Toward a Phenomenology for the Correspondence Theory of Truth
Toward a Phenomenology for the Correspondence Theory of Truth Appears only in an Italian translation, "Verso una teoria fenomenologica della verita come corrispondenza," in Discipline Filosofiche (Bologna), I, 1991, pp. 125-147.
“Der Erfullungssynthesis dieses Falls ist die Evidenz oder Erkenntnis im pragnanten Wortsinn. Hier ist das Sein im Sinne der Wahrheit, der recht verstandenen “Uebereinstimmung,” der adaequatio rei ac intellectus” realisiert, hier ist sie selbst gegeben, direct zu erschauen und zu ergreifen. Die verschiedenen Begrifffe von Wahrheit, die auf Grund der einen und selben phanomenologischen Sachlage zu constituiren sind, finden hier die vollkommene Klarung.”
(E. Husserl, “Einleitung,” IVth “Logische Untersuchung”, 1901)
The correspondence theory of truth has been strongly challenged in the Twentieth Century. Throughout most of the history of Western philosophy an understanding of truth as a kind of correlation or harmony between a thought and its object has been assumed, and major thinkers have explicitly discussed and adopted it. Plato’s Theaetetus and Aristotle’s Categories both seem to advance what would clearly be a ‘correspondence’ account of truth. Aquinas uses the Latin formula, “Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus,” which remained familiar and widely accepted into the present century. For Kant, “Truth consists in the agreement of knowledge with its object” (Critique of Pure Reason, B 83, 236), or “the conformity of our concepts with the object.” (B 670)
Hegel and other Post-Kantian figures begin to speak of truth in ways which certainly involve more than correspondence, or even rule it out entirely. However, yet more recent thinkers such as G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, or Edmund Husserl and Alfred Tarski, provide strong representation for the correspondence account of truth. Even Martin Heidegger adopts a fairly straightforward correspondence account of the truth of assertions. And in the latest discussions of truth in analytic philosophy, correspondence at least shows up as one of the most serious alternatives in analyzing it.
What seems to be the basic difficulty facing correspondence?
The general problem with a correspondence theory of truth lies in finding a defensible account of the terms which are to exemplify the ‘correspondence’ relation. The “intellectus” or “knowledge” term to the relation is perhaps most troubling to us today. One looks with astonishment at the confidence with which Descartes and Locke, or even Hume and Kant, speak about it, and realizes how historically inevitable the substitution of language (sentences, assertions) for intellectus (thoughts, ideas) must have been. However, while language seems more ‘tangible’ or ‘natural’ than the old representations or ideas--or today’s ‘propositions’--its structure remains subject to serious debate, and seems to eliminate from the outset any possibility of a natural, and especially a “realistic,” correspondence with what it is about. And in any case, the obscurities on the side of the “rei” or “object” remain as great as ever. It is the irreconcilable general “viewpoints” about the nature of consciousness, on the one hand, and objective reality on the other, that seem to rule out the possibility of arriving at any generally satisfactory account of the “correspondence” between them.
A “phenomenological” approach may offer a way forward. It suggests that we do best to suspend our general theories about what must or cannot be the case, and resort to painstaking description of particular or highly specific cases relevant to the point of our philosophical concerns. Surely the great thinkers of the past who had confidence in the “correspondence” account of truth were guided by occasions where they actually discovered some object or state of affairs to be as they had thought it to be. No doubt they also recognized situations in which they found matters to be as presented by the assertions of others. Instead of asking what correspondence in the abstract could be, why not explore the actual structure of these actual experiences?
Are there not such occasions in our own experience? It would be surprising to find anyone who lacked such experiences, or who lacked the related experiences in which such “correspondence” is found not to be there. Even children encounter and accomodate to truth--as well as falsehood. Certainly I have never met anyone who would want it generally known that he had never found something to be as he thought it to be, or as someone had said it was. And for good reason, for surely he would be regarded as mentally deficient. But since it is admitted on all hands that we have such experiences, and since we actually identify the clearer cases among them with great accuracy, what is to prevent our describing them in sufficient detail to determine more closely the nature of that fittingness or correspondence between thought (or statement) and object which these experiences involve?
Comprehensive scepticism should not deter us. If it is accepted, that cannot be on the basis of reason, since--as comprehensive--it disallows knowledge of truths from which it might be inferred, as well as knowledge of logical relationships (implication, contradiction) which might guide the inference. We may suffer from comprehensive scepticism as an affliction, for which treatment would be appropriate. Or we may pretend or hypothetically advance it, as is often done in philosophy classrooms. Wise men have even recommended it as a seditive for the passions of life. But it cannot be advanced as a rational ground for anything, much less then for not taking seriously the cases where we actually find things to match up with how they are thought or said to be.
We should also not be hindered by the claim, often heard, that we cannot “step outside of” our experience to examine its relation to the world. That any examination of the relationship between a thought and its object must itself be an experience--which of course is true--simply does not imply that we cannot compare a given idea or belief with the objectivity to which it refers. While we cannot “step outside of” experience or consciousness in general to cognize anything, we certainly can and do have the capacity to reflect, in given cases, upon the match up between particular cognitive acts and the relevant objects, and the capacity correctly to describe what such reflection teaches.
How would such a description proceed? It would work from a specific case to provide an illuminating description of the ‘matching up’ of thought and object in it--a description which contains only elements that all will use in any thorough description of events which make up their life, no matter what their “theory” of mind and reality says. That would then constitute the first step, a proto-phenomenology, within a possible phenomenology for the correspondence theory of truth.
Here is a case. As I go to my office I meet a student who tells me that a text ordered for our course in Contemporary European Philosophy is now available in the university book store. I want to make sure that his statement is true so that I can announce this new reality at the next class meeting. I go by the bookstore, look where the philosophy texts are kept, and there is a stack of Husserl’s Ideas, the Boyce Gibson translation into English, paperback edition, just as he said. I pick up one copy and thumb through it and count the number of copies on the shelf. Now I know not only that the books are there. (I might have known that without having met the student and without having pursued the thought to its object.) I also know that the student’s statement, as well as my resultant hopeful thought--which are themselves realities independent of the books and of their being there--match up with the realities which they are about. This “matching up” is something that I can reflect on and bring before my mind, as Husserl indicates in his statement above, and as--in a quite different framework--“semantic” interpretations of sentences as true, matching component symbols and their structures with objects and their structures, usually presuppose.
Now let us find ways of penetrating descriptively into this case. That chiefly means: by ways which work through reflection, turning our attention to the conscious events which make up our life. Such ways of exploration do not rest upon inferences or efforts to explain why things are as they are, and are ways which confirm themselves to anyone not already committed to how things must be in the cases at hand. (We will set statements and sentences aside in what follows, though a similar investigation can be conducted for them, and, I believe, with analogous results.)
The first thing we notice in our reflections is that the thought of Husserl’s Ideas being now in the university bookstore is something that occurs to me. At an instant it becomes a novel element in my life as I am walking to my office. At one point it was not there. Then it was. It is a difference in my life. With it something becomes true of me that was not true before. Secondly, it is itself a specific type of whole. It has an “outside” and an “inside” in terms of what makes it up, enters it as a constituent, and what clearly does not. It itself is also a part, one element, in my total existence, which contains even simultaneously many other more or less self-conscious sensations, images, thoughts, intentions, tendencies, actions, etc. Even as the student speaks and “gives” me the thought of the books being available, I also am conscious of a button off my shirt and uneasy about a committee meeting I must handle later in the day. These form no part of the thought. But its multiple references or ‘aboutnesses’--to the book, the bookstore, the arrival of the book, the class--and the structure of their unification to form the thought, are essential parts or aspects of the thought. Without them it would not be the thought that...etc. Indeed, it would not be at all.
Among the many things (most of the universe) which are not a part or aspect of the thought is, of course, the fact of the books now being in the bookstore. That is why I am going there to make sure. The thought could be without its correlative objectivity being. We do not, upon finding the latter missing, declare that the thought of it did not occur. The student just made a mistake, led me to think what was not the case, we may say. But the thought which proved to be wrong is, as such, complete in itself all the same.
The thought guides us, or at least can guide us, to a fuller knowledge of how things stand with its object. It enters an overall existence that is determinately moving toward the future; and, fusing with that movement at a specific time, place and orientation of consciousness, it makes manifest procedures which precisely from that point lead to an examination of its object. Exactly how this works will depend upon the nature of the thought, the kind of objectivity it is about. If the thought is about the meaning of a Greek word, for example, or about the chemical composition of a certain liquid, a path of research is accordingly determined, suited to the nature of the object represented and to how it is represented.
In our case at hand, the reference to the university bookstore, carried within the thought that the text is now available in the university bookstore, fits into my current spatial and temporal orientation, and therewith into the horizon of “things to be done.” It does not lie inert in my mind, an atom waiting for a logical deduction to occur, but immediately reconfigures my proximal field of possible action. Within this field a sequentially ordered group of possible actions and experiences stands out as ways through which the relevant objectivity can be brought before me to see if matters stand as the thought represents them. “Meaning” is not, as the Logical Positivists used to say, identical with “verification.” But the two are very closely related, and we can safely catch what is correct in their thesis by stressing the Husserlian point that every representation of an object (other than its fully adequate intuition) carries indications of how that object can be more adequately brought before us.
If I choose to actualize a certain pathway opened by the thought in the case at hand, then, in a manner too familiar to require careful description, the bookstore will come into view, I will enter it, and progress toward the exact point in it where the student’s remark caused me to think of the texts as being. I will see the course name and number on the shelf for Philosophy texts, and see the familiar size, shape, color, title and so forth. In this progression it is, precisely, the thought of the book in question being available in the bookstore that is present in my flow of experience, guiding me toward a certain consumation and determining when it is completed. I am variably but constantly aware, as I go, of the thought that is guiding me. If that thought deserts me, disappears from my consciousness completely, then other orientations will overtake me--or else dis-orientation. But as, and only as, I retain it in the cognitive framework of “what I am now doing,” the objectivities correlative to its parts gradually fall into place before me. Within the dynamic structure of “verification” I am conscious of piece after piece falling into place until there is nothing left to be realized. The entire objectivity, texts-for-the-course-now-being-available-in-the-university-bookstore, has gradually coalesed with the thought that it is so, as each part or aspect of the thought is brought into conjunction with the objectivity upon which it bears. I am conscious as I move along of how much of what the thought presents has fallen into place before me, and of how much is yet to come. The progression articulates the “matching” structure for me as the pieces on both sides come together in perception. The “correspondence” is there, and in such reflective verification one finds it to be there. I turn and walk away “satisfied.”
* * *
In this proto-phenomenological description I have tried to limit myself to what anyone might correctly and candidly say of their own experience. That is difficult to do. Perhaps I have not succeeded. And, if I have, some may regard the results as trivial. But I think that they are not trivial, for they constitute a major step toward removing truth, conceived of as a certain type of correspondence, from the category of the “enigmatic” or mysterious, thereby doing justice to the fact that even small children are able to tell when things are and are not as they thought, when statements are or are not true, when promises have and have not been kept.
The candid descriptions of concrete cases help us to see that in our ordinary workings with the truth and falsity of our thoughts and statements we are simply taking comparison seriously. Comparison is, of course, something we constantly do. I may compare two automobiles to see which is more spacious, or to see which is the overall best buy. I do this by considering the features of each automobile over against the features of the other. I balance my checkbook by comparing my deductions with my deposits plus my initial balance. I determine whether or not a fabric “clashes” with the decor of a room by holding them together before my mind: in thought, in imagination, in memory, in perception, or in permutations and combinations of all four. In every case I “establish” a relation, discover its presence or absence, by considering the aspects of each term in union with relevant aspects of the other. This is just what comparison amounts to--though in some cases the interrelationships may be so subtle that I can only judge by their effects on me, which after all are a legitimate manifestation of their character. The “feeling tone” I have in contemplating the fabric with the wallpaper, or one chord with another in a musical progression, might alert me to a “clash” between them which I may not be able to trace to distinguishable features. (Of course not every simultaneous consciousness of two or more things is a comparison of them.)
We also can and do compare experiences, cognitive or otherwise, among themselves. We compare pains and joys in various ways, in magnitude as well as in quality. We compare intentions and memories with one another, e.g. as to clarity. We compare thoughts (concepts, judgments) and statements with respect to their logical features and relations. This is simply a part of what it is for them to be wholes of certain types. Generally speaking, wholes are comparable to other wholes.
Among the comparison to be made of thoughts is the one which may discover correspondence or conflict with their objects. In this case, as in every case of comparison, we discover or confirm the relation in question by examination of the terms. That is what the child does when it discovers a lie or broken promise. In all its innocence and simplicity, it is aware of its expectation that things are or shall be so and so--e.g. a playmate will let it use a certain toy if it surrenders the candy bar, etc.--and finds that reality does not harmonize with the thought guiding its expectation and action. Its appointment is revealed to be dis-appointment. The absence of the correspondence relation is impressed upon it as it contemplates the interrelated features of the terms. The child does not have to be told that the promise is broken, the thought not true. Indeed, it will not be told that, for the conflict between its belief and the correlative state of affairs is obvious.
But a number of observations must be quickly added. First of all, many--surely most--of the thoughts and assertions by which we live cannot be brought over against their correlative objectivities in the way exemplified by my thought about the texts for my course. And with the “progress of knowledge” a smaller and smaller percentage of what we think, believe, or act on can be verified by “observing” its match up with its subject matter. That e=mc2 certainly is something that cannot be matched up to its subject matter by comparing the meanings or conceptual structures in it with observable features of this bottle here or of matter in general--which is by no means the same as saying that its truth is unknowable, of course. But the generic nature of the match up, of this “correspondence” which seems most commonly called “truth,” remains what it is beyond the range of actual or possible comparisons of thoughts with objects. This is so of any relation. I can know what “greater than” is as a relation between numbers by the intuitive comparison of smaller numbers with each other. Most numbers, however, cannot be intuitively compared as to their relative sizes. Is the number of the true heroes of the Russian revolution greater than the number of Nobel Prize winners? Is (a + b)2 greater than (a2 + b2)? Such questions cannot be answered by an intuitive comparison of the terms for the relation “greater than.” Yet that relation does obtain or does not obtain between any two distinct numbers. It is exactly the same with respect to thoughts and their correspondence with their objects.
Second, it follows from this that truth is not the same thing as verification, any more than the relation “more spacious than” is the finding of that relation to obtain between two automobiles or apartments. When I verify, as described above, my thought that the desired texts are in the bookstore, I bring the matching up between my thought and its object into my field of intuition. I find it to be there. I do not produce it. The match up is there (or not) all along as I walk toward the bookstore and as I approach the shelves, just as “more spacious than” holds between the automobiles, already exists, before I find it, or if I never find it. The finding, in either case, is one thing, the found another. If I think that a certain wrench fits a certain nut, it does or does not do so independently of whether I ever bring them together to see it. The seeing of it has no effect on the wrench, the nut, or the fit. Likewise for thought and its object.
Now resistance at this point is likely to be quite strong, and that resistance brings us to our third comment, which, I believe, is really the heart of the debate over truth as correspondence. To put it bluntly, it will very likely be said that a thought (idea, judgment, proposition, or even an assertion) is just not like an automobile or a wrench. And of course one must immediately admit that this is in some important sense correct. But it is not correct in the sense usually intended. For what is usually meant is either that the thought has no nature or substance at all, is not a specific type of whole with its own place in nature, or that it does not have the sort of substance that would allow it to fit, correspond to, or match up with its object--say a group of books on a certain shelf. But thoughts, like all other wholes, are subject to comparisons to other things, including other thoughts. And why should they not be comparable to their own subject matter? At this point a claim that is not strictly phenomenological may be entered, to the effect that a thought must have a substance which allows it to match up with its objects, because it does so match up as a matter of familiar, reportable fact. The thought as such has a concrete nature which, as required by all relations, is what suits it to stand as one term in, among others, the relation of correspondence between thought and object.
* * * *
This removes us--as is inevitable in philosophical work--from the domain of proto-phenomenology to what we might call ramified phenomenology. We shift from descriptions of specific cases such as unbiased people give in candid and thoughtful reflections upon their conscious life, to systematic descriptions and dialectic of a high level of abstraction. Our ultimate point of reference continues to be what is given in reflection, in attending to our own experiences. But now the preparation for reflection (and description) will often involve abstraction and dialectic. Our aim in a ramified phenomenology is to test, and possibly to undermine or even refute, biases that would control the understanding of human life in terms of general prejudgments about what must be so concerning it: prejudgments which have no regard for the teachings of reflection and do not hesitate to contradict them.
Because a ramified phenomenology requires development on a large scale, we here draw upon the one already provided in the works of Edmund Husserl. The provision of a phenomenology for the correspondence theory of truth was in fact one of his primary goals, and deeply absorbed him up to the point in the first half of his career when he thought he had achieved it. Taking the proto-phenomenological work above as establishing that there is to be found in our experience a typical “correspondence” between certain cases of thoughts and their objects, we turn to Husserl’s exposition of exactly what that correspondence is.
Husserl’s technical term for the experiential bringing together of thought and object is “synthesis of fulfillment” (Erfullungssynthesis). This synthesis, it must be remembered, is not itself truth, but in it truth is made intuitively present to reflective consciousness. In his statement quoted at the opening of this paper, and in many other passages, he also uses the terms “evidence” (Evidenz) and “knowledge in the full sense of the term” (Erkenntnis im pragnanten Wortsinn). But these words, while denoting the same structure of concrete experience, do not express the results of his painstaking investigations as the descriptive phrase “synthesis of fulfillment” does. How, precisely, does he interpret the substance, the parts and properties, of acts of thought and perception in such a way that this “synthesis of fulfillment” can be understood?
The proto-phenomenological base of Husserl’s fully developed views is the fact that consciousness presents itself as organized around distinct but tightly interdependent and even interpenetrating “acts” of Erlebnis: of “experience” as the stuff that makes up our conscious life, as what we literally “live through.” (The Vth “Logische Untersuchung” is devoted to the dialectical and descriptive explication of the essence of the act as such.) Each “act“as a whole manifests a bearing--a directedness, of-ness, or about-ness--upon a specific “object” in a specific manner. Each act has one and only one object which is its object. (Vth “Untersuchung,” subsections 17 & 18) This “directedness” is of course the famous “intentionality.” It is, as he remarks, “Der Problemtitel, der die ganze Phanomenologie umspannt.... Er druckt eben die Grundeigenschaft des Bewusstseins aus, alle phanomenologischen Probleme, selbst die hyletischen, ordnen sich ihm ein. Somit beginnt die Phanomenologie mit Problemen der Intentionalitat....” (Ideen I, subsection 146)
Intentionality is a natural affinity or selectivity which acts have for their objects. This is not to say that it is a mystical quality that simply, for no reason at all, settles indiscrimately upon a given act and endows it with a direction upon a random object that happens to be passing by--even on the grand historical scale. But it is to say that an act of consciousness is not intentionally open upon its object merely because of a role which it has come to play in a process It is to deny that, given its intrinsic makeup, it could have had something else as its object, if it (or its type) had had a different history. Its “intrinsic makeup,” on Husserl’s view, will most certainly involve certain interrelationships with other segments of consciousness, and possibly of the world. His acts are by no means atoms, nor are they substances in the classical sense of wholly self-contained and self-intelligible entities. They have many internal relationships to other things. But, given all of this, he regards the nature of the act itself as determinative of its intentional bearing or of what its “object” is. He is what today would be called an “internalist” with regard to meaning, and indeed, when properly explained, with regard to knowledge also.
In keeping with this “natural” character of intentionality, it is usually sufficient merely to attend to an act of consciousness in order to know what it is of. Not every element of the conscious life is an act, of course; and there is still plenty left in acts and their intentionalities to be puzzled about. But those elements of consciousness which are acts directly manifest their overall intentional bearing to reflection. Thus one does not infer what ones acts of consciousness are directed upon. It is hard even to imagine what that would be like. And one does not (cannot!) learn what a certain act or type of act is about, as one must do with symbols, especially those that make up language.
Further, Husserl holds intentionality to be indefinable in its generic nature. “Was ‘Bedeutung’ ist, das kann uns so unmittelbar gegeben sein, wie uns gegeben ist, was Farbe und Ton ist. Es lasst sich nicht weiter definieren, es ist ein deskriptiv Letztes.” (IInd “Logische Untersuchung,” subsection 31) Although this particular statement is about “meaning,” it is abundantly clear thoughout Husserl’s writings that it applies to intentionality generally. Of course intentionality also is not sense-perceptible. But neither that nor its indefinability prevents it from being something which we can attend to and which we constantly provide information about, to ourselves as well as others.
Continuing to explore these “acts” of consciousness, we note that the ones which prove susceptible of verification are quite complex. And the thoughts themselves--the unifying intentional qualities of such acts, the overarching aboutness which characterizes the act in its totality as singling out this object--are complex as well. These thoughts are the ones which Husserl often calls “judgements in the sense of logic,” and we today might call “propositions.” They always contain a number of references. One cannot think, as in our case above, that the desired texts are available in the bookstore in an act which contains no references to the books, the bookstore, a course, temporal order, and so forth. Those “references” must be there in order for the act of thought to be what it is. They are parts of the encompassing thought, even though separate acts of thought do not correspond to them. Moreover, the whole act of thought has the intentional character, the “directedness,” that it has only because of the partial references which make it up. The specific reference of the whole thought is dependent upon the specific references of its parts, together with the form of their combination. And it is precisely these partial intentions in the act that lay the foundation for any possible synthesis of fulfillment involving it.
The following statement by Husserl is true of all types of acts, though stated with specific reference to thought and perception of physical objects: “Nach unserer Auffassung ist jede Wahrnehmung und Imagination ein Gewebe von Partialintentionen, verschmolzen zur Einheit einer Gesamtintention. Das Korrelat dieser letzteren ist das Ding, wahrend die Korrelate jener Partialintentionen dingliche Teile und Momente sind. Nur so ist es zu verstehen, wie das Bewusstsein uber das wahrhaft Erlebte hinausreichen kann. Es kann sozusagen hinausmeinen, und die Meinung kann sich erfullen.” (VIth “Logische Untersuchung,” subsection 10)
In a “mere” thought the partial intentions as well as the whole thought itself are purely signitive meanings. They are “empty” intentions. That is to say, none of the entities, properties or relations referred to by the partial intentions involved are to any degree “themselves present” to the act of thought. They all lie wholly beyond the “horizon” of the act and its context. For example, in our case of the texts now being available in the university bookstore, they present themselves only through the orientation of things around me toward the horizon of my consciousness. The bookstore is not “in view,” but nonetheless comes to mind, with the thought’s entry into my living context, as accessible from what is in view.
As the correlative of each partial reference in the thought comes into view, I perceive the correlate (e.g. the bookstore) as well as conceive of it, and I also am conscious of the identity of the perceived and the conceived. This consciousness of progressive identity of the perceived with the conceived governs the continued process of verification, and if it is disrupted by failure of the perceived to match the conceived--or even by a loss of concentration--the process of verification breaks down and cannot be continued or must at least be reorganized. The thought and the perception must be held in distinction, and yet over against each other, up to the point where we grasp that the object is perceived as it was thought to be.
But now we come to a crucial point that is widely misunderstood. The “correspondence” which is truth, according to Husserl, is not the parallelism or matching up of the perception and the conception of the same objectivity. The conception is, after all, not “about” the perception, but about the books in the bookstore. This Husserl very well knows. The books are a radically different sort of being from a perception. The perception itself has the same overall and partial “aboutnesses” as the conception does, but the intentions in it are by contrast not “empty.” Rather, in a manner which Husserl was never able to make fully intelligible, the “aboutnesses” in the perception, and its intentional direction as a whole, become “full” of the stuff that literally makes up the objectivity. Usually he illustrates this by reference to sensate qualities, though obviously that will not do as a general account, since many objectivities are not sensate: e.g. acts and meanings themselves, as well as ideal entities or universals of all sorts. I believe that he would have done much better to interpret “fullness” in terms of special types of intentional connections between partial or overall intentionalities and their correlates in their objects. (Cf. subsections 14b, 21 & 38 of the IVth “Untersuchung.”) But perhaps we do not need to settle this question here. There is, in any case, a characteristic difference between an object being “itself present” and being merely referred to or thought of. We can agree with Husserl to speak of this difference by calling the former case one of “fulfilled” consciousness of the correlated object, or a “percept.”
* * * * *
With this account of the intentionalities in an act, the partial as well as the global, and of the contrast between “fulfilled” and “empty” intentional bearings upon the same objectivity, we are perhaps in a position to understand Husserl’s description of that correspondence which is truth. His view, as we have seen above, is that only this account of the act’s substance can clarify how intentionality or consciousness reaches out beyond what is genuinely lived through (das wahrhaft Erlebte), how it means “beyond itself,” and is fulfilled. Exactly what is going on when this happens?
In the living synthesis of fulfillment there are, Husserl holds, three components and their interrelations:
Consciousness that the state of affairs is being perceived as the corresponding thought “represents” it opens the mind to the “bodily presence,” as Husserl often says, of the “thing itself.” It establishes a whole of which the object--lying outside the acts of consiousness concerned (possibly, though not necessarily, from domains which could never be immanent to consciousness either as a part or a property)--is one part. It is a whole unified by the special form of intentionality that emerges only upon the synthesis of fulfillment. “Der Gegenstand ist nicht bloss gemeint, sondern, so wie er gemeint ist und in eins gesetzt mit dem Meinen, im strengsten Sinn gegeben.” (IVth “Logische Untersuchung,” subsection 38)
The “match up” here between the consciousness and the object is not, like that between the thought of the object and the perception of the object, an identity of the partial intentions or meanings. It is an intentionalistic correlation between the meanings in the encompassing act through which the object is bodily present and the constituents (parts, properties, structures) of the object itself. It is this correspondence which Husserl determines to be truth, and which can be itself made “bodily present” by reflection on cases where the synthesis of fulfillment is carried out.
This is Husserl’s solution to the “riddle of transcendence.” In his lectures on Die Idee der Phanomenologie he describes transcendence as both the initial and the central problem of the critique of cognition. We may even be quite sure that we do have knowledge of what is transcendent to the act of cognition. “Aber der Ratsel ist, wie sie moglich sei.” (Husserliana II, p. 37) The philosopher can solve this problem, Husserl thinks, only by viewing the progression in which the object of an act of thought comes to be given fully as it is. “Unklar ist ihm die Beziehung auf Transzendenz, unklar ist ihm das ‘ein Transzendentes Treffen’, das der Erkenntnis, dem Wissen zugeschrieben wird. Wo und wie ware ihm Klarheit? Nun, wenn ihm das Wesen dieser Beziehung irgendwo gegeben ware, dass er es schauen konnte, dass er the Einheit von Erkenntnis und Erkenntnisobjekt, die das Wort Triftigkeit andeutet, eben selbst vor Augen hatte and damit nicht nur ein Wissen von ihrer Moglichkeit, sondern diese Moglichkeit in ihrer klaren Gegebenheit hatte.” (p. 37; cf. VIth “Untersuchungen,” subsection 39)
This answers, to Husserl’s mind, the Kantian questions about what makes knowledge possible and about the limits within which knowledge is possible. Earlier he had objected to the obscurities which remained in Kant’s attempt at a “critique” of reason. He attributed these obscurities to Kant’s failure to arrive at a correct understanding of knowledge of essences and of the apriori. (VIth “Untersuchung,” subsection 66, Zusatz) His point is that Kant never gained insight into the essence of the union between an object and the act in which it becomes given as it is thought.
Chapter Five of the VIth “Logische Untersuchung” pulls together the results of his extensive researches into acts, their contents and fulfillment, to present his views of Evidenz and truth. Toward the end of subsection 37 he points out that the “completion” in the adequation of thought to object has two aspects. First there is the perfect adaptation of the thought to perception, “da der Gedanke nichts meint, was die erfullende Anschauung nicht als ihm zugehorig vollstandig vorstellig macht.” But the complete intution, he continues, involves a “completion” of its own. “Die Anschauung erfullt die in ihr terminierende Intention nicht selbst wieder in der Weise einer Intention, die noch der Erfullung bedurftig ware, sondern sie stellt die letzte Erfullung dieser Intention her. Wir mussen also unterscheiden: die Vollkommenheit der Anpassung an die Anschauung (der Adaquation im naturlichen und weiteren Sinn) von der sie voraussetzenden Vollkommenheit der letzten Erfullung
(der Adaquation an die ‘Sache selbst’).” As Husserl elsewhere comments, in certain cases of perception the intentional components of the act are ones “die nicht mehr als Intentionen anzusprechen sind: Komponenten, die nur erfullen, doch nicht mehr nach Erfullung langen, Selbstdarstellungen des von ihnen gemeinten Objektes im strengsten Wortsinn.” (IVth “Logische Untersuchung,” subsection 15)
Of course this general structure of completed fulfillment cannot be actually realized with all objects. Elements of consciousness itself, along with certain essences in which those elements participate, are most accessible to the synthesis of fulfillment. “So wie das Denken einer Farbe im Akte der Anschauung dieser Farbe seine Erfullung findet, so das Denken eines Denkens in einem Akte der Anschauung dieses Denkens also letzterfullende Anschauung in einer adaquaten Wahrnehmung desselben.” (subsection 19; cf 36) But the second completion or perfection of adequation mentioned above cannot, in general, be obtained for physical objects, because the first perfection is never total with them. In any ‘intuition’ of them there will always be partial intentions that are only implicit, or at least are in some degree lacking in fulfillment. (subsection 36)
Nevertheless, the truth of a thought about an object is always the same, whether it can itself be brought before abstractive consciousness on the basis of its presence in a concrete experience of fulfillment or not. Truth is not a matter of consciousness at all. “Zum Begriff der Erkenntnis gehort, dass sein Inhalt den Charakter der Wahrheit habe. Dieser Charakter kommt nicht dem fluchtigen Erkenntnissphanomenen zu, sondern dem identischen Inhalte desselben, dem Idealen oder Allgemeinen, das wir alle in Auge haben, wenn wir sagen: ich erkenne, das (a + b) = (b + a) ist, und unzahlige Anderer erkennen dasselbe.... Wahrheit und Falschheit...sind wesentlich Beschaffenheiten der bezuglichen Urtheilsinhalte, nicht solche der Urtheilsakte; sie kommen jenen zu, ob sie auch von Niemandem anerkannt werden....” (“Prolegomena,” subsection 40) Fulfillment, by contrast, is essentially an event, a psychical process, that temporally unfolds at a certain time. Truth in a thought grounds the possibility of verification in act, but it remains with the thought whether or not that possibility is ever actualized.
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In conclusion I should point out that I have only sketched the most significant aspects of Husserl’s phenomenology of truth as correspondence. I think that his major contribution to this issue lies in the way he gives substance to the intellectus side of the correspondence, and thus makes it possible to contemplate bringing it (in the form of the “act”) before the mind in an explicit comparison with relevant objects.
In his “Nachwort zu meine Ideen” he speaks of wandering in the trackless wilds of the new continent of Ideen, and of the infinite open country of the true philosophy. A major barrier to understanding his analyses lies in the massive complexity which he finds in the act-structures of consciousness. This remains true for his analysis of the synthesis of fulfillment and the “correspondence” which inhabits it. The intuitive awareness of that correspondence as an ideal structure interrelating the thought (proposition) and the corresponding state of affairs in a given case incorporates at least five prior acts within it. Of course this whole structure must stand up to reflective analysis, to what we find by attending to the development of the intuitive awareness of the correspondence in a given case. That is the ultimate phenomenological point of reference. But the naturalistic commitment which forms the framework of contemporary thought may rule out any serious reflection on the experience of truth, and thus rob intellectus of the substance that could make truth as correspondence intelligible.