“We hold these truths to be self-evident...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
That's a nice sounding phrase but what exactly is meant by self-evident truth? Is it some common standard that everybody agrees is inviolate, like driving on the right (unless you live in England)? Could it be some moral statement reported in the holy book of an all-powerful deity, assuming we accept this deity? Is it something we're compelled to do without needing a reason, like mother saying because I said so.
Aristotle had no problem with truth. “If we say a thing is,” he told us, “and it is that thing, we have spoken the truth.” Okay so far but can we unpack that remark?
I sit at a table, and by calling it a table, he claims I've spoken the truth. My problem is it's a limited truth. I haven't said anything about the table's design, colour, composition or atomic structure. When I do, my table becomes becomes progressively more unique. With a full and complete description, this table is like no other, no longer needing a generic label. For me to say “table” is to apply a label universally recognized among English speakers as something with the quality of “tableness.”
How circular. Some mythical old white dudes write “tableness” in Webster's and that becomes the agreed label, and if I use this label correctly, I have spoken the truth? We need something better than that.