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Passions in Poetry

Truth and Reality

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Stephanos
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25 posted 08-08-2004 03:54 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
And the reason we know that we know this is precisely because we agree on a point, "green frog" that's outside (distal object) and maintain two views from different points in the world.
Triangulation.


So if a tree falls in the forest and only ONE person is there to hear it, we should still doubt whether it made a sound?


When others or their perceptions (by which you are saying we verify reality) are also filtered exclusively through our senses, how is a group "knowledge" any less suspect than that of an individual?


quote:
The Myth of the Given is the belief that the world is simply there and it's the job of the mind or consiousness to describe it as exactly as possible. Where do you begin doing that if you aren't there (this is the trivial part -- and it's easy to think about horses and rocks and things by using counter-factuals, "If I were there, I would see. . .), and where do you begin if you have no point from which to start?
No mind, no starting point.
No starting point, no description.
No desciption, no truth.



But it's always been our tacit assumption that what we experience through our senses is a representation of the real.  When we have to commit epistemological suicide just to establish that there's no way of knowing for sure, we've made a serious mistake I think.  


And who ever said that there is no mind over and above real "reality"?  In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.  This describles a real reality independent of human knowledge.

Stephen
Brad
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26 posted 08-08-2004 09:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
But it's always been our tacit assumption that what we experience through our senses is a representation of the real.


No, the tacit assumption is that when you see a frog, you see a frog, not a representation of that frog.  
Ron
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27 posted 08-09-2004 01:32 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

So you guys contend that the very definition of both truth and sound depend upon human perception? In the absence of human presence, the frog simply ceases to exist?
Local Rebel
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28 posted 08-09-2004 06:44 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Nope.  The frog will be what IT is (until it is not).

'Frog' exists independently from 'it'.

If (objective) Reality ceases to exist then Truth goes with it (since we're a part of objective reality).  Not the other way around.  But if we go -- Truth ('Frog') goes too.  Whatever else that is left still exists.  If that includes a sentient species that can perceive and conceive -- then Truth is there.  
Ron
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29 posted 08-09-2004 01:19 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

So, truth only exists in the presence of sentience? Isn't that unnecessarily limiting?

If a jet hits mach 2 thirty feet over my house and no one is around to hear the sonic boom, will that save me from buying all new windows?

Do all non-concrete language constructs, such as pride and peace and beauty, disappear with truth and sound? WHY? What does this buy us?

(Are there no declarative sentences in this whole darn post? )
Brad
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30 posted 08-09-2004 09:26 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

If a statement is true, it is absolutely true (given the conditions of a linguascape to use LR's nifty term) so I don't understand the question.  Of course, the frog would exist even if you weren't there. Why bring it up?

Again, you can't apply true to things other than propositions:

"The volcano is true" makes no sense.

"That the volcano exists is true" does.
Stephanos
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31 posted 08-09-2004 10:35 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"The volcano is real" makes sense.


Stephen.
Brad
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32 posted 08-09-2004 11:53 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sure it does. It can also be true, it can also be false.

Real and true aren't synonyms.
Stephanos
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33 posted 08-10-2004 12:07 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
No, the tacit assumption is that when you see a frog, you see a frog, not a representation of that frog.



And yet, when our senses fail us, we seldom have thought the reality affected.  Blurry eyes don't mean blurry frogs.  A distinction between our sensory data and the real object is a natural one to make.


Stephen  
Ron
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34 posted 08-10-2004 01:32 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Again, why so limiting?

The dictionary entry for truth seems to be a bit more flexible. Einstein's equations were true thousands of years before man surfaced in this universe, and they will still be true long after man has ceased to ponder semantic gymnastics.
Brad
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35 posted 08-10-2004 10:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Limiting?

Liberating is the better word. By putting agency in the definition of truth it is both more accurate and more honest than pretending that either we can see the world as if we don't exist or that even if we do exist, we are somehow cut off.

We live in the world. Deal with it.


[This message has been edited by Brad (08-10-2004 10:55 PM).]

Local Rebel
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36 posted 08-10-2004 10:52 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

1.Conformity to fact or actuality.
2.A statement proven to be or accepted as true.
3.Sincerity; integrity.
4.Fidelity to an original or standard.

5 a.Reality; actuality.
   b.often Truth That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and                                                          
   value of existence.



All of these are completely consistent with our declarative statements Ron  

Truth is a metric like any other -- be it a dimensional metric like inches or millimeters, or any other.  It is a constituent of our langscape that attempts to describe the universe... but moreover attempts to assign a qualitative value to our other metrics.  It is a metric of our metrics.

All five of the above definitions show Truth to be a measurement.

In Erica's juxtaposition of belief (that which one holds to be the truth) between objective reality and God  we're simply showing that switching yardsticks doesn't change reality -- it merely changes how we perceive reality.

The existence of God is not in jeopardy as a matter of our reasoning.

Is is IS.

quote:

LANGSCAPE: A neologism coined by Gaile McGregor to indicate the way conceptions of the world (formulated within language) actually alter perceptions of the world (expressed in the landscape). The notion is developed at length in her book Wacousta Syndrome: Explorations in the Canadian Langscape.


http://www.ouc.bc.ca/fina/glossary/l_list.html
Ron
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37 posted 08-11-2004 06:00 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
By putting agency in the definition of truth it is both more accurate and more honest than pretending that either we can see the world as if we don't exist or that even if we do exist, we are somehow cut off.

I disagree, Brad. By putting agency into the definition of a word, we limit our use of the word to only perspectives that include agency. We NEED to be able to pretend we can see the world as if we don't exist. We need to be able to talk about that perspective, too, and we can't do that if we let you redefine our language. Acknowledgement of our boundaries is fine, but shouldn't be purposely hard-wired into our tools.

quote:
Truth is a metric like any other -- be it a dimensional metric like inches or millimeters …

Truth is indeed a metric, Reb, but not like any other. We define inches and millimeters, and can redefine them should something better present itself. We don't define truth, however, so much as we refine it. We don't invent truth, so much as we discover better and more useful approximations of truth.

Yes, conceptions of the world alter perceptions of the world, but that is a prison we should be trying to escape, not a lover we should be seeking to embrace.
Stephanos
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38 posted 08-11-2004 10:29 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
We live in the world. Deal with it.


Contrast "We live in the world" with "We are the world".


It seems to me that your above statement presupposes an objective world in which we may live.  Or to put it another way, if we live in it, it must be possible not to live in it.  But how is "it" so dependent upon us?


Stephen
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39 posted 08-11-2004 02:52 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Truth is to true
As strength is to strong
As width is to wide
And length is to long

Local Rebel
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40 posted 08-11-2004 08:01 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

My suspicion is that we couldn't squeeze a cigarette paper between our positions on this.  But since it's  civil, entertaining, and approaching the boundaries of a learn/learn thread instead of a win/lose -- let's go ahead and split frog hairs.

If you look at the paragraph I wrote (instead of parsing the first sentence of it);

quote:

Truth is a metric like any other -- be it a dimensional metric like inches or millimeters, or any other. It is a constituent of our langscape that attempts to describe the universe... but moreover attempts to assign a qualitative value to our other metrics. It is a metric of our metrics.



you see that I draw the distinction that truth is like other metrics because it, like others, attempts to describe the universe.  It is different because it becomes the measurement of our other metrics.  So we do agree that it is unlike the others.

The board is six feet long.

A tape measure, produced in accordance with the standard of inches and feet maintained at the ANSI lab, will confirm whether or not that statement is true.  Truth, in this case, is a measurement of an arbitrary unit of lineal measure.

If the board was placed on a coordinate-measuring machine we could, within a few thousandths of an inch, determine HOW true the statement is.  The board is 5 feet 11.9505 inches.  Close enough to true, or not?  It would depend upon the application.

quote:

We don't define truth, however, so much as we refine it. We don't invent truth, so much as we discover better and more useful approximations of truth.




This statement co-mingles the measurement with the measured.  

We don't dictate objective reality -- we attempt to describe it.  Truth represents the body of knowledge we've gained through the observation of objective reality.  So, it is certainly my belief also that we discover what is true -- but that is a judgment we make.

Jesus can tell a parable that has no basis in fact -- but it can tell us the truth nevertheless.  There need not have been an actual man who fell into the hands of robbers, or an actual Samaritan to help him for us to see the 'truth' that racial and religious bigotry are wrong, or for his contemporaries to see that he was slapping the Temple Priests in the face for all their ceremonial cleanliness and elevated walkways that kept them away from the people.

Truth is not a measure of the facticity of the story, but whether or not it is true that the Temple Priests don't have their heads or hearts in the right place.  The preists would have made a different judgement.

quote:

. We NEED to be able to pretend we can see the world as if we don't exist. We need to be able to talk about that perspective, too, and we can't do that if we let you redefine our language. Acknowledgement of our boundaries is fine, but shouldn't be purposely hard-wired into our tools.



Here again -- it's hard to tell the difference in what's being said.  If we're going to look at the universe without bias we have to have the perspicacity to recognize that we have one while we're ignoring it.  We don't like to concede that ours is merely 'a' langscape instead of 'truth'.
The hard part is attempting to think outside our langscape.  Something very few have accomplished.  

quote:

Yes, conceptions of the world alter perceptions of the world, but that is a prison we should be trying to escape, not a lover we should be seeking to embrace.



Again -- I think I agree with this statement -- at least the first two-thirds -- but since I have no inkling what the locus is for the final phrase I'll have to reserve judgement for now.

quote:

But how is "it" so dependent upon us?

--Stephanos



We're more dependent on 'it' than it is on us.  But it is an interstitial relationship.  Hence my comment 'eyes and hands'..  we perceive the universe (eyes) we effect the universe (hands).  What we think determines what we do with our hands.

Thanks Erica and guys et al for the thread.
Brad
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41 posted 08-12-2004 12:20 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephan,

I've never suggested otherwise.

Ron,

I'm not arbitrarily redefining a word, I'm trying to convey what many philosophers have said about truth. I don't know, maybe I've been a little sloppy, but in a nutshell, Davidson's deflates the notion of truth (I've quoted him before in different threads) to roughly what I've been trying to say here. Derrida, at least when he was deconstructing things -- he doesn't really do that anymore -- shows that a more ambitious use of 'truth' always falls apart under any sustained scrutiny.

But, honestly, I don't know what the cash value is of maintaining the convenient fiction you describe. It seems the same results occur if we go with honest (truthful) observation combined with triangulation.

The upside is that we get away from the dualism of mind and world. And that idea, as far as I can tell, leads to the kind of egotism you're talking about.
jbouder
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42 posted 08-13-2004 02:43 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I don’t have much difficulty accepting most of what Brad and Hawke have written.  One of Derrida’s (and other neo-Sophists’) greatest contributions to rhetoric seems to be the debunking of the notion that man can grasp and communicate absolute truth.  Davidson’s triangulation (inasmuch as I understand it, at any rate) seems to be a sensible means to verifying the relative objectivity of facts – but his approach, in essence anyway – seems to be a very old one (if, that is, the similarities I see between Davidson’s approach and Anglo-American legal reasoning are more than coincidental).

Fewer problems arise when we attempt to ascertain the truth of observable facts (like the green frog) than when we ascribe value to the green frog (i.e., the green frog is good, the green frog is bad).  Perhaps the green frog is of the a very rare, highly poisonous South American variety – to a scientist, discovering the frog may be “good.”  To the same scientist, discovering the same frog sharing his sleeping bag may be “bad.”

It would seem that absolute truth would have to be either propositional or revealed by a Being with absolute knowledge.  In either case, our understanding or application of such proposed or revealed absolute truths would (and should) be subject to rigorous tests, with the understanding that successive tests would only afford us with successive approximations of the absolute truths we seek to understand.  This doesn't necessarily mean the truth is any less absolute, only that our understanding of it will invariably fall short of being absolute.

The practical problems with this limitation is that we may find ourselves in the same boat as Oedipus – had we just had the one or two missing pieces of the puzzle that would have made our decisions “truly” informed, we might have avoided making those tragic decisions.

Interesting thread, folks.  I’ve enjoyed following it.

Jim
Brad
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43 posted 08-14-2004 05:31 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Thanks Jim.

You reminded me to bring up the distinction between absolute truth (true anywhere and everywhere regardless of situation) and absolutely true (if the situation is true, true anywhere and everywhere).

Why do I think I'm going to have to explain that better?

One of the most intriguing things, for me anyway, is that value judgements can also be assigned an objective designation. As long as we're clear about our definitions, "frogs are good" can be objective or to be a little clearer:

"The Nazi actions were evil." Now, I don't know what to do with that statement if we define evil as in league with the devil, but if we define the murder of people for the sole reason or religion or race, then it is an objective statement.

The usual argument against such things is that you can't convince a Nazi that what they did was evil. But that's because they would disagree with the definition of evil, not because the statement is objective or subjective. Or, alternatively, they might argue that that is, in fact, not what they did, but that it was Jews, gypsies, homosexual, communists that were hurting them -- and that their acts were justified.

In the former case, we have no communication. In the latter case, we have your Oedipal problem. But there is in fact no philosophical problem to accepting the idea that moral judgements can be objective.

It's just our problem.
Stephanos
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44 posted 08-18-2004 09:14 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
"The Nazi actions were evil." Now, I don't know what to do with that statement if we define evil as in league with the devil, but if we define the murder of people for the sole reason or religion or race, then it is an objective statement.



You meant "of" religion or race right?  


I wonder though, how we can define evil at all without making reference to some kind of over arching standard.  If we can't do that, then the Third Reich was guilty of no more than upholding the interests of it's own regime, and the percieved "good" that it imagined.  Atrocities can be justified as simply a pro-active and prophyllactic kind of self defense.  But where do we get the concept of "injustice" without reference to something more than human subjectivism?  Somewhere along the way, we have to look at motives and actions (preferably our own first) and ask whether they are just or unjust, evil or good.  


If we define "murder", to use your example, as bad merely because it harms the propagation of the human race, then I would ask whether the value of progeny is the a priori moral value you have finally appealed to.  It seems that in escaping one assumed traditional ethic (such as "murder is wrong"), we always end up appealing to another one anyway, (such as "you should always value life, or the survival of the human race").  

Lewis put it this way...


quote:
Since I can see no answer to these questions, I draw the following conclusions. This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) 'ideologies', all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in...



The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions nor in any appeal to instinct can the Innovator find the basis for a system of values. None of the principles he requires are to be found there: but they are all to be found somewhere else. 'All within the four seas are his brothers' (xii. 5) says Confucius of the Chün-tzu, the cuor gentil or gentleman. Humani nihil a me alienum puto says the Stoic. 'Do as you would be done by,' says Jesus. 'Humanity is to be preserved,' says Locke.4 All the practical principles behind the Innovator's case for posterity, or society, or the species, are there from time immemorial in the Tao. But they are nowhere else. Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever. You cannot reach them as conclusions: they are premisses. You may ... regard them as sentiments: but then you must give up contrasting 'real' or 'rational' value with sentimental value. All value will be sentimental; and you must confess (on pain of abandoning every value) that all sentiment is not 'merely' subjective. You may, on the other hand, regard them as rational—nay as rationality itself—as things so obviously reasonable that they neither demand nor admit proof. But then you must allow that Reason can be practical, that an ought must not be dismissed because it cannot produce some is as its credential. If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.

(C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)
  


Stephen.  
Brad
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45 posted 08-20-2004 11:59 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Well, I think there is an overarching standard, but it's birth is not outside or inside us.

It takes place as we interact.
Stephanos
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46 posted 08-23-2004 09:47 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
I think there is an overarching standard, but it's birth is not outside or inside us.
It takes place as we interact.



Then what is meant by "overarching"?  Saying that "it takes place" is purely descriptive, not prescriptive.  Differing values, and what justifies them or villifies them, can't be talked of strictly in that category.


Stephen
 
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