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Formal Systems

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Posted by Harvey on July 21, 2003 15:43:05 UTC

Well, if I understand you correctly, you are hinting at the role that formal systems play in terms of truth. The scientific methodologies aren't a pure formal system, but they are much more formal than casual discussion, and we use the methodologies of these formal enterprises to determine what is 'true'. In that sense, I agree with you that 'truth' is what comes from a consistent and fairly rich 'formal' system (having its own set of axioms, rules of inference, terminology, etc).

Which is the point I started with: you don't have to know what truth is, but you must necessarily adknowledge that it exists, for the absence of truth is the ultimate paradox: it cannot be true that nothing true can be said.

I'm not fully sure how to understand you here. My view is that 'truth' must be treated as if it exists, but whether it actually exists (at least in any form that we would recognize) is another matter. The way the world actually is (ding an sich) does not appear to allow for trivialism (i.e., all contradictions are true), but it might allow for the non-existence of truth in terms of every so-called truth is just a useful approximation. For example, the way the world actually is might not allow for 'T1':

T1: "P obtains and not P obtains for every possible proposition, even all contradictory ones"

But, it might allow for an ontological relativism such as 'T2':

T2: "P contextually obtains and not P contextually obtains for every possible proposition depending on the conceptual scheme Cx used to determine P and not P"

In other words, there might not exist one correct and final conceptual scheme Cx such that there is one final truth to the world. Change the conceptual scheme C1 to C2, and the 'facts' of P and not P change. This doesn't imply trivialism. For particular conceptual schemes (or a particular set of rules, as you said), the 'truth' is different.

I'm not a proponent of (T2), but I allow for the possibility.

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