FOM: Tait on truth

John Mayberry J.P.Mayberry at
Fri Feb 6 12:07:04 EST 1998

	Having delivered a sermon on the need for us all to temper our 
rhetoric, I have now been caught out employing strong rhetoric myself. 
Perhaps I should say "Do as I say, not as I do". I acknowledge that 
there is some justice in Bill Tait's remonstration, and I hope that 
Carsten Butz, whose contributions I read with interest, is not offended.
	But I cannot agree with Tait that the 
there-is-no-such-thing-as-truth doctrine is merely false. "Absolute 
nonsense" may be rhetorical excess, but "nonsense", stript, if 
possible, of its pejorative overtones (and maybe even "false" sounds 
pejorative to some) is nearer to the mark. Because if there is no such 
thing as speaking truly, there is no such thing as speaking 
meaningfully - at least, so it seems to me. And the declaration "There 
are no true propositions in mathematics, although I spend my 
professional life producing proofs of mathematical propositions" sounds 
pretty odd, though no doubt Butz would not have put things that way 

John Mayberry
Lecturer in Mathematics
J.P.Mayberry at

More information about the FOM mailing list