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23

Truth without Correspondence to Reality

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on the idea of truth as opposed to mere justification

M. Rorty, R. (2000). Truth without Correspondence to Reality. In M. Rorty, R. Philosophy and Social Hope. Penguin, pp. 23-46

37

For, a believer who is (unlike a child or a psychotic) a fully fledged member of her community will always be able to produce justification for most of her beliefs - justification which meets the demands of that community. There is, however, no reason to think that the beliefs she is best able to justify are those which are most likely to be true, nor that those she is least able to justify are those which are most likely to be false. The fact that most beliefs are justified is, like the fact that most beliefs are true, merely one more consequence of the holistic character of belief-ascription. That, in turn, is a consequence of the fact that beliefs which are expressed as meaningful sentences necessarily have lots of predictable inferential connections with lots of other meaningful sentences. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, continue to hold a belief which we have tried, and conspicuously failed, to weave together with our other beliefs into a justificatory web. No matter how much I want to believe an unjustifiable belief, I cannot will myself into doing so. The best I can do is distract my own attention from the question of why I hold certain beliefs. For most matters of common concern , however, my community will insist that I attend to this question. So such distraction is only feasible for private obsessions, such as my conviction that some day my lucky number will win the jackpot.

[...] There would only be a 'higher' aim of inquiry called 'truth' if there were such a thing as ultimate justification--justification before God, or before the tribunal of reason, as opposed to any merely finite human audience.

—p.37 by Richard M. Rorty 1 year, 3 months ago

For, a believer who is (unlike a child or a psychotic) a fully fledged member of her community will always be able to produce justification for most of her beliefs - justification which meets the demands of that community. There is, however, no reason to think that the beliefs she is best able to justify are those which are most likely to be true, nor that those she is least able to justify are those which are most likely to be false. The fact that most beliefs are justified is, like the fact that most beliefs are true, merely one more consequence of the holistic character of belief-ascription. That, in turn, is a consequence of the fact that beliefs which are expressed as meaningful sentences necessarily have lots of predictable inferential connections with lots of other meaningful sentences. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, continue to hold a belief which we have tried, and conspicuously failed, to weave together with our other beliefs into a justificatory web. No matter how much I want to believe an unjustifiable belief, I cannot will myself into doing so. The best I can do is distract my own attention from the question of why I hold certain beliefs. For most matters of common concern , however, my community will insist that I attend to this question. So such distraction is only feasible for private obsessions, such as my conviction that some day my lucky number will win the jackpot.

[...] There would only be a 'higher' aim of inquiry called 'truth' if there were such a thing as ultimate justification--justification before God, or before the tribunal of reason, as opposed to any merely finite human audience.

—p.37 by Richard M. Rorty 1 year, 3 months ago