Plato's Cave - The Orlando Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › What is Truth? Or, How should we think about truth?

What is Truth? Or, How should we think about truth?

Tim B.
timonthemove
Oceanside, CA
Post #: 21
I really wish I was could be there for this meeting, but at least I can participate in a discussion...

How should we conceive of truth? There are many specific theories of truth, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Truth.

Intuitively, the version that agrees with our conventional views of truth is known as the correspondence theory, that true propositions are true because they accurately correspond to or accurately reflect something in the world. Another way of saying this is that truth is correspondence to a fact.

There are philosophical criticisms to the correspondence theory and multiple alternate theories such as the coherence theory (truth consists of consistency with an existing collection of propositions) and the deflationary theory (to assert that a statement is true is just to assert the statement itself) and there are pluralistic theories of truth that describe truth, not as a single thing, but that the truth of a mathematical theorem is not the same as the truth of a scientific theory or the truth of literature or even common sense.

I assert a nominalistic (that is, non-abstract) and pluralistic (that we should conceive of truth in multiple ways) view of truth.
Tim B.
timonthemove
Oceanside, CA
Post #: 22
How we should think about truth?

I assert that we should not posit abstractions but instead conceive of truth as something produced by particular kinds of physical systems. This is most easily seen in computers: that is, the simplest way to envision truth is as a bit in a computer.

Computer bits, in this view, physically instantiate truth values. And we should, in this view, not hold that anything is true per se but only that particular physical systems have evaluated particular statements and assigned them a truth value of true. And that instead of asserting that some statement is true we can only say that we have evaluated a particular statement and assigned it a truth value of true and warrant that any properly configured physical system will always interpret and evaluate this statement so as to assign it a truth value of true.

This, of course, begs the question "what constitutes such a properly configured physical system?" But I submit that this is exactly the question we should be asking. In practice we may imagine we hew to this or that abstract principle but in the physical world we inhabit we are always reporting the result produced by one or another physical system that has evaluated a statement and assigned it a truth value.

(And my apologies to those who find this unpleasant, but I see human beings, in this context, as complex physical systems that produce statements and assign them truth values.)

So conceived, one way to look at the question "what is truth?" becomes "how should we go about assigning truth values to statements" or, more technically, "how should we construct our truth ascription systems?"

This view has many difficulties, but has the virtue of not multiplying abstract entities without number and so, somewhat simplistically, is superior from the view of meeting the principle of Occam's Razor. These challenges are worth the effort, I assert, because this view is a purely physical one and requires positing no entities beyond the physical. Whereas typical theories of truth require positing some non-physical realm of abstractions that presumably exist apart from or independent of physical existence.
Tim B.
timonthemove
Oceanside, CA
Post #: 23
What does truth look like in human beings?

I assert that we should conceive of truth as something produced by particular kinds of physical systems and that human beings, along with computers, are kinds of physical systems that produce and instantiate truth values. But so conceived, what does truth look like?

The question to ask here is, "when a person is calling something true, what are they doing?" I assert that, depending upon the particular kind of statement, a person is not always doing the same thing.

Put it this way" The "truth that will set you free" is not the same as "the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth" is not the same as the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem or Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The presumptive truth of the statement "letters make up these words" is not the same as the presumptive truth of "blowing up a bomb in a crowd of people is wrong".

I assert that we call things true because of one of or a combination of three reasons, which correspond to particular physical processes in our brains. More specifically, I assert that we say something is true because it feels right, e.g., "No child should die for lack of food." Or we say something is true because we think it is an accurate representation of the world, .e.g, "The earth is approximately 93 million miles from the sun." Or we say something is true because it is consistent with some formal system we have learned, .e.g., "3 +7 = 10."

So the three parts of my pluralistic theory of truth are:

1. Affective resonance: we call something true because it feels true.
2. Accurate representation: we call something true because we deem it to be an accurate representation of the world (this is the physical instantiation of the correspondence theory)
3. Formal Coherence: we call something true because we conclude that it is consistent with an existing body of statements we have already evaluated as true. (This is the physical instantiation of the coherence theory)

Readers of Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow will readily see a parallel between what I call Affective resonance and what he calls System 1. But while Kahneman explicitly states that the notions of a System 1 and System 2 are expository fictions (see p. 29), I assert that these three methods of deeming something true correspond to identifiably distinct physical processes of the brain. Moreover, I assert that affective resonance (e.g., "this weather is beautiful", "this traffic sucks", "The Miami Dolphins haven't had a decent quarterback since Marino", etc.) is the earliest form that evolved and that the more formal processes of Accurate Representation and Formal Coherence came later and are parasitic on the affectively resonant feeling of true.

In practice, many of the things we call true will make use of all of these in part. While we are learning some new principle in mathematics we may be completely bereft of any feeling of rightness (say when we first learn the multiplication tables) but later on it may just feel right that 2x5=10. Any conclusion of a scientific nature will almost certainly rest partially upon conclusions drawn from mathematics and the process of deeming some scientific statement true will rest in part on some comparison between what is asserted and some physical circumstance and the formalisms of mathematics.

To muddy the waters a bit, for me, if I hear someone say, "based upon Einstein's theory of relativity we know that nothing is fixed" I will immediately agree, but I suspect that my agreement is mostly an affective response: I hear "Einstein's theory of relativity" (something I like hearing about) and I hear a very general statement that follows that is largely innocuous, and I have a feeling of rightness. That is another example, I submit, of how our feelings that something is true is parasitic on our feeling of rightness.

That feeling of rightness, it seems likely to me, comes from feelings of comfort in infancy and youth and is then becomes attached to our view of the world more generally. And this causes us great discomfort when manifest features of the world contradict the kinds of pictures we have inside that feel right. Thus you might even say that, when something really awful happens, like the Boston bombing, it doesn't feel true because the feeling of truth, I assert, derives from a feeling of comfort. Hence, perhaps, denial? But I have already run on far too long.
Jairo M.
JamyangPawo
Longwood, FL
Post #: 1,478
Dear Tim, would you like to participate in this meetup through a video camera and mic on Skype or some comparable service? I won't look great but you may be able to hear the discussion and even interrupt to give us your take on the subject. My Skype handle is jairosoft. My phone has Skype and front-facing camera and mic. If someone has and brings their iPad it might look better. I think it may not matter as long as it is 1 megapixel or better.. I got 4G LTE MiFi, and I think they have free WiFi anyway. We will have to get other members' permissions.
Jairo M.
JamyangPawo
Longwood, FL
Post #: 1,479
Hey another online course on philosophy. https://www.coursera....­
watch video.
Jairo M.
JamyangPawo
Longwood, FL
Post #: 1,480
How we should think about truth?

I assert that we should not posit abstractions but instead conceive of truth as something produced by particular kinds of physical systems. This is most easily seen in computers: that is, the simplest way to envision truth is as a bit in a computer.

Do you mean that we should think of truth as a desired output given a set of inputs and requirements and rules that form the logic of the system?

In hardware digital logic design and analysis, there are a set of problems that are stated not unlike Word problems in algebra, where you are given the requirements and you want the various inputs to produce a desired output. One such type of problem involves forming a table where the first colum gives all the possible inputs and the results column can usually be a single caracter or digit output, so for example, given an input of 00 we should get an output of 0, given input 01, should get output 0, given 10, out 0, given 11, out 1. So what hardware device would we need in order to implement that system or circuit? So the truth table would look like this:
Inputs(A,B) | output F
A B | F
0 0 | 0
0 1 | 0
1 0 | 0
1 1 | 1

So an AND gate would be required to implement this function F.



Images retrieved from http://www.ee.surrey....­
Laws of Boolean Algebra are summarized at http://www.ee.surrey....­

But of course that is so simple it says nothing of the power of how to solve these types of problems.

It gets more interesting when there are four or more input variables and you are given the required output.
Then you need to draw a two dimensional map of how the inputs generate the output, and then you can visually
notice the regions of ones versus regions of zeroes in the map. Then from that you can come up with the equation that can then be used to produce the least amount of hardware needed make the system always work, seem predictable for whatever combination of inputs.

Anyway, some folks here like Swami know or remember what I am talking about. I find it worthwhile mentioning it here because the mathematician George Boole intended his mathematical logic algebra to be used for thought, for helping us make sense of our thought process, and I think there must be a way that it can be used in philosophy and science and practical engineering besides just digital circuits.

So that is what your discussion reminds me of and what you might be saying as to how we should think about truth.

I was listening to a podcast or maybe it was an audio book, and it mentioned that Ronald Reagan back in the 30s started off as a socialist or liberal. So I mentioned this to my conservative friends, and one of them explained his switch because he had found the Truth. I would have submitted that he went where the money was, or where the support was. Saying that he had found the Truth sounded kind of odd, it reminds of something in the religious or spiritual domain and not the political. And seeing that there would be a philosophy meetup on how to think about Truth, I took the opportunity to sample what their idea of Truth is. I asked the one who had used the Word Truth in a political domain, "What is Truth?" And they said "Truth is whatever works." So there is truth to that in that a system is designed to meet certain outputs given a set of inputs, and those are the requirements or rules of the system. And however the system is implemented through hardware to consistently satisfy the rules, that is what makes the system True. So Truth is whatever Works to make the system work.

What do you think of that perspective?
Jairo M.
JamyangPawo
Longwood, FL
Post #: 1,481
Dear Tim,
You are a wonderful philosopher. You are brilliant. And so forth. I am meditating on what you wrote. What are your thoughts on un-truths? Or Lies? Why is there so much lies in this world? And it reminds me of several movies: True Lies, Zeitgeist The Movie, and The Invention of Lying. Seen any of them? Anyway, can we not agree that the Cancer of this world is the result of the lies we feed each other and ourselves?
Rami K.
Rammy
Orlando, FL
Post #: 378
Truth is what ultimately produces healthy, happy, fully capable human beings.

(Edited after reading Tim's quotation of the above to add the 'y' modifier to the end of 'health'). [Thanks for the further input and starting this thread Tim!]
Tim B.
timonthemove
Oceanside, CA
Post #: 24
Sorry I haven't kept up on this, everyone...I mistakenly thought the meeting had already happened. I like what Jairo wrote in his reply with the logic diagram. I think you are on a similar path with that, but my view is that we should view truth as something physical as opposed to something logical. The logic diagram stuff is right on target except it assumes that truth is a purely abstract entity. However, I view purely abstract entities to be ontologically dubious (what a wonderful phrase), that is, I doubt the existence of abstractions and so I try to conceive of the world without them. My truth theory (if it can be called that) is an attempt to construct a coherent worldview without reference to any abstractions.
Tim B.
timonthemove
Oceanside, CA
Post #: 25
Let me know, Jairo, if it will be OK or of value for me to participate in some way, say, via skype, if that is acceptable to the group, or maybe I could be in a skype chat with someone and they could repeat some of what I said, if it was found to be useful. I submitted a request to add you to my skype contacts and I will make myself available at the time of the start of the meeting on skype.
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