Philosophy

Articles

True1

J. R. Lucasa1

a1 Merton College, Oxford.

Ich liebe dich 3” the swains in mountain valleys of Austria inscribe on their presents to those to whom they plight their troth. The pun is a rare one in German. Only in remote valleys does the word for ‘three’ rhyme with joy; and the word for ‘true’ is usually ‘wahr’ not ‘treu’ ‘Wahr’ is more propositional, less evaluative than our ‘true’. So too in Latin and the romance languages ‘verum’, ‘Vrai’ ‘vera’ ‘verdadero’ carry a lighter load of feeling. Only the Hebrews resembled us in giving their word for ‘true’ strong moral overtones, and using the same or some cognate word to praise him who had used no deceitfulness to his neighbour as to recommend some statement as being meet to be believed.

Footnotes

1 A paper read to the Jowett Society on 3rd December, 1968. I owe a deep debt to Dr. F. Waismann, whose answers to a question by Mr. Michael Ryle in the course of a lecture first set me thinking on the line developed here.