A truth skeptic doubts whether or not there are any truths. In a Catholic Register column in the November 27, 2016 issue Francis X. Cronin confronts such a skeptic. He points out that a skeptic about truths contradicts himself if he were to claim that it is true that there are no truths. Cronin goes further to criticize the typical way this skeptic tries to avoid the contradiction by neither affirming nor denying the statement “There are truths.” The typical way is to call attention to all the ways in which intelligent people have contradicted one another. The skeptic hopes consideration of the set of contradictory statements intelligent people have made, will lead us to despair of accepting any statements as true.
In rebuttal, Cronin cites the set of contradictory statements as evidence which should set aside this despair because that set provides a proof that there are some true statements, even if we do not know which ones are the true beyond the one provable true statement “There are truths”.
In his rebuttal, Cronin introduces the term real possibility. Introduction of this term is crucial for a rebuttal of a serious skeptic about truth. A serious skeptic about truth has doubts about whether or not any of our statements can present things as they are independently of our ways of thinking and perceiving. The doubt arises because trying to prove that we can represent things apart from our thinking and perceiving them seems to require us to think and perceive them apart from thinking and perceiving them to compare with how we think and perceive them. Cronin does not successfully set aside this serious skepticism about truth if he defines “real possibility” as I do below
A statement expresses a real possibility if it represents how things can be apart from our ways of presenting them.
Cronin notes that the set of all statements expressing real possibilities contains contradictions, viz., every statement and its negation. Call this set ALL. The set ALL can be a model for that set of statements which is supposed to justify despairing skepticism about truth. However, for every statement in ALL which in fact does not represent things as they actually are, its negation does. So, the set ALL contains the subset TRUTH which is the set of the negation of all of the false statements in ALL. So, there is TRUTH even if no one can pick out each and every member from ALL.
My disappointment with Cronin’s argument is that he does not address the issue of how we can tell whether or not a statement expresses a real possibility. The serious skeptic about truth has despair about ever being able to establish that a statement represents thing as they could be apart from our ways of representing, viz., oub ability to represent real possibilities.
In my book, I argue that we cannot use theoretical reasoning to establish real possibilities, let alone truths. Ultimately we need to use practical reason to confront reality as it is apart from our thinking. Intelligent acting is needed to get the truth which we can always doubt using theoretical reasoning alone.
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