How Do You Know What You Believe Is True? Theories of Truth

By Keisuke Noda

How do you know what you believe is true? This is a difficult question.

If there were a definitive answer, we would probably not have myriad belief systems today. It is ironic that, while people hold mutually exclusive, logically incompatible claims and beliefs, each is often convinced of its exclusive superiority over others.

Suppose you asked a believer: “How do you know what you believe is true?” He or she may cite their experiences as evidence, or give several theoretical reasons, or refer to highly selective scientific findings. The problem is those who hold an opposite view can give plausible “evidence” and cite opposite scientific findings to validate their claims and beliefs.

What makes certain claims and beliefs truer than others?

Here, I explain four main theories of truth as conceptual tools for assessment: 1) correspondence theory of truth; 2) coherence theory of truth; 3) pragmatic theory of truth; and, 4) existential theory of truth.

Although Unificationism presents itself as “new truth” (in the Introduction of Exposition of the Divine Principle), there is no systematic explication of the concept of truth in religious as well as philosophical texts (such as Unification Thought). Since Unificationism claims its teachings to be the “unity of science and religion,” clarification of its concept of truth is necessary.

Correspondence Theory of Truth

The first view is to see truth as the correspondence, agreement or accordance between ideas/concepts/statements and reality/states of affairs. This position often presupposes an objective reality or independent existence of truth. In this model, because you posit reality as something that exists independent of or outside of your perception/judgment, you conceive your ideas/judgments as a sort of picture or mirror image of reality.

Religion and science are ways to reach reality. This is done through revelation and experiences in religion and observation and experimentation in science. The goal is to capture an accurate, neutral mirror image of reality free from interpretation.

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