Dynamic concept of "truth"



I've recently read a book in which a certain sentence sparked a question in my mind:

"the Platonic philosophy is a search for truth, the certain truth. Such truth... is necessarily static" (emphasis mine)

This popped a question to my head - is there a concept of "truth" (as in, objective metaphysical truth) that thinks of it as a dynamic idea rather than static, an ideal. Of course, I do not mean subjective truth, as it is obviously dynamic, but rather an objective truth that talks about a changing world, a "dynamic theory of forms"/"theory of dynamic forms" so to speak. Has anyone proposed such theory?

Yechiam Weiss

Posted 2018-09-29T12:33:01.207

Reputation: 3 468

@Gordon with so much to say.. You don't think putting it in an answer would be better? :) – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-09-29T17:51:14.063


Isn't Hegel's Notion just the thing? Truth is Historical

– Conifold – 2018-09-30T22:22:33.193

@Conifold it is very close indeed, but not exactly. Hegel's Notion is ultimately one "final goal" with various stages (notions) within it. What I'm looking for is, using the notion terms, a non-systematic notion that has various (presumably infinite) "stages", but isn't tautological. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-10-01T09:15:21.077


Sounds like you want evolutionary idealism with spontaneity in place of Hegelian predestination. Traditional names are Peirce, Bergson and Whitehead. Peirce's "effete mind, inveterate habits becoming laws" is probably the closest.

– Conifold – 2018-10-01T21:49:10.927

@Conifold very interesting. First time I see those three names in one sentence, and I like it. I'll read more about Peirce, I kinda dismissed him from reading material by thinking of him only as the father of pragmatism, as he's often called. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-10-05T12:51:25.177


"My philosophy resuscitates Hegel, though in a strange costume", his main point of divergence is exactly Hegel's "necessitarianism" about evolution. Kiblinger's Peirce and Kauffman gives a short review of Peirce's relation to Hegel. You'll also be happy to know that he admits Schelling's influence in The Law of Mind.

– Conifold – 2018-10-05T21:26:21.010

There is dynamic truth today. But tomorrow, who knows! – user4894 – 2018-11-13T06:51:43.397

@Conifold I totally forgot to respond, but thanks a lot for the reference. And I like the Schelling bit :) – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-13T16:39:14.593

2Where is the reference to the book quoted in the question? Title, author? – Bread – 2018-11-13T22:50:59.003

@Bread I.. Don't remember. Sorry. But perhaps it was "Philosophies of Nature After Schelling" by Iain H. Grant. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-14T05:18:14.200

1Go back to Aristotle. – Gordon – 2018-11-14T05:25:16.420

Have you had a look at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-philosophy/

– christo183 – 2018-11-14T05:54:40.920

1@ Mr. Kennedy. I have deleted your answer because it is mainly a statement of viewpoint rather than of argument. It merely attracts statements of rival viewpoint. You have made many valuable contributions to PSE and I hope you will continue to do so but this answer is in my judgement over the line of argued reply. Yours - GLT – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-11-16T10:24:26.777

At this point, or until expiry, I would appreciate if you had any nomination for the bounty award. As it stands I'm thinking: Philip Klöcking? – christo183 – 2018-11-16T12:31:05.210



As has been mentioned Peirce would be very relevant. Check out his semiotics of 'First, Second and Third' and how it relates to the Holy Trinity. An expensive book by Andrew Robinson God and the World of Signs: Trinity, Evolution, and the Metaphysical Semiotics of C. S. Peirce is the best I've read on this topic. The 'First' would probably be your static truth.

I don't quite understand the idea of a 'theory of dynamic forms' in connection with truth. A theory is not truth and a knowledge of truth would have to be in part a knowledge of dynamic forms.

I know of no theory for which absolute or upper-case Truth is not static. The idea doesn't seem to make sense.


Posted 2018-09-29T12:33:01.207


I just want to understand, you do make sense of "theory of dynamic forms", but not of "theory of dynamic truth"? And thanks for the reading material! – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-13T16:37:17.127

@YechiamWeiss - True enough. I couldn't make sense of 'dynamic truth'. – None – 2018-11-14T12:24:50.750

I'll try to explain, and let me know if I need to make it clearer in the question. The "Truth", i.e. the metaphysical, objective truth (and let me know if that's a term that troubles you) is most often being referred to as static - meaning one, unchanging, detached from historical or physical influences, truth. A dynamic Truth, instead, would be for example postmodernism - where the objective truth would be the same as the subjective truth. And another example would be the answer below this one, talking about Jesus as a changing truth. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-14T18:02:06.753

@YechiamWeiss - Okay, thanks. For me a metaphysical truth is unchangeable and true in every possible universe but I suppose relative truths (London is the capital of England, say) might be called not-subjective and dynamic. I've never come across anyone who argues that metaphysical truths can vary with time or place. – None – 2018-11-15T12:52:02.543

and I fully understand you. I would only like to entertain you with this idea. Also, a dynamic truth that vary with time and space is merely one option; you think of metaphysics like Kant, but perhaps you could think of it as dynamic as well (like a theory of dynamic forms). – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-15T16:05:15.933


Christians form their theoretical framework around truth in verses like this one:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life." -Jesus

Having truth anchored in reference to a person, rather than any other thing (such as a definition, a framework, a philosophy, a principle, a society, an agreement, etc.) would guarantee that the truth remains as dynamic as the unfolding of reality as time passes.

I guess that this kind of a basis for truth is not objective, since it refers to a person, Jesus. But it is universal with regards to all of us, since the person anchoring truth is the same person no matter which one of us is contemplating truth.

elliot svensson

Posted 2018-09-29T12:33:01.207

Reputation: 4 000

Assuming said person is enchored in reality; but given Jesus connection to God (going with the assumption Christianity is correct) it is difficult to address Jesus as a being that really "changes" (in context of "truth") over time. I'll go further and claim that taking this verse as you did would be anachronistic; it rather seems like Jesus meant the truth he speaks, during that time (which was a static truth), is the Truth. I don't (necessarily) disagree that if we anchor truth to a person we'd get dynamic truth; I'm simply not sure there's been a real attempt at doing so. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-13T18:11:15.627

2@YechiamWeiss, it is necessarily true, under Christianity, that Jesus changes over time, as all humans do. Going further, he even said that he doesn't know when the second coming will be but that this is known by God the Father only. (Matthew 24:36)... obviously Jesus will learn this later: a change that occurs after his ascension. – elliot svensson – 2018-11-13T18:16:32.827

This makes sense. A person can perform a free act which can change things. I was thinking of referencing Plotinus' One which I think was also dynamic because it was more than a Platonic form, but that answer would be similar to the one you have provided. +1 – Frank Hubeny – 2018-11-13T18:55:14.437


Short answer: Yes, by many philosophers!

I will try to provide a short (and obviously not exhaustive) intellectual history of such theories.

One of the first modern authors who elaborated on the punchline of Hegel that knowledge is necessarily historical was Wilhelm Dilthey with his philosophy of life (1883). He basically was the first author explicitly writing about historical a priori (a term not used by him and nailed decades later by Foucault in his Archaeology of Knowledge, 1969). His work has been systematically applied by Georg Misch in his Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie. Eine Auseinandersetzung der Diltheyschen Richtung mit Heidegger und Husserl, Leipzig 1930 (3. Aufl. Stuttgart 1964). Dilthey's work was very influential in intellectual circles in Germany and ended up in hermeneutical writings by e.g. Ernst Cassirer (Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 1923-29), Helmuth Plessner (The Levels of the Organic and the Human, 1928), Heidegger (Being and Time, 1927), and Gadamer (Truth and Method, 1960), all of which bind human understanding to dynamic cultural development, both phylogenetically (individual life, single generation) and ontogenetically (over the course of history).

While Dilthey was among the first, there is another huge tradition in modern philosophy that purported dynamic concepts of truth and ultimately ended up in postmodernism: Classical pragmatism. Starting from Peirce (1878/79), continuing with Wiliam James' pluralistic universe (1909) and Dewey's concept of "experience" (Experience and Nature, 1928), they all have in common that meaning and truth are dependent on the particular pragmatic context and experience of individual life-worlds (even if all of them have idealistic tendencies in some writings).

This ultimately led to late Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations, 1953) and all the traditions starting from there (see e.g. Rorty vs. Putnam!). For some essays regarding this, see Mike Sandbothe & William Egginton (eds.) (2004): The pragmatic turn in philosophy: Contemporary engagements between analytic and continental thought. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Another quite famous and influential intellectual line came from Marx/Engels (rejecting the idealistic drive of Hegel) to Horkheimer and Adorno (Frankfurt School) with their Negative Dialectics, 1966 (acknowledging the materialistic dialictics, rejecting the absolute outcome). From there, Habermas (Theory of Communicative Action, 1981) and Honneth (The Struggle for Recognition, 1992) are the main successors.

Bergson and Whitehead are rightly mentioned as contemporaries outside of any particular tradition as well by @Conifold in his comment to the question. They have influences everywhere.

Interestingly, all authors mentioned were quite fond of Hegel's basic insights, with a tendency to condemn him because of the Absolute.

Therefore, if you like, aspects of Hegel's work (the Owl of Minerva...) set off an anti-idealistic concept of dynamic truth in many contemporary traditions. And they are still chewing on the problems this brings for an evaluation of sciences and philosophy.

Philip Klöcking

Posted 2018-09-29T12:33:01.207

Reputation: 9 269

I understand your meaning here, but I'm not entirely sure that's the kind of "dynamicism" I meant. I'll think about it. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-16T13:12:30.967

Ok, I think I understand my issue here. This, yet again, present philosophers that talk about a dynamic change in our capabilities of knowledge of the truth, but not a dynamic change of the truth itself. The only ones who might have talked about that change are perhaps Bergson and Whitehead, although I'm yet to be fully convinced they indeed talk about it. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-16T15:05:15.727

@YechiamWeiss: The problem you have here is really something I cannot see: Obviously, if truth is dependant on context, it is historically dynamic. None of the positions speaks of capabilities of knowledge in relation to The Truth anymore. Truth itself becomes a historical, dynamic notion. What can be more fitting than the term historical a priori?! What you seem to indicate is a dynamic, yet ideal/absolute concept of Truth, which IMHO constitutes a contradictio in adjecto, i.e. is a confusion of thought since it necessarily would be meaningless. – Philip Klöcking – 2018-11-16T17:32:04.703

In other words: They all defended some kind of objective, metaphysical truth by at the same time contextualising metaphysics and objectivity. I do not see any other way of coherently dealing with dynamic truth. – Philip Klöcking – 2018-11-16T20:00:54.943

@YechiamWeiss Would we call it 'the truth', if it could change without a concomitant contextual change? - Well, maybe in Politics. – christo183 – 2018-11-17T06:28:39.833

@PhilipKlöcking that's it! You've pinpointed the words I was looking for. I'm looking for an ideal, dynamic philosophy of Truth. And no, ideal and absolute are not interchangeable concepts, as I'm sure you know. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-17T15:42:16.677

@YechiamWeiss: The closest you will get is Hegel. And I think when it comes to truth, ideal and dynamic only go together if they are bound by a dynamic absolute. This is the real philosophical motivation (besides religious motivations) behind Hegelian Absolute Geist IMHO, i.e. allowing for historicity and (Kantian) science. And all the authors mentioned pointed out the incoherences of this system. – Philip Klöcking – 2018-11-17T21:24:48.893

@PhilipKlöcking although Hegel's truth isn't dynamic - the Geist points towards a finite, specific goal. The way it operates, perhaps, is dynamic, but not its "truth". – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-18T04:06:43.567

@YechiamWeiss: I think this is not as obvious as you make it. There are texts allowing for different interpretations of Hegel and scholarship differentiates between at least three different meanings of "absolute Geist" IIRC. The one speaking the most obvious in favour of what you describe is the Philosophy of Right, but there are others. The main point to keep in mind is that truth always involves intentionality (normativity) since it is an aspect of a judgement and should be distinguished from factual states of affairs. Metaphysical "truth" is nothing but ontology and a misnomer IMHO. – Philip Klöcking – 2018-11-18T10:40:22.440

@PhilipKlöcking well that last bit is a different topic, but it's interesting to know that there are interpretations of Hegel that consider the Geist as you say. I'll look further into that. And again, I do consider Bergson and Whitehead to be the closest I can think of to what I say, with Schelling also in that area. I'm still looking for others though. I'll definitely look more into Pierce. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-18T11:22:46.580


Do you not elude to the answer in the question? By association? A dynamic truth could be What was said by Socrates, “I am the wisest man alive in that i know one thing, that I know nothing”. Sure this is a static truth but it is also a dynamic one, in which all things known over time are not static. And perhaps this is true of all of us going through life in that what we begin knowing, and being sure of, becomes either irrelevant or even completely false as we age and experience the wonder of life.

Philosophy itself really is a dynamic truth in that what is considered axioms of logic might not apply as easily in this new world we are evolving in. And every generation not only reapplies what has been learned but uses historiography to relate the past to the present. And by doing this the truth becomes a living concept.

But I do want to add one other aspect, that truth to me really is only a static understanding in relevance to the subject of the question. And that truth to me is a simple understanding that requires little argument. And perhaps only a “sophist” might need to manipulate such truths as it applies to their arguments.


Posted 2018-09-29T12:33:01.207

Reputation: 312

What you're talking about is epistemic truth, not metaphysical one. – Yechiam Weiss – 2018-11-14T05:38:30.323

We like our references here, they give context to you answer and provide a reader the opportunity of further research. There is an section on answering in https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/help. - Welcome to the SE!

– christo183 – 2018-11-14T05:47:01.863

I understand. I was dwelling on the word “dynamic” as it applies to what can be encompassed by the statement and less about the accepted definition of it. – Robus – 2018-11-14T15:29:04.433