This was an assignment for a philosophy paper I had to turn in. I was only allowed to turn in one page even though I had so many opinions on it. This is what I had written completely in response to James’ work “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth”.
The first point he makes is on how most pragmatists believe truth is inherent and how they are wrong. He believes that truth is not inherent; that truth happens to an idea. James says that truth happens when an idea is validated or verified; the measuring of the event is what makes it true. Not the fact that apples fall from trees, but the fact that Newton was there to connect the dots. He is saying that the moment Newton makes the claim that “if an apple is separated from a tree, then it will fall downward. An apple separated from a tree. Therefore, it falls downward.” and his assertion is proven enough times (yes, in all observable cases p does cause q), it will become agreed upon. This is the event of verification or the moment an idea becomes true, claims James.
However, I argue that truth is innate. There are governing laws of the universe, which are objective to our existence. He seems to be arguing “If truth falls in the forest and nobody observes it happen, it is not truth”. Although truth is a description that we invented, the idea still holds even if we aren’t there to call it truth. Imagine a world without humans to observe it. Gravity still happens, apples still fall. We may not be there to measure it and it may not be OUR truth, However, the universe will still follow that law and our idea of what truth is will still pertain to the universe. Humans understand the world with our concepts and symbols. Our methods of understanding the universe are mathematics and numbers. Although the universe may not be driven by math and numbers, the ideas are still the same: The idea “1” is followed by “2” happens in every case whether we call them “1 & 2”, “one & two” or “Aay and Que”. The idea of order still maintains its truth.
James also claims that a truth’s value lies in its usefulness. I agree with this statement; we look for truth so we can do things with it. I do disagree with his statement “It is true because it is useful.” “If it is true (p), then it is useful (q). It is true (p). Therefore, it is useful (q)” In a situation in where I know it is the truth, such as knowing the sky is blue, (p) it would never have any use (q) this claim would be false and his argument unsound. If the statement was reversed (if useful, then true), it could still be proven wrong. An objects usefulness lies within the subject. A pencil’s use is to write. The truth being: “If it is a pencil, then it can write”. To humans this is proves James claim correct. But if there were no humans, just animals, this would cease to work. An animal might cannot use it as a writing tool but may use it as a weapon or shelter. This does not make the statement “If it is a pencil, then it can write” false, because the ability to write still exists in the pencil. There are probably uses of the pencil that we don’t know of but that doesn’t make the claim “If it is a pencil, it can do x” incorrect. We just don’t have the knowledge to use it as such yet.