Surely all societies are concerned, are they not, with the truth? But do they all have the same notion of that concept? And what do we think should be the correct analysis of that concept?
On the last question, correspondence theories of truth are still, today, locked in dispute with coherence ones and we seem to be faced with a fundamental dilemma. There is no direct access to a reality 'out there'—access that is not mediated through words that are themselves all more or less theory-laden. But if correspondence to reality is, thus, strictly impossible, a mere consistency theory of truth is evidently not enough. It is clearly no good allowing just any set of statements or beliefs that are internally coherent to be, by that token, true—since we are all familiar with plenty of such sets that are palpable nonsense. Nor will it do to allow what is accepted by some group, maybe even some group of experts such as scientists or philosophers, to count as true. The histories of science and philosophy provide multiple examples of theories that were agreed at one time, only to be dismissed a couple of generations later.
Moreover on the first of my original questions, some serious scholars have claimed that the classical Chinese had no concept of truth. 1 I shall be disagreeing with that view, but it clearly raises the issue of the relativity of notions of truth to different societies and of the possibility that such a concept is not of universal applicability. Even a slight acquaintance with ancient Greek thought confirms that aletheia, roughly translatable as truth, is a central concern of Greek epistemology from Parmenides onwards, and since that term and its cognates are closely associated with the family of terms used to express being, einai, on, ontos, ousia, it is also evident that it occupies a central role in Greek ontology and cosmology. But do those ancient Greek obsessions