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The truth about truth

  1. Feb 27, 2004 #1
    Many people ask "what is truth" as if truth were some mystical entity beyond the reach and understanding of ordinary men. Yet such a fundamental attribute of information must be easily understood by anyone attempting to gather knowledge about anything. After all, it's only true knowledge that has any validity. If we don't know what truth is, how can we acquire true knowledge about anything?

    The surprising thing is that, all philosophical speculation left aside, everyone knows what truth is, and everyone is in posession of a reasonable amount of true knowledge. Truth may be hard to define, but it's certainly not difficult to find. So I'd like to offer a view on "truth" that removes all pseudo-mysticism and philosophical confusion about the subject.

    Despite all the philosophical talk, the far-too-often-overlooked fact is that "truth" is a word like any other. To know what the word "truth" means amounts to knowing what truth is. There is absolutely nothing more to it. And what does "truth" mean? Much less than it would seem. Let's look at some examples.

    If you look at all the instances where the word "true" (or "false") can be used, something quite relevant can be observed: the concept of truth only applies to statements. "Truth" is a concept that applies to language itself, rather than to knowledge expressed by the language. You can't say, for instance, "the moon is true", or "yesterday was a true day". But you can say "it's true that the moon is round" or "it's true that yesterday was Thursday". Now what exactly do we add to those sentences when we say they are true? The answer is... absolutely nothing!

    The sentences "it's true that the moon is round" and "the moon is round" are perfectly equivalent. Nothing whatsoever is added to an statement by saying "it is true". Notice how it works the other way too; the sentences "the moon is made of cheese" and "it's true that the moon is made of cheese" are perfectly equivalent, have exactly the same meaning, and are both false!

    And therein lies the source of the confusion. To worry about the concept expressed by the word “truth” amounts to a hopeless waste of time, as the concept is completely devoid of any meaning. If you do not believe me, try to come up with an idea that cannot be expressed unless the concept of “truth” is invoked. I cannot do that.

    Lest someone comes up with the favourite philosophical device of asking “how do you know that what you are saying about truth is true”, let me follow my own advice and get rid of the concept of truth in the previous sentence. My point here is that the concept of truth is meaningless, so a skeptic could rephrase that sentence as “how do you know that the concept of truth is meaningless?”. To which I could reply “the same way I know other things”. No need to talk about truth at all.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 27, 2004 #2
    I dunno wuchoo talkin' bout. Yesterday was so true! Ok, slang aside, I think you're missing the point. Everyone knows what "truth" is. The great mystery is how to identify the truth, not how to define it. I've never met anyone who thought truth was some mystical entity floating out in space that everyone was questing for.

    The idea of truth is misleading because truth is relative, and therein lies its mystery. The earth is flat, this is truth. Outdated truth, but truth nonetheless. See my point? How do we know what we think is true, really is true?
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2004
  4. Feb 27, 2004 #3
    So you're basically saying that everyone including myself is trying to make a big deal out of this word, but it's not really a big deal unless one tries desperately to make more out of it...often I think that the purpose of philosophers is to throw words about with arrogance to try and out philosophize and confound others, does that sound about right?
    Like the pursuit of consciouness in which so many books are written to make a dollar and yet it is just a word make of it what you want it's not going to make any difference for me to understand it I'll still go out to the bar and use my expanded consciousness to get hammered.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2004
  5. Feb 28, 2004 #4
    I agree, absolutely. 'The truth' is a very ambiguous statement.
  6. Mar 1, 2004 #5
    Hummm the only thing you will ever experience, in the entirety of your life, is, the truth.

    So, person 'avatared' as the_truth, if you deny that you posted this...

    ...then I will have experenced a truth, (in your denial) just that, I will know that, "The" truth, that I have experenced, is a lie...yours...

    Your 'conclusion', as posted, at the top, is erroneous, a your two statements are 'truthfully equivilent' in both, equality, and in absence of representation of "The" truth of reality...

    Have fun...truthfully...
  7. Mar 1, 2004 #6
    There are the true things we know, that are factual. There are "truths" we think we know, which are false. There are "truths" which we create for ourselves, and sometimes fool ourselves into thinking are universally "true".
  8. Mar 1, 2004 #7

    Les Sleeth

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    There are very few words we can't find a way to do without. It therefore seems pointless to say truth is just a word or concept which we can render meaningless by uttering what "truth" stands for, but minus the word. Possibly your argument would stand up better in a semantics forum.

    In philosophy however, the concept of truth has had, and still has, important philosophical implications. That's because some of us wonder what it is that determines the "trueness" of things. And it doesn't have to take on pseudo-mystical meaning if you prefer it not to, let's keep it practical.

    For example, a powerful provider of truth is when reality lets us know when something works or not. You might design a building which is supposed to rise 30 stories, but if its foundation isn't strong enough, the building will collapse. In such a case reality's feedback helps to establish the truth about constructing 30 story buildings as well as the nature of reality itself.

    Reality, of course, isn't so simple as building construction. If you leave your twin behind on planet Earth, accelerate say to half the speed of light, stop and then return to Earth, you will find your twin has aged faster than you. Hmmmm, what truth determines why that works, or the constancy of the speed of light, or quantum operations . . . Then there is life and consciousness. What about reality allows/causes them to work?

    You might wish to treat it as mundane, but I see reality and its philosophical synonym of truth as something quite profound and, thus far, confounding in its entirety to the greatest minds.
  9. Mar 1, 2004 #8
    A composition of facts may or may not be truthful.
  10. Mar 2, 2004 #9
    Re: Re: The truth about truth

    Actually, in most cases I can’t see any difference between philosophy and semantics. Especially on this particular issue.

    There’s only one thing which determines the “trueness” of things: semantics. Things in themselves cannot be true or false. “Truth” is not an attribute which can be applied to objects.

    I’m not saying the concept of truth does not have important philosophical implications, as you stated. All I’m saying is that most philosophers seem to have failed to look for truth in the only place they can possibly find it: language.

    Well, here’s exactly where the problem starts. By failing to realize that there exists no truth about “constructing 30 story buildings”, one may be easily misled into believing truth itself does not exist. But the reason there is no truth about “constructing 30 story buildings” is because the sentence is too vague - it doesn’t tell what building, where, when. Reality has far less to do with it than you seem to be proposing.

    The problems of explaining the constant speed of light, quantum mechanics, life, consciousness, did not exist before people asserted that those were problems. So the problem of truth was created by humans, and must be solved by humans alone. Reality can’t help here.

    If you look at those issues from my perspective, you’d see that the problems are not real problems, they are pseudo-problems. Or, rather, semantical problems. The reason we don’t know the truth about “life” is the same reason we don’t know the truth about “constructing 30 story buildings”. “Life” is too generic and vague a concept, and that makes it extremely hard to make true statements about it.

    Take a concept like “two”, for instance, and see how many truths can be said about it, even as the truths we can say about “two” have nothing to do with reality. For instance, “two unicorns plus two unicorns equals four unicorns”. That is a true statement, isn't it?

    Throughout history, the greatest minds have consistently shown that they too can be misled in their perspectives and intellectual pursuits. But it takes a great mind to prove other great minds wrong, and I’m definitely not up to the task. I’m just testing my ideas to see how they bounce off from others.
  11. Mar 2, 2004 #10


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    Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    I believe what LW Sleeth had in mind was something like the following. By going through with the construction of a 30 story building, an architect is betting that his construction plans will be successful. He is working on the implicit assumption that his ideas of how reality (physics) works are true, with respect to his particular building. That is, he's making an implicit assumption of the form "the nature of reality is such that, if I construct a 30 story building in the way I am planning to, it will not collapse." Stated explicitly, this is a linguistic proposition as you have suggested, but the basic idea need not be stated explicitly or linguistically at all in order for it to exist, nor for its truth value to be assessed.

    I think of truth as a measure of relatedness between two systems. If system A in some sense maps isomorphically onto system B, then A can be said in some sense to be true with respect to B. Usually one of these systems is what we think of as objective reality, and the other is some kind of model of objective reality. Such a model need not be linguistic in nature. For instance, we would not have the concept of a hallucination if we did not think of perceptual experience as possessing some kind of truth value with respect to reality, which makes sense insofar as perceptual experience (like linguistics) is a type of model of objective reality. Mathematics is another kind of model that may possess truth value with respect to reality (eg it is true that F = ma) if one does not subsume mathematics under language.
  12. Mar 2, 2004 #11

    Les Sleeth

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    Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    Well, I suspect I’ve heard this perspective many times, usually from someone taken with a particular discipline, such as the economist who tells me “everything is economics.” It seems an egocentric view, but you wouldn’t be doing that would you?

    Let’s be clear. I did not say an object is true or false (I am not sure I’ve ever heard anyone use truth/falsity in that context). I was trying to suggest that the nature of reality is the ultimate source of truth for us because things cannot be other than reality allows. Next comes our attempts to figure out what the nature of reality is, and one of the tests is a pragmatist sort where you judge your understanding of reality by how well the things you create or do “works.” The principles revealed in working things give consciousness accurate information, or “truths,” about reality.

    Now is truth a word? Yes it is. Is it used in sentences to think and communicate to others? Yes it is. Does that mean truth is only or primarily semantics? Possibly it might if you are taking the idealist position that there is no objective reality. Are you saying that if we aren’t discussing or conceptualizing about reality, then it doesn’t exist?

    I don’t think you mean that, so maybe it would be helpful to suggest that reality is objective existence, truth is what consciousness knows when it understands objective reality, and semantics (in this case) has to do with how humans communicate about truth.

    The sentence doesn’t need to be any less vague than it is to have made my original point (discussed in the above paragraph). It seems one has to get a bit pedantic to attempt to force everything into a language context.

    First and foremost my interest is in the actual existence of light speed, quantum mechanics, life, consciousness . . . I agree, the work of figuring out how reality works is a human endeavor, but if you think reality doesn’t help you’ve overlooked an important fact. Part of reality is that aspect of reality which is conscious of itself, studying itself, and developing applications from understanding itself.

    Again this disassociation from reality. A better example is to put one battery into a flashlight that requires two and see how well it helps you walking in the dark. You will quickly discover the “truth” about two-battery flashlights.

    To me you are trying to treat reality as though it has no independent existence beyond words and ideas. I reject that emphatically and say instead that reality is king, and we are little peons stumbling around in it, trying to figure out where the walls are so we don’t run into them.

    Well, it’s easy to sit around and talk about what the great minds didn’t do, but what we appreciate them for is what they did do. The greatest minds have made a difference because they helped us understand and/or experience reality. I am not saying language doesn’t have it’s place, it is obviously very important to humanity. But I am not going to get so hung up on the technicalities of language that it interferes with me using it.
  13. Mar 2, 2004 #12
    Ya, on the other hand, take a simple word like effeciency or logic and spend a few months trying to think and do effeciently and that's understanding. Or take one's job for example and think back to the days when it was so difficult and yet such a small job it was and yet every day we were learning new things about it and that's devoping understanding, and that's only one thing or word what about the rest of the dictionary? Some people love to search for pearls some for truth, what difference it makes is up to you.
    That's funny I proclaimed the whole world was governed by logic until you mentioned that but now I'll shout for economics and sematics!
  14. Mar 3, 2004 #13

    Les Sleeth

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    I am not sure I get your point. Whether or not there is a word for what you learn while you practice being efficient or doing your job has nothing to do with the understanding one acquires from doing.

    As far as what the whole world is governed by, why try to reduce it to a singe or even several things? Lots of stuff is necessary to run the world.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2004
  15. Mar 3, 2004 #14
    Re: Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    I think you’re close to getting my point. You say “stated explicitly, this is a linguistic proposition” - exactly. Then you say “the basic idea need not be stated explicitly or linguistically at all in order for it to exist” - who said anything about exist? My point is that the basic idea needs to be stated explicitly for it to be true. You must agree with me that there’s a huge gap between the basic idea and any explicit statement of it.

    This is a good point, but I don’t think truth is a measure of isomorphism between systems. “Correctness” or “accuracy” seem more adequate to me. A model, by definition, is never perfectly isomorphic with the thing it models. The whole point of having a model is that it is not isomorphic in some important aspect.

    I’d rather say that, since perceptual experience is primary, it is in fact “reality” which is a model for perceptual experience. That is, we make up this concept called “reality”, which can never be experienced by definition, to model the whole of our experiences. Then of course it fails to take into account every single experience, so we need other concepts like “hallucination”, “dream”, “illusion”, and so on. The whole point is to have a consistent model of our experiences, and it works quite well at that.

    Good that you brought F=ma since that is a particular case of a true proposition which has no bearing on reality whatsoever. Since we can’t measure force except by measuring mass and acceleration and multiplying the two, I find it ludicrous to say that reality provides evidence that F=ma is true. F=ma is true not because it describes how reality works, but simply because it’s the very definition of force.

    A different case would be something like ma = m’a’, which is equivalent to the laws of conservation. Now that is something which does not seem true by definition, but ironically it’s not true by experiment either. It’s just an approximation, although an accurate one. But an approximation is not true.
  16. Mar 3, 2004 #15
    Re: Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    I don’t think so. But you have to agree with me on something simple yet difficult to see: if you read something about a concept that is completely foreign to you, you can still learn quite a lot. For instance, if I tell you that “murofs are bigger than mentdocs, and mentdocs are bigger than lefis”, I’m sure you’ll know whether “murofs are bigger than lefis” is true or not. So you have to agree with me that, to a good extent, knowing what is true is a matter of finding logical relationships between concepts, and that understanding those concepts may often be completely unnecessary.

    Now I didn’t say “everything is semantics”, I said “most of philosophy is semantics”. Why did I say that? Because I have no idea what those philosophers had in mind when I read them. All I can do about their difficult teatrises on “reality” is find the logical relationships between the myriad concepts they come up with. Which, by the way, is what I suspect you are doing with my posts.

    I think reality is the source of experience, not of truths. I can point you to quite a few websites by people who experienced different aspects of “reality”, and I’m quite skeptical you would accept their descriptions of their experiences as “true”. How is that?

    My car interacts with reality alright, but I doubt it’s aware of any “truths” about it. How do you explain that?

    No. All I’m saying is that if we aren’t discussing or conceptualizing about reality, then truth is not an issue. “Truth” only applies to concepts, not to the things those concepts are supposed to model/embody/describe.

    I would gladly accept your definition of truth, except for the fact that it implies that truth doesn’t exist. I don’t understand objective reality, and I never met anyone who does. You see the philosophical problem popping up again?

    The problem cannot be solved by trying to understand reality. That is the traditional approach and it is just impossible. A much better way is to understand how it’s possible that we are in possession of so many truths when we don’t understand reality. That’s the approach I’m suggesting. It’s quite uncommon, I suppose, but I’m far from being alone.

    I may find a special kind of battery that does the job. I may tweak my flashlight so that it works with only one battery. I may put a piece of metal between the battery and the connector... There’s often a way to prove an assertion false.

    I know what you mean, but I’m trying to get you to see what I mean. There was a point in time when people said “heavier-than-air objects can’t fly”. It made perfect sense at the time, and reality provided plenty of evidence for it. But can we say such an assertion is false today? You say reality has proved the statement wrong. I say, if I take the statement as true, then it implies airplanes fly by becoming lighter than air; so whether the statement is true or not depends on what you mean by “fly” and “heavy”. It does not depend on reality at all.

    You got it completely backwards, and I apologize for not being good at explaining my position. I am in fact treating reality as though it has an existence that is totally independent of words and ideas. That is, how we describe reality in no way affects our non-linguistic (sensory) perceptions of it. However, that necessarily means that words and ideas have an existence of their own, and their “mapping” to reality is artificial, incomplete, and above all “unreal”. That is, we can’t use the devices of language to learn anything about reality; we can only use language to learn what other people have learned about reality. As long as what they are telling us is true.

    I admire the great minds as much as you do. I just don’t think it’s fair to say “this must be so because Joe Great Mind said so”. It’s not easy for a small mind such as mine to fully understand what those great minds had in their minds; that’s the only reason I think their ideas may not help much sometimes.
  17. Mar 4, 2004 #16

    I'll be blunt: you guys are talking right past each other.
    You've accepted certain foundational postulates which are implicit to your argument, and they're very different from those accepted by others here. Consequently, there's insufficient common ground for productive discourse past a certain point, at least until those basic ontological differences are recognized.

    From Cartesian epistemology, we know that any system of knowledge (including your own) must accept some fundamental axiomatic premise(s) as its foundation – even if it's as simple as DesCartes' cogito ergo sum. You are (presumably) an idealist who rejects the "knowability" of an independent objective reality, and you are trying to discuss *truth* with (I presume) realists, or more specifically, scientific realists, who view objective reality as something that is indeed "knowable" -- insofar as models of it can predict behavior, remain internally consistent (and agree with established models), and thus provide what epistemologists might call "sufficiently approximate truth" or "empirical adequacy".

    So even if Newtonian laws of kinematics are not absolutely isomorphic to some objective reality, they are sufficiently adequate to predict the course of a ballistic missile unfailingly. Given that perspective as a foundational postulate, a realist would presume a priori that reality (that is, a reasonable facsimile of it) is indeed "knowable" (in a practical sense) -- and then it follows that they will view truth from the perspective of what logicians/ analytic philosophers would call congruent correspondence theory, i.e. as a simple structural isomorphism between beliefs (propositions, sentences etc.) and facts. Whether that be in a formal system, like mathematics or otherwise, there has to be some framework against which the veracity (or falsity) of a statement can be tested. In physics, we might consider the framework to be nature (i.e. reality).

    In other words, from this perspective, the *truth* is simply *any statement that corroborates with reality*.

    Incidentally, that's also how we define "the truth" jurisprudentially in most systems of law.

    It should not surprise you that (in general) scientists/ physicists i.e. realists (and lawyers) would lean closer to such a pragmatic definition of truth... in contrast to a (presumed) philosophical idealist such as yourself. If you ( as an idealist/ philosophical skeptic) reject the notion of a knowable objective reality, then that belief acts as the specific foundational postulate upon which you have built your particular idea of truth. It follows then that your version will differ from that of the realists, whose basic ontological premises are correspondingly different.

    Notice that I am not necessarily refuting your ideas on truth, I am simply pointing out that an idealist and a realist, as a consequence of their different fundamental philosophical positions, can never agree completely on any definition of truth.

    Best regards,
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2004
  18. Mar 4, 2004 #17


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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    If the idea can exist without being stated explicitly, then it can also be true without being stated explicitly. It is still a 'correct' internal model, whether that be a model of external reality (as it is thought in the conventional sense) or of perceptual experience (as you suggest later on in your post).

    OK, I'll grant you that.

    It depends on metaphysics, so I cannot outwardly agree with or refute you here. If 'external' reality is fundamentally idealistic in nature, then it is true that perception is not a model of something existing external from it. If external reality is closer to the materialistic conception, then perceptions are models of external reality.

    I disagree here. When you step on a scale, it does not explicitly measure your mass and acceleration and then multiply the two. It directly measures the force you exert upon it. Similarly, a child can be aware of general concepts of force and acceleration without having to make a logical connection between the two. F=ma may be true by definition, but that definition was derived from empirical data, not from a priori construction.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2004
  19. Mar 4, 2004 #18
    Bluntness is welcome. And you are right, I don’t get what he’s saying and he doesn’t get what I’m saying. And neither are you, by the way (getting what I’m saying, that is)

    But that’s kind of my point. If we are to find a common ground, not only for this particular discussion but for any kind of discussion, don’t you think the common ground must be found in language? Look at the world: people never argue as to the contents of their sensory experiences; what one person sees is exactly what everyone else does. We take it for granted but it’s quite astonishing, if you think about it, how our sensory perceptions cohere with the sensory perceptions of everyone else. So we don’t have to seek for common ground in our sensory experiences, we already have it.

    On the other hand, look at how people seldom agree with each other when they discuss ideas. That is, how hard it is for them to agree that some ideas are true. It’s clear to me that the problem has nothing to do with reality. It never did. The problem is one of communication. I use the word “language” because language is strongly associated with communication, but the real issue is to get somebody else to agree that what is true for me must also be true for them. Since we share the same objective reality, it’s just impossible that what is true for me is not true for others.

    Quite the contrary! What I strongly reject is the “knowability” of an independent subjective mind. I have no way to directly know what people have in their minds when people say the things they say. Objective reality has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter how much I directly know from objective reality through sensory experience, when it comes to communicate those experiences I can only do so from behind a thick, impenetrable wall which separates my mind from the minds of everyone else.

    Do you understand the problem, or is the wall getting in the way of this idea too?

    If that were really the case, then you could never know the truth of abstract propositions, such as the ones made using mathematics, geometry, or boolean logic. In fact, it’s quite ironic that the most solid truths around are the ones that have very little to do with reality.

    I’ll be blunt myself and state that everyone who thinks that way is confused. It’s only statements about reality which can be corroborated by reality. “Truth” has as much to do with reality as it does with everything else.

    I have it with me that there is only one kind of person who reject the notion of a knowable objective reality: they are called ‘lunatics’. Since I’m surrounded by engineers and computers instead of nurses and white walls, I can only assume I don’t know what you have in mind when you say that.

    That is because they are both wrong!
  20. Mar 4, 2004 #19
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The truth about truth

    Hey, this sounds like you’re incredibly close to understanding my proposition. May I ask you to consider the possibility that there’s nothing more to “truth” than what you stated above? That is, if an idea or statement is valid from the perspective of a “correct” subjective model, then no observation of external reality can possibly falsify it.

    Think about math, for instance. No experiment ever invalidated the truth of a mathematical proposition. That leads people to ascribe math all sorts of mystical nonsense, to the point that some people believe reality to be a gigantic computer (and I’m the one charged with anti-realism!). Now what I’m proposing is that math is true for the very fact that it has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with being a self-consistent (“correct”) model.

    Look there! The reason you cannot agree or refute me is because both scenarios you offered there (if... then....) are true, and reality can’t help you there. You must agree that it’s absolutely impossible to make any observation of reality which will tell if it is “fundamentally idealistic” or “closer to the materialistic conception”. It’s nonsense to argue which position is true, because the positions themselves cannot be true. Only statements derived from those primary positions can be true; the primary positions themselves are meaningless and have nothing to do with reality.

    Actually, a scale does not measure a force either. No matter how it’s built, all scales measure something of a mechanical or electrical nature, and translate that to “force” through some equation. My point was that the existence of a force cannot be known in the absence of some manifestation. So all measurements of “force” must necessarily be done by measuring its effects. And that means that “force” is just a word that expresses a combination of some measured effects. Which is what makes F=ma true by definition.

    I agree with you here. I confess I don’t really understand what is going on. I can make up any definition and know up-front that it is true. For instance, I can define a fictitious entity called P and define it as P = (mass of the object) x (its color in Hz). I know my equation is true by definition and no experiment can invalidate it; what I don’t know is why it’s completely useless, as opposed to F=ma which is extremely useful.
  21. Mar 4, 2004 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    The superficial truth

    I am quoting from your original post because it contained one of the ideas with which I take issue. My first objection is that I believe it to be a superficial characterization of the philosophical contemplation of truth. Besides your opening comment above you say, “The surprising thing is that, all philosophical speculation left aside, everyone knows what truth is . . .” Later you go on to declare truth is “just a word.”

    I think I understand the rather deflationary approach you’ve expressed, where the notion of truth is considered superfluous if we can simply state the facts about something. The word “truth” is indeed dispensable in my contemplation, but so are all other words and concepts. None of them have the slightest thing to do with anything until I start discussing the nature of reality with others. Words and ideas do become relevant then, but not to what truth actually is or how I understand it to be.

    You might ask, can truth be contemplated without words and concepts? Well, let’s say one learns to still the mind for extended periods of time (and there are plenty of people who work at this). What is it one experiences, understands and knows when words and concepts are absent? Does reality cease to exist if we don’t think about it, or label it? If in that sort of contemplation one becomes convinced there is a potentiality out of which all observable conditions arise, and it is this potentiality that governs existence, then it seems a trifling indiscretion to substitute the word “truth” for the deterministic quality of that potentiality. (A related objection I have is that I don’t see the practical value of your point. How are we going to realistically make use of it? I waited today to answer you because I’ve been having trouble understanding what I might do with your idea even if I accept it. Personally, the extent you attempt to distinguish the details of language only further complicate things for me.)

    My second objection to your position is illustrated in your above response to metasystem. First of all, it isn’t just sensory experience that people agree about, it is all genuine experience (although you are wrong to say they “never argue as to the contents of the sensory experiences” – if you’ve ever played sports you know people do disagree about what they’ve seen). But in general I think you are correct to say we are much more likely to agree experientially than conceptually.

    What I can’t agree with is boiling the problem down to communication. What about understanding? No matter how well I communicate, it isn’t going to help much if I don’t understand what I am talking about. In fact, I think understanding is vastly more significant to agreement than communication. Here again, it seems to me you’ve prioritized the more superficial aspect over the deeper issue. As an aspiring philosopher I see this approach to be the modern trend (a trend I see in functionalism, physicalism, etc.), and I also see it as an impediment to comprehensive understanding.

    Yeah, we are going to get good at manipulating the surface of things, but at what expense? What I hear mostly from the superficialists is that all the deeper stuff is “fiction.” They challenge those who disagree to prove the deeper thing, but to prove it using methods designed to reveal only superficial stuff! For those who already want to believe, so far it’s been a great strategy for convincing themselves that superficiality is the “truth.”
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2004
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