"The bottom line is that it is no contradiction at all to assert the firm existence of fact, truth and reality and yet maintain that they can only be known within the human, limited vocabularies we have built in the endless effort to get things right. Truth claims are universal, but their justification and elaboration take place in time and within revisable, contingent discursive structures.
This is hardly a new insight. Thomas Hobbes put it this way in his Leviathan: 'True and False are attributes of Speech, not of Things. And where Speech is not, there is neither Truth nor Falsehood.' That is to say, our judgment as to whether an assertion is true or false will be made by seeing how it fits in (or doesn’t fit in) with other assertions the truth of which are, at least for the time being, warranted. We do not compare the assertion with the world, but with currently authoritative statements about the world. The world itself – unmediated by any system of statements – is forever removed from us. As Richard Rorty says, in an update of Hobbes, “The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not.” The world, Rorty adds, does not have its own language, does not make propositions about itself. We do that, and it is the propositions we hazard, not the world as it exists apart from propositions, that we affirm, reject, argue about and believe in.
If that is so, propositions – assertions that this or that is or is not the case – are the vehicle of thought and Hobbes can be emended to say, 'where Speech is not, there is no Thought.' Words come first and make thought – propositions – possible. This is what I [meant] when I said we can’t think without [words]."
- Stanley Fish, from "Another Spin of the Wheel"