Truth is that to which the community ultimately settles down (Charles Peirce). Analyse and evaluate this claim.

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Essay 1

“Truth is that to which the community ultimately settles down” (Charles Peirce). Analyse

and evaluate this claim.

Truth--its definition, its pursuit, its discovery--is central to much of human intellectual activity.

One place we look for clues about what is true is in the trends of the community. We may attempt

to find it in religion or cultural beliefs, for example, that we have learned from a community that

shares these beliefs. We know the earth is round or that war is bad because everyone knows it.

5 Pierce’s statement praises this way of knowing, suggesting that community, whatever that

community may be, is a key to the search for truth. This suggestion is tied to the idea of a body of

human knowledge, the idea that the human race progresses as each community member adds to the

world’s knowledge, relying on what others have concluded is true and then building on it with his

or her own new knowledge. Thus, knowledge is a group pursuit, closely tied to community.

10 There are many types of communities. The whole human race may be thought of as a knowledge

community. The smaller group of all scientists is often referred to as the scientific community.

Even a ToK class is a kind of community. Depending on what truth we seek, we may tie it to the

community of the whole world or to a smaller community that reflects a focus on a particular area

of knowledge. For example, although a Catholic may tie his or her theological knowledge to the

15 leadings of the Catholic community, he or she probably does not tie them to the theological

knowledge of the world community, or even of the western world. Whatever particular community

we tie our beliefs to, we often gauge truth by the guidings of the community because it is

impractical to carve out all our beliefs and knowledge systems alone, and indeed would be

impossible to function in such a state. Pierce’s words aptly reflect this human tendency, and are

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20 valid in alluding to the community’s place as a prominent guide in our search for truth, but raise

questions because of the wholesale approach to following the community he suggests.

As well, although Pierce’s remark clearly relates truth to community, the remark is ambiguous

about the nature of this relationship; it can be read “Whatever the community settles down to

constitutes truth” or “The community can be trusted to settle down, ultimately, to the single

25 objective ‘real’ truth.”

“Whatever the community settles down to constitutes truth” is a subjectivist’s perspective on truth.

Central to its validity is the ...

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