Practical Truth: Reflections on the Aristotelian Tradition


Practical Truth: Reflections on the Aristotelian Tradition

April 21-22, 2017 | University of South Carolina, Russell House Room 315

Free and open to the public | Registration (required): click here


Contact Person: Jennifer A. Frey

The term 'practical truth' can be traced back to Aristotle. Although there has been much recent work into the importance of the concept of practical knowledge for our understanding of human action and ethics, very little work has been done on whether there is a distinctively practical notion of truth that accompanies it. This workshop brings together historians and contemporary theorists to better understand the nature and importance of practical truth--both for our understanding of the Aristotelian tradition and for contemporary moral theory.


Anselm Mueller, Trier University - "Is Practical Truth a Chimera? Questions for Anscombe"

 In a number of papers, Anscombe raises the “great question”: What is practical truth (PT)? Her answers are not elaborate but clear enough to raise further questions such as: Does PT have truth-conditions? What can be rendered practically true, and by what? – What Anscombe calls PT appears to be secured by actions’ being implemented in conclusion of a valid practical inference in which you derive a way of acting from good ends. But whose truth can be thus secured? If it is practical thought, its PT will require two seemingly separable conditions: goodness of ends, and implementation of the practical conclusion. This would deprive the notion of PT of the unity Anscombe’s explorations insinuate. If, on the other hand, PT is exhibit by actions, how can it also be produced by implementation of practical thought (= action!)? – A solution to the problems I have hinted at is suggested by consideration of the fundamental teleology of human nature.


Anselm Mueller's keynote will be April 21 at 4:30 pm eastern time and available to watch live here.

Stephen Brock, Holy Cross University - "Thomas Aquinas, the Bearer of Practical Truth, and the Rationality of Action"

Interpreters of what Aristotle calls practical truth differ about what its bearer is or what it is properly said of.  As a result, they also differ about the distinction between practical and theoretical truth.  It is generally agreed that the bearer of theoretical truth is an assertion or a judgment about some matter, and that such truth consists in the judgment’s describing the matter correctly.  But while some hold that the same account applies to practical truth, others hold that its bearer is an action, and that what it consists in is the action’s conformity with right desire.  Thomas Aquinas thinks the bearer of practical truth is a judgment.  In this paper I present his position, consider some objections on behalf of the opposing view, and suggest what he would think is at stake the issue.

Stephen Brock's keynote will be April 22 at 4:00 pm eastern time and available to watch live here.


Samuel Baker, University of South Alabama

Jennifer A. Frey, University of South Carolina

Matthias Haase, University of Chicago

Adrian Haddock, University of Stirling

Dhananjay Jagannathan, Dartmouth College

Christiana Olfert, Tufts University

Sergio Tenenbaum, University of Toronto

Suggested lodging:

The Inn at USC

The Hilton Columbia Center



This event is made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Registration (required): click here