Wrestle that Shark Episode #004 — Truth and Pragmatism[ 50:52 ]Download
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6 Responses to “Wrestle that Shark Episode #004 — Truth and Pragmatism”
So I’ve listened to your discussion of truth, and I don’t think you can come to a correct or “true” solution, because truth is essentially in the eye of the beholder.
Science is born from the same desire for humans to understand the world around them, just like religion. People want things to fit together in some way that makes sense. Science seeks to discover the Truth, but may get off-track in the human desire to make sense of the world, or to make things fit together.
For example: it is commonly believed that smoking causes cancer. Now you can argue that when you give lab rats certain chemicals, it causes cancer, and therefore those chemicals are the cause of cancer. But there are people who get cancer who’ve never smoked. How can you KNOW, without any doubt, that it’s the chemicals that did it? Maybe it was the motion of the cigarette to the mouth, maybe it was totally random. There’s really no amount of scientific testing that can 100% PROVE that smoking causes cancer. It’s just not that definite.
2 + 2 = 4 is only a perception – humans defined 2, but 2 isn’t necessarily anything, it’s a way of human categorizing information to make it fit into a perception the world. It creates a commonality, but just because most people believe it, doesn’t necessarily make it true.
Look at religion – people who are religious believe their God to be the Truth – but if you’re agnostic, or atheist, your truth may something totally different, yet you may believe it just as strongly.
You touched on the idea that someone’s history may be truth – like where you went to school – but what if this is a Matrix world and NMSU doesn’t exist? Where does that leave your truth?
I don’t think it’s possible to ever really KNOW the truth, because truth as we know it is all in the way information is perceived and categorized by individuals.
I’ll give a proper reply in the next podcast, but for now, let me use a (perhaps cheap) trick that is/was popular on usenet and now on message boards and blogs. I’ll replace some of your words in one paragraph to make my point by analogy:
For example: it is commonly believed that car accidents kill people. Now you can argue that when you hurl rats against walls, it kills them, and therefore the impact caused their death. But there are people who die who’ve never been in a car wreck. How can you KNOW, without any doubt, that it’s the impact that did it? Maybe it was the radio station they were listening to, maybe it was totally random. There’s really no amount of scientific testing that can 100% PROVE that car accidents cause death. It’s just not that definite.
Alright, you made me think about this one for a while. Maybe cause and effect wasn’t the best way to illustrate my point. Or at least, it’s not foolproof.
I guess my point was more that there’s not really many absolutes, even with loads of scientific research. Sure, smoking and cancer may be correlated, but you can get cancer without smoking, and you can smoke without getting cancer. So, smoking CAUSING cancer isn’t an indisputable truth. (And the same goes for your car crash example)
My point is really that I don’t think it’s possible to ever be 100% certain that something is what it is. Maybe you guys can think of something that is and cannot be argued against, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything. So while the search for truth may lead to scientific discovery, and may temporarily quench a thirst for knowledge, I don’t think that The Truth can ever really be known.
“My point is really that I don’t think it’s possible to ever be 100% certain that something is what it is.”
Wittgenstein claimed that the only necessity (certainty) and impossibility that is possible is logical. He also talks a lot about solipsism (my world is the only world) but he says its nonsense to talk about that we can only show it, to connect that with your part about truths being relative that is to some extent certainly feasible.
What Wittgensteins main point is though and im inclined to agree is that science can never by its nature be 100% correct, facts are contingent and you really cant predict all future facts (we cant assume the future will always be like the past). We can of course have a good stab at getting correlations.
theres some other points i think i agree with and another point i dont with tracy.
“2 + 2 = 4 is only a perception – humans defined 2, but 2 isn’t necessarily anything, it’s a way of human categorizing information to make it fit into a perception the world. It creates a commonality, but just because most people believe it, doesn’t necessarily make it true.”
However you look at it or however you explain it 2+2=4. and that is certain. mathematics can be reduced to logic, both mathematics and logic dont tell us anything new at all about the world but they are tools or reflect the nature of the world. Wittgenstein went as far as to call logic the scaffolding of the world and shows us what is possible/impossible/necessary. The great thing about logic and maths is they give us certainties but alas dont tell us anything new.
“You touched on the idea that someone’s history may be truth – like where you went to school – but what if this is a Matrix world and NMSU doesn’t exist? Where does that leave your truth?”
I like this point, i think it ties in nicely again with wittgenstein. I am pretty certain that im at my computer typing a message on the wts message board. I could however be dreaming, daydreaming, in a coma, in the matrix, under the effects of drugs, deceived by an evil demon or just being given the impression i am by god or mentally unstable. Admittedly these are pretty far fetched (not all of them though), the point is we really can never be certain of anything. Thats what makes maths and logic so special, they arent simply consensus.
Sorry to bang on about wittgenstein though, i think he has some great insights into philosophy and science and the world. (for those interested his Tractatus logico-philosophicus is fantastic)