Austin and Strawson Theories of Truth and False – A Case of Pictures or Maps

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There are many philosophical stories that try to explain the meaning of true and false (Armour-Garb 258). Human beings have to find a way of communicating with each other. The process of determining what has been said, presented or occurred is true is referred to as the criterion of truth (Kulvicki 20). There are various procedures to determine the criterion of truth where different scholars have developed varying claims on what should be concealed as truth and false. In most cases, for a long time, the truth has been identified to be related to facts, reality or specific standards and originality (Armour-Garb 262). Modern definitions of truth revolve around authenticity based on factual or logical evidence. The concept of truth has created debate among philosophers, scholars, in art and religion (Kulvicki 259). Most philosophers point that the concept of truth can only be discussed on its terms that it cannot be described in any other context. In this study, truth and falsehood are discussed based on the Austin and Strawson theories (opinions) focussing on situations where the word ‘true’ applies and when it won’t apply. The study will be aimed at finding answers to the question: Why aren’t pictures (or maps) true or false? Pictures and maps are art work which can be used to determine where they provide a factual, real or original representation of the original object. 

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Austin and Strawson Opinions on Truthfulness of Pictures/maps

Austin and Strawson have created an unending debate on the criterion of what should be considered true or false. There are other theories which have been found to best explain the truth in its context. The correspondence theory which states that truth and falsehood are the representation of the relation to the real world. Therefore according to the correspondence theory, what has been described as true should accurately and precisely correspond to the real world. According to the theory, the beliefs and practices that are regarded as true should reflect the actual state of affairs o conditions of the subject or object. In this theory, personal thoughts and beliefs are placed on one side and comparison made based on facts relating to reality. 

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Concerning Austin and Strawson opinions, debate whether pictures or maps are true has only increased (STRAWSON 98). Mr; Austin, in his opinions about truth, provided a set of conditions which must be satisfied to regard a statement, object or concept as true. The conditions reserved by Austin to be the truth criterion have been considered to be narrow. However much his suggests about truth are correct, they cannot be used in the declaration of statements. On the other hand, Strawson dismisses, Austin Truth criterion to declare a statement as true (STRAWSON, 108). He points to the lack of distinction between falsehood and truthfulness in Austin’s truth definition. Comparisons between Austin and Strawson provide contrasting definitions of true with Austin’s opinions regarded to be exaggerative and vague. Strawson makes an argument that that true belongs to itself and cannot be questioned. Strawson and Austin arguments on what is the true show that what is regarded as true could not be original and that not every original thing is true. Austin and Strawson represent two different philosophical ideas. Strawson believes facts can be identified on any object or sentence while at the same time the statement could be false when put into another context (Kulvicki, 25). For instance, in determining whether a picture is true or not, Strawson points that to some extent the picture cannot be wholly regarded as true because it is just a representation of an object or entity (Kulvicki, 21). He suggests that what is true it the physical entity that would be present at that time rather than the picture. On the other hand, Austin suggests that a picture cannot be regarded as true since it is just a conventional representation (Bhunia 456).

Austin and Strawson have different perceptions on the truthfulness of pictures, maps or images (Strawson 92). Pictures provide a visual perception of the appearance of an entity, subject or an object. The nature of the picture provides the basis on how it would be regarded depending on the circumstances it has been presented. Austin argues that a picture only provides a conventional representation of the original object. He suggests that it is not necessary that the visual appearance of the picture is a true reflection of the original object or entity. This provides his perception towards his development of the truth criterion. Putting aside philosophical interpretations of truth and falsehood, pictures and or maps provide factual information about how an object or an entity looks like. Depending on the resolution of the camera, pictures can reflect true characteristics of objects in two dimensions (Strawson 93). From such an argument especially regarding pictures and maps, there should be no direct comparisons on the real or actual state of affairs and true statement arising from facts on an entity or specific object. This is the basis of Austin’s opinion regarding truth statements. He reiterates that there should be no identical syntactic constructions on a true statement and the facts that provide the proof that it’s true. He further points that a true statement should wholly reflect the actual state of affairs and that the language or semantics used should leave no doubt on the authenticity of the ‘true statement.’ On the other hand, for Austin, a false statement is one whose language does not match with the actual state of affairs or things that do not exist (STRAWSON 118). This strengthens the argument that pictures and maps are facts that give an actual representation of the original entities and or objects and that they should be used in formulating true statements (Bhunia 455)

According to Strawson, facts and specific situations can well be represented in a statement (Strawson 112). However, they may not represent the actual state of affairs in the real world. Moreover, he highlights that the statement which has been said to be true could possible not correspond to the state of affairs. He, therefore, suggests that truth should be attributed a specific set standards that will provide the true representation of the world.

Despite the differences between Austin and Straw son theories of truth, they both highlight the fact that for a statement to be true, the entity or object and the picture or components on the map should show isomorphism with the ‘world’ or the actual state of affairs. For example, when a picture is shown of a cat being on a mat, the truth should be that the cat and the mat exist (Strawson 115). The cat and the mat are related in a manner that they are in contact with each other. It is important to note than whenever the three objects cannot correspond the stamen will turn out to be false (Strawson 113). This is to mean that the language used in expressing the true statement should mention about the cat, the mat and the existing relationship between the cat and the mat; otherwise the statement would be false. Despite a few similarities between the Austin and Strawson theories, is that a real world should exist. This is one of the shortcomings of the two opinions regarding true and false statements. Without a real world, picture and maps will be irrelevant rendering them to be false (Strawson 101). The real world should, therefore, be in existence to ensure that pictures and maps are viewed to be true representations. It is therefore imperative to understand that there is no perfect theory that would provide for a correct criterion for determining truth and falsehood. The truthfulness and falsehood of a statement or object will depend on the context and the actual state of affairs (Bhunia 27).  

Objections to both Austin and Strawson theories have been made where people have found it easier to adopt the theory of correspondence. Correspondence theory makes objections to Austin and Strawson opinions regarding the truthfulness of pictures. Correspondence theory suggests that pictures and maps can be used to make a true representation of what is in the world. In this case, it is easy to believe that map and pictures are true as they are directly known to be in existence (Kulvicki 26). All of these theories try to explain what is true and what is false. However, human beings have been given the ability to perceive and make judgments on what they see in their immediate environment. Austin accepts that people will make their judgments to know what is true and what false (Kulvicki 2015) is. People have their awareness and perceptions that do not require correspondence in determining true and false statements. From people awareness on real objects, maps and or picas will provide true state of affairs (Bhunia 456).

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Maps and pictures provide visual facts that are used in the determination of a real state of affairs of entities and or objects. They give real characteristics of situations and objects. They provided a holistic perception of real-world objects and based on correspondence they can be regarded as true. However, philosophical debates have created new dimensions on determining whether a picture or a map can be true. Despite the arguments and different philosophical perceptions and opinions, pictures and maps should be regarded as true upon confirmation on correspondence to the real world entities or objects. Philosophers and scholars have developed theories with truth criterion to relate truth with the actual state of affairs. However, some of the theories have been disapproved and others identified with flaws which make them unreliable. Therefore, there is no theory that describes what’s true or false. Despite the fact that there will be a general way of perceiving the truth, it is important for individuals to have their perception of truth and falsehood. 

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  1. Armour-Garb, Bradley. “Challenges to Deflationary Theories Of Truth.” Philosophy Compass 7.4 (2012): 256-266. Web.
  2. Bhunia, Aloke. “Theories of Truth.” Indian Journal of Applied Research 4.6 (2011): 455-456. Web.
  3. Kulvicki, John. “Maps, Pictures, and Predication.” Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy2.20171122 (2015): n. pag. Web.
  4. STRAWSON, P. F. “Identifying Reference and Truth-Values.” Theoria 30.2 (2008): 96-118. Web.
  5. Strawson, P. F. “Truth.” Analysis 9.6 (2009): 83-97. Web.
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