Truth, Se­man­tics, & Meaning

TagLast edit: 23 Sep 2020 19:17 UTC by Ruby

Truth, Semantics, and Meaning: What does it mean to assert that something is true? A very popular answer is map-territory correspondence theory. But the details of this theory are not clear, and there are other contenders.

Truth as Correspondence

Many consider truth as the correspondence between and one’s beliefs about reality and reality. Within this frame, truth itself is not necessarily limited to one’s belief about something. For a statement/​ideal/​proposed fact to be considered “true,” you must take it as its definition. Truth doesn’t imply that something has to be proven in order for it to be made true, but that the statement/​ideal/​proposed fact has to be true all of the time, regardless of one’s belief.

Alfred Tarski defined truth in terms of an infinite family of sentences such as:

The sentence ‘snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white.

To understand whether a belief is true, we need (only) to understand what possible states of the world would make it true or false, and then ask directly about the world. Often, people assume that ideals and morals change with culture; as they tend to do. Unfortunately, many people struggle with their belief of “truth” based on their religion. Because of their belief, they object the currently accepted “truth” about the world, about life (how we all got here), and most importantly, what is considered “right” or “wrong.”

“Truth” is not, however, a determination. Truth is not simply a belief. Truth is an ideal, concept, or fact that can be observed. Whether an individual has a belief derived from their religion on what is truth or not, unless they have observed it, they cannot prove whether their belief is truth or not. Reiterating from above: the lack of proof or justification, or even rationalization, does not change the status of truth. What’s truth is truth, and what is false, is false. Humans simply decide to reject notions and proposed facts as truth if they are not observable, or are not able to show any proof.

‘Truth’ is a very simple concept, understood perfectly well by three-year-olds, but often made unnecessarily complicated by adults.

Other Theories of Truth


Notable Posts

External links

See also

The Use­ful Idea of Truth

Eliezer Yudkowsky2 Oct 2012 18:16 UTC
136 points
539 comments12 min readLW link

The Sim­ple Truth

Eliezer Yudkowsky1 Jan 2008 20:00 UTC
70 points
3 comments22 min readLW link

Car­to­graphic Processes

johnswentworth27 Aug 2019 20:02 UTC
22 points
3 comments4 min readLW link

The Miss­ing Math of Map-Making

johnswentworth28 Aug 2019 21:18 UTC
40 points
8 comments2 min readLW link

Why Truth?

Eliezer Yudkowsky27 Nov 2006 1:49 UTC
100 points
53 comments3 min readLW link

No Log­i­cal Pos­i­tivist I

Eliezer Yudkowsky4 Aug 2008 1:06 UTC
30 points
54 comments4 min readLW link

How webs of mean­ing grow and change

Hazard14 Aug 2020 13:58 UTC
12 points
0 comments10 min readLW link

A Priori

Eliezer Yudkowsky8 Oct 2007 21:02 UTC
59 points
134 comments4 min readLW link

Guardians of the Truth

Eliezer Yudkowsky15 Dec 2007 18:44 UTC
45 points
53 comments4 min readLW link

Ra­tion­al­ity: Ap­pre­ci­at­ing Cog­ni­tive Algorithms

Eliezer Yudkowsky6 Oct 2012 9:59 UTC
68 points
135 comments5 min readLW link

Can We Do Without Bridge Hy­pothe­ses?

Rob Bensinger25 Jan 2014 0:50 UTC
15 points
9 comments3 min readLW link

Build­ing Phenomenolog­i­cal Bridges

Rob Bensinger23 Dec 2013 19:57 UTC
93 points
116 comments11 min readLW link


Eliezer Yudkowsky16 Mar 2008 6:26 UTC
86 points
161 comments4 min readLW link

A Sketch of an Anti-Real­ist Metaethics

Jack22 Aug 2011 5:32 UTC
25 points
136 comments7 min readLW link

Leaky Concepts

Elo5 Mar 2019 22:01 UTC
20 points
2 comments2 min readLW link

On count­ing and addition

Anatoly_Vorobey9 Nov 2012 3:26 UTC
47 points
23 comments4 min readLW link

Map:Ter­ri­tory::Uncer­tainty::Ran­dom­ness – but that doesn’t mat­ter, value of in­for­ma­tion does.

Davidmanheim22 Jan 2016 19:12 UTC
8 points
21 comments3 min readLW link

Re­quest for Steel­man: Non-cor­re­spon­dence con­cepts of truth

PeerGynt24 Mar 2015 3:11 UTC
15 points
74 comments2 min readLW link

Truth and the Liar Paradox

casebash2 Sep 2014 2:05 UTC
5 points
45 comments4 min readLW link

Un­solved Prob­lems in Philos­o­phy Part 1: The Liar’s Paradox

Kevin30 Nov 2010 8:56 UTC
7 points
142 comments1 min readLW link

Mean­ings of Math­e­mat­i­cal Truths

prase5 Jun 2011 22:59 UTC
12 points
47 comments4 min readLW link

Why I Re­ject the Cor­re­spon­dence The­ory of Truth

pragmatist24 Mar 2015 11:00 UTC
16 points
27 comments8 min readLW link

By Which It May Be Judged

Eliezer Yudkowsky10 Dec 2012 4:26 UTC
50 points
940 comments11 min readLW link

Mixed Refer­ence: The Great Re­duc­tion­ist Project

Eliezer Yudkowsky5 Dec 2012 0:26 UTC
49 points
357 comments9 min readLW link

A Prag­matic Epistemology

StephenR5 Aug 2014 5:43 UTC
2 points
21 comments6 min readLW link

Astray with the Truth: Logic and Math

StephenR16 Aug 2014 15:40 UTC
4 points
21 comments8 min readLW link

Find­ing the variables

Stuart_Armstrong4 Mar 2019 19:37 UTC
29 points
1 comment4 min readLW link

Bridg­ing syn­tax and se­man­tics, empirically

Stuart_Armstrong19 Sep 2018 16:48 UTC
24 points
4 comments6 min readLW link

Maybe Ly­ing Can’t Ex­ist?!

Zack_M_Davis23 Aug 2020 0:36 UTC
43 points
16 comments5 min readLW link

Philos­o­phy in the Dark­est Timeline: Ba­sics of the Evolu­tion of Meaning

Zack_M_Davis7 Jun 2020 7:52 UTC
102 points
13 comments14 min readLW link

The whirlpool of reality

G Gordon Worley III27 Sep 2020 2:36 UTC
9 points
2 comments2 min readLW link

Philos­o­phy of Num­bers (part 2)

Charlie Steiner19 Dec 2017 13:57 UTC
3 points
10 comments5 min readLW link

Sig­nal­ling & Si­mu­lacra Level 3

abramdemski14 Nov 2020 19:24 UTC
56 points
29 comments5 min readLW link

A sim­ple sketch of how re­al­ism be­came unpopular

Rob Bensinger11 Oct 2019 22:25 UTC
60 points
53 comments4 min readLW link

The Third Circle

Zvi21 May 2018 12:10 UTC
12 points
0 comments3 min readLW link

Log­i­cal Pinpointing

Eliezer Yudkowsky2 Nov 2012 15:33 UTC
99 points
344 comments10 min readLW link

Per­sonal ex­am­ples of se­man­tic stopsigns

Alexei6 Dec 2013 2:12 UTC
69 points
71 comments1 min readLW link

This Ter­ri­tory Does Not Exist

ike13 Aug 2020 0:30 UTC
7 points
199 comments7 min readLW link

LessWrong: West vs. East

Neuroff19 Oct 2017 3:13 UTC
11 points
15 comments7 min readLW link

The Fabric of Real Things

Eliezer Yudkowsky12 Oct 2012 2:11 UTC
34 points
309 comments4 min readLW link

Philos­o­phy of Num­bers (part 1)

Charlie Steiner2 Dec 2017 18:20 UTC
10 points
14 comments3 min readLW link

Con­cep­tual Anal­y­sis for AI Align­ment

capybaralet30 Dec 2018 0:46 UTC
26 points
3 comments2 min readLW link

The Short Case for Verificationism

ike11 Sep 2020 18:48 UTC
5 points
58 comments1 min readLW link

Pur­pose and Pragmatism

Eliezer Yudkowsky26 Nov 2007 6:51 UTC
21 points
8 comments2 min readLW link

Math is Sub­junc­tively Objective

Eliezer Yudkowsky25 Jul 2008 11:06 UTC
19 points
117 comments8 min readLW link


Eliezer Yudkowsky12 Aug 2008 17:55 UTC
18 points
14 comments4 min readLW link

Tarski State­ments as Ra­tion­al­ist Exercise

Vladimir_Nesov17 Mar 2009 19:47 UTC
12 points
10 comments4 min readLW link

Su­per­nat­u­ral Math

saturn19 May 2009 11:31 UTC
5 points
58 comments1 min readLW link

An­ime Ex­plains the Epi­menides Paradox

Eliezer Yudkowsky27 May 2009 21:12 UTC
4 points
29 comments1 min readLW link

Where is the Mean­ing?

Hazard22 Jul 2019 20:18 UTC
21 points
3 comments4 min readLW link

Fit­ting­ness: Ra­tional suc­cess in con­cept formation

Polytopos10 Jan 2021 15:58 UTC
6 points
9 comments6 min readLW link

On the na­ture of pur­pose

Nora_Ammann22 Jan 2021 8:30 UTC
28 points
15 comments9 min readLW link

Ob­jec­tive truth?

pchvykov15 Feb 2021 21:47 UTC
1 point
0 comments2 min readLW link

Net­works of Meaning

Erich_Grunewald17 Apr 2021 7:30 UTC
19 points
1 comment10 min readLW link
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