Truth and Truthfulness

Welcome to the Project
Though its nature is a source of much debate, truth as a value, or as a goal to be aimed at, is almost universally regarded as a good thing and features throughout human experience. The English philosopher Bernard Williams recognises its importance in his book Truth and Truthfulness (2002) in which he notes that the centrality of the ‘commitment to truthfulness’ in current social thought, spans ‘historical understanding, the social sciences and even…the interpretations of discoveries and research in the natural sciences’.

But what do claims about truth and truthfulness mean?

For academics in many areas, this question has great significance, including philosophers, sociologists, theologians, historians, archaeologists, psychologists, statisticians, mathematicians and cosmologists. Of course academics do not always agree about the nature of truth. And depending on their disciplinary area they will be interested in truth for different reasons and in different contexts. So, for example, while archaeologists might attempt to uncover the truth about ancient civilisations, cosmologists pursue the truth about the nature of matter and the origins of the universe. Academics whose primary concern is in the nature of truth, lie on a continuum which includes some who are sceptical about whether there is any such thing as truth, and others who view truth as always and necessarily subjective and relative. Out of reflection on its complex nature, a range of competing theories of truth have emerged.

Core themes for development
Truth and truthfulness, will examine both the ways in which academics have tried to describe and define truth and truthfulness, and the importance these ideas have for those whose aim is to understand the world or some part of it. It will also examine related concepts such as knowledge and belief; certainty and doubt; lying and deceit.

However, ‘truth’ and ‘truthfulness’ are also important for ordinary people, as well as for many professionals – for teachers; lawyers; tax inspectors; welfare benefits officials; insurance assessors; psychologists; priests; the police and politicians. And so Truth and truthfulness, will also explore the ways in which truth is important both for ordinary people and for professionals.

 Since the truth as an ideal and how it may be represented or sought, figures significantly in media and the arts – in literature, theatre and fine art; in narrative and documentary film; in print, film and digital journalism, Truth and truthfulness, will also explore ways in which those who work in these fields draw upon and both influence and are influenced by, ideas of truth and truthfuness.

Finally, Truth and truthfulness will examine a range of human experiences and problems that arise out of phenomena that are conceptually, ethically and practically related to truth, including lying and deceit (including self-deceit).

 Related themes will also be identified for development and exploration. Out of our deliberations it is anticipated that a series of related cross context research projects will develop.