Math and Theories of Truth

Task: Read the TOK essay and suggest how the student could have used concepts of correspondence and coherence.

First we must determine what is correspondence and coherence. Correspondence in truth looks at how the truth of a claim relates to, or is “true” in reality/the real world. Coherence in truth contrasts with correspondence. It is truth that is “true” but not in a logical sense. Hence, it does not have to be true in the real world.

Within the TOK essay, the student discusses truth and certainty in 3 different areas of knowledge; mathematics, natural sciences and ethics. Whilst discussing certainty in mathematics, the student elaborates on how knowledge in mathematics is only true in a closed system. The student could further elaborate on this point by relating it to the coherence theory of truth, especially in terms of how with mathematical knowledge not only can it not be true in the math world as well as real world, but it is only true within a closed system inside the mathematical world.

In contrast to the natural sciences, where the student talks about how knowledge is never true, but instead “true” until falsified.  The writer says: “In natural sciences the scientific method is used to try to establish scientific certainty, but it does not guarantee certainty.” We know that the Natural Sciences is related and must be related to the real world. As a result the student can talk about the the correspondence theory of truth.

The student continues on, by contrasting the mathematics and natural sciences in terms of the WOK’s found in each: reason. However, what the author could also contrast is the type of knowledge produced and what is more “trustworthy” in a sense. The mathematics is produced with the coherence theory of truth, yet, even though it is in a closed system, in some ways it is more reliable than the natural sciences where knowledge is produced with the correspondence theory of truth. Yet despite being related to the “real” world,  there is less certainty. Hence, the author could compare the different types of knowledge and their level of reliability in each.

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