A Further Exploration of the True Definition of Truth

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Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 12:28 pm
I was away from the forum for a few weeks, taking care of some business, and so was unable to follow the thread. But I'd like to thank all the people who took the time to post in it, and am currently reading them all. In the meantime, I push forward. :shifty:

Given that practical truth is a comparison between a statement and an observation, there are several questions to ask further. What is a statement? It is observed that statements and thoughts do not exist in nature, but are the product of the inner workings of the mind. We "think" that there is a clock on the wall, and somehow we observe that there is a clock on the wall. given validation to a "statement", but what does it mean to give validation to a statement?

I am going to suggest that statements themselves are symbolic representations of phenomena. It is observed that a person who sees that sun can write on a piece of paper, "The Sun" and immediately draw a connection between the phenomena seen and strange squiggles drawn on a piece of paper. The statement then, could be observed to be the squiggles drawn on paper that our mind connects with an observation.

Yet this is not complete. The squiggles on the paper themselves are an observation. In truth, It is observed that symbolic representations are not immaterial thoughts in themselves, but cognitive links between an observation and another, arbitrarily chosen set of observations.[/i].

Given this, it is observed that truth is a comparison between a direct observation and an observation that is cognitively associated with another observation. This is a strange conclusion, because it makes the search for truth nothing more than a connecting game. Given the above definition, we can define a set of truths as a system of connections between specific phenomena/observations. It is observed mathematically, that a larger system of truths will be represented as a larger number of connections between phenomena.

Given this, a total description of all truths in the universe could be observed to be a system of connections connecting all observations. Quite shockingly, in neurology it is shown that the brain works quite differently from computers(which were previously thought to work remarkably similiar to the human brain.) Where the universal turing machine is a "black box manipulator", meaning that it does transformations of sets of data to other sets of data, the human brain is a "phenomenal connector", meaning that it makes connections. Lots, and lots of connections.

In fact, it has been shown that that is all the human brain does: perception data from the eyes, ears, mouth, skin, etc, all spur certain parts of the brain to make connections between other parts of the brain. It is not certain what exactly the connections do, but I believe that the neurons themselves provide the structure of a symbolic representation of data. A neuron is akin to the word "s-u-n" in that it may be a physical phenomena in itself as well as be a cognitive link to phenomena perceived by sense data.

A practical evolution of the definition of "truth" seems to be rooted in a chemical, and therefore, mechanical, process of matter. I think it very likely that the armchair philosopher will never settle on a practical definition of truth, because of their distrust of observation. The armchair philosopher wants an empty set of rational categories, which is fine, except for the fact that he wants them to describe the universe.

By a more scientific method we can discern whether my more practical definition of truth is correct, simply by observing through experiment the workings of the human brain. Indeed, my definition of truth is easily verifiable: Simply see if this definition of truth is to be observed through neurological structures. If it is, then this definition is confirmed through experiment.

I think it important for philosophy to shed it's old time notions of argument and rationality. Pure reason has led philosophy in circles for millenniums with no method of finding out what is correct. I'm not interested in debating endlessly these insanely difficult problems. I'm interested in solving them. But what the armchair philosopher doesn't want to admit, is that observation is the key.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 17 Jul, 2009 01:51 pm
@DasTrnegras,
DasTränegras;77976 wrote:


Given that practical truth is a comparison between a statement and an observation, there are several questions to ask further..


It is true that if I had gone out it the rain (which I did not) then I would have gotten wet (which I did not). Just what observation am comparing with that statement?
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 12:19 am
@DasTrnegras,
I prefer the metaphysical notion of "truth".
Particularly the Platonic notion of the True, Beautiful and the Good.
The best we can do in the "real" world is a good approximation. (The Cave).
Truth as correspondence (experience) and coherence (reason), not consensus.
 
ACB
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 06:21 am
@DasTrnegras,
DasTränegras;77976 wrote:
Given this, a total description of all truths in the universe could be observed to be a system of connections connecting all observations.


This is an interesting idea. However, any such description would have to face the following problems:

(a) the existence of falsehood and error;
(b) logical conundrums such as the Liar Paradox;
(c) the problem that an observation is itself a fact, and thereby creates new truths (connections). Thus the total quantity of truths in the universe is inherently unstable, because (in principle) when one enumerates them, the very fact of that enumeration adds to their number.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 06:37 am
@DasTrnegras,
DasTränegras;77976 wrote:
I was away from the forum for a few weeks, taking care of some business, and so was unable to follow the thread. But I'd like to thank all the people who took the time to post in it, and am currently reading them all. In the meantime, I push forward. :shifty:

Given that practical truth is a comparison between a statement and an observation, there are several questions to ask further. What is a statement? It is observed that statements and thoughts do not exist in nature, but are the product of the inner workings of the mind. We "think" that there is a clock on the wall, and somehow we observe that there is a clock on the wall. given validation to a "statement", but what does it mean to give validation to a statement?

I am going to suggest that statements themselves are symbolic representations of phenomena. It is observed that a person who sees that sun can write on a piece of paper, "The Sun" and immediately draw a connection between the phenomena seen and strange squiggles drawn on a piece of paper. The statement then, could be observed to be the squiggles drawn on paper that our mind connects with an observation.

Yet this is not complete. The squiggles on the paper themselves are an observation. In truth, It is observed that symbolic representations are not immaterial thoughts in themselves, but cognitive links between an observation and another, arbitrarily chosen set of observations..

Given this, it is observed that truth is a comparison between a direct observation and an observation that is cognitively associated with another observation. This is a strange conclusion, because it makes the search for truth nothing more than a connecting game. Given the above definition, we can define a set of truths as a system of connections between specific phenomena/observations. It is observed mathematically, that a larger system of truths will be represented as a larger number of connections between phenomena.

Given this, a total description of all truths in the universe could be observed to be a system of connections connecting all observations. Quite shockingly, in neurology it is shown that the brain works quite differently from computers(which were previously thought to work remarkably similiar to the human brain.) Where the universal turing machine is a "black box manipulator", meaning that it does transformations of sets of data to other sets of data, the human brain is a "phenomenal connector", meaning that it makes connections. Lots, and lots of connections.

In fact, it has been shown that that is all the human brain does: perception data from the eyes, ears, mouth, skin, etc, all spur certain parts of the brain to make connections between other parts of the brain. It is not certain what exactly the connections do, but I believe that the neurons themselves provide the structure of a symbolic representation of data. A neuron is akin to the word "s-u-n" in that it may be a physical phenomena in itself as well as be a cognitive link to phenomena perceived by sense data.

A practical evolution of the definition of "truth" seems to be rooted in a chemical, and therefore, mechanical, process of matter. I think it very likely that the armchair philosopher will never settle on a practical definition of truth, because of their distrust of observation. The armchair philosopher wants an empty set of rational categories, which is fine, except for the fact that he wants them to describe the universe.

By a more scientific method we can discern whether my more practical definition of truth is correct, simply by observing through experiment the workings of the human brain. Indeed, my definition of truth is easily verifiable: Simply see if this definition of truth is to be observed through neurological structures. If it is, then this definition is confirmed through experiment.

I think it important for philosophy to shed it's old time notions of argument and rationality. Pure reason has led philosophy in circles for millenniums with no method of finding out what is correct. I'm not interested in debating endlessly these insanely difficult problems. I'm interested in solving them. But what the armchair philosopher doesn't want to admit, is that observation is the key.


Save, perhaps, in theoretical mathematics, argument is not an exercise in pure reason, since the premises need not be known by pure reason. Scientific method, for instance, consists of argument, but certainly not pure reason.
 
ACB
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 06:50 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;78006 wrote:
It is true that if I had gone out it the rain (which I did not) then I would have gotten wet (which I did not). Just what observation am comparing with that statement?


There are two possible answers. You could say that you are comparing actual past observations in similar cases. Alternatively, you could say that this is not a true statement (a fact) at all, but merely an informed guess.

Unfulfilled conditionals of this kind are an interesting phenomenon. Some seem to be clearly true (e.g. your example), while others seem more doubtful (e.g. "if I had gone out in the gale, my hat would have blown off"). Some seem reasonable on one level but incoherent on another (e.g. "if Julius Caesar had lived in the 20th century, he would have used modern weapons"). Every counterfactual statement lies somewhere on a continuum between apparent truth and complete nonsense. So where do you draw the line between truth and non-truth for such statements? To avoid an arbitrary line, it might be better to say that no counterfactual statement (i.e. unfulfilled conditional) is true. Hence the 'informed guess' interpretation.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 11:19 am
@ACB,
ACB;80168 wrote:
There are two possible answers. You could say that you are comparing actual past observations in similar cases. Alternatively, you could say that this is not a true statement (a fact) at all, but merely an informed guess.

Unfulfilled conditionals of this kind are an interesting phenomenon. Some seem to be clearly true (e.g. your example), while others seem more doubtful (e.g. "if I had gone out in the gale, my hat would have blown off"). Some seem reasonable on one level but incoherent on another (e.g. "if Julius Caesar had lived in the 20th century, he would have used modern weapons"). Every counterfactual statement lies somewhere on a continuum between apparent truth and complete nonsense. So where do you draw the line between truth and non-truth for such statements? To avoid an arbitrary line, it might be better to say that no counterfactual statement (i.e. unfulfilled conditional) is true. Hence the 'informed guess' interpretation.


But all guesses are either true or false. In the case of uninformed guesses, we just have no reason to think it is true, or it is false. But that doesn't mean it is neither. How could that be?
 
ACB
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 11:44 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80199 wrote:
But all guesses are either true or false. In the case of uninformed guesses, we just have no reason to think it is true, or it is false. But that doesn't mean it is neither. How could that be?


Is it true that if President Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have been re-elected in 1964? I would say it is neither true nor false, as there is no 'fact of the matter'. What could possibly make it true or false now?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 29 Jul, 2009 12:33 pm
@ACB,
ACB;80202 wrote:
Is it true that if President Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have been re-elected in 1964? I would say it is neither true nor false, as there is no 'fact of the matter'. What could possibly make it true or false now?


The fact that there is not enough information to know whether it is true or false does not show that it is neither true nor false, does it? Suppose we were to find clear evidence that the election was going to be fixed in advance with the very high probablility that K. would have been elected. Then we would have had good reason to think he would have been. We just happen not to have it. Is there no fact of the matter whether there is extraterrestrial life just because we don't have much information? Suppose I guess there is not. Might I not be right?
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 05:53 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80209 wrote:
The fact that there is not enough information to know whether it is true or false does not show that it is neither true nor false, does it? Suppose we were to find clear evidence that the election was going to be fixed in advance with the very high probablility that K. would have been elected. Then we would have had good reason to think he would have been. We just happen not to have it. Is there no fact of the matter whether there is extraterrestrial life just because we don't have much information? Suppose I guess there is not. Might I not be right?


The two situations are quite different. There is certainly a fact of the matter whether there is extraterrestrial life, and you might well be right if you guess there is not. We are talking here about something that is (or is not) actually the case. The answer is somewhere 'out there'. But the answer to "Would Kennedy have been re-elected?" is nowhere to be found in the universe - nowhere in the totality of spacetime. He didn't contest the 1964 election, and that is all there is to be said.

You have tried to make the question answerable by supposing a fixed election. Firstly, I would ask: "But what if there were no evidence that the election was going to be fixed?" And secondly, even if there were, I would still contend that the question is meaningless if applied specifically to Kennedy and that particular election. If, on the other hand, you were to ask: "If an election is fixed in favour of a particular candidate, will he/she win?", the question would make sense, and the answer would be: "Very probably".
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 09:38 am
@ACB,
ACB;80315 wrote:
I would still contend that the question is meaningless if applied specifically to Kennedy and that particular election. If, on the other hand, you were to ask: "If an election is fixed in favour of a particular candidate, will he/she win?", the question would make sense, and the answer would be: "Very probably".


Then would it not follow that if the 1964 election had been fixed in favor of Kennedy then Kennecy would have won?
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 03:45 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80346 wrote:
Then would it not follow that if the 1964 election had been fixed in favor of Kennedy then Kennedy would have won?


Well, I suppose you could make it a matter of deductive logic, as follows:

1. The candidate for whom an election is fixed wins [or probably wins].
2. Kennedy would have been the candidate for whom the election was fixed.
3. Therefore, Kennedy would have won [or probably won].

But deductive logic does not tell us any new facts about the world. And the conclusion is necessarily true only if the premises are true. Here, premise 1 looks dubious: does that candidate always win, or even probably win? The fixing might be incompetently done, or insufficient to overcome the overwhelming popularity of another candidate. (You could say "successfully fixed", but then you would have a mere tautology.)

So let us leave aside deductive logic, and see if we can treat it empirically. Suppose that one of the two statements "Kennedy would have
won" and "Kennedy would not have won" is true. Could we discover which it is, given unlimited powers? Could an omniscient being know the answer? Surely not, because there is no answer to know.

Do you not at least agree that, if we are talking about a fair election, neither "he would have won" nor "he would not have won" is true? (Unless you believe in the 'many worlds' theory, in which case you could say that both are true!)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 03:56 pm
@ACB,
ACB;80413 wrote:

Do you not at least agree that, if we are talking about a fair election, neither "he would have won" nor "he would not have won" is true?


I don't think so. I wonder why you think so. Several polls might have been found, showing that it was highly likely that Kennedy would win in '64. But, why do you think that if it is impossible to determine whether Kennedy would have won or lost, neither has a truth value? It is impossible now to determine whether the president will be a Democrat or a Republican in 20089, but what makes you think that one of those isn't true?
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 05:38 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80418 wrote:
Several polls might have been found, showing that it was highly likely that Kennedy would win in '64.


Yes, but it would still not be certain. An unlikely event can still happen, and only history can decide whether it does. But Kennedy's participation in the '64 election is not part of history. So in this case the matter has not been decided, and never will be. There is, and will be, no fact about it. Not even God could tell you the answer, because there is no answer.

A statement about the result of a future election, however, will have a truth value, though it has none yet (unless you believe in strict (non-quantum) determinism or predestination).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 05:58 pm
@ACB,
ACB;80429 wrote:
Yes, but it would still not be certain. An unlikely event can still happen, and only history can decide whether it does. But Kennedy's participation in the '64 election is not part of history. So in this case the matter has not been decided, and never will be. There is, and will be, no fact about it. Not even God could tell you the answer, because there is no answer.

A statement about the result of a future election, however, will have a truth value, though it has none yet (unless you believe in strict (non-quantum) determinism or predestination).


Why need it be certain? All it needs to be is, true. How did certainty get into the picture?
Wasn't it true in the year, 1258 B.C. that the Battle of Waterloo would be fought in 1815? Of course, just no one knew it. But, so what?
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 07:59 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80430 wrote:
Why need it be certain? All it needs to be is, true. How did certainty get into the picture?


A statement can be true either (a) necessarily or (b) contingently. I only mentioned certainty in order to point out that "he would have won" and "he would not have won" are not necessary truths; so they must either be contingently true or not true at all. And as I pointed out in my previous post, the result of Kennedy's participation in the '64 election has not been decided and never will be, since there was no such participation (you can't have a 'result' of something that doesn't exist). Hence neither statement is factually (contingently) true; hence neither is true at all. QED.

Quote:
Wasn't it true in the year, 1258 B.C. that the Battle of Waterloo would be fought in 1815? Of course, just no one knew it. But, so what?

I would say no, it wasn't true, unless the Battle of Waterloo was already somehow predetermined. There wasn't an "it" for anyone to know. However, I concede that the contrary is arguable. But even if you were to convince me on this point, I would maintain my position on the Kennedy question. The Battle of Waterloo did eventually happen; but Kennedy's participation in '64 never did.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 11:23 pm
@ACB,
ACB;80448 wrote:
A statement can be true either (a) necessarily or (b) contingently. I only mentioned certainty in order to point out that "he would have won" and "he would not have won" are not necessary truths; so they must either be contingently true or not true at all. And as I pointed out in my previous post, the result of Kennedy's participation in the '64 election has not been decided and never will be, since there was no such participation (you can't have a 'result' of something that doesn't exist). Hence neither statement is factually (contingently) true; hence neither is true at all. QED.


I would say no, it wasn't true, unless the Battle of Waterloo was already somehow predetermined. There wasn't an "it" for anyone to know. However, I concede that the contrary is arguable. But even if you were to convince me on this point, I would maintain my position on the Kennedy question. The Battle of Waterloo did eventually happen; but Kennedy's participation in '64 never did.



But I just don't understand why it is not true (or false) that Kennedy would have won the election. Isn't it true that Obama won the election in 2008, and wasn't that true in 2007? If I had predicted Obama would win in 2007, and you had scoffed, could I today say, "See, I told you so"? Obama had not yet won the election, but what I said, in 2007, was true. (Aristotle held that future contingents have no truth value, but I can't see anything to be said for that view, and you certainly don't need it to rescue free will, as Aristotle thought).
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 02:56 am
@DasTrnegras,
To comfortable to get up out my armchair for this discussion, but when you do finally discover philosophy I might be keen to contribute.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 05:01 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;80496 wrote:
To comfortable to get up out my armchair for this discussion, but when you do finally discover philosophy I might be keen to contribute.


Aristotle "discovered" philosophy, it is said, and he originated this issue in his Organon. He thought (silly man!) that it had a great deal to do with free will. Imagine!
 
ACB
 
Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 09:28 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;80472 wrote:
But I just don't understand why it is not true (or false) that Kennedy would have won the election. Isn't it true that Obama won the election in 2008, and wasn't that true in 2007? If I had predicted Obama would win in 2007, and you had scoffed, could I today say, "See, I told you so"? Obama had not yet won the election, but what I said, in 2007, was true. (Aristotle held that future contingents have no truth value, but I can't see anything to be said for that view, and you certainly don't need it to rescue free will, as Aristotle thought).


Well, I would say that your prediction became true when Obama won the election. But assuming for the sake of argument that you are right on the Obama issue, I still can't agree about Kennedy. What exactly does "Kennedy would have won the election" mean? Does it mean the following?

"Given (a) an otherwise deterministic world, (b) the history of the world up to the point of the assassination, and (c) a non-deterministic 'tweak' to prevent the assassination happening, events would then inevitably have unfolded so that he won the election."

But if you are going to allow one counterfactual tweak to prevent the assassination, how can you disallow another that would prevent him winning the election? If one imaginary scenario is possible, then so are an infinity of others (as in the 'many worlds' theory). How can you privilege one particular counterfactual scenario? That is what I don't understand.

It is not a question of knowledge, but one of ontology. Let me ask you this: if you had perfect knowledge of everything, would you know whether Kennedy 'would have won' the 1964 election? In other words, is the answer a member of the set of all facts?
 
 

 
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