Solomon, Hegel, and Truth

Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):272 - 282 (1977)
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Abstract

Solomon discusses at least three passages in which, he believes, Hegel criticizes theories of truth. The first is in the Preface to the Phenomenology of Mind, and concerns "historical truth". Historical truth, Solomon writes, "is the usual paradigm for the correspondence theory; against it, Hegel argues that we know a "naked fact" only insofar as we know "the reasons behind it." In other words, we need criteria of coherence as well as correspondence". But what Hegel says in this passage is this: historical statements or beliefs are "true," but they are not true in the philosophical sense. This is because they deal with "the sphere of particular existence, with a content in its contingent and arbitrary aspects, features that have no necessity." Even these "truths" share some of the features of philosophical truth. Often, for example, we cannot know them without seeking evidence, and even if we perceive some event, and hence do not need evidence for its occurrence, our knowledge is of no true value unless we also know the "reasons behind it." That is, Hegel is not saying that historical truths appear to be true in a piecemeal correspondence way, but in fact are true in the philosophical sense. Rather, although evidence and reasons are relevant to their truth, this still isn't sufficient to make them philosophically true. Hegel is here criticizing historical truths, and not just a theory of truth. Philosophical truth is not just a theory of truth, but a special sort of truth which historical truths lack.

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