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    jlnaginey

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    Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:24 am

    Tim asked about my "truth" paper from undergrad times. Don't know where it is, but here's a start: I remember 4 general ways to define truth that have been defined - there may be more and I make no promises about the accuracy of my memory, but, again, this is a start. There is truth by consensus - obviously defining truth as that thing upon which the majority of people can agree. Then there's truth by consistency - truth is that thing which best agrees with the system of other truths in my head (and/or in the general human head). Then there's truth by coherence - truth is that which allows coherence between what is in my head and what I perceive to be outside my head, e.g., it is true that the glass is on the table if objective and subjective experiences are coherent given this assumption (I seem to remember that I would confuse coherence and consistency and I'm not sure it would make any difference what you called it - I confused them because in my head either word could be used to describe the method of defining truth - but the point is they are 2 distinct methods). Finally, there is the pragmatic perspective on truth - what works best is what is most true - this allows for degrees of truth and for the development of truth - example would be scientific beliefs - they evolve with time and are true to the extent that they explain and predict experience. Emma - I'm guessing none of these adequately describe what you might mean by truth - do you have arguments (silly question) or suggestions?
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    Dracotorix
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:51 pm

    You want arguments? I can give you arguments...
    First of all, truth by consensus does not work. The Earth was not flat, or on the back of a turtle, simply because that used to be the consensus. And no self-respecting star would ever deign to revolve around a miniscule planet, even if it WAS physically possible, just because some people were convinced that it did. Besides, different groups of people can come to different consensuses (consensi?) at the same time, when both can't be true (the world can't be round and flat at the same time) or shouldn't be true (Zeus and Thor would have had some serious competition going on...)
    What's the difference between consistency and coherence? Consistency meaning consistent with previously-learned ideas, and coherent meaning best connects the outside world with your mind?
    Well, Consistency in that way is fine, but your previously-learned ideas could be wrong. However, if it matches up with enough 'facts' you think you know, it is more probable for it.
    Coherence... I'm not sure. It helps to make things make sense, but not necessarily true. The ideas that connect me to my world are very different from those that work for a color-blind person, or a raccoon, or an amoeba. Even the language we speak influences how we understand the world, so coherence between our minds and the outside world isn't very consistent at all. I know you're going to argue back to this saying there could be a different truth for each person, but that wouldn't work. It would have the same issues as truth by consensus. Unless the world is all an illusion, but it's not. (stated as a fact by observation, mild consensus, coherence, and consistency)
    Consistency is how we figured out that dark matter exists. Our equations could be wrong (coherence?), and we still don't know anything about dark matter, but IF we were right in all our other calculations, it has to be there. You decide whether that serves your argument or mine...
    I still think there's an absolute truth, and I still think that the reason for existence is to pursue and eventually gain an understanding of that truth. However, I am starting to side with the "it's not true, it's highly probable" people on things/experiments with real life so far. Until someone discovers an equation for everything, that is. I've never heard of an equation with an exception.

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:53 am

    It is only relevant to argue that consensus is irrelevant to truth if you start with the assumption that there is an absolute truth (you imply not just absolute but unchanging - I don't think they are necessarily the same thing) and that we can know it. I'm not at all sure either is true - in fact I'm pretty sure neither is true - at least until we're dead or perhaps before we are born. Anyway, you state that the world isn't flat and cite all of the theories to support that statement. I think the truth Smile is we CAN'T know that the world isn't an illusion and must use some method of guessing at the truth in order to function - and all of these methods are ways that we do that. It's really just a way of talking about what we already do.
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:33 am

    If the world is an illusion then there is no such thing as truth anyway, so why would we care?

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:51 pm

    Because we exist. Because life matters. A lot. And I didn't say it was all an illusion - I said these are the methods we use to approximate truth because we can't say for SURE that it isn't an illusion.
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:25 pm

    Okay... so if we assume life isn't an illusion, then truth by consensus doesn't apply. If we assume life is an illusion, we won't care. Or we'll all turn into Thomas Covenant. Either way, it still won't apply.

    Oh... so I'm at CC, and a teacher and a student just walked past. I think they were talking about Beethoven, but the teacher said "nothing applies to everything". True? Or not? Wouldn't a law apply to the truth? Doesn't y=mx+b apply to every straight line that could ever exist?

    And why would life matter unless it was definitely not an illusion?



    EDIT: AND.... the quote of the day on my google homepage was this: "Truth is what stands the test of experience." -Albert Einstein

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:31 am

    If I think I see something out of the corner of my eye and I'm not sure that I saw it isn't it meaningful and confirming to ask the person next to me, "Did you see that?"

    It is often said that math is one of the exceptionless truths - but isn't it, like unicorns or something, constructed entirely in our heads, not "out there," and isn't it only true to the extent that it is "consistent" or functional?

    I don't think you can argue with the "truth" (does this mean I DO in fact believe in something absolutely?) that life means something. It just does - whether or not it is an illusion is irrelevant - if life is an illusion then it is a meaningful illusion. I guess I don't really think it is possible to argue reasonably that all of life is an illusion, but I still don't think we can be certain what is illusion and what is not.

    Of course I love the quote of the day. And after I nominated the sorting hat I had to wonder if it is really inanimate. I don't have time to look to see if you questioned that as well ....

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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:08 am

    How can an illusion be meaningful??

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:55 am

    Perhaps the same way any fiction is meaningful - especially when you write it.
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:00 pm

    But isn't fiction only meaningful because of the way in interacts with real life?

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:08 pm

    If you push this I think the next question is how do we know it's real life?
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:42 pm

    You mean whether it's real, or whether it's real life?

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:05 pm

    Can we start this over? I DID NOT SAY LIFE IS AN ILLUSION. I'm not even sure I know what it means to say that - I'm not sure it's a question whose answer makes any difference. "It is what it is."
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:10 pm

    But that IS what makes the difference! If it was an illusion, why would it matter?

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:56 am

    Because we can't know for sure if it is or is not an illusion. And what is the difference? How would we know? If it is an illusion it is a meaningful illusion - meaning the substance of the illusion (can I say that?) matters to us so I want to argue that it would be a difference that wouldn't make any difference and it doesn't matter anyway because we'd never know. Maybe we should define illusion. You go first.
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:07 am

    Illusion, noun. Something that does not matter.

    Okay, okay... something that appears to exist, but doesn't.

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Wed Sep 01, 2010 9:04 am

    So can we agree that some things are illusions and some things are not? And then the problem becomes distinguishing between them, or determining the degree of each in a given perception, and the truth methods we start with are the ways of doing that?
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:10 pm

    Indeed. But do we know that some things are illusions and some aren't?

    jlnaginey

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:21 am

    I think so - at least pragmatically. The first thing I think of are all those optical illusions like something appearing larger than something else because of a comparison. Our "minds" complete things, etc. and if we don't stop and analyze (which we most often don't) we assume things that may not be consistent/coherent with "objective" reality.
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:25 pm

    But if you think about it for long enough, you can still tell what is and isn't an illusion, yes?

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    Re: Truth

    Post  tnaginey on Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:06 pm

    I think we can distinguish an "illusion" fairly well from "reality" in practice, but in theory, if your senses can deceive you, you should never put 100% faith in them. And I think we can all agree that senses can deceive us.

    But, if you think about any illusion you've ever experienced, it always has a cause rooted in reality. Neurons misfiring, perhaps; hallucinigens, lack of sleep. Our mind can play tricks on us, but our mind, which exists in reality, is causing these mis-perceptions. This means an illusion is part of reality, because it is caused by something that actually exists (chemicals, our brain), and it is experienced by us, who actually exist.

    Also, I think there is no real argument against life being an illusion, because like I said earlier, if our senses can trick us, then we can never know for sure whether or not we're being tricked. But in order for life to be an illusion, that means that something (i.e. a mind) must actually exist to perceive it, right? That would mean that I exist. That's basically DesCarte's arguement. So the only thing, according to him, that we can be sure exists is ourself. Who cares if this whole experience is an "illusion?" It is a pleasantly consistent one, in which we can make thrilling discoveries about the laws of the "illusion" and they hold. The exhilerating feeling of discovery is wonderful, whether it is an "illusion" or not. The same goes for love and happiness and the like. It makes no difference whether or not the causes of those emotions actually exist ontologically exactly as I perceive them or not, the emotions themselves are real enough for me to enjoy. The experience is real, the experiencer must be real (or else how could we speak of experience), and the cause must be real (albeit possibly mis-perceived).

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:44 am

    I agree with most of what you said Tim - and would add (sorry, Emma, this is repeating myself for you) a quote (as best I can remember it) from Dumbledore in the 7th Harry Potter: "Of course it's all in your head, Harry, but what on earth makes you think that means it isn't real?" I would also add that I don't think Descartes went far enough: With the Buddhists (as I understand them), I am not certain that "I" is not an illusion - I think we can only conclude that SOMETHING is real or exists - not necessarily that I exist. Can we be sure I am really thinking (ooh, there's an opening there) or just that thoughts, feelings, etc. are happening?
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Sep 08, 2010 10:53 pm

    Good point Tim- for an illusion to exist, a brain of some sort must also exist...
    Like the whole "I am conscious, but I don't know for sure if anyone else is" (was that Descartes?)
    Judy- so you're saying it's posisble for the sense of self to be an illusion?

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    Re: Truth

    Post  jlnaginey on Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:14 am

    Yes. I've been trying to think what a self might be because I do think it exists although perhaps not as separately as we imagine. Could it be a unique perspective?
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    Re: Truth

    Post  Dracotorix on Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:14 am

    A unit of the whole that has its own consciousness?

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