How to Join Member's Area Private Library Search Today's Topics p Login
Main Forums Discussion Tech Talk Mature Content Archives
   Nav Win
 Discussion
 Philosophy 101
 What is truth?   [ Page: 1  2  3  ]
 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
Follow us on Facebook

 Moderated by: Ron   (Admins )

 
User Options
Format for Better Printing EMail to a Friend Not Available
Admin Print Send ECard
Passions in Poetry

What is truth?

 Post A Reply Post New Topic   Go to the Next Oldest/Previous Topic Return to Topic Page Go to the Next Newest Topic 
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


25 posted 08-27-2002 12:28 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
Is this the truth?  This statement when analyzed must be either absolutely true or not.  Is it possible for it to be false?  And if it is possible that this could be false, how are you certain that it is true?


Well, you kind of ripped that statement out of context (that's okay, I fall back into the standard descriptions far too easily still. That's my fault.).  I'll be working this out for a while.

We must act as if it were absolutely true because it makes no sense not to. Again, truth is a concept, not an object to be discovered. Truth is not true. It has nothing to say about the outside because there are no normative ways for talking about the outside world you posit. Because of this, an outside world can mean anything you want it to mean. Truth as a concept is only useful when we have a linguistic community's normative standards to compare the truthness of the statement.But it's the very fact that it can be false that allows it to be true. There's nothing wrong with saying that this is good for us to believe but maybe it's not true. But any truth we hold can only be true if we indeed act on them as if they were true.  

quote:
You are still  making an assertion, but the reasoning is circular... ie we can't know truth because there is none to know...


Your assuming that truth is monolithic and there's no reason to believe that. We compare one possible truth and see how it correlates to other truths.

quote:
But you have to Know the truth in order to say this statement with any authority at all.


My authority comes from the ability to speak a language and participate in a language community. The concept truth is a precondition of language and thought itself. I'll post a great quote as soon as I have time, you may not buy it, but it might help make some sense of this.

In a linguistic community, the problem with the concepts God, the spiritual, the transcendental, Reality in and of itself etc. is that they can mean anything you want and nobody can tell you different. The mean anything you want because they can't be proved wrong, therefore they can never be proved true.

Sorry, I'll try to get more out later,
Brad  
Ron
Administrator
Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US


26 posted 08-27-2002 01:01 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

LOL. My question, "Is it possible to separate Truth from verification?" wasn't loaded, guys, so much as it was an attempt to get at least one move ahead of Postmodernism and Brad. Obviously, I was still a little too slow.

Nonetheless, the question remains an important one, and personally, I find your answers encouraging. If we can agree that Truth exists apart from man, then there remains the possibility for Absolute Truth to exist. It's perhaps a slim possibility, and maybe something beyond human understanding, but still a possibility. On the other hand, those who follow Rorty, et al, can have no such hope. That's a bit of shame, in my opinion, because Richard Rorty and Postmodernism are plain, flat-out wrong. The irony is, in being completely wrong, they just may be right.

Stanley Grenz, in his 1995 book "A Primer on Postmodernism," described their position this way: "(Postmodernism) affirms that whatever we accept as truth and even the way we envision truth are dependent on the community in which we participate." Brad uses the word context, I think, in the same way Grenz uses community. I'll explore that more in a moment. Grenz then goes on to more succinctly say, "There is no absolute truth: rather truth is relative to the community in which we participate."

I've never really found a definitive definition in Postmodernist literature as to what they mean by community. That's important, I think, because communities have this nasty habit of overlapping and nesting. I belong to a community of programmers, but I also belong to a specific geographical community. As Brad alluded, it seems to be more than just a consensus of everyone in the community, but even in being more, it still boils down to just that. Truth is what everyone agrees is true. Rorty carries this farther, even, than most. Postmodernism says we can't argue for Truth on the basis of absolute correctness, and Rorty suggests we can't even argue on logical grounds. To do so would be to admit objective value and truth. Instead, we must argue for a truth only if it increases solidarity in our community. I suppose this is why Rorty prefers to be called a Pragmatist, rather than a Postmodernist (which tends to rile the Pragmatists to no end).

I believe Postmodernism is inherently flawed, and I suspect the Postmodernists do, too. That's why they insist on compartmentalizing different kinds of Truth. Rorty, for example, had this to say about Truth in "The Decline Of Redemptive Truth And The Rise Of A Literary Culture."

quote:
Problems about what to do with ourselves, what purposes to serve, differ, in this respect, from scientific problems. A complete and final unified science, an harmoniously orchestrated assemblage of scientific theories none of which will ever need to be revised, is an intelligible goal. Scientific inquiry could, conceivably, terminate. So if a unified account of the causal relations between all spatio-temporal events were all that were meant by "truth", even the most far-out postmodernist types would have no reason to doubt truth's existence. The existence of truth only becomes an issue when another sort of truth is in question.


Gee, that's a bit different than the way most people seem to interpret the Postmodern abolition of truth, don't ya think? In "Reply to Hartshorne," by Saatkamp, Rorty is quoted as saying, " I tend to view natural science as in the business of controlling and predicting things, and as largely useless for philosophical purposes." It seems statements like "the chair has four legs" and the "the sky is blue" aren't even the kind of truths with which Rorty is concerned. So, uh, what does concern him?

In the same article, Rorty goes on to describe what he calls "redemptive truth," a set of theories he claims are meant to fulfill the need that religion and philosophy have attempted and failed to satisfy. He later defines redemptive truth as "a single set of beliefs which can serve a redemptive role in the lives of all human beings, which can be rationally justified to all human beings under optimal conditions, and which will thus form the natural terminus of inquiry." In other words, once we know the Absolute Truth, we KNOW it and there is no need for any other questions. It is this redemptive truth that Rorty and Postmodernism refuses to accept.

Those of you who know me, after three years, know that I don't separate my religion from my science, and it always sort of bothered me that the Postmodernists felt the need to do so. Causal truth is cool, they say, but anything that touches upon the nature of man can't really be truth. Konstantin Kolenda, in "Rorty's Humanistic Pragmatism," defends this segregation of Truth because "commonsense-factual beliefs" are "unquestioned by participants in a given linguistic community." But that only seems to beg the question - WHY does everyone agree with them?

If "commonsense-factual beliefs" are obviously true, then there is an objective truth that seemingly applies to an overwhelming number of statements. If they are true just because everyone agrees they are true, they fall within the same province as Rorty's redemptive truth and should meet the same process of inquiry. That won't be allowed to happen, though, because Postmodernism knows their process fails utterly when there is a known answer. It only seems to work at all when the issue is controversial and unknown.

Rorty's failure, I think, is a reflection of his background in Literature and rests almost solely on his concepts of language. This is something Brad has mentioned several times, in many other threads. To again directly quote Rorty, this time from "Contingency, Law, and Solidarity:"

quote:
To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations.

Rorty, in other words, insists that true is a modifier that describes only sentences.

But I think this confuses an allegedly necessary condition with a sufficient condition. Even were we to concede for the moment that only sentences can be true, it does not follow that a sentence alone is sufficient for truth. "Ron is female," is a sentence, but it can be true if and only if I manage to pass the physical. In other words, insisting that only sentences can be true does not remove the need for some other NONLINGUISTIC condition to render the statement true. Ergo, true must, in some sense, apply to more than just sentences.

Of course, this is precisely where Rorty, Kolenda, and all the Postmodernists start yelling foul. My sentence, "Ron is female," doesn't belong in the area of beliefs that Rorty expects to be decided by community solidarity. Indeed, any statement that is a clear counterexample to his theory, like the existence of gravity or chairs with four legs, is dismissed as irrelevant to the main point. Community solidarity is NOT going to make me start dating rich widowers, Rorty knows this, so he draws a safe line between his different kinds of truth. In letting Postmodernism do this, we allow them to evade any possibility of refutation. An issue is controversial only because no one is in possession of objective facts to decide it, and Rorty can then say with confidence that it is not decided factually but by consensus of the community. But if an issue is already clearly decided, its noncontroversial nature pushes it into Rorty's safe zone and it's declared off-limits.

This is where I believe Postmodernism is horribly wrong - and potentially right.

There is real value, I think, in recognizing and codifying the difference between objective and subjective truth. The trend in recent thinking to deny the existence and even the possibility of objective truth gives rise to little more than circular thinking and paradoxes that convince no one. Two plus two equals four, they all say, is a language construct and therefore subjective. Everything, they decry, is subjective! But, damn it, we NEED two plus two to always equal four, in any language throughout the universe, and we intrinsically know that it does. We hear their arguments, we follow their logic - and we don't for a minute believe that two plus two will stop equaling four just because they say it's subjective.

The complete abolishment of objective truth is not pragmatically useful. On the contrary, if taken literally (it can't be) and completely believed (it's not), it cripples rather than enhances our ability to communicate. Everything is a language construct? Everything is subjective? That is not a workable reflection of reality, but is just a WEAKNESS OF THE LANGUAGE.

Postmodernism, I'm convinced, will eventually collapse under the weight of its own inadequacies, and largely because it fails to recognize the dynamics of our universe in any useful way. "Ron is diabetic" falls outside the realm of Rorty's truth because it is a measurable, observable, and noncontroversial truth. "Ron is happy" falls within Rorty's realm - but ONLY until medical science defines and quantifies the chemicals that determine the state of happiness in the same way they can now measure blood sugars. "Ron is happy" is a subjective truth, based on community solidarity and consensus, but may be so only for today. Tomorrow, we may discover a new truth, one that CHANGES our language in the sense that "Ron is happy" takes on a quantifiable and objective meaning. The only thing Postmodernism does is create two categories, one for the things we think we know, one for the things we know we think, and then shifts individual issues back and forth.

Language is not static. One problem with Wittgenstein, Rorty, and really dating all the way back to Descartes, is that any philosophy based largely on the limitations of linguistics is built on a hill of shifting sand. When we find weaknesses in our language, we should endeavor to fix the problem, not build our knowledge-base on it. (The other big problem with Rorty, in my opinion, is that any ethnocentric philosophy is self-limiting and, even, paradoxical. "We can never get outside of ourselves," he contends. But if that statement is true it becomes subjective and non-absolute, so maybe we can get outside of ourselves. In any event, right or wrong or just general consensus, it shouldn't stop us from TRYING to understand our reality apart from our role in it. If we try and Rorty is right, we might fail. If we don't try, we are sure to fail. And even in failure, we'll learn more than we will by staring at our own foreheads.)

I don't believe that truth is a construct of language, but rather that language is a reflection of truth. Brad calls language a reaction to the world, not a picture of the world, but such reactions are just another way of reflecting reality. Even when you internalize language, it just becomes a reflection of a reflection of truth, and in that sense is a poor reflection, to be sure. It is marred by flaws and ripples and distortions that tend to magnify or diminish what we see, but still it remains a reflection. You can change language all day long and it changes reality not at all. The only thing accomplished is to add yet more distortion, Orwellian style, or occasionally smooth a few wrinkles, as I think poets and writers and scientists try to do. Change reality, on the other hand, and language quickly adapts, adding new words or altering the meaning of existing words. In rare instances, we even invent new languages (the calculus, for example).

We don't invent truth. We discover it.

And, yea, very often, we have to rediscover truth a few times along the way. I think there's an important distinction to be made, though, between discarding lies and rediscovering truth. "The Earth is flat" wasn't a lie so much as it was a partial truth. When you happen to be building a house, it's a fairly useful partial truth. As our context expanded, however, we needed more and discovered the world is round. That did NOT change the way we built houses. Newton's concept of classical physics was a partial truth that resulted, among many other things, in the "for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction" invention of rockets. In seeking to understand the perturbations of Mercury's orbit, something unexplainable using Newton's math, Einstein discovered a greater truth. Fortunately for NASA, rockets didn't suddenly stop working. Truth is not transient, is not subjective, but is often only limited.

Truth doesn't change. I don't think we will ever reach the "natural terminus of inquiry" Rorty uses to define truth, but that doesn't negate the validity of the truths we find along the way. As we ask more questions, as our context grows, we inevitably expand the truth, but the only thing discarded are the lies. Our lesser truths are still true, if only in lesser contexts. The Earth really IS flat, at least in my front yard.

I tend to talk a lot about science and math when I talk about truth, if only because they are often more quantifiable. Not coincidentally, those are precisely the kinds of things Rorty and Postmodernism want to avoid discussing. But everything I believe about science and math is also what I believe about Rorty's redemptive truths. I can't weigh or measure the effects of honesty, but I still hold it to be a truth. And I'm convinced that an expansion of that truth, while certainly possible (and one would hope, with wisdom, even probable), won't invalidate my current truth. Truth doesn't change.

And Absolute Truths?

From a scientific standpoint, I think there is ample evidence to suggest Absolute Truth can never be more than near-absolute. Truth is measured statistically, and even though we can approach 100 percent certainty, we never quite get there. Heisenberg saw to that, thank you very much.

From a Christian standpoint, my answer remains much the same. I believe that Absolute Truth and Free Will are incompatible. Heisenberg discovered uncertainty, but I think God put it there for him to find.


Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


27 posted 08-27-2002 10:02 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

But Ron, I think it's the other way around. We don't want to abolish the objective, we want to abolish the subjective (but not privacy).

There is no such thing as a subjective or personal truth. That defeats the whole idea of what truth means.
Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


28 posted 08-28-2002 04:32 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

I have smote away at sayings in my mind, and believe now I might have one that that might touch upon a truth incorporating much of what I feel some of you are saying in this thread but also keeping in mind the Old English root and meaning of "loyalty"---


[This has been edited and ammended]


Truth

Truth is the chief nature or highest government of a body (any thing(s) or being(s))  We cannot know of all bodies, but of the bodies that we do, we know truths, we cannot know of all truths but of the truths we do we know bodies, and usually a loyalty that retains a state, cycle, appearance, pattern, etc. which are bodies to a body, and truths to a truth.  All bodies are bodies of truths, but not all bodies are true to bodies.  If you find me and bounce me and I bounce for three days thats like saying to you I will bounce again on the fourth day and that would have bounced four days ago, but if I don't bounce that is a body of truth, but is a lie to my saying, which is another body of truth, but now you know another saying (body)  I will bounce for three days but not bounce on the fourth---this is of the body you know of me, the cheif nature and hightest government (way of will)

Hope you will let me know if chimes just a bit, or tell me true if I'm crazy!



Essorant


[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-29-2002 04:18 PM).]

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


29 posted 08-28-2002 12:14 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Okay, truth means loyalty to beliefs until otherwise betrayed. Why put it in a kind of Heidergerese?

I've already pointed this out.
Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


30 posted 08-28-2002 02:15 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Beliefs are another body.

It was just an attempt, I don't even know what or who Heidergerese is...I will have to look around...

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-28-2002 08:06 PM).]

Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


31 posted 08-28-2002 02:54 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Where is hush??

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-28-2002 10:09 PM).]

Jamie
Member Elite
since 06-26-2000
Posts 3219
Blue Heaven


32 posted 08-28-2002 11:20 PM       View Profile for Jamie   Email Jamie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Jamie's Home Page   View IP for Jamie

Maybe we could just post links to all the other discussions we have had on truth. Sure save a lot of typing time and save more for reading.
J

There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar.
byron

Local Rebel
Member Ascendant
since 12-21-1999
Posts 5742
Southern Abstentia


33 posted 08-29-2002 12:32 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Truth --

Having to pee when you get up in the morning.

MidnightSon
Member
since 05-15-2002
Posts 328
between the gutter & the stars


34 posted 08-31-2002 09:26 PM       View Profile for MidnightSon   Email MidnightSon   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for MidnightSon

if this was ancient greece, this would be the part where socrates comes in and busts on everyone in here for there answers...

what is truth?
"many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view."

so are we asking what is true? or what's true to us?

does the truth have to be understandable? understandable to who? to all? to those who would make decisions?

the chair has four legs? is that true? is that really real ?
when you get down to it, the chair is a collection of constantly moving atoms.. but that was true only until we found that there are different particles of an atom; the protons, neutrons, and electrons. and then that was the truth. now we've got quarks and that's a whole other truth.
or is it the truth? is it the truth until we find the next smallest particle? or is false already since we think something else exists?

now if i ask is the chair solid and unmoving, isn't the answer no? the chair is in motion at the molecular level... but it's not moving to the naked eye... so what is the truth?

and if something is true, why must we be able to test it? it's the truth. testing should be unnecessary since you can't prove it false. right? maybe...

truth in feeling, truth in thought... are these all personal truths? they come from a person...should truth come from a person? can it come from a person without being tainted by personal bias?

can truth be based on the views and laws of man? aren't we all subjective? is there an outside truth, a universal definition of the concept? something that can't be unproven?
what is it? who is it? and do we know they are right and true and real?
is there anything outside of this reality that is always true? a constant?
and if it's outside reality (or our perception of reality) then how do we know it's real?

metaphysics is so...question raising. is it real? is it true? what is the ultimate reality?

i suppose that just depends on how you look at the world. is ultimate reality, the truth, what really is or is it how you percieve it? because that choice can greatly affect how you see things. the things we percieve are real. our whole world and basis of thought depends on it right?

but on a quest for the truth, i guess how we see things doesn't really matter. and if truth is what's really true, then are we even people? random collections of atoms?

for me the truth has always been in the middle. the means of the extremes. thinking this was leads me to  a lot of paradoxes (like a moving unmoving chair), but they work for me. it is both.
everything is true and everything a lie. truth is not merely in the answer, but in the questions.

and separating truth from verification? they are separate aren't they? wouldn't the truth be tru despite the tests and disbelief? that's why it's a truth isn't it? does the verification  provide the truth or does it provide belief in our minds and hearts?

Essorant:
"Even if we knew it all for a while, we wouldn't be able to write it all down and remember it all.  So  perhaps truth is only how much we remember?"      

Guy Pierce and "memento" cover this... i think you have a good point.

and finally, before i hand the soapbox over to next in line, let me add on to the train theme.
"parallel tracks are not better or worse. just different."
isn't the destination the same?
i guess it just depends on your point of view.
but that isn't always true.  

[This message has been edited by MidnightSon (08-31-2002 09:38 PM).]

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


35 posted 08-31-2002 11:28 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron, there's just no way I can address everything you've brought up in one sitting, but I can say you work from some points that other Realists readily reject. This is good but then you simply assert a traditional view as if it were the only way to see it. The parts that I'll agree to do notnecessarily lead to your conclusion. I'll try to point them out along the way and there's at least one comment that I think demands a retraction. In a nutshell, your doing the same thing that Stephan does in the Thinking, Aching thread, you assume similarities between different cultures and languages necessarily lead to one thing "out there" that we are all trying to represent correctly. I'll try to show that there's no simple reason for seeing it that way unless one is willing to accept that on faith.  

quote:
If we can agree that Truth exists apart from man, then there remains the possibility for Absolute Truth to exist. It's perhaps a slim possibility, and maybe something beyond human understanding, but still a possibility.


We agree that our concepts already imply that many things will exist even if we aren't there to see it, hear it, touch it or whatever. Why? Because it makes no sense to think otherwise. This is just the argument against solipsism. Proof? Try being a solipsist and see what happens.

By following this, does that mean absolute truth is possible? What is Absolute Truth? What are the criteria that determine what Absolute Truth would be?  Without an actual definition of this, I have no idea what you mean. Is Absolute Truth true? Is Absolute Truth false? A semantic theory of truth cannot address this. Is there something out there that we don't understand, that we can't understand? Sure, why not? You shift the terms to possible and impossible, but I don't see much difference here. Possibilities are easy. It's possible that an electron can be in two places at the same time. It's possible that I can walk through a wall tomorrow. "It's possible that . . ." can be used to describe anything.

Then what are impossible things? Impossible things are things that we have agree upon it to be impossible. "I didn't do that thing I did, yesterday" isn't a possible statement. It can be, anything can be, but only if we change the rules and argue that the first 'I' and the second 'I' mean two different things. If we see it as one thing, we have made a contradictory statement. If we don't have criteria that we agree upon, we have know way of saying anything is impossible, we have no way of saying anything is false.

Everything is possible.

Everything is true.

But these statements are empty of any real meaning, aren't they? How does one live by them?  I have no interest in trying to live by them. Do you want to?

This is exactly the same problem with Absolute Truth. What is the criteria for Absolute Truth or for God for that matter? How do we know when we are looking at Absolute Truth and something else, how do we know when we are talking to God or to a demon or that the conversation we hear is a chemical imbalance? How do we know that the chemical imbalance isn't simply God's way of making Himself manifest to us?

You did give one criterion for determining true prophets from false ones: You said they can't be wrong. But how do we determine if they are wrong if we don't have criteria to understand what that means, something separate from the prophet's words, something that we can understand and check to see if they are true or false prophets? What is this criteria of truth for God and for Absolute Truth?

How can we stand in judgement of God? How can we stand in judgement to Absolute Truth?

In fact, that's exactly what I think we do and how we do that fascinates me. I'll try to touch on this later.

quote:
On the other hand, those who follow Rorty, et al, can have no such hope.


What exactly are we trying to hope for?

Brad
Ron
Administrator
Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US


36 posted 09-01-2002 01:45 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
What are the criteria that determine what Absolute Truth would be?  Without an actual definition of this, I have no idea what you mean.

With only a little twisting, Postmodernism's definition of redemptive truth IS Absolute Truth. " … which can be rationally justified to all human beings under optimal conditions, and which will thus form the natural terminus of inquiry." The only real difference is that I don't insist on Absolute Truth necessarily being redemptive.

I'm not quite sure where you got the impression I assumed similarities between cultures and languages, let alone similarities that mean anything. I don't. Remember, please, that while I'm open to the possibility of Absolute Truth, I don't really expect it. I don't really think there is any "natural terminus of inquiry," at least not in this life.

I argue not for the existence of Absolute Truth, but rather for the possibility of Absolute Truth. Essentially, that means arguing for the survival of objective truth, without which there can be no Absolute Truth. Unlike Rorty, I think science is a bit more than "controlling and predicting things," and believe it can't be so easily (or conveniently) dismissed from philosophical inquiries.
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


37 posted 09-01-2002 05:51 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephan said following CS Lewis:

quote:
I still assert that the evidence is in overwhelming favor of a fixed moral value system within us all, imperfectly percieved, though still recognizable as a continuity.


in the other thread.

Ron said:


quote:
"Ron is female," is a sentence, but it can be true if and only if I manage to pass the physical. In other words, insisting that only sentences can be true does not remove the need for some other NONLINGUISTIC condition to render the statement true. Ergo, true must, in some sense, apply to more than just sentences.


So what's the problem with the rest of us? How do you explain why people disagree on what the truth really is if it's out there:

quote:
Everything is a language construct? Everything is subjective? That is not a workable reflection of reality, but is just a WEAKNESS OF THE LANGUAGE.


But why is language weak? That's easy, it's weak because it is a "reflection of reality".

To me, you and Stephan are essentially saying the same thing about two different things. There is something absolute out there, something invariant (truth or a moral system), and the problem is that we just can't see or talk about it.

You both, so far, have qualified yourself in the same way:

Stephan says:

quote:
A supernaturalist asserts that it is at least possible for something to be "outside" the natural universe as we know it.  This is exactly the claims of Christianity... there is a being who is not a dependent being but a self-existent being.  A Template or original above all the copies ...


And you say:

quote:
I argue not for the existence of Absolute Truth, but rather for the possibility of Absolute Truth.


I don't know if you see the connections I'm making, you may think that I'm barking up the wrong tree (and you think I've never done that before?). But nevertheless I see these connections because I see both you and Stephan captivated by a metaphor and the metaphor is that of a mirror. For you, language is like an imperfect mirror, for Stephan, perception is the imperfect mirror (For me, there's not much difference between the two). Of course, I'm not above this anymore than the two of you. I am captivated by a different metaphor: the idea that perception and language are like tools for surviving and dealing with this world. Now, a mirror is a kind of tool, I can't deny that, but I think it's the wrong kind of tool to invoke when talking about these things. I think a better metaphorical tool are the hammer and the chisel of a sculptor. Language doesn't represent things, it doesn't change Nature or represent Nature outside of us, it changes us. And in that sense it changes Nature.

---------------------------------

I'm very happy to see someone reading Rorty but be careful with ". . .which can be rationally justified to all human beings under optimal conditions, and which will thus form the natural terminus of inquiry." He plays on the ambiguity of 'rationally justified' and on 'all human beings'.

But let's take it at face value for the moment. Is this a good thing? Is this what we want, a world we want to live in? If it's not in some sense redemptive what does it give us? I much prefer Rorty's alternate utopia, following Wilde (and that is a great essay. Have you read it? I'll post a link if you want.), in a world of tolerance where Christians and Muslims, where poets and scientists, where Blacks and Whites, Jews and Gentiles (yeah, you get the picture) all live together in tolerance and peace, not because we believe the same things but precisely because we're different.

And one more thing:

quote:
From a Christian standpoint, my answer remains much the same. I believe that Absolute Truth and Free Will are incompatible.


This is what I want you to retract. How can you possibly call yourself a Christian and say this? We've argued on the same side against similar ideas before. Knowing something is True (especially if you believe Rorty's redemptive truth definition) does not dictate the desire to do something. You can go against it precisely because it's true (It's wrong, I know it's wrong, and I don't care). Furthermore, Rorty's definition of redemptive truth completely neglects the cautionary use of truth: that something may be justified but still not be true.

Foreknowledge or absolute knowledge doesn't mean that you won't try to do something, it just means that what you want to try will be known.  

  
MidnightSon
Member
since 05-15-2002
Posts 328
between the gutter & the stars


38 posted 09-01-2002 04:06 PM       View Profile for MidnightSon   Email MidnightSon   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for MidnightSon

"Language doesn't represent things, it doesn't change Nature or represent Nature outside of us, it changes us. And in that sense it changes Nature."

but it does represent things, doesn't it? it represents how we see the world. the word blue represents what we perceive to be blue.
without the word, blue would be blue, but language gives us a name for it.
the concept of "one" is still "one", and inside we know what "one" thing is, but language gives us a name for the concept.

it may not represent nature, but don't the words represent nature to us? rganted a tree is a tree but we call it a tree because that's our linguistic representation of it.
i agree that language and rhetoric can be a tool like the hammer and chisel, sculpting our minds. but it can be like a fun house mirror as well, because reality gets filtered through our minds and mouths.

but calling all this the weakness of language is a dangerous step i think. rhetoric seems to exert great power over man. that was the sophists best weapon. manipulation of the language.
but then, they weren't looking for absolute truth.
but brad raises an interesting question....(i think it was brad..)
should we desire an absolute truth?

and i gotta agree with ron when he says free will and absolute truth are incompatible.
if we're saying that an absolute truth could exist, does exist, and that it comes from God, then to use free will to go against the Absolute Truth is the highest form of wrong...
by going against it, we'd being proving an absolute truth to be false...
in a sense we'd be proving God wrong. and then it wouldn't be an absolute truth...
and we'd be back at square one, searching for the absolute truth, the source of reality.
_______

is an absolute truth merely something that can never be proven wrong?
or is there more to it?

it's our struggle for identity that leaves us all unknown

Stephanos
Deputy Moderator 1 Tour
Member Elite
since 07-31-2000
Posts 3496
Statesboro, GA, USA


39 posted 09-01-2002 08:04 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

MidnightSon,

you wrote,  "if we're saying that an absolute truth could exist, does exist, and that it comes from God, then to use free will to go against the Absolute Truth is the highest form of wrong..."


Absolute truth does not rule out the possibility of free will.  Free will is merely the opportunity given by one in absolute authority (God) for us to freely choose to cooperate with his moral directives, or to reject them.  I see two reasons as to why God might do such a thing.  Firstly, a creation of automata where everything was forced to follow a preconcieved plan and not given the freedom to stray (or return) does not allow for the concept of Love...  or if you could call a robotic execution of affection "love" then it would lose all meaning and significance.  To those of you who are married, what gives your matrimonial love any real value to you (especially in western culture) is that your spouse could have chosen someone else, but chose to love you exclusively.


This goes back to the fundamental ideas of the Judeo-Christian world-view.  Why did God create?  Because he wanted to make beings (like himself with the freedom to choose) who could freely interact with him and have meaningful relations.  How interesting it is that we just had a thread about robotic or computer simulation of "life" and where is the line?  The line is that we are given a spirit made in the image of our creator whereby we can choose freely among alternatives.  


That's where the concept of "sin" comes in.  It is exactly as you say, using free-will to go against the absolute truth which God is in essence and has established in our finite knowledge.  As Francis Shaeffer once wrote, "our knowledge of truth is not exhaustive, but that does not mean that we cannot know truth."  Why can we know truth certainly?  Because God has opted to make it knowable to humanity.  To say "We didn't know" doesn't make much difference in our sphere of responsibility, unless of course unless we can add the phrase "and we couldn't know".  That kind of answer won't do you much good on your college Physics test, especially if  the means of knowing was available.  


Speaking of absolute truth, you also wrote, "by going against it, we'd being proving an absolute truth to be false...
in a sense we'd be proving God wrong"
How is going against it proving it to be wrong?  In a common and limited example, going against the rules of math when paying your bills does not prove the rules of math wrong but rather proves them right... So right that unless you change your mathematics a court ruling will agree with your adversary's figures.  


The wonder is that absolute truth is not as unforgiving as mathematics... at least in the sense of being so rigid that the givers of wrong answers are expelled ... though wrong answers in any class must be thrown out.  The absolute truth in a biblical sense is personal.  The truth is a person and though law is given, it is a heart of truth that God wants us to eventually see.  So the elements of patience and mercy are thrown in on God's part, especially since the problem is so complex that we never could have gotten the answer right on our own any way.  In a large way, he has done the excruciating equations for us and merely allows us to fill in a few holes while he teaches us.  But always in his heart is a desire that his students will also find the joy of being great mathemeticians some day.  Math is a bit "cold" and mechanical in ways and so is not the best metaphor, but it works for the moment.

Stephen.


Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


40 posted 09-01-2002 09:10 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

The present is of all its abstract and material past; but it can only speak of what it knows through how it remembers. How can the truth be any different?  How can anyone say to one: "You are not part of truth?"  It is like saying you are not part of the present.  Everything counts, we just can't account everything.  And most things are not very stationary but passing into haveing to be referred to in past tense so quickly, especially in this age of much haste, this is why I emphasize on the way of remembering.
A far bygone subject and object is confined to records--books, songs, traditions, paintings and photographs, video footage etc. It is our way to retain things through such ways of remembering that keeps the gift of fire bright of being truth and  becoming ever more. When we are discoursing in offhand circumstance though, this  is in bare body of what and how we remember knowledge to the very syllable only our own impressions and learnt words toward.  So it is on the sharpness thereof truth relies while referring to anything past or present in this mesh.  How can we do anything but commonly share some common mode of regarding something by referring to some cheif or seeming obvious nature or will of a body.  There is always something peoples can agree on eventually in some way or another however remote by the appearances, signs or actions etc.  Do we have a choice?  We have to have a ground where we can at least have a common assent.  This is of the outwit and inwit of all opinions perhaps a midwit, or common ground where wits chime best they can or go crazy.
Truth is to knowledge as present is to past.  Must needs be due amounts forgetful and ignorant.
It is is stuck here and we cannot get it out , it seem only as much as things are present at the moment in how much and how we remember, things are truth.  I now believe if we didn't forget or ignore at all I think there would be more chaos than if we were able to do the opposite!

[This message has been edited by Essorant (09-02-2002 03:38 AM).]

Stephanos
Deputy Moderator 1 Tour
Member Elite
since 07-31-2000
Posts 3496
Statesboro, GA, USA


41 posted 09-01-2002 11:58 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

you wrote... " Language doesn't represent things, it doesn't change Nature or represent Nature outside of us, it changes us. And in that sense it changes Nature. "

You also made the comparison that Ron and I had an affinity for the metaphor of a mirror in describing two different things... perception and language.  But I would ask you what is the difference?  


Perception represents "Nature" outside of us.  When our eyes perceive the color red, the perception has to do with actual wavelengths of light in the object we are seeing.  I understand that there would be no such thing as "red" where eyes are not ... if people, or animals with eyes did not exist.  But that is not to say that our senses are not accurate (except in pathological cases) representations of a physical reality "outside" of us.  If I see a hole and avoid falling in it, this should be proof enough for me that my senses are communicating a truth, ie.. that there is in actuality a hole in the ground which poses a risk to my clumsy feet.  I know there is alot which our minds add, but the physical dimensions of the hole are there despite my perception.  Even If I weren't there, the existence of the hole would be a potential danger for someone else, even someone else who didn't percieve it, such as a blind man.    If a blind man fell in, my question would be, are the man's injuries, due to his perceptions only, or were they caused by his lack of perception of a physical reality that was well established quite apart from him?


If perception is a reflection of a physical universe (although admittedly not exhaustive in it's reflection)... then why should language be any different?  It may have some different dynamics but the principle is the same.  Perception is my "reciever", while language is my "transmitter".  One I obtain knowledge by, the other I relay knowledge by.  How can you really assert that language is not representational?  If I say to you "There is a tree in my backyard".  Is the truth of this statement really dependent upon the sentence itself?  Or did the object to which I refer exist prior to my speech, or even my thought?  I agree where Ron said "insisting that only sentences can be true does not remove the need for some other NONLINGUISTIC condition to render the statement true".   Language is a tool as you say.  But I believe a mirror or a painter's canvas is the most descriptive  metaphor.  That does not mean however that the metaphor of a sculptor's chisle and hammer does not apply.  Language does change things, even nature,  because it moves the minds and subsequently the hands of people in the world.  But the very fact that we are concerned about a "world" that exists apart from our descriptions of it, proves to us that language is not the measure of all things.  How can a tool itself be the scupture?  The sculptor's stone has physical properties of it's own before the chisle ever even makes it's mark, and still has them after the last mark is made.  


I agree that Ron and I have both been speaking from different vantages.  Ron moreso in the realm of physics (where I am woefully ignorant, though fascinated)  and myself in the realm of ethics/ morality/ spirituality.  But in both cases truth is operative independent of both our language and our perception.  Thankfully it is not ungraspable in practical ways either to our languages or to our perceptions.  That's why you don't expect to pour coffee on your floor when your eyes tell you that you are pouring it in your mug.  That's why you are kind and affectionate and less selfish toward your wife in your better moments... it makes good "sense".  But there is after all I assert something behind these senses.


Stephen.
Stephanos
Deputy Moderator 1 Tour
Member Elite
since 07-31-2000
Posts 3496
Statesboro, GA, USA


42 posted 09-02-2002 12:56 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Here is an interesting article about Rorty and Postmodernism from a Christian perspective ... it shares some of the same assertions that Ron made.  I think it will be interesting for everyone, and challenging to Brad.  I am reading about Rorty and post-modernism on both sides and learning alot.  

http://www.leaderu.com/aip/docs/geuras.html
Stephen.
Ron
Administrator
Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US


43 posted 09-02-2002 06:34 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Brad asked:
quote:
So what's the problem with the rest of us? How do you explain why people disagree on what the truth really is if it's out there?

For the same reason two people can add up a column of numbers and come up with different answers. Especially if a few of the numbers are smudged and difficult to read.

Brad said:
quote:
Language doesn't represent things, it doesn't change Nature or represent Nature outside of us, it changes us.

Random syllables mean nothing and can change nothing. Language changes us only when we assign meaning to it. When it becomes representative, then and only then does it have power. Interestingly, from a writer's perspective, the closer our the words come to "truth," the more power given to them. A good metaphor, after all, is just a way to move closer to a truth.

Brad asked:
quote:
If (Truth is) not in some sense redemptive what does it give us?

The inability for a physical object to travel faster than the speed of light is really, really close to an Absolute Truth (so far). It's certainly not redemptive (so far), and it's not even very convenient. Is just "is," and we have to deal with it. (Personally, I have a sneaky suspicion that someday it will be redemptive. The value of truth, in both science and philosophy, isn't always immediately seen.)

Brad said:
quote:
He (Rorty) plays on the ambiguity of 'rationally justified' and on 'all human beings'.

And that's indicative of the problem I have with Rorty; he plays on the ambiguity of ALL language. And I suspect "plays" is a good choice of verb. His arguments, rather than add meaning to language and bring us closer to a truth, divorce language from ALL meaning. He gives us nothing but a steep hill covered in ice, little realizing that he's sliding down that hill on his butt with the rest of us. The danger, of course, is that Rorty is half-right. Language is an imperfect tool. The answer is to realize that language is dynamic and can move itself closer to the truth with each step taken. Illuminating its weaknesses is a good thing, but falls far short of helping to eliminate those weaknesses.

Brad insisted:
quote:
This is what I want you to retract. How can you possibly call yourself a Christian and say this?


We're getting into entirely different spheres here, but essentially I believe Absolute Truth and Free Will are incompatible in the same sense that Gravity and jumping over the moon are incompatible. Break the laws of man and you will be punished, but the Laws of the universe are enforced a little differently, making punishment superfluous. Many of those physical laws are as close to Absolute Truths as we've yet to come, and every single one of them sorely limits our choices. By extension, if corresponding moral truths were equally absolute, they would be equally impossible to break, and would destroy the concept of Free Will.

Absolute Truth is much more than just foreknowledge. Knowing you can't jump over the moon doesn't stop you from trying, but gravity nonetheless thwarts even the likes of Michael Jordan. And, no, I'm not forgetting Neil Armstrong, but even he didn't get to the moon by breaking the physical laws of gravity. (And every metaphor can be carried too far.)

The supernatural, I believe, is possible (even inevitable) because none of the physical laws of the Universe are absolute. Could Jesus turn water to wine? Not if He was bound by absolute physical laws. Can God tell a lie? Not if He is bound by Absolute Truth. If we are to believe that God has choices, that His free will is the template for our own, there can be no Absolute Truth. (Please note that "Can God tell a lie?" and "Would God tell a lie?" are two very different questions.)

Again, however, we're getting into different spheres, tangents from the real topic. Maybe it's inevitable that Absolute Truth and religion will circle the same star, but that's not the ride we were taking. Jim's original post in this thread centered not on Absolute Truth, immutable and unchangeable, but rather on Objective truth. Truth that can be measured and tested, even if imperfectly.

Postmodernism takes a small truth, that any measuring and testing is necessarily done by humans, and uses that to turn reality into a linguistic game that can NEVER be won. Recognizing the infallibilities of our perceptions and language is, I'll admit, a good thing. Scientists have been doing that for over eighty years, and have even used that recognition as a springboard for new discoveries. They've learned that what we can't see or describe can nonetheless still exist and, more importantly, can affect things that we CAN see and describe. Not coincidentally, each new discovery extends our language (if sometimes only mathematically), bringing us to a slightly better description of truth. That seems a little more useful, to me, than throwing up our hands in defeat because those truths might someday change.

Objective and Subjective are probably not single points on a line, but rather describe a continuum. Just because I might never reach the far end of Objective doesn't mean I'm ready to crawl into bed with the Postmodernists on the other end. To me, that makes little sense and offers even less value.

Stephen said:
quote:
Math is a bit "cold" and mechanical in ways and so is not the best metaphor…


That's a bit like telling a poet that meter is cold and mechanical, Stephen. Constraints don't necessarily limit creativity. Like poetry, there is a passion to mathematics that can only be experienced and never fully described.

p.s. The article by Dean Geuras was a useful resource for my earlier post about Rorty, and although I do not agree with several of the author's points about Rorty, I  enthusiastically agree with his closing warning against turning Christian solidarity into just another version of Postmodernism.
Stephanos
Deputy Moderator 1 Tour
Member Elite
since 07-31-2000
Posts 3496
Statesboro, GA, USA


44 posted 09-02-2002 10:08 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Ron,

Sorry about that.  When I said that math was cold and mechanical in ways I was only trying to draw the distinction (albeit clumsily- there's the weakness of language again... or at least my language) between the life of God and physical/ mathematical laws as relating to absolute truth.  As you pointed out earlier, I was speaking on a different topic than you. It might correspond this way in life... the difference between a good natured mechanic and the science of engine technology itself.  Is God mathematical?  Obviously.  But Mathematics is not God.  It doesn't exhaustively express what is in God's mind, or he wouldn't have made poets as well.  A new testament writer who came forth in a scientifically inferior age whom we may do well to suspect knew much more of God than we ourselves wrote that "God is love".  Could it ever be said that "Math is love"?  That was the only distinction I was drawing.  Even the moral laws (which according to scripture are the most apt reflection of God's mind...ie righteousness) apart from the heart of God become a "dead letter" according to new testament writers, And I agree.  Both mathematics and the moral law were supposed to lead us to a greater discovery.


Anyway,  my apologies for insulting an obvious passion of yours.  I understand passions and how wonderful they are.  Mathematics (though I am fairly ignorant- never having gone past college algebra) is after all like everything else (Music is a great passion to me for example) in demonstrating the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  Because I am sure you would agree that the principles of mathematics were also layed for us to discover and express in language.  No one created "one plus one equals two".  In other words it was not arbitrary on our part.


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-02-2002 10:13 AM).]

Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


45 posted 09-02-2002 11:05 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Well, it doesn't look like I'm going to get very far around here until I can at least get you to question the idea that language is representational. That is, I have to ask you to at least give me the possibility that it's not.  

Is a scream of pain a representation of that pain or a reaction to pain?

Where do we start? Let's start at the sensory perceptions of an amoeba. It's really very sophisticated but does it make sense to anyone that the amoeba's sensory equipment are representational in nature? Does it make sense that somewhere in there, an amoeba represents the outside world in order to react to it? Isn't it better and easier to see the sensory equipment in an amoeba as a reactive tool to the outside world than it is to see it as somehow representational?

What about plants? Do they have some sort of representation in there somewhere? How about Starfish? Do we really see insects as having a picture in that little head that helps them decide which chemical signature they are supposed to follow or do we think that they are genetically predisposed to follow a specific genetic signature because that's the way they are built?

When we laugh at a joke, are we reacting to the joke, or are we representing our reaction to the joke

Now, of course, we can imagine a representational quality in any of these species, Disney does it all the time, I've written poems doing it, but does anybody here really believe it?

Well, I've been surprised before but I'll make a safe bet that most people don't really see this, in fact I'll make another bet and say that no one has ever thought that we should look at these entities in that way. Why not? Because we can predict the actions of these entities, more or less, without a representative quality assigned to them. It gets more difficult, however, when we move into the more complex animals, especially mammals and primates. One, they look more like us, they have eyes, that window to the soul, and so it makes sense to give them more of the qualities that we already believe we have.

But do they have this representational ability? It certainly can't be linguistic representation (well, elephants and primates seem to have a kind of language, but it's far from clear if it's representational, it's simply one way of facillitating coordination. Do primates and elephants engage in philosophical conversations on the nature or Truth? Does a lion need an ontology to kill an antelope?). Reacting to the world (amoeba), coordinating action (ants), and complicated social formations (chimpanzees) are all present in the Natural world as we see it.

When we ask, "Can we see those pictures?", are we asking for permission to see those pictures or representing asking for permission

But when did we acquire this representational ability? For a Christian, this is easy to answer, God gave it to us. For someone who believes that we are a species in an evolutionary chain it's a little harder to see where it comes from. Of course, you can still believe in God and evolution but I'll put these people in the evolutionary group for the moment. For someone who believes that our senses and languages are the products of an evolutionary process, it's hard to see what representationalism really gives us over and above an incredibly sophisticated and complicated reaction and coordination system.  

Why is this ability inside us?

It's easy to understand why many believe we have it. Descartes came up with the metaphor (but the actual idea of an Apparent World and a True Reality has been around a lot longer) and it's trickled down to us as truth. It still give us reason to believe in a soul, noumena, a true self somewhere deep down inside, a non-linguistic self, a pure self. It allows us to move beyond language to the outside world and to the inside self where we should all be really looking because that's where truth is.

If you believe it, if you believe it to be true (they mean the same thing), it can make no sense to argue against it because every argument you give to prove representationalism already presupposes representationalism:

I have a concept that stands in for tree, when I see a tree, it fits my representation of a tree, therefore, my concept is representational.

or

I have a string of noises, I need something to represent my concept (as yet unthought, only felt), I'll use this string of noises to represent my non-linguistic concept.  

However, if you follow the evolutionary explanation above, there's no reason to believe that these explanations are the only way to explain what it is that we are doing.  

So, how do we rewrite the above examples so that the tree concept and the non-linguistic concept make sense without representation?

The concept tree categorizes our perceptions of a tree in order to better react to the world. It's not an imperfect representation of one tree or of some perfect tree out there, it is a generalizaton of a distinction. An amoeba also makes distinctions. It wouldn't exist for very long if it didn't.

and

There are no non-linguistic concepts. There are non-linguistic dispositions, feelings, and habits of action among other things. We don't need a language to feel hunger or pain or desire, we need a language to conceptualize these things. But again the relationship between hunger and the concept hunger is not representational but purposive.

When you hear a child say, "I'm hungry," do you see it as representation of his hunger or a way of trying to get something to eat?

Now the obvious objection to this is to say, "No, Brad, it is both a generalization/categorization and a representation, it is both a representation and purposive."

And you know what, I'll give you that. As long as I can get that language, any noise that has significance for us, does not have as it's primary function representation, but a use value. If I can get a reactive or causal function as well, and that most of the time we should consider that as the primary function of language, I'm half way there.

Is there such a thing as a purely representational sentence?    

I'm hungry.

[This message has been edited by Brad (09-02-2002 11:12 AM).]

Stephanos
Deputy Moderator 1 Tour
Member Elite
since 07-31-2000
Posts 3496
Statesboro, GA, USA


46 posted 09-02-2002 11:36 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad

you wrote: "When we ask, "Can we see those pictures?", are we asking for permission to see those pictures or representing asking for permission"?


The representation comes in only as necessary for communicative purposes.  Yes, of course we are asking permission, but that is impossible without representation for the one who is asked.  There is a real desire, a real picture, and a real person to ask, with or without language.  A person may desire to see a picture who doesn't know language.  


As to your request for an example of a purely representational sentence... I'm not sure there is one.  But what does that show except that representation is always useful to the fulfilling of some desire, or want, or function?  So representation is useful. . .  I never said it wasn't.  And aren't we all glad it is?  But neither can you remove the concept of accurate representation from usefulness.  I would reverse the question, are there any purely utilitarian sentences?  It seems the burden of proof would be on the one who says "language is not representational".  As I see no real reason to doubt that it is.  Our experiences suggest otherwise.  And to be honest,  I really function quite well despite someone's philosophical belief that language is not representational ... in that sense I am much a pragmatist too.  (smile)


My assertion is that a sentence is useful  primarily because it is a true (though not exhaustive) representation of reality.  I have no problem with these two coexisting.  But I think you give no adequate reason as to why we should doubt that language is representational.  You yourself even seem to be able to admit it's coexistence with usefulness.  It's almost like a "which came first the chicken or the egg" dilemma.  Are sentences true because they are useful?  Or are they useful because they are true?  I say the latter is more correct.


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-02-2002 11:46 AM).]

Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


47 posted 09-02-2002 02:04 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

I think of language as another body of the soul, we must feed it,  excerise it, and build its thews  to a wit and strength that can serve well, and meetly exteriorize the soul.  There is lot of ache and clumsiness as well in this body too, but I think these overall nurture toward a more graceful expression and cooardination to truth.  Just my thought.

[This message has been edited by Essorant (09-02-2002 09:31 PM).]

Ron
Administrator
Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US


48 posted 09-02-2002 04:20 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Sitting beside my desk is a fairly nondescript claw hammer, the kind found in any carpenter's toolbox. It is made out of steel and wood. It's function is to remind my computer to not get me too angry. Works most of the time, too.

Language has a function, much as does my hammer, and yes, that function is often manipulative. We use language, and especially sentences, to help us change our environment. But just as my hammer is composed of steel and wood, sentences are made up of words. And words ALWAYS represent something, else we consider them nonsensical. In fact, words are rarely manipulative except when used in or as sentences, in crossword puzzles, or to get a triple word score in Scrabble.

Can we describe language as manipulative? Sure, in the same sense we can describe a chair as something used for sitting. Representation by function is useful. But, at best, it's an approximation and reveals little of the essence of a chair. In particular, it gives us no ideas for OTHER potential uses of a chair. Tell me the chair is made of oak and I may forego sitting in order to stay warm this winter. Tell me that words represent reality and I just might use them to help me understand the world I can't readily touch or see.

(You'll notice, I'm sure, that I've avoided the word reactionary. This is one of the toys that Rorty loves so much, because it can so easily be abused and, in so doing, made useless. Everything we do or say or think is arguably reactionary.)

Brad, if it helps, I'll readily grant that the purpose of language is survival. I'll even refrain from arguing that said purpose is thwarted without an accurate representational model at the foundation. I'll even go you one better, perhaps saving you an unnecessary post, and grant that our use of language (or misuse) often effects our perception of reality, and our perceptions effect our reactions, and our reactions can then change our reality. "I think, therefore I am," all too easily becomes "I think I am, therefore I am what I think."

None of that changes my basic contention. Language, both its representational essence and its manipulative function, is an internal construct of man. Remove language from the universe, expunge man from existence, and the stars will continue to shine. Truth is out there, waiting to be discovered, not in here, waiting to be invented.
Essorant
Member Elite
since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


49 posted 09-02-2002 08:19 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Isn't there truth within as well that exterorizes, not just truth without that internalizes?

[This message has been edited by Essorant (09-02-2002 09:24 PM).]

jbouder will be notified of replies
 Post A Reply Post New Topic   Go to the Next Oldest/Previous Topic Return to Topic Page Go to the Next Newest Topic 
All times are ET (US) Top
  User Options
>> Discussion >> Philosophy 101 >> What is truth?   [ Page: 1  2  3  ] Format for Better Printing EMail to a Friend Not Available
Print Send ECard

 

pipTalk Home Page | Main Poetry Forums

How to Join | Member's Area / Help | Private Library | Search | Contact Us | Today's Topics | Login
Discussion | Tech Talk | Archives | Sanctuary



© Passions in Poetry and netpoets.com 1998-2013
All Poetry and Prose is copyrighted by the individual authors