Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The true definition of truth.

  1. Feb 23, 2010 #1
    A while back on one of these forums there was a thread started on this topic of truth. That thread is now closed but I dont believe the thread served its purpose unless the purpose of the question was merely to be left unanswered! The thread starter was "Alexander" and this is his statement: "Best definition of truth I ever read came from Marx: "Truth is agreement with fact." In essense, this equates truth with observed fact. Therefore, there is no "absolute truth" or "the truth" - all we have is just observed fact(s).
    Is there any better definition of truth? Another person in opposition to Alexanders claim was namely "pelastration" he stated:I ask you and Marx a very simple question: What do you mean by truth? Please give me the mathematical coordinates, or the weight, the height, it's motion in an inertia frame, ... .

    If you can't ... welcome in the Babylonistic world of semantics.

    Next question: what makes an observation a fact?

    Next question: What is the signification of your statement ' there is no "absolute truth" or "the truth" - all we have is just observed fact(s) for mathematics?
    this is a profound refute and confute! I would like to elaborate on pelastrations comments. Truth is what is &what is right.Let me go further to say that Truth is what is right,was right and will be right.Truth is simply the existence of right/acuality/real. Truth is the fact that does exist. EX:Many witnesses at an occurence of a car crash may have different testimonies of what they had seen(based upon time differential,angles of view,degrees of sight,hearing,senses in general.Plus the contributing factors of thought such as discernment,reasoning,understanding and the list goes on...) No matter how many stories of individual entities(persons/cameras) come in to play they dont in themselves refute the others but work in harmony to explain and understand a fuller awareness of the whole truth. There may be in the audience an individual(for example)who blatantly lies(for kicks perhaps)and throws a spin on the completion of fully understanding the circumstances of truth-However,this LIE doesnt change the truth,destroy the truth in any way.It merely blankets the awareness of truth from the truth seeker(s)& changes the outcome of the response to the circumstances. The truth already happened,one cant change the happening. I stated that "this LIE doesnt change the truth,destroy the truth in any way" & it cant. A lie/unreal/nontruth cant change what is but it can alter/change our position, our awareness on what is by deception;which is the nature & definition of a lie,is to deceive. ANY THOUGHTS?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The question comes up time and again. The best answer is still to view it as a modelling relation.

    So there is a "model" - the formal theory - and then there are the measurements made in the name of the theory. The measurements are "informal", which can be a bit shocking. And then models also have purposes which need to be acknowledged. These would also be "informal".

    So forget the usual pure reason vs empricism debate. This is the way to do full justice to both aspects of knowing.

    What have we got then? Models are formal, that is closed. They are rational structures, the most robust being derived from stated axioms and frame in mathematical statements. If some things are assumed crisply to be true, then the rest of the claimed structure must demonstrably follow.

    But then models must be related to the world. And as I say, this breaks the nice little closed world that the model tries to create for itself.

    Models are created for a purpose, even if that purpose is a grand one such as to "know the truth of reality" rather than a more pragmatic one like "how to control what happens in my corner of reality". This is an informal question as purposes seem a choice. Reality does not dictate a single purpose for all modellers. There is an issue of best fit for a system that has to survive and reproduce of course. But humans have achieved that level of control over their worlds seem free to enlarge the purposes of their modelling.

    The other key informal aspect of the modelling relation is the making of measurements. The model (to be a model) has to be connected to what it purports to model in an adaptive feedback loop.

    It does this by making specific predictions based on the general principles it enshrines. And then there must be the act of measurement that confirms or contradicts these specific predictions and so allows for the finer adjustment of the model.

    In this sense, the modelling creates its own data. A model of thermodynamics, for example, will send us out into the world looking for things called "temperature" and "pressure".

    But we will know that we have the best general principles (the model) allied to the best specific measurements when our overall purposes are looking to be achieved.

    People are always fussing about absolute truth, absolute certainty. Absolute clarity or crispness is actually what matters. Focus on the strength of the process not the reality of the results.

    The formal part of the model is (or can be) "absolutely true and certain". If you allow the founding assumptions, the axioms, then the rest of the structure follows. But this kernel of absolute truth is then packaged up in the informal parts of modelling, the setting of purposes and the making of suitable measurements.

    We have to admit that other purposes (leading to other better suited models) are conceivable. And that the measurement issue is not that precisely defined. How many decimal places do we need for our readings? How many variables should we track? We have efficiency issues and want to make the least amount of measurement effort needed to drive a successful model.

    The example of someone lying about a car crash? Well, is that saying the truth is out there, or that the reality is out there?

    The modelling relations approach says we would be creating the "truth" in here, in our heads where we model. What is formal - what is true and known and the product of reason - is the structure of generalisation we create. Internally, the model is "true". And then we can skillfully or otherwise use the model to frame our predictions and measurements of the reality which clearly exists.

    Do we know that reality "truely" exists because of successful modelling? No, we only know that it exists in a practical sense. We know there is a modelling relation - because the whole business of modelling does seem to work. The outcomes of our predictions and measurements are not random but orderly, much in line with the model if the model is any good.
  4. Feb 23, 2010 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    "Truth" is, and always will be, used subjectively. During litigation, the prosecution and defense will each base their cases off of facts and end up with their own versions of the "truth." Therefore, truth cannot be used synonymously with fact(s). Facts are facts; how people interpret the facts, or ignore them, is what they will call the truth.
  5. Feb 23, 2010 #4
    Demadon states:During litigation, the prosecution and defense will each base their cases off of facts and end up with their own versions of the "truth." i pointed this out in my initial response.All views if truthfully given are parts of truth within the subject of the whole truth sought. apeiron states:So there is a "model" - the formal theory - and then there are the measurements made in the name of the theory. The measurements are "informal", which can be a bit shocking. And then models also have purposes which need to be acknowledged. These would also be "informal". First you cant define truth by hypothesis(an unproved theory).A true definition of anything would be based on truth.Granted many things have'nt been defined correctly,due to ignorance but there are true definitions.One may have a partial understanding of a thing and that partial undertanding (if understood truthfully)would be truth.It is not false if all truth relative to that one thing is not present within the definition.
    However,you made this very interesting comment- "The outcomes of our predictions and measurements are not random but orderly, much in line with the model if the model is any good. " I say:your measurements if truthfully done have been,are & will be orderly.all things that exist within the physical universe are subject to Laws of Order.If there is order than that denotes absolute truth.Without absolute truth order would no longer be orderly.
  6. Feb 23, 2010 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Not really. The measurements would derive their order from the model.

    Indeed, the reason this is a powerful approach to epistemology is that it allows the discussion to be framed in information theoretic and entropic terms. You can actually track the degree of order (as a measurement, based on a theory!).

    You seem to be making the mystical point that order must derive from intelligent design.

    I am arguing instead the complexity and systems story where order develops/self-organises out of dissipative processes.

    It is indeed a scientific approach to epistemology that is an improvement on the old more hand-wavey philosophical ones.
  7. Feb 23, 2010 #6
    if the model is not a hypothesis and is based on what is, than the model would be based on the order of what is not the other way. I see what you are saying though one could track the degree of order as a measurement,based on a theory.however,the theory isnt what makes the order orderly,the theory was a guess and guessing can prove to have actual (factual) results sometimes so its not an efficient way of conclusion! When you start talking about dissipative processes you seem to be pointing towards quantum physics/quantum mechainics & I know thats all speculation so its of no real use. I am not in complete disagreement with your thought that "order develops" but you are moving (in what i believe)the wrong direction. I believe order does develop but not from nothing,not from accident,and certainly not from randomness! (not that im implying you believe in random selection) Randomness can be debunked right now.Randomness being the process of evolution is fraudulent from the core-if existence followed the system of randomness it can only be random with "best"choices of selection&if that was so then it wouldnt be altogether random but based on order of some kind! no offense but your insistance on SCIENTIFIC approach VS the "old more hand-wavey philosophical ones" doesnt deny that the old ways were closer to the truth than modern scientific views. For that matter I always find it interesting that many scientific researchers think that because they have studied BIG words & have BIG theories that they feel the need to patronize(to adopt an air of condescension toward : treat haughtily)philosophical thinking as if they can prove OR disprove anything.Beings they cant they should be more reasonable,one would think.
  8. Feb 24, 2010 #7
    to further enlighten the responses made,one cant have models based on hypothesis of chance & not call it random.chance is random! so you are coming at the understanding of truth from an incorrect viewpoint initially.
  9. Feb 24, 2010 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Both chance and necessity "truly" exist in metaphysics. Or at least let's hear an argument for why only order is true?
  10. Feb 24, 2010 #9
    chance cant be "truly"existing (thats a lie) some may call it a theory/possiblity/hypothesis i call it what it is- a lie.Why do i call it a lie? cause if it had been stated as a theory rather than "truly" than it would've been acceptable as a possible truth, with uncertainty based on lack of knowledge(ignorance). To state something conclusively as"truly"is a lie if you cant prove it &one cant prove chance is "truly" existent. Heres (not my argument-cause arguing is for the stubborn) the fact;order is true based on models of operation that can fit with perfection(satisfying all requirements).Consistency of Laws apply throughout the known world & beyond into our universe. This consistency does not give us full knowledge of all things but denotes a legal application. A legal system is based on laws.Laws are orderly structures with limitations,requirements and consequences of both abiding law & opposing law. Within that legal structure is the opposition of abiding & opposing law which denotes what is true to law(in agreement) and what is false(in objection) so a clear, observable understanding of truth is present to even the simplest of minds.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook