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Truth

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h_k_s
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Truth

Post by h_k_s » November 25th, 2018, 12:34 pm

Aristotle said (paraphrasing here in English) that truth is to say what is -- that it is -- and to say what is not -- that it is not.

This is a good philosophical definition of speaking the truth.

One must however infer that truth "is" -- that it exists.

One must also infer that untruth "is not" -- that it does not exist.

This is my starting point in philosophy -- not just Aristotle but also Truth.

Does anyone else have another definition, or have you not thought about it much yet?

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Re: Truth

Post by Hereandnow » November 25th, 2018, 1:55 pm

Truth is what works, and all instances of truth are inherently instances of problems solved; that is, what it means to say X is true, is X has the function of a problem resolved in one way or another. Of course, things get puzzling when we try to align truth, true utterances, with existence, because existence is supposed to be a term free of the conditions of knowing what exists, yet when you try to separate them, truth and existence, you cannot,and this is because, one way to put it at any rate, to affirm what you are talking about when you say 'existence' you find you are already bound to truth of the utterance, and you just can't get around this, and you want to affirm the existence, which you think you know abides regardless of whether you "say it" or not, but the affirmation is "in" language. It should soon begin to dawn on you that truth is a feature, if you will, of language, and not of "things out there" independent of the words and the rules for combining them.
You get this far, then you can ask, what is it that truth does in language, in the utterances that carry assertions of something being true of not, adn the answer is, I think, truth affirms that something in some practical context, which is essentially temporal, that is, with a past, present and future structure, works to solve a problem. All assertions are like this and all language is, is a symbol pragmatic system.

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Re: Truth

Post by h_k_s » November 25th, 2018, 9:29 pm

@hereandnow if I am reading you correctly then you and I both agree that truth and existence are somehow related to each other.

I agree with you that truth is the affirmation of some kind of existence, on the one hand, and to say something does not exist when it indeed does not exist is also truth.

I think truth is independent of language. The Sun exists whether we have a word for it or not. I think language is a mere invention of humankind, similar to time, and to math, which are all inventions of humankind but none of which truly exists except in the minds of humans.

I believe language should be simple and precise. Subject, verb, adverbs, adjectives, direct and indirect objects of the verb, prepositional phrases, gerunds, infinitives, and so forth. That is what Catholic Latin taught me. Koine and Modern Greek have affirmed it as well for me. German and English follow the same rules, give or take gender in subjects, objects, and verbs (Hebrew and Arabic have gender in verbs) I have discovered.

I agree with you that truth affirms or disaffirms. That is precisely what Aristotle was saying it does.

But I also agree with you that truth is linked to existence. For me, truth implies existence or nonexistence. Aristotle was not specific about that part. Or else if he was I have not yet read about it.

Thank you for your response. I am adding you to my friends list.

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Re: Truth

Post by Hereandnow » November 25th, 2018, 10:22 pm

h_k_s
I think truth is independent of language.
I would like to see you demonstrate this.

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Re: Truth

Post by h_k_s » November 25th, 2018, 10:28 pm

[quote=Hereandnow post_id=324436 time=1543198947 user_id=39661]
[quote]h_k_s
I think truth is independent of language.[/quote]

I would like to see you demonstrate this.
[/quote]

Ok here goes my own thought experiment on this.

Language is a tool/behavior which is developed by children from mimicking their parents.

If you separated a child at birth from his/her parents and kept her/him isolated (a cruel scientific experiment but feasible) then the child would not have anyone or anything to imitate.

The child would then grow up without language.

Ergo language is not critical to existence.

And further, language is not critical to anything else either. And not to Philosophy as well.

Q.E.D.

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Re: Truth

Post by Consul » November 25th, 2018, 10:56 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 10:22 pm
h_k_s
I think truth is independent of language.
I would like to see you demonstrate this.
If "truth" means "the body of real things, events, and facts" (Merriam-Webster), then he is right. He is wrong if truth is a property of (declarative) sentences (and truths are true sentences). And if truth is a property of propositions (qua abstract sentence-meanings), then it isn't rigidly dependent on any particular language such as English, but it's still generically dependent on the existence of languages. And if truth is a property of beliefs (qua mental states), then it depends on whether beliefs are independent of language.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Truth

Post by Hereandnow » November 25th, 2018, 11:25 pm

Not at all clear on how truth can be a body of real things. Events? Sure, if you speak the event. Facts? Same, I suppose. Truth is inherently propositional, thatis, it belongs only to propositions. Truth is a logical declaration that has justification for its truth claim. Difficult to imagine truth being conceived as independent of other truth bearing propositions, for how would this be possible? How would what is "out there" make its way into the proposition? Better to conceive of truth as being bound to truth bearing propositions, various and sundry, and avoid trying to make this magical connection make sense. Is this to say there is nothing beyond the proposition, that empirical truths self sustaining only? No, that would be absurd. It just says such connections cannot be identified if we drop language in the attempt to do so, which puts language back in the drivers seat.
Beliefs independent of language? Interesting. What does it mean? What is a mental state such that beliefs being a mental state can have truth as their property?
Of course, we do speak of truth in a figurative sense, but that is not what this is about I don't think (though it could be).

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Re: Truth

Post by Consul » November 26th, 2018, 12:09 am

Hereandnow wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 11:25 pm
Not at all clear on how truth can be a body of real things. Events? Sure, if you speak the event. Facts? Same, I suppose. Truth is inherently propositional, thatis, it belongs only to propositions. Truth is a logical declaration that has justification for its truth claim. Difficult to imagine truth being conceived as independent of other truth bearing propositions, for how would this be possible? How would what is "out there" make its way into the proposition? Better to conceive of truth as being bound to truth bearing propositions, various and sundry, and avoid trying to make this magical connection make sense. Is this to say there is nothing beyond the proposition, that empirical truths self sustaining only? No, that would be absurd. It just says such connections cannot be identified if we drop language in the attempt to do so, which puts language back in the drivers seat.
Beliefs independent of language? Interesting. What does it mean? What is a mental state such that beliefs being a mental state can have truth as their property?
Of course, we do speak of truth in a figurative sense, but that is not what this is about I don't think (though it could be).
The word "truth" can be used to refer to reality or the (totality of) actual states of affairs; but, strictly speaking, I agree with you insofar as truth-values belong to certain representations only. Whether all truth-value-bearing representations are linguistic or language-dependent ones, i.e. sentences or sentence-meanings (propositions), is another question.

"Truth is a property of beliefs, and derivatively of sentences which express beliefs. Truth consists in a certain relation between a belief and one or more facts other than the belief. When this relation is absent, the belief is false. A sentence may be called 'true' or 'false' even if no one believes it, provided that, if it were believed, the belief would be true or false as the case may be."

(Russell, Bertrand. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. 1948. Reprint, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009. p. 135)

If a belief is nothing but a disposition to behavior, then it cannot have a truth-value; but if it has a representational character, the situation is different. Then the question is whether beliefs can represent the states of affairs they are about non-linguistically. As far as occurrent beliefs are concerned, i.e. conscious events of believing, the only non-linguistic vehicles of doxastic representation I can think of are mental images or pictures. States of affairs can be represented non-sententially by such non-linguistic mental representations, so we can speak of true or false mental pictures of reality.
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Re: Truth

Post by LuckyR » November 26th, 2018, 4:02 am

It must be stated that the observer of an event who opines on what aspects of the event constitute truth, color their observations with accumulated biases and personal experience. Thus a different observer may declare a somewhat different truth based on the same event.
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Re: Truth

Post by ktz » November 26th, 2018, 8:21 am

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on truth ( https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/ ) describes the key features of realism as follows:

1. The world exists objectively, independently of the ways we think about it or describe it.
2. Our thoughts and claims are about that world.

This appears to be consistent with the position that the OP and h_k_s are taking. Contrast this with Consul and hereandnow's position which appears to closer to the correspondence theories of truth derived from Tarski, supported by others including Russell who Consul referenced directly. The work is a bit technical, but might be of interest to those looking to pursue this question seriously -- here I'll cite from Greg Ray's 2018 paper on Tarski:
Tarski on the Concept of Truth

Tarski gave a definition of true sentence in the language of the calculus of classes.

Everyone who has studied formal logic knows how the theory of syntax for a simple
language is built up. The basic vocabulary of the language of the calculus of classes
includes a two-place relation symbol for inclusion (i.e. subset), logical symbols for
negation, disjunction, and universal quantification, plus an inexhaustible collection of
variables for binding. Definitions of the requisite syntactic notions—bound and free
variables, atomic, molecular, and quantified formula and sentence—are completely
canonical.

To define Tarski’s notion of satisfaction we need one notion that is sensitive to the
intended interpretation of our object language. On that interpretation, the language of
the calculus of classes has in its domain only the subclasses of a fixed set of ur-
individuals.
So, the notion we need is that of an infinite sequence of these classes—
which we will call here a c-sequence. We can now give the inductive definition of
satisfaction:

For all c-sequences s and formulas p, s satisfies p if and only if
a) p is an inclusion formula in the nth and mth variables, and the class which is the
nth item of c-sequence s is a subset of the class which is the mth item of s, or
b) p is the negation of a formula q and s does not satisfy q, or
c) p is the disjunction of formulas q and r and either s satisfies q or s satisfies r, or
d) p is the universal quantification of q and binds the nth variable therein and every
c-sequence s*, which differs at most in the nth position from s, satisfies q.

Truth for this object language is then defined in terms of satisfaction.
For all formulas, p, p is true if and only if i) p is a sentence, and ii) for all c-sequences s, s
satisfies p.
In Tarski’s original understanding, inductive definitions were not themselves proper, but
only stand-ins for explicit definitions. To obtain an explicit definition, we can replace our
inductive definition of satisfaction with an explicit definition.
A c-sequence y satisfies a formula z if and only if <y,z> is an element of the least
set, X, such that, for all c-sequences s and formulas p, <s,p> is in X if
a) p is an inclusion formula in the nth and mth variables, and the class which
is the nth item of s is a subset of the class which is the mth item of s, or
b) p is the negation of a formula q and <s,q> is not in X, or
c) p is the disjunction of formulas q and r and either <s,q> or <s,r> is in X,
or
d) p is the universal quantification of q and binds the nth variable therein and
every c-sequence s*, which differs at most in the nth position from s, is such that <s*,q> is in X.

Personally, I find myself less interested in either of these objective conceptions and more interested in pragmatic theories of truth, in the context of serious practical problems facing modern instances of mass communication. Stuff like actionability, determination of misinformation by automated bots, and the effectiveness of propaganda in the modern world. The style in which truth is presented can alter the consequential action taken in disingenuous ways, for example the satirical presentations at dhmo dot org warning to ban "dihydrogen monoxide":
Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.
So it's possible to create compelling cases composed entirely truthful information, but I think in reality obviously no one in their right mind should actually recommend a ban on water. For this discussion I have recently turned to pragmatic ideas about truth, like Habermas and his theories on communicative action, but I am just beginning my inquiry and would be interested if there are others interested in pragmatic conceptions of truth, ie consequentialism and the like.
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Re: Truth

Post by Consul » November 26th, 2018, 11:31 am

ktz wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 8:21 am
…For this discussion I have recently turned to pragmatic ideas about truth, like Habermas and his theories on communicative action, but I am just beginning my inquiry and would be interested if there are others interested in pragmatic conceptions of truth, ie consequentialism and the like.
"[F]rom early on, clear-headed students of philosophy recognized in pragmatism the epistemological counterpart of ethical utilitarianism. For where J. S. Mill saw ethical principles as properly validated through social utility in fostering the affective condition of people-in-general ('the greatest good of the greatest number'), there C. S. Peirce and his congeners came to regard their pragmatic efficacy (i.e., utility) in the service of our purposes as validating our principles for securing trustworthy information about the world. And so, as Émile Durkheim already maintained, pragmatism is closely akin to an epistemic utilitarianism: utilitarians classed as right that which proves beneficial to the community ('the greatest good of the greatest number'); pragmatists classed as true that which proves useful to the individual (i.e., useful through being effectively conducive to the realizations of his ends)."

(Rescher, Nicholas. Pragmatism: The Restoration of its Scientific Roots. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012. p. 271)

"A Pragmatic Theory of Truth holds (roughly) that a proposition is true if it is useful to believe. Peirce and James were its principal advocates. Utility is the essential mark of truth. Beliefs that lead to the best “payoff”, that are the best justification of our actions, that promote success, are truths, according to the pragmatists...."

Source: https://www.iep.utm.edu/truth/#H6

My simple objection is that "true" just isn't synonymous with "useful to believe". What is useful to believe can still be untrue.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Truth

Post by Tamminen » November 26th, 2018, 12:02 pm

If we have a well formulated question, there is an answer to that question that corresponds or does not correspond with our hypothesis of what the answer might be. Our questions are based on our interests of knowing, and our interests of knowing are based on more basic interests like surviving and so on. So yes, truth is a pragmatic concept, but there is always the question of correspondence with our beliefs, truth vs. falsity.

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Re: Truth

Post by Hereandnow » November 26th, 2018, 12:16 pm

Consul
If a belief is nothing but a disposition to behavior, then it cannot have a truth-value; but if it has a representational character, the situation is different. Then the question is whether beliefs can represent the states of affairs they are about non-linguistically. As far as occurrent beliefs are concerned, i.e. conscious events of believing, the only non-linguistic vehicles of doxastic representation I can think of are mental images or pictures. States of affairs can be represented non-sententially by such non-linguistic mental representations, so we can speak of true or false mental pictures of reality.
Belief as nothing but disposition to behavior does appear to lack the "aboutness" of the belief, that is, a belief about, say, there being a cup on the table, must have its object. But then, dispositions to behavior do have their objects, it is just that the belief, upon analysis, is a pragmatic "event" such that doubt yields to fixity. This event can be analyzed as a temporal act that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Truth is no more than logically standardized pathways to commonly held, fixed, apprehensions of problem solving in the world that WORK. A cup IS a cup because when I encounter my room I am endowed with, to borrow a term from Peter Berger, structures of plausibility, a body of presestablished problem solving events, and the concept 'cup' has its confirmation in the presence of the thing and the way it conforms to expectations. THAT is what truth, belief and knowledge are upon existential analysis. The truth value of my belief that there is a cup on the table is inherently pragmatic and "agreement" between what is believed and the object that is believed in is entirely a matter of what works in interfacing with the world. Nonlinguistically?: According to my thoughts (derivative, of course. There is Peirce in this. There is Rorty. There is Heidegger.....; and so on) even occurrent, nonexplcit belief, like a cow has, for example, when it "believes" the fastest way to get to the green grass is a straight line, bears the same analysis; the cow's beliefs are not non or anti propositional, rather, they are proto propositional, proto logical, qualitatively the same as out own languages' symbolism.

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Re: Truth

Post by Hereandnow » November 26th, 2018, 12:21 pm

Tamminen
So yes, truth is a pragmatic concept, but there is always the question of correspondence with our beliefs, truth vs. falsity.
And what is this correspondence about? How is correspondence established and how does that which is on the receiving end of a belief get its independence from the belief itself? The moment you take up this question, you do so in a medium of already fixed beliefs.
You may find my thoughts above interesting.

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Re: Truth

Post by ktz » November 26th, 2018, 12:28 pm

Consul wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 11:31 am
ktz wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 8:21 am
…For this discussion I have recently turned to pragmatic ideas about truth, like Habermas and his theories on communicative action, but I am just beginning my inquiry and would be interested if there are others interested in pragmatic conceptions of truth, ie consequentialism and the like.
"[F]rom early on, clear-headed students of philosophy recognized in pragmatism the epistemological counterpart of ethical utilitarianism. For where J. S. Mill saw ethical principles as properly validated through social utility in fostering the affective condition of people-in-general ('the greatest good of the greatest number'), there C. S. Peirce and his congeners came to regard their pragmatic efficacy (i.e., utility) in the service of our purposes as validating our principles for securing trustworthy information about the world. And so, as Émile Durkheim already maintained, pragmatism is closely akin to an epistemic utilitarianism: utilitarians classed as right that which proves beneficial to the community ('the greatest good of the greatest number'); pragmatists classed as true that which proves useful to the individual (i.e., useful through being effectively conducive to the realizations of his ends)."

(Rescher, Nicholas. Pragmatism: The Restoration of its Scientific Roots. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012. p. 271)

"A Pragmatic Theory of Truth holds (roughly) that a proposition is true if it is useful to believe. Peirce and James were its principal advocates. Utility is the essential mark of truth. Beliefs that lead to the best “payoff”, that are the best justification of our actions, that promote success, are truths, according to the pragmatists...."

Source: https://www.iep.utm.edu/truth/#H6

My simple objection is that "true" just isn't synonymous with "useful to believe". What is useful to believe can still be untrue.
Well, what is true can in fact be harmful to believe. I cited the satirical dihydrogen monoxide argument before, and you can look up the xkcd comic, Conditional Risk, for another example.

The statistician George Box is frequently attributed the quote: "All models are false. Some are useful." By holding perfect verifiability and correspondence above other aspects of truth, including the consequentialist aspects you are citing, you can lose the opportunity to develop practically effective but technically untrue models that wouldn't live up to Tarski's satisfaction.

In the real world, we often deal with models that are conditionally or subjectively true. For example, Newtonian physics has useful applications within the context of everyday physical interactions, but loses its validity on the scale of quarks or galaxies, so technically it is untrue -- but it still clearly has value within the context of teaching first-year physics students how to solve basic acceleration problems. The idea that tax cuts for the rich are a great thing is true if you are a member of the wealthy elite that controls certain channels of media and campaign finance, and thus verifiable within a subjectively limited context of a correspondence theory of truth, but neglects objective considerations that would be immediately apparent within a pragmatic context.

Another example would be the case of hope. Technically, all hope is false if it does not come to fruition. But there are serious practical benefits to hopefulness -- the placebo effect perhaps would be the most relevant empirically verifiable phenomenon.

I prefer to pursue this kind of pragmatic understanding of truth not necessarily because it is the optimal conception of what truth ought to be, but because in practice more often than not I find myself dealing with the evaluation of propositions which would benefit more from the context of Habermas's intersubjective validity than Tarski's correspondence. I generally have fewer problems with objective truth than I do with the ability to communicate that truth to others. Accessibility and consequentialist considerations perhaps should not the most important determinations of truthfulness to the degree that Peirce and James advocated for, but I think they ought to be in the conversational range when discussing the truthfulness of propositions.

I'm not a utilitarian, and don't support for example the idea of lying for the sake of the greater good, in the style of Chinese censorship and the like. But lately with all the political information I consume, I feel that the presentation and representation of truth deserve as much attention as the traditional criteria of justified true belief like correspondence, coherence, justifiability, etc.

Perhaps there are ranges of propositions for which each conception of truth is best-suited to handle. In the realm of hard facts and verifiable science, the advantages of correspondence theory in determinations of truthfulness become most clear. Coherence can be a useful criteria in the range of speculative claims which are difficult to verify or falsify. And pragmatism perhaps best shines in the range of certain Bayesian truth claims with limited ranges of applicability, as well as subjective personal beliefs and tastes.
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