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I'm Confused

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Posted by Mike Levine on July 31, 2003 16:09:27 UTC


We are back to truth conditions, eh? In order to die the condition of doing so is to be alive.

'Conditions' are all we can talk about. We can establish the truth of 'conditions', but not of 'causes'. 'Conditions' do not depend on observables, they are a matter of linguistic conventions. If your conventions have been set up in a particularly effective way, no observable can prove that a given phenomena may occur in the absence of 'conditions'. Not so with 'causes'.

It is a truth-like condition (I say truth-like since when referring to anything that's not a formal system, the term 'truth-like' might be considered less argumentative than 'truth').

To the best of my understanding, 'truth-like' is synonimous with 'illusion'. It's not what I'm talking about.

The truth condition itself is not a cause.

Logically speaking, there are no causes. There is no logical reason why one should die of pneumonia but not of 'breathing', 'thinking', or anything at all. But there is a very logical reason why one must be alive in order to die, because logic is embedded into the definitions of 'living' and 'dead'. The words themselves reveal the truth.

Conditions might tell us what qualifies positivism to die, but it does not tell us why it died.

And that is simply because all 'why it died' hypothesis are essentially false.

Think about it this way. If "Bob Hope died of pneumonia" were true, then it would follow that, had he not caught pneumonia, he would not die, which is a blatantly false statement. The same applies to any statement in the form "X died of [cause-effect relationship]". All those statements are false. All ordinary medical explanations for people's deaths are falsehoods, yet everyone knows a fundamental truth about death (that they are going to die because they are alive). Can you explain to me why such an absolute truth is knowable in the absence of any knowable cause-effect relationship? In other words, how is it possible for people to know with absolute certainty that they will die while remaining completely ignorant of what will cause their death?

Causal relationships of course open a whole bag of metaphysical goodies, but I think we can safely rule out truth conditions as a substitute for causal relationships.

I didn't propose that. All I'm proposing is a more rational view on explanations which allows us to explain things in a true way. A focus on language, which we are able to master, as opposed to reality, which will forever elude us.

If you have some ontic view of truth, then it can be no other way.

I don't have an 'ontic' view of truth, I'm just looking for linguistic attributes which make sentences 'true'. You seem to be grasping at straws trying to defend the notion that 'truth' is something mysterious. It isn't. Reality is mysterious, truth is just a matter of conventions. It would be very funny if we thought our conventions are mysterious; that is a sure sign of confusion, isn't it?

But, as we discussed a week ago, truth can be construed as an epistemic invention.

There are truths in ontology, epistemology, psychology, economics, paganism, you-name-it. Those are all language-games capable of expressing true statements.

I don't think humans are trying to create truth, rather we try to derive reductions of our experience which still meet the conditions of truth that we hold as truth indicators (e.g., 'truth' should match our empirical results, etc), and with that reduction to be able to apply our selected truth conditions to areas of human study previously outside our previous abilities.

That's far beyond my ability to understand and debate. A three year-old child need know nothing about "reductionism", "empirical results", but if he doesn't know what truth is he can't even ask his mom for candy.

I see it as our reductions improve. As we 'test' our ideas in the 'field', we understand ways to eliminate those ideas which were 'unsuccessful' at explaining the phenomena that was tested against, and come upon new concepts that lead to better reductions to previous (shortterm) successful concepts. Aristotlean concepts, for example, were very successful for a millenia, until they came into contact with certain discrepancies that occurred in natural science (e.g., the discovery of mountains and craters on the moon by Galileo showed that the moon was not perfect for a heavenly object, but was imperfect like the Earth). This led to a more refined (reduced?) view of the solar system that these heavenly bodies were really bodies on equal pairing with the Earth, and which began the unravelling of Aristotlean philosophy in general (clearing the path for Cartesian doubt and the classical physics natural philosophy of Isaac Newton, etc).

Why do I have the feeling you think "truth" is the exclusive domain of the philosopher? Do you think Karl Popper knew more about truth than a hot-dog vendor? If you do, then we need to talk!

Regards, ML

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