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13. LECTURE XIII. TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD (continued)
III. We believe that some beliefs are true, and some false. This raises the problem of VERIFIABILITY: are there any circumstances which can justifiably give us an unusual degree of certainty that such and such a belief is true? It is obvious that there are circumstances which in fact cause a certainty of this sort, and we wish to learn what we can from examining these circumstances.
IV. Finally, there is the formal problem of defining truth and falsehood, and deriving the objective reference of a proposition from the meanings of its component words.
We will consider these four problems in succession.
I. We may regard a human being as an instrument, which makes various responses to various stimuli. If we observe these responses from outside, we shall regard them as showing knowledge when they display two characteristics, ACCURACY and APPROPRIATENESS. These two are quite distinct, and even sometimes incompatible. If I am being pursued by a tiger, accuracy is furthered by turning round to look at him, but appropriateness by running away without making any search for further knowledge of the beast. I shall return to the question of appropriateness later; for the present it is accuracy that I wish to consider.
When we are viewing a man from the outside, it is not his beliefs, but his bodily movements, that we can observe. His knowledge must be inferred from his bodily movements, and especially from what he says and writes. For the present we may ignore beliefs, and regard a man's knowledge as actually consisting in what he says and does. That is to say, we will construct, as far as possible, a purely behaviouristic account of truth and falsehood.
If you ask a boy "What is twice two?" and the boy says "four," you take that as prima facie evidence that the boy knows what twice two is. But if you go on to ask what is twice three, twice four, twice five, and so on, and the boy always answers "four," you come to the conclusion that he knows nothing about it. Exactly similar remarks apply to scientific instruments. I know a certain weather-cock which has the pessimistic habit of always pointing to the north-east. If you were to see it first on a cold March day, you would think it an excellent weather-cock; but with the first warm day of spring your confidence would be shaken. The boy and the weather-cock have the same defect: they do not vary their response when the stimulus is varied. A good instrument, or a person with much knowledge, will give different responses to stimuli which differ in relevant ways. This is the first point in defining accuracy of response.
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