosophy should be only those relating to emotions like hunger, satisfaction, pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness? Everything else is metaphysical .... so rights and freedoms, ethics and morality is all relative to the extreme and basically non-sensical. What is the answer?

Whenever we talk about representations (and philosophers can't stop talking about them), it is important to distinguish between the representations and the things they represent. Representations, such as sentences and thoughts, are human products, but what they represent need not be. You can't think without thinking; it doesn't follow that you can only think about thinking.

Still, one might worry that it would be an incredible coincidence if human categories lined up with the categories of the world as it is in itself. But work in the philosophy of language in the last few decades as suggested a way this might not be a coincidence, by showing how the shape of our own categories may in fact be determined by the world's categories. If you would like to follow this idea up, read Saul Kripke's wonderful Naming and Necessity. (And then if you would like to start worrying all over again how the mind could shape categories, read his equally wonderful but more disturbing Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language.

Can you disprove the statement, 'Truth is relative'?

Can you disprove the statement, 'Truth is relative'?

The most familiar challenge to relativism is straightforward and, to my mind, has never been adequately answered. It is that the truth of "Truth is relative" had better not be relative. But we can spell the argument out a little more.

Question: Relative to what? Now, whatever you tell me, I will introduce an explicit statement of the alleged condition. So, if it's "relative to cultural standards", I'll ask you to consider something like: Lying is impermissible, according to the predominant standards of culture X. I can't even make sense of the claim that that is true only relative to cultural standards. It's like trying to make sense of "It's warm in Texas in Oklahoma". (Afficionados will note the similarity of this argument to Quine's criticism of conventionalism. That's non-accidental.)

Note that no such argument could show that truth was not in some interesting sense relative in some particular area. The foregoing does not show, for example, that moral claims are not true only relative to cultural standards, since "Lying is impermissible, according to the predominant standards of culture X" is not an ethical claim. What the argument does purport to show is that there must be a level at which the truth is not relative to anything.

That said, I should probably mention that certain positions people have taken to calling forms of relativism are enjoying a bit of a resurgence nowadays. See, for example, some of the work of John MacFarlane, who is at Berkeley. For what it's worth, though, my own view is that such positions are not plausibly regarded as relativistic, in any interesting sense.