The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘Truth and Falsity and Error’


Truth is a character which attaches to an abstract proposition, such as a person might utter. It essentially depends upon that proposition’s not professing to be exactly true. But we hope that in the progress of science its error will indefinitely diminish, just as the error of 3.14159, the value given for π, will indefinitely diminish as the calculation is carried to more and more places of decimals. What we call π is an ideal limit to which no numerical expression can be perfectly true. If our hope is vain; if in respect to some question - say that of the freedom of the will - no matter how long the discussion goes on, no matter how scientific our methods may become, there never will be a time when we can fully satisfy ourselves either that the question has no meaning, or that one answer or the other explains the facts, then in regard to that question there certainly is no truth. But whether or not there would be perhaps any reality is a question for the metaphysician, not the logician. Even if the metaphysician decides that where there is no truth there is no reality, still the distinction between the character of truth and the character of reality is plain and definable. Truth is that concordance of an abstract statement with the ideal limit towards which endless investigation would tend to bring scientific belief, which concordance the abstract statement may possess by virtue of the confession of its inaccuracy and one-sidedness, and this confession is an essential ingredient of truth. [—]

In the above we have considered positive scientific truth. But the same definitions equally hold in the normative sciences. If a moralist describes an ideal as the summum bonum, in the first place, the perfect truth of his statement requires that it should involve the confession that the perfect doctrine can neither be stated nor conceived. If, with that allowance, the future development of man’s moral nature will only lead to a firmer satisfaction with the described ideal, the doctrine is true.

CP 5.565-566; DPP2, 718
‘Truth’ (pub. 09.03.13-17:48). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
Mar 09, 2013, 17:48 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Jan 07, 2014, 00:58 by Commens Admin