What is Truth?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by James R, Sep 11, 2022.

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  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Very true.

    In the Middle Ages, many religious leaders argued that the practice of medicine opposed natural law, since nature was an expression of God making decisions about people's lives. Liberals changed that.
    During the 1800's, Southerners argued that whites enslaving blacks was the natural order of things, since blacks were mentally inferior and needed guidance and direction. Liberals changed that.
    In the early 1900's, many men argued that women should not vote, since they were naturally disinclined to rationality and forward thinking. Liberals changed that.
    In the 1940's, Germans believed that the Aryan race were genetically superior to the Jews, and sought to eliminate them to improve the human race. Liberals changed that.
    In the 1990's, many conservatives argued that homosexuals could not marry, since that was a violation of natural law. (After all, they could not reproduce!) Liberals changed that.

    That happened long before modern times - google the Hawaiian concept of "mahu", the Incan shamans that worshiped "chuqui chinchay" and the third gender of the Madagascar Sakalavas. So that's really nothing new. But yes, it's getting renewed attention now.
     
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  3. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    The closest thing to truth is enlightenment
     
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Your thoughts on social constructivism are interesting. You might be onto something with the city/rural and political left/right ideas.

    In respect of politics, I think that politics at either extreme end of the spectrum doesn't connect very well with reality of any kind - natural or social. Radical politics tends to happen in bubbles whose members develop their own group-think, believing that it is the mainstream who is out of step. Which isn't to say that the radicals are always wrong...
    I think I'd fit into the group that philosophers of science like to call "instrumentalists". Perhaps you do, too. That is, I think that scientific theories are models of reality - that theories are made, not discovered. It's a stance that is nicely compatible with skepticism.
     
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I would suggest that that's a rather simplistic understanding of what instrumentalism is. Sure, scientific theories are models of reality according to instrumentalists, but then scientific realism would pretty much assert the same, at least up to the point you get your ideal theory, which matches reality. And instrumentalism is rather more a case of not being realism.

    I would hazard that your own philosophy would be somewhere amidst the instrumenatlist, scientific realist, rationalist, and likely other areas, but my point is that your description above is not one on which I'd recommend hanging your coat as the defining character of your "group".
     
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    You will deride anything I post as simplistic, Sarkus. You ought to stop waving your penis around and try to grow up a little.
     
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    No derision, I assure you. If I see anyone taking what I see a simplistic understanding of something and making conclusions that don't really hold when you look at the finer detail, is it not the grown-up thing to try to correct them? Or do you consider anyone who corrects you to be "waving their penis around"? Perhaps there's a better turn of phrase to use than "simplistic" that wouldn't offend your sensibilities? But there is no derision in what I have posted. You are simply being blinkered by your obvious personal issues with me.

    Look, if you don't want to respond, the grown-up thing to do would be to, you know, not respond. Instead you're still stuck in the same playground you complain others are in, always looking for that final word, that final put-down. And if you can do so while avoiding what they've actually said, all the better, right?

    Meh, whatever.
     
  10. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    After lurking on another forum earlier, I've been noticing that there are members there who post nonsense for the most part, and they are applauded. This could be because they're entertaining, but they're often times, giving advice to others about various topics. I think many people lose sight of truth, because they want to jump on the bandwagon of the ''popular'' person, or group. They don't want to be left out. Herd mentality can sometimes lead people to agreeing with falsehoods, so it can be challenging at times, to know what truth is and what it isn't, when it comes to popular opinion.
     
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    We see all too many examples of this in the world today.

    Many people, for example, cannot believe that anyone could think the Earth is flat, since it provably is not. But for such people, the facts aren't the issue. What is important to them is the sense of belonging they get by hanging out with a group of like-minded individuals who (in their minds) band together to defend themselves against an evil and uncaring world full of "round-earthists."
     
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  12. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, it’s more about liking the opinion spouter, without digging deeper to understand the opinion. The dopamine hit one gets off retweeting a popular opinion despite its lack of truth, is just too much to resist for many. That’s also part of the problem - the quest to gain followers and popularity with falsehoods, over fearing standing alone with the truth.
     
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  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    You're still waving it around, Sarkus. Please consider putting it back in your pants.
     
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Please stop being vulgar. And please grow up. You don't want to address the point made, that's your prerogative. You don't want to accept that what I posted was done in good faith, sure, whatever makes you feel better. But please just stop with your childish behaviour. It is unbecoming, especially of a moderator. At least act like a grown-up, JamesR, even if you're not.
     
  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    As an idle side note, I don't recall ever even hearing the expression "there are a lot of swinging dix around here" until cable television shows began using such to refer to when higher echelon brass, or members of an upper-level agency, start milling around the scene of a crime, a departmental gathering, and other situations.

    Which is curious[1], given that the real origin apparently goes back to military and prison slang of the 1950s. I've worked at a couple of places in the past where one would expect that to at least have been whispered in the background occasionally when a clique of Armani suits walked in to see how things were going at our figurative "ground zero".

    - - - footnote ---

    [1] Or not. HBO, FX, and the rest will milk an obscure, shiny bauble to death if/when they chance upon it. Creating the erroneous impression that it's been rife in mainstream society for ages.

    - - -
     
  16. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I first heard it in the movie Melvin and Howard (1980). If I remember correctly, it referred to Melvin (?) trying to impress a woman.
     
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  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    I asked you first. But here you are, still at it.
    I once again invite you to take the initiative on that. After all, you started this.
    Clearly, you haven't thought that through.
     
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    You falsely accused me of deriding you, JamesR. You failed to address what I wrote but instead attacked me. You included vulgarity in you replies. It is you acting the child. Even now. You clearly have a personal issue with me that you're letting cloud your responses. You can't see that you started this, that you're acting liking a whiney spoilt brat. You're the moderator here, apparently, so please grow up and act like it. If it needs me to continue to point out your childishness until such time as you're able, so be it.
    So, please, stop with the tantrum, stop with the pathetic responses, and either deal with what was actually posted in good faith, or, kindly, stop posting.
     
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Sarkus:

    FFS, do you really need three or four separate threads in which to air your personal grievances? If you could at least stick to one it would reduce the background noise level.

    As it happens, this thread is where you started going off the rails. This might be a good time for you to re-read this thread from the start. Think about where things went wrong and why.

    I did not falsely accuse you of deriding me; I accurately accused you of deriding me. You ought to stop it. You ought to start trying to act like you're better, instead of just believing that you're better. When there's this big a gap between what you preach and how you act, it makes you a hypocrite.
     
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I'll raise grievances wherever it is merited, against you or anyone else. But there is nothing personal about it, whatever you may think. Where someone accuses me of bigotry, I'll address that in the relevant thread. Where they refuse to apologise, then I'll raise that, as I did in this thread. Where I perceive bullying, I'll raise that in whatever thread that occurs. Where someone accuses me of derision, I'll respond to that. If they're in different threads, so be it. There's nothing personal about it, other than it being you who seems to be the perpetrator each time.
    They started going wrong because of you falsely accusing me of bigotry and then claiming to apologise by starting with "I did not call you a bigot." But that is water under the bridge now. Before that there was some disagreement as to the purpose and nature of the questions you asked, but all that was pertinent to the thread title. So, yeah, I know where things started going wrong, thanks. And why. How about you?
    Ironic you saying that in this thread about "What is truth?". You thinking it was derision does not make it so. I apologise if you felt mocked or ridiculed by my calling your explanation of instrumentalism simplistic. But it is/was. How would you prefer I should make the point, or perhaps you think I should have simply ignored that you were misrepresenting the philosophy for anyone that might subsequently read the post?
    There was no derision in the post you accused there of being. There has been nothing since other than simply responding to your posts and trying to get you to behave like an adult. Start acting like one and let's see what happens, eh?
     
  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I expect that JamesR knows that and just wasn't being careful.

    Yes, instrumentalism is typically an alternative to scientific realism. Sarkus and JamesR already know what I'm about to say, but it might be helpful for some of the others.

    Examples of instrumentalism might be Ernst Mach's 19th century rejection of the reality of atoms, and some physicists' attitudes towards quantum mechanics in the 20th century (and today). Quantum physicists often seem to be instrumentalists when you poke them with a stick.

    Physical theories often refer to things that aren't observable. Atoms for Mach, quarks today perhaps. Realists believe that the unobservables that their theories talk about really exist, even if we can't observe something like a free quark. Hence they are realists about these kind of purported entities.

    Instrumentalists accept the reality of observables, but express doubts about the reality of unobservables. To the instrumentalists, the unobservables are invented (constructed) entities introduced to play a role in the theory, devices to aid in calculation and conceptualization such that predictions of observables come out correctly. Part of their argument for their instrumentalism is that multiple inconsistent conceptualizations of what is happening on the unobservable level might each result in correct predictions of observables.

    Today we see Schroedinger's wave equation and Heisenberg's matrix mechanics both producing correct predictions of observables. But attempts to imagine what kind of physical realities on the microscale actually correspond to Schroedingers equation or Heisenberg's matrices have proven very difficult. So many physicists seem to consign the question of what really exists on the smallest scale to "the philosophers" (which some physicists view with contempt) and adopt a strongly instrumentalist "shut up and calculate" stance. They feel that they are succeeding in their physics as long as they can accurately predict the observables, despite not being able to say what's actually happening down there at the microscale to make the observables come out as they do.

    Some of them take a more "positivistic" line and insist that asking the question of what's actually happening down there is meaningless (and "ignorant" somehow, since only those stupid philosophers are worried about that).

    Others argue that what we know about what really exists on the level of unobservables is the mathematics that physicists use to calculate the observables. In the philosophy of science this increasingly popular view is called "structural realism". It's plausible because whatever exists or is happening down on the microscale must somehow embody the abstract structures that allow the physicists' mathematical prediction of observables to come out right. The idea is that the mathematics is presumably modeling something, that the mathematics must have some isomorphism with some aspect of what is really happening down there such that it produces the predictive successes that it does.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/structural-realism
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2022
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  22. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    "Brief" detour here into why Mach believed as he did (likewise only for those unfamiliar with it) and the putative connection of empiricists to the rival anti-realism of today.

    Mach's version of positivism slash phenomenalism[1] probably got the denial of atoms from his later hero David Hume, who he (and just about everyone else) misconstrued as closing the door to the micro scale. Treating it as metaphysical territory that science could not address.

    David Hume: My intention never was to penetrate into the nature of bodies, or explain the secret causes of their operations. For besides that this belongs not to my present purpose, I am afraid, that such an enterprise is beyond the reach of human understanding, and that we can never pretend to know body otherwise than by those external properties, which discover themselves to the senses. As to those who attempt any thing farther, I cannot approve of their ambition, till I see, in some one instance at least, that they have met with success. But at present I content myself with knowing perfectly the manner in which objects affect my senses, and their connections with each other, as far as experience informs me of them. This suffices for the conduct of life; and this also suffices for my philosophy, which pretends only to explain the nature and causes of our perceptions, or impressions and ideas. --An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

    Of course, even in that paragraph Hume didn't absolutely close the door.

    Nor did Kant in "Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics", which was Mach's first inspirational read prior to Hume's work. Kant plainly stated that science would continue to make unlimited progress in its investigation of the phenomenal or represented world. Atoms and quantum fields belong to that empirical world (are potentially real in that context), just like cosmological items at the other end of the scale (black holes, galaxies, etc).

    Immanuel Kant: As long as the cognition of reason is homogeneous, definite bounds to it are inconceivable. In mathematics and in natural philosophy human reason admits of limits, but not of bounds, viz., that something indeed lies without it, at which it can never arrive, but not that it will at any point find completion in its internal progress. [...] Nor does that science require this for its physical explanations. Nay even if such grounds should be offered from other sources (for instance, the influence of immaterial beings), they must be rejected and not used in the progress of its explanations. For these explanations must only be grounded upon that which as an object of sense can belong to experience, and be brought into connexion with our actual perceptions and empirical laws.

    But Mach was seduced by the general interpretation (around even back then) that empiricists (like Hume) inherently regarded the scale of atoms and beyond as metaphysical (that such entered into Plato's non-sensible realm or Kant's later noumenal rendition). Again, that's arguably not the case:

    Silvio Seno Chibeni: What is little noticed in the literature is that many, if not most, of the leading figures the so‑called “empiricist” school of philosophy, such as Locke, Berkeley and Hume, did not see their epistemological position as necessarily ruling out this age‑old goal of science. In contrast with their classical predecessors, however, contemporary empiricists tend to assume that empiricism would automatically render impossible any defence of scientific realism.

    I have argued elsewhere that this is a mistake (CHIBENI, 1997). Empiricism should be taken as a thesis on the foundations of knowledge, whereas realism is a thesis on its limits, or extension. But the association of empiricism with anti‑realism is now so widespread in the literature in the philosophy of science that scientific anti‑realism is often called “empiricism”.

    Such misleading use of the term is common not only among the anti‑scientific realists (e.g. van Fraassen’s “constructive empiricism”), but also among the scientific realists themselves (see e.g. BOYD, 1984). This is quite surprising, for if the “empiricists” are identified, in the debate, with the anti‑realists, the scientific realists would be left in the uncomfortable position of being, perhaps, identified with the rationalists – the classical, and proper, opponents of the empiricists. But nowadays apparently nobody would feel comfortable in being classed as a “rationalist” in philosophy of science.
    --Hume On Unobservable Entities

    - - - footnote - - -

    [1] See the Edward S. Reed quotes at the bottom of this post, with respect to what the brand of "phenomenalism" is that many 19th-century scientists indulged in. Note that the following Mach quote here will also clarify Reed's misunderstanding of their fundamental "sensations" as being subjective or mind-dependent, which they were not.

    How Mach escaped solipsism is explained in his "The Analysis of Sensations".

    Like Hume, Mach believed the human mind/body was only a bundle of sensations just as any other object was. (IOW, today's "qualia" were building components that were prior in rank to an emergent mind, and not dependent attributes of the latter). After death that was it -- there was no fundamental ego to begin with, and no "things in themselves" (no physical entities or Platonic abstractions) that the appearances or manifestations of the world corresponded to. Even though sensations ("qualia") were primary in this scheme, mind/ego was not.

    Ernst Mach: For us, therefore, the world does not consist of mysterious entities, which by their interaction with another, equally mysterious entity, the ego, produce sensations, which alone are accessible. For us, colours, sounds, spaces, times, . . . are provisionally the ultimate elements, whose given connexion it is our business to investigate.

    The ego is as little absolutely permanent as are bodies. [...] Thing, body, matter, are nothing apart from the combinations of the elements, - the colours, sounds, and so forth - nothing apart from their so-called attributes.

    The primary fact is not the ego, but the elements (sensations). [...] The ego must be given up. It is partly the perception of this fact, partly the fear of it, that has given rise to the many extravagances of pessimism and optimism, and to numerous religious, ascetic, and philosophical absurdities...

    [...] Bodies do not produce sensations, but complexes of elements (complexes of sensations) make up bodies. If, to the physicist, bodies appear the real, abiding existences, whilst the " elements " are regarded merely as their evanescent, transitory appearance, the physicist forgets, in the assumption of such a view, that all bodies are but thought-symbols for complexes of elements (complexes of sensations). Here, too, the elements in question form the real, immediate, and ultimate foundation, which it is the task of physiologico-physical research to investigate. By the recognition of this fact, many points of physiology and physics assume more distinct and more economical forms, and many spurious problems are disposed of.
    --The Analysis of Sensations
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2022
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  23. Beaconator Valued Senior Member

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    Is philosophy what one does with truth in their time or just more semi coherent words expressed by someone else as inspiration?
     
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