Examining theories of truth

On Wednesday before half term, Jaw was set to be given by Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, but with the Human Rights Act called into question by the new government, she had to postpone until next year, when we really look forward to hearing about human rights from her. As happens on these occasions, I summoned together some disparate thoughts, made a powerpoint, and stepped in.

That Wednesday was the 1690th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, a really significant moment in defining Christian doctrine. When Constantine overturned Emperor Diocletian’s edicts about the treatment of Christians, eventually converting to Christianity himself, he hoped to unite the Roman Empire under a common religion and one God. It was not as easy as that, however, because there were huge debates and infighting going on amongst Christians about the nature of God, and whether Jesus was God, or man. We used this as an example in examining some theories of truth. Is truth correspondence with the facts, or is pragmaticism right, the view that truth is something where we have to ‘wait and see’, gathering evidence and forming a picture. Truth, on this view, emerges over time. There is a lot of merit in looking at truth this way, especially when looking at court cases, history or developments in science. I think it’s also a helpful way perhaps to view the Council of Nicaea. The Council took place around 329 years after the birth of Christ, and it takes that long to decide what direction Christianity would take. From a correspondence view, it looks like the Church is confused about the facts. From an pragmaticist view, perhaps the truth took a long time to emerge.

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy

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