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If You Don't Know What Truth Is, You're In Trouble!

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Posted by Aurino Souza on April 22, 2002 13:44:23 UTC

Hi Dick,

Truth is just another word just like all the other words. If we are going to communicate, then we have to agree as to what we mean when we use the word.

I hold two conflicting views on this. First, I think "we have to agree" is simply impossible to achieve. No matter how much communication goes on between two people, it's simply impossible to know if a word that is supposedly "agreed upon" will not raise eyebrows in the future. I'd say that instead of agreement, we can only hope to achieve the illusion of agreement. Even that is hard enough.

But that is one view. From another perspective, the issue above is not absolute, that is, not all words are the same. Some words are quite obvious and, from my experience, almost impossible to misunderstand. For instance, the word 'no'. It's the first word most people learn in their lives, even before "mommy". Now here's a puzzle for you: how is it that kids can learn the meaning of one word without knowing the meaning of any other word? That's hard to explain from your perspective, isn't it?

Sometimes my daughter complains that I yell too often at her. I said I have no choice, because if I speak in a regular tone she won't do what I tell. But now it just occurred to me that a more general answer would be that if I don't yell, she won't understand me. Whatever the case, it's obvious that the tone of my voice conveys some information which is not possible to convey by words alone. Or, from your perspective, cannot be expressed in numbers. Now deal with that! What is the difference between "no" and "NO!"?

Now, essentially what you are saying when you say that is that I need to map a larger portion of your expressions or comments into my concepts before I can establish the required isomorphism needed to use the word "truth".

No, I'm just saying you are missing the point by blurring up the issue!

That is, the concept you are trying to communicate with that word is more complex than the concept I am attaching it to.

I honestly don't think so.

Now I know it sounds like I am trying to give you a hard time but I am not.

Actually, it sounds like you are trying to give yourself a hard time.

I just want to clarify exactly what I mean by the word truth (if that is actually possible).

The meaning of the word "truth" is as clear as the meaning of the word "no". In my mind anyway. You can't possibly question the meaning of every single word, either you take it for granted that some things are beyond reasonable doubt or you might as well pack your stuff and live in the mountains away from everyone else, Ted Kaczynski-style.

Ted, by the way, was an extremely intelligent person.

The first issue is that "truth" is a word which categorizes some information (I think we probably agree on that). If that is the case, then, in order to know what "truth" means, we need to know exactly the algorithm which is to be used to determine whether a particular piece of information gets the label or not.

I think what you're missing here is that if you don't know what "truth" is, then you can't possibly know anything else. What you are saying sounds just like Harv questioning the truth of the axioms of logic. As far as I'm concerned, if I'm not right about those elementary things then I shouldn't bother thinking at all.

Now, I know something true by definition can be true because that is no more than a decision to maintain a specific tag on a particular concept and the algorithm is "we agreed to do it". However, you ask, "but is that all?" Your answer is that you donít think so. Well, Aurino, neither do I. I can add another algorithm which is capable of categorizing a truth, it is something I can remember.

Now here we disagree. Our memories are not reliable at all. The truth of our memories must be verified against things we know for sure to be true. My point is that there are things we know for sure to be true, and they are not physics. For instance, I know for sure that I'm sitting on a computer writing this message. Tomorrow I may not know it for sure anymore, ten years from now I will have completely forgotten it. Yet, ten years from now I'll still have truths upon which to judge the likelihood of specific memories being true or false.

The trouble with your analysis, when it concerns these particular kinds of discussion, is that your picture of reality doesn't support the concept of the present moment. The present is part of your original dilemma and is therefore left aside, or so it seems to me. I must add that my major complaint with relativity is exactly the same issue, which leads Harv and many others to think that the passage of time is an illusion - you don't really appear to be as far from Einstein as you claim you are.

I maintain that the present is the only reality that exists. It's my answer to the "is that all" question. Look around you, truth is everywhere. But pay attention, because it keeps changing.

I have to stop here. Don't take any of this seriously.



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