Volume 36, 2011
A Fairly Short Response to a Really Short Refutation
Brian Ribeiro argues that the pragmatic theory of truth massively misrepresents the actual use of the terms “true” and “truth.” Truths, he observes, can be distinguished from “illusions.” The latter misrepresent reality and the former do not. Psychologists, as they report on the way mentally healthy people commonly overestimate themselves, draw just this distinction. They tell us of many beliefs that are “adaptive” but illusory. Pragmatists cannot draw this distinction because their theory explains truth as adaptiveness. Therefore no sensible person will be a pragmatist. In fact, however, Ribeiro paints a flawed picture of what both psychologists and pragmatists do. Psychologists provide us not with “reality-based accurate beliefs” but instead with beliefs that work, and pragmatists do not identify all beliefs that are adaptive or useful for individuals as true. Pragmatism turns out to be quite sensible, though often misunderstood.