The coherence theory of truth states that there is coherence within any true propositions offered within a specific set of boundaries or definitions. It can be defined in several different ways. To some, a truth proposition may be offered through simple consistency. Propositions may also be truthful to those offering them, but not to those who are receiving them.
It is a concept based on belief instead of fact. A person’s beliefs cohere to one another, making them consistent or relevant to the individual. This creates a world of reason unto itself, created by the individual who has offered those observations.
What If There Is a Specialized Domain?
There are some versions of the coherence theory of truth that are designed to characters specific, intrinsic properties within formal systems. This would include mathematics, logic, and scientific research. Although there are contradictory systems that would be observed in these areas, a certain truth must still be applied in order to generate a tangible fact.
We know for a fact that 2+2=4. We know this because we believe it to be true, either by direct observation or through knowledge handed down from teacher-to-student. Our personal experiences dictate the belief, which then provides us with a coherence theory of truth. Our belief creates the fact.
Because logic, facts, or research do have the individual’s personal perspectives and belief systems as part of the process, it is very possible for the coherence theory of truth to be applied in a way that would seem to be non-factual to an outside observer.
Let’s change the example:
We know for a fact that 2+2=5. We know this because we believe it to be true, either by direct observation or through knowledge handed down from teacher-to-student. Our personal experiences dictate the belief, which then provides us with a coherence theory of truth. Our belief creates the fact.
Now there’s a good chance that you believe that 2+2=4. Put two things on a table, add two more things, and you end up having four things.
Yet if someone else has a different experience, the coherence theory of truth allows for their reality to become a truth within their own world. Maybe when two more things were added to two existing things, a third item appeared out of a pocket, fell out of a cabinet, or appeared there in some other way. Maybe they were taught that 5 is the equivalent of 4.
We don’t know because we each have an individualized perspective. What we believe to be true may be the same, yet may also be different at the same time, as what someone else happens to believe.
What Is the Criticism of the Coherence Theory of Truth?
The primary criticism regarding the coherence theory of truth is the contradictions that are described above. These contradictions can also be within the individual. If someone says they are “pro-life,” but supports the death penalty, to them they have one consistent set of beliefs. To an outside observer, you might hear a statement like this: “How can you support all life, but then call for the ending of a life?”
In the world of this principle, the contradictions can still be true for the individual. For this reason, the coherence theory cannot feasibly work – at least according to those who criticize it.
Under the modern coherence theory of truth, the idea is that this principle doesn’t look at all of the belief possibilities that are available. It looks only at the set of beliefs that an individual happens to hold for themselves or apply to the rest of the world.
Each personal set of beliefs must cohere in some way. That coherence allows for the systemic beliefs to make sense for the individual, based on their own observations, thoughts, and perspectives.
This is how 2+2=5 can become a factual equation. It may not be factual to the world in general, but it is factual because of an individualized belief within the framework of a created world.
Are Truth and Consistency the Same Thing?
Consistency is required for truth to be available in the coherence theory of truth. How we define that consistency, however, can change from person to person. What seems illogical to one person may seem completely logical to the next.
This ultimately means that, according to this theory, truth comes from how facts are interpreted instead of from the information they provide. This means truth can only exist within a specific system and it cannot exist outside of that system.