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What is Truth?

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Posted 21 May 2012 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Truth - What is Truth?

You operate in a world of complexity and some danger. So it is important to discern:

1. Truth from falsehood.
2. Truth from lies.
3. True answers from the mistakes.

But the "truth" is difficult to discover. In fact, the whole concept of "truth" is shrouded in mystery and confusion.

All political parties claim to have the one true political-economic truth (socialist governments believe they can create wealth by spending tax payer's money and the capitalists don't). Even the particle physicists say that the whole concept of truth is empty; that you cannot know the truth because truth does not even exist!

Then they quote the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as proof that you can't know anything for certain. If you ask them if they are sure of the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle" they say "We are absolutely sure of it. It is the foundation of physics!

Since Immanuel Kant, most philosophers have given up completely on truth and they call truth an unknowable "Noumenal world". So that tends to leave the rest of us rather befuddled and confused. 1.As one commentator wrote: "Let us just say that 'the truth' is whatever the individual thinks it is"

But that can't be right either! Can it? As the fans of the X files were always fond of saying: "The truth is out there".

What is the truth?

The problem, as usual, stems from the fact that we are using one word "Truth" to denote more than one concept. Such an obvious error is bound to cause confusion.

One word to denote many different concepts is bound to cause a mess. Imagine if a zoo renamed all their animals; allocating the entire list of different species with only one word that subsumed all of the resident creatures.

"Let's call them all 'splodge' ". If you asked any question about 'splodges' you would get, from different people, strange, contradictory answers for any question.

Q "Are splodges dangerous?"
A "Yes" "No" "They can be sometimes"

Q "Do splodges eat meat?"
A "Yes" "No" "They can do sometimes"

The problem is that we are using one word to denote more than one concept.

You understand the problem is that "Truth" is one word that stands for more than one concept. The word truth stands for at least five very different animals.

1. Don't get tigers and domestic cats confused. - They are similar but not the same.
2. Don't get the following meanings of truth confused - they may be similar but they are not the same

And in my opinion, each should be allocated a different word

The Meaning of Truth

Truth version 1: Truth meaning "existence"

The most fundamental truth is "existence as such". Truth meaning: "That which exists" - independent of anyone knowing about it.

For example: on the dark side of the moon there are rocks that nobody has yet seen.

For example: on the bottom of the deepest ocean there are sand grains that nobody has yet discovered.

But still they exist. The earth existed before life on earth existed. The earth existed before conscious life on earth existed.

Therefore "existence" precedes "mind".
There are planets that exist, that are as yet unknown to any mind. But still they exist. This "existence as such" is level 1 truth.
I sometimes call it "Brute truth" or "Brute facts". "Brute facts" Independent of knowledge, or any mind. non-existence".

Truth version 2: Truth is information about "existence"

Before you can gain knowledge about existence-truth, you must gain information relating to the object of your knowledge.

Now the question arises: Is your information true and

Now the word "truth" is referring to the quality of the information you have available.

Here is where the fighting starts, because the sceptics say you can never be sure of any information; even direct observation is "uncertain".

Again; if you ask them if they are sure of the uncertainty principle they say "Absolutely certain!"

Truth version 2 pertains to true information. Truth 2 can be contrasted to the concept of inaccurate.

Inaccurate information = information that does not correspond to existence = eg untrue information

Truth version 3

Now, if you are a non-sceptic, you have access to some accurate information; given to you by sense perception. For example:

1. The cat is on the mat.
2. That man has a knife.
3. There is a painful lump in my side.

Now you have to reason induce and deduce principles and conclusions from the given information.

This twin process of induction and deduction is together called "reasoning".

1. Inductive reasoning is to arrive at general principles gained by abstracting from the observation of many instances.
2. Deductive reasoning is to arrive at conclusions by applying general principles (gained by earlier induction) to a specific instance.
Since mankind is not infallible; you can make errors here too!

Thus you can develop general principles that aren't true; and you can apply principles incorrectly to arrive at conclusions that aren't true.

Therefore, Truth version 3 means truth in the form of true general principles (inductive logic).

Truth version 4 means truth in the form of proper application of principles to arrive at true conclusions (deductive logic).

Truth 3 can be contrasted to incorrect principles. (Example of incorrect principle: Aristotle's principle of "Natural place" as an explanation of falling bodies).

Truth version 4

Truth 4 can be contrasted to INVALID conclusion. Example of invalid conclusion from bad deductive reasoning:

1. All fish live in the water
2. Dolphins live in the water
3. Dolphins are fish<

The premises are true but the reasoning is invalid so the conclusion is not true.

1. All wealth must be created
2. A printing press can be used to create money
3. Printing money is a form of wealth creation

The premises are true but the reasoning is invalid so the conclusion is not true!

Would someone please inform Mervin King (and the others at the Bank of England) that printing money is not a valid form of wealth creation?

Inductive and deductive reasoning can arrive at true conclusions, or not. Conclusions derived from human reasoning may be true or not. In these cases "not-true" means:

1. Incorrect or
2. Invalid or
3. Incorrect and invalid

Truth version 5

Truth 5 pertains to honesty and dishonesty. Truth 5 denotes a state of mind: it is a measure of my intention to tell you honestly:

1. What information I have
2. What the information has led me to believe
3. The conclusion I have drawn from my application of that information

This truth 5 is to be contrasted to lying. A lie being a deliberate dishonest statement (or omission) of any information, belief or conclusion I have with the intent to deceive.

Example: If I knew that there was only one chocolate bar remaining in the fridge, I could tell you that there was no chocolate in the fridge; So as to preserve the world's scarce resources of chocolate for those whose need is greatest! This non-truth is a lie. Truth here is a moral issue. Here, on level 5 a Truthful statement is an honest statement.

So, I could tell you the truth (on level 5) and tell you something that was factually incorrect (on level 1 and 2 truth).

And the opposite is also possible; theoretically; I could tell you a "lie" (on level 5) which is actually factually correct (on level 1) . Get it?

To summarise

Become dissatisfied with the simple dichotomies of

  • Truth vs. false
  • Truth vs. lie

Also become dissatisfied with the sceptics (and particle physicists) who campaign so ardently for uncertainty. Instead set up in your mind five files and label them:

Truth level 1 "existence as such"
Truth level 2 Truth as information about that which exists
Truth level 3 Truth in the form of true principles
Truth level 4 Truth in the form of true conclusions
Truth level 5 Truth in the form of honesty

Also become dissatisfied with the word false. Things aren't "true or false" If you study logic: You can throw way those dopey T/F truth tables

Substitute a more complex model into your mind:

1. Truth 1 existence: or nonexistence (1 or 0)
2. Truth 2 accurate information: or inaccurate (unreliable)
3. Truth 3 general principles: correct or incorrect
4. Truth 4 conclusions: valid or invalid
5. Truth 5 honest statement: or dishonest

Distinguish the five forms of truth and their contraries.
Truth is important but confusing.
Sort out the sets in your mind.
Allocate meanings and definitions.

Then don't ever be confused again when someone says: "Do you believe me or are you calling me a liar?" or when some guy says "Of course you can trust me. I am an honest guy! I've never been convicted of any offence"

The truth is out there. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to find it!

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