The Correspondence theory of the nature of Truth has, of course, weighty objections to encounter beyond those which arise from the metaphysic of Absolute Idealism. In adopting it (in qualified form) as the outcome of the present argument, it is necessary to remind the reader of the limitations already acknowledged (in the Preface) to pertain to the epistemological part of this work. Thus the Correspondence theory presupposes that there is an 'ideal intermediary' in knowing.
But the postulation of an ideal intermediary could be ultimately justified only after detailed examination of a controversial literature so vast and so various that to begin to consider it in the scope possible here would be worse than useless. I propose, therefore, merely to offer a very few observations of a general nature on this issue before passing on to develop the significance, and defend the implications, of the view of Truth for which the way has been prepared in the preceding pages.
1 The Nature of Truth, p. 119.
But first of all let me say this. At least a great deal of the dissatisfaction that is felt towards the Correspondence view is due to the obvious difficulties to which it leads in connection with the criterion of Truth. If that which we directly cognise is always an ideal intermediary, how, it is naturally asked, can we ever know when ideas' do correspond with reality? This is a problem which will engage us in a later section, and in its Supra-rationalist setting it will not, I venture to predict, prove wholly intractable. The present problem of the meaning of Truth should not be prejudiced by assuming its insolubility.
Apart from difficulties over the criterion, however, the main criticism centres upon the validity of postulating an ideal intermediary at all. Why not admit that reality can be apprehended 'face to face,' in which case truth will not imply 'correspondence,' but will just be the property belonging to cognitions which apprehend reality in and as itself?
Now there are a good many arguments which the Idealist could offer against the doctrine of 'direct apprehension' of reality. One obvious line to take would base itself upon the thesis maintained in part of our first chapter, to the effect that all our 'objects' involve differents connected in a way that is self-contradictory. If they do, they cannot be 'real,' whatever else they may be.1 But it seems possible to take lower ground than this and still conduct a fairly successful action. It may perhaps not be wholly wasted space to say a few words upon a more elementary argument which seems to me still to carry weight.
1 It is noteworthy how seldom the champions of 'face to face' apprehension of reality take serious account of this objection - perhaps ultimately the most damaging of all.
How do we first come by our notion of a realm of 'ideal contents' or 'ideal meanings' - instead of 'reality' - as the immediate object of the mind when it thinks? The fundamental condition is, I think, our becoming explicitly aware of self-contradiction in our experience. Prior to that we have no suspicion of apprehending anything other than reality, although it seems true also that we are not then consciously apprehending the real as' real.' But when we become conscious of erroneous apprehension, we become conscious ipso facto that here at least our immediate object of apprehension is not reality. But we do apprehend something - a content of definite character. What is the status of the content, since it certainly has not the status of the real? It assuredly has some sort of being. But since its claim to any being, now that its 'objective' reality is denied, seems to rest upon its existence as the content of our thinking, it seems natural, if not inevitable, to go on to say that it has 'ideal' being. It is an 'ideal content' or 'ideal meaning.' The immediate object of erroneous apprehension at any rate, therefore, seems to exist in an ideal medium.1
But having got so far, it is very difficult to draw a line here 2 and leave the immediate objects of our other apprehensions where they were. Once the conception of an occasional ideal intermediary is attained, the felt identity of character in the relation of all contents of apprehension to the apprehending mind presses for the recognition of ideal status in all content. This universal extension is not, indeed, formally inevitable.
1 The hypothesis of a realm of 'subsistence,' advanced with a view to securing a 'non-mental' home for the immediate object of erroneous apprehension (and for certain other inconvenient phenomena), seems to raise at least as many difficulties as it removes.
2 The difficulty of according a 'realist' status to the immediate object of memory-judgment (even where supposedly veridical) may also be expected to suggest itself at an early stage.
It is conceivable that the mind may pass abruptly from the apprehension of ideal meaning to the apprehension of the real itself, without any kind of recognisable alteration in the subjective characteristics of the experience. But in view of the indubitable felt continuity, the onus of proof at least seems to rest upon those who would insist upon the different status of different contents.
Before passing from these matters, there is a point which it is perhaps advisable to refer to. The term 'idea' is, as everyone knows, highly ambiguous, and it would be possible to interpret the Correspondence view of the meaning of Truth, when stated shortly as the correspondence of "ideas' with reality, in a way which makes it clearly nonsensical. Apart from colloquial usages, the term 'idea' may stand for two very different meanings. It may signify a particular psychical existent or mental state, an event in the life-story of an individual mind. Or it may signify the meaning that is apprehended through the mental state - the so-called 'ideal content.' It is in the latter signification, of course, that the term is used in the above statement of the Correspondence view. When I say that the claim to truth in the knowledge-situation is the claim that an 'idea' corresponds with reality, I certainly do not mean that it is claimed that a particular mental state corresponds with reality, but that it is claimed that the meaning apprehended in that mental state so corresponds.
These cursory remarks must, I fear, suffice. I am going to take it that Truth, at the level at which it has positive significance for finite intellects - Phenomenal Truth, as we have called it, in distinction from Noumenal or Ideal Truth - means the correspondence of ideas with reality. But what exactly does 'the correspondence of ideas with reality' mean? To answer that is to answer the question of the criterion of (Phenomenal) Truth, and to this problem we may now turn our attention.