A Really Short Refutation of the Pragmatic Theory of Truth

The pragmatic theory of truth (PTT) seeks to illuminate the concept of truth by focusing on concepts like usefulness or adaptivity. However, contrary to common opinion, PTT does not merely face a narrow band of (perhaps) rather artificial counterexamples (as in a case of empirically unfounded but life-extending optimism in a cancer patient); instead, PTT is faced with a fast psychological research literature which suggests that inaccurate beliefs are both (1) pervasive in human beings and, nonetheless, (2) fully adaptive in many cases. Call this the "pervasive adaptive illusions" (PAI) objection to PTT. According to PAI, the kind of connection drawn by PTT between the beliefs that we (intuitively or pretheoretically) regard as "true" and the beliefs we regard as useful is undercut by hard-nosed empirical work in psychology -- work that no empirically minded pragmatist can ignore. According to PAI, the connection drawn between truth and utility by PTT is subject to a simply overwhelming set of counterexamples (drawn from psychological research, and reviewed below). Thus, PTT is a theory any sensible theorist of truth must reject.
Keywords pragmatism  theory of truth  inaccurate beliefs  adaptive illusions
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,351
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles
    Barry Loewer (1980). The Truth Pays. Synthese 43 (3):369 - 380.
    Bradley Dowden, Truth. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    S. Levine (2010). Habermas, Kantian Pragmatism, and Truth. Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (6):677-695.
    Brian Ellis (1988). Internal Realism. Synthese 76 (3):409 - 434.
    Stewart Candlish, The Identity Theory of Truth. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    J. O. Young (2001). A Defence of the Coherence Theory of Truth. Journal of Philosophical Research 26 (1):89--101.

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    50 ( #27,158 of 1,088,370 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    1 ( #69,449 of 1,088,370 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.