Did Dewey Have a Theory of Truth?
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 54, Number 1, Winter 2018
- pp. 39-63
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Dewey is not known for his theory of truth. Peirce’s and James’ theories have received more attention and Dewey’s theory, when it is discussed, is often viewed as changing the subject, clearly inadequate, or as full of quirky idiosyncrasies. I argue here that Dewey does not have a theory of truth, not because he avoided speaking of truth, or sought to replace it with some other concept, but because (like Peirce) his goal is not to give a theory in the first place. Instead, Dewey operationalizes the concept of truth, linking it to practices and processes of inquiry, focusing less on what truth is and more on what truth does. Over the course of several decades he addressed the topic of truth directly, developing a consistent account of the concept. While similar to Peirce in how he focuses on the function of truth in assertoric discourse, Dewey’s account is also distinct for how he prioritizes truth’s subject-independence. I give a reading of Dewey on truth that does justice to his core commitments while offering clarifications and modifications where necessary. The result is a pragmatic account of truth that merits attention alongside more familiar theories.