What is Truth?

I recently read True Words by Nicholas Wolterstorff and would like to interact with his article.

Wolterstorff defines truth by saying this: “I suggest that the root notion of truth is that of something’s measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.” I agree with this because it makes the definition of truth more inclusive and comprehensive. The definition’s inclusiveness and comprehensiveness are what I consider this definition’s significant strengths. If truth is something’s measuring up, there must be a standard of which that something is measuring up to. With this meaning, the context defines the standard to which something is being measured.

When Wolterstorff uses the verses John 5:31 and 8:17, he is displaying that “true” is more than the philosopher’s standard sense of ascribing to something asserted. I agree with him because then you must judge what about Jesus’s testimony is being asserted, which can be too interpretive and even nearsighted. If Wolterstorff’s definition is used, then Jesus’s use of the word “true” means his testimony measures up in being or excellence. The words “true” can be substituted in such fashions as follows: “If I bear witness to myself, my testimony does not measure up; there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me measures up.” “In your law it is written that the testimony of two men measures up.”

In the following examples, the of uses “true” and “truth” cannot even be assertions (John 2:8). In John 3:21 “truth” is an action. In John 4:23, John 15:1, John 17:3 “true” is no longer even actions, it is an adjective. Then in John 3:33, 7:28, 8:26, 14:6, and 17:17, “true” and “truth” are nouns. Wolterstorff’s definition works in each case here as well. “Measuring up” can be an action, “measuring up in excellence” can be an adjective to describe the nouns, and “measuring up in being” can be the noun. Again, some form of “measuring up” can be inserted for every “true” and “truth”. The point here is that each time something is being measured up to a standard, and the standard is different or similar in each context. This definition and way of looking at it provides inclusiveness and comprehensiveness.

This definition of truth is not relativism because as Dr. Glenn Kreider put it “relativism would be the view that everything is true, that all statements are true, that every interpretation of reality is legitimate.” Furthermore, as Richard Rorty supports that there are no relativists because if everything is relative, that is an absolute statement, which means it cannot be relative and nothing would be relevant. Wolterstorff’s definition is claiming that truth is relative to a context. This would be considered contextualization and not relativism.

The only significant weaknesses I can think of for Wolterstorff’s definition is that the standard that something measures up to can often be subjective. So, if not everyone has the same standard, then the “truth” can be different to everyone as well.


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