But the chain involves facts prior to the statement the logical conditions of whose truth we are defining, and facts subsequent to it; and this circumstance, coupled with the vulgar employment of the terms truth and fact as synonyms, has laid my account open to misapprehension. ‘How,’ it is confusedly asked, ’can Caesar’s existence, a truth already 2000 years old, depend for its truth on anything about to happen now? How can my acknowledgment of it be made true by the acknowledgment’s own effects? The effects may indeed confirm my belief, but the belief was made true already by the fact that Caesar really did exist.’
Well, be it so, for if there were no Caesar, there could, of course, be no positive truth about him—but then distinguish between ‘true’ as being positively and completely so established, and ‘true’ as being so only ‘practically,’ elliptically, and by courtesy, in the sense of not being positively irrelevant or UNtrue. Remember also that Caesar’s having existed in fact may make a present statement false or irrelevant as well as it may make it true, and that in neither case does it itself have to alter. It being given, whether truth, untruth, or irrelevancy shall be also given depends on something coming from the statement itself. What pragmatism contends for is that you cannot adequately define the something if you leave the notion of the statement’s functional workings out of your account. Truth meaning agreement with reality, the mode of the agreeing is a practical problem which the subjective term of the relation alone can solve.
Note. This paper was originally followed by a couple of paragraphs meant to conciliate the intellectualist opposition. Since you love the word ‘true’ so, and since you despise so the concrete working of our ideas, I said, keep the word ‘truth’ for the saltatory and incomprehensible relation you care so much for, and I will say of thoughts that know their objects in an intelligible sense that they are ‘truthful.’
Like most offerings, this one has been spurned, so I revoke it, repenting of my generosity. Professor Pratt, in his recent book, calls any objective state of facts ‘a truth,’ and uses the word ‘trueness’ in the sense of ‘truth’ as proposed by me. Mr. Hawtrey (see below, page 281) uses ‘correctness’ in the same sense. Apart from the general evil of ambiguous vocabularies, we may really forsake all hope, if the term ‘truth’ is officially to lose its status as a property of our beliefs and opinions, and become recognized as a technical synonym for ‘fact.’
The absolute and the strenuous
[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, etc., 1906.]
Professor W. A. Brown, in the Journal for August 15, approves my pragmatism for allowing that a belief in the absolute may give holidays to the spirit, but takes me to task for the narrowness of this concession, and shows by striking examples how great a power the same belief may have in letting loose the strenuous life.