F.H. Bradley and the Coherence Theory of Truth

Bradley Studies 2 (2):82-103 (1996)
The aim of this dissertation is to present a systematic account of F. H. Bradley's philosophy in so far as it is relevant to an understanding of his conception of the nature and criterion of truth. I argue that, for Bradley, the nature of truth is the identity of thought with reality given in immediate experience. There is no absolute separation between thought and its object. Bradley therefore rejects both the correspondence theory and epistemological realism. Thought is not just a mirror which reflects an independently existing reality. ;Concerning the criterion of truth, I argue that his criterion for our ordinary and scientific beliefs is practice, and the criterion for philosophical positions is a kind of coherence based on the doctrine of relative truth. For Bradley, some positions are truer than others, and the best philosophy is a comprehensive system which contains the truth of all different positions. ;Bradley does not accept the coherence theory of justification as it is understood today, since it is based on the standard account of negation and the doctrine of absolute truth. Bradley has a different approach to negation and inconsistency, according to which there are no absolutely inconsistent beliefs. Further, he insists that truth is not absolute but "relative," a matter of degree. All philosophical positions contain some truth, and none is completely false. The truth in philosophy is a position which accounts for the whole of reality and includes all apparently inconsistent positions within it. ;I explain Bradley's place in the history of philosophy and show his connections with the British empiricist tradition. I believe one of Bradley's central concerns is to explain the nature and criterion of truth in philosophy within the constraints of empiricism. I also contrast Bradley's positions on important issues with those of philosophers in the Anglo-American analytic tradition, such as Russell, Moore, Ayer, Tarski, Quine, Churchland, Lehrer and Campbell. I argue that most recent commentators on Bradley overlook the importance of understanding his philosophy as a system constructed according to the doctrine of relative truth
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DOI 10.5840/bradley1996229
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