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Hi! In Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' she states 'context is all.' Does this mean there is no such thing as truth? Thank you!

One of the greatest philosophers on totalitarian states, Hannah Arendt observes that in totalitarian states, "truth" and even "empirical facts" are relative to the needs of the state. In such a setting, Arendt notes (and I agree with her) almost nothing is so absurd that people cannot be coerced to believe it or profess (or act as though) it is true. So, I think the answer to your question is (sadly) "yes" in terms of the culture, but in reality, I think the question is "no" in the sense that truth and falsehood (from a realist philosophical point of view) cannot be subject to state control. The state cannot make it the case that 1+1=3 (though see Orwell's 1984, and check our Arendt's book Origins of Totalitarianism. published in 1951).

Is pragmatic truth inherently less valid than other forms of truth? If a Hindu believes in the truth that Vishnu exists and a Muslim does not, how could they both be right? I don't know how to word this, but are the correspondence and epistemic theories of truth the most "true?"

This is a complicated matter. Realist views of truth, including versions of the correspondence theory, hold that reality cannot or should not be split into different venues in which, say, Vishnu exists and is divine for one person, but not for another. Realists, then, hold that if Allah exists, then it is false to claim that Allah does not exist. The term "pragmatic truth" is a little puzzling to me, but perhaps what you are getting at is the idea that matters of what we call "truth" may be treated in terms of justification. So, for Saladon to claim that there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet, is to claim that he is justified in making such a claim. I suggest, though, that such justification or epistemic theories of truth are themselves pretty hard to justify (and, hence, on its own assumptions, a justification theory of truth might not be true because it is not justified). There may be one other angle to consider. Some apparent disagreements may not be radical. Consider a dispute...

Is all truth subjective? A subjective truth is a truth based off of a person's perspective, feelings, or opinions. Everything we know is based off of our input - our senses, our perception. Thus, everything we know is subjective. All truths are subjective. Do you think all truths are subjective? If not, what is wrong with the above argument?

I suppose the worry your thesis and argument raises has to do with the meaning of "subjective" and the move that a given person's beliefs are based on the senses to the conclusion that "All truths are subjective." On subjectivity: I share the view that persons do indeed have feelings, perspectives, opinions, senses, and perception. We might also add reason, memory, emotions and passion, interests, drives, and so on. When we do know things based on such states or processes (for example, I know I am awake and writing to you), is my knowledge itself something we would call subjective? I suggest we would want to say that it is objectively true or the case that I am writing to you, and not subjective in the sense that it is only true from my point of view or because I think it is true. So, paradoxically, I think that if we do want to claim that there are subjective states that they really exist then we are in effect committed to holding that the existence of subjective states is an objective fact...

Are historical facts always true, throughout time? Consider the fact that Barack Obama is the forty-fourth president of the United States of America. Was it true two hundred years ago? If someone in the nineteenth century had said "Barack Obama is the forty-fourth president of the United States of America", would it have been true?

This is an excellent question and one that is much debated historically and today. It has implications about freedom and determinism, logic, and the philosophy of God, good and evil. It seems that classical logic requires that propositions are either true or false. "Barack Obama is the forty-fourth president of the USA " appears to be a proposition. And we have found it to be true. But in that case, it seems that Obama could not have failed to have won the election against McCain. It has seemed to some (but certainly not all) philosophers that this would mean Obama's election was fixed in some sense, perhaps determined. Some who worry about this problem are theists who think that if God knows from eternity that in August of 2011 you would ask your question, then there is no possibility that you would not have typed in and submitted your question to Askphilosophers. For many theists, it is vital to affirm that creatures / human beings have free agency, otherwise it would seem that God has...

I recently had an argument in an epistemology class about the relationship between facts and human minds. I argued that a fact cannot exist until a human mind knows it. Most of the rest of the class (and the professor) argued that facts can exist independently of human minds. My professor's example: Every human being believes that the world is flat, when it is in fact round. I argued that the fact that the world is round did not exist until someone thought it. Can a fact exist without a human mind?

You are adopting a pretty radical position, for it seems like common sense for us to recognize as facts (or truths or as actual states of affairs) all sorts of things quite independent of human minds. Most of us would want to say (for example) that it was true that there was life long before there was intelligent life here on earth. Your professor's example is a little odd, partly because very few people have ever believed the earth is flat. (There is a good book on the myth of believing in a flat earth). But you might be able to defend your position as part of a philosophy of language, contending that facts are what correspond to or are referred to as sentences and simply hold the line about not recognizing facts until you have language-users. I believe Fred Stoutland holds that position, and Richard Rorty expresses something like that in The Mirror of Nature. Still, you are not in an enviable position in terms of arguments, as most of us would want to recognize that it is a fact that before there...