Announcement: Your votes are in! The January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.

Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Post Reply
User avatar
tsay6
New Trial Member
Posts: 1
Joined: December 2nd, 2018, 10:26 pm

Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by tsay6 » December 2nd, 2018, 10:34 pm

(Hopefully this is in the right section).
Given any statement (e.g. My hair is brown, that is a stick, that thing is between 1 and 2 feet long in this reference frame), can it be proven true or false in a purely objective way?

User avatar
Halc
Posts: 285
Joined: March 17th, 2018, 9:47 pm

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by Halc » December 3rd, 2018, 8:01 am

tsay6 wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 10:34 pm
(Hopefully this is in the right section).
Given any statement (e.g. My hair is brown, that is a stick, that thing is between 1 and 2 feet long in this reference frame), can it be proven true or false in a purely objective way?
You posted this in metaphysics, and the metaphysical answer is no, none of the examples you gave can be proven since first you must prove some sort of metaphysical variant of realism that makes your hair, the potential stick object, or the 'thing' real. That reality cannot be proven in an objective way since all forms of realism require unverifiable premises such as the ones that idealists deny.

Some arguments can be proven true, such as the fact that there are an infinite number of primes. That at least doesn't require a premise of realism, but it probably still relies on some fundamental axioms needed to define prime numbers.

User avatar
RJG
Moderator
Posts: 1094
Joined: March 28th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by RJG » December 3rd, 2018, 8:37 am

wrote:Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?
No. Arguments can only 'logically' be proven true or false. Although logical truths are "objective truths" (and therefore relied upon as 'certain'), they are not "undoubtable".

Although the 'content' of one's experiences/perceptions can never "undoubtably" be proven true, the "experiencing" itself is nonetheless considered "undoubtably" true.
.

User avatar
ktz
Posts: 114
Joined: November 9th, 2018, 12:21 am
Favorite Philosopher: right now it is Tim Wu

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by ktz » December 3rd, 2018, 4:57 pm

tsay6 wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 10:34 pm
(Hopefully this is in the right section).
Given any statement (e.g. My hair is brown, that is a stick, that thing is between 1 and 2 feet long in this reference frame), can it be proven true or false in a purely objective way?
In my current understanding I think the answer is yes, but with some conditions -- you have to have precise definitions and recognize the assumptions behind your statement, you have to declare your criteria for truth, and you have to define the range and standards for truth. These criteria and standards vary across different disciplines -- truth means very different things in mathematics, the social sciences, and legal proceedings (beyond "reasonable" doubt), for example. But I think for statements that can meet required threshholds for truth defined by the context your are looking in, I think it is possible to reach an objective determination of true or false. If you lack these conditions, it's possible to quite quickly get bogged down by a debate on even the most fundamental things, like whether we are all just living in a simulation and if anything is real or true at all. I think you are getting at identifying the need for this in your last example when you start to talk about the context of a reference frame. For the best results in answering your question, I think it would help us if you could help us understand a bit better what you mean by "purely objective" -- is this a reference to objectivism and pure independence from human knowledge? Or objective as opposed to subjective validity claims to truth?



Definitely anything which relies on very precise and formal mathematical definitions can be proven true or false, provided one accepts certain self-evident axioms as the building blocks of truth. Modern mathematics relies on the axioms of Zermael-Frankel set theory, and from those self-evident truths uses logical tools to build more and more advanced and complex theorems to be used as axioms for more and more advanced and complicated conjectures.

In a scientific context, where empirical evidence is used to confirm or deny hypotheses, it is generally understood that it is much easier to prove a hypothesis to be false than than true, since falsification only requires one counterexample, but to prove something to be true requires one to prove that no counterexamples are possible, which is a much tougher criteria to meet. So science usually uses the idea of statistically significant effects rather than an objective determination of truth, because the criteria for objective truth is too hard to conclude from a single experiment. In modern applications of the scientific method, the typical criteria for statistical significance that people use is a p-value of less than 5%, meaning there's a less than 5% chance that the null hypothesis is responsible for the observed effects. If the experiment is replicated enough times, the statistical significance of the observed effects continue to go up until it is accepted as, perhaps not truth, but good supporting evidence for the best available scientific explanation for a certain phenomenon.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on truth, three philosophical variations of truth dominate modern philosophy on the topic -- the correspondence theory, the coherence theory, and the pragmatic theory.

-- Correspondence theory means, very simply, a statement is true if and only if it corresponds to a fact in the real world. Polish logician and mathematician Alfred Tarski came up with some of the precise formal definitions for truth conditions back in the 1930s, which are still referenced today in the conversation about the correspondence theory of truth.

-- Coherence theory models truth as requiring the acceptance of certain groups of propositions as truthful, and then evaluations of truth can happen based on whether a new statement is coherent with previously accepted groups of truths. I think this conception of truth is more popular in philosophy than in the real world -- it has its roots in idealism and guys like Spinoza, Kant, Fichte and Hegel. The more modern mantle is taken up by Quine and Davidson in the 20th century.

-- Pragmatic theory tries to set up "k, good enough" understanding of truth, where truth is the end of inquiry. One modern variations of pragmatism is constructivism, where truth is understood to be a social construct, and generally relies on a truth condition of consensus and empirical justifiability. But constructivism rejects the idea that we can know objective truth, maintaining rather than we can only know truth to a certain degrees of validity and accuracy, so it may not meet your criteria of truth in a "purely objective way".



I'm not an expert and I'm not really up to date on the modern literature for truth, so I wouldn't take this as a comprehensive inquiry or anything, but it's my current understanding on the subject. If you are interested in learning more, the SEP has pretty good individual entries for all of these philosophical version of truth. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/
Wikipedia also offers discussion on other commonly used criteria for truth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criteria_of_truth
You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.

Eduk
Posts: 2251
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by Eduk » December 4th, 2018, 2:10 pm

@tsay6 depends how you define terms.
Some people define truth as impossible and give good reasons for doing so.
Personally i prefer a more pragmatic approach. If we agree that truth by one definition is impossible then perhaps this is a pointless definition of truth? How about if we can ascertain if something is practically true. Personally I think the scientific method gives the best practically true proofs that we currently know.
Unknown means unknown.

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 107
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by h_k_s » December 7th, 2018, 9:45 pm

tsay6 wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 10:34 pm
(Hopefully this is in the right section).
Given any statement (e.g. My hair is brown, that is a stick, that thing is between 1 and 2 feet long in this reference frame), can it be proven true or false in a purely objective way?
Why not ?!

Statements are only assertions of definition.

First you look up the definition.

Then you do an Aristotelian comparison between the definition and the statement.

Finally, just as Robert's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt (as Johnny Depp would say in Pirates Of The Caribbean), the syllogism is either valid or not.

You would need to be an extreme skeptic not to be able to perform such a straightforward analysis.

And skepticism has been overthrown by Cogito Ergo Sum and Descartes. At least so according to Modern Philosophy.

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 107
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by h_k_s » December 7th, 2018, 9:48 pm

RJG wrote:
December 3rd, 2018, 8:37 am
wrote:Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?
No. Arguments can only 'logically' be proven true or false. Although logical truths are "objective truths" (and therefore relied upon as 'certain'), they are not "undoubtable".

Although the 'content' of one's experiences/perceptions can never "undoubtably" be proven true, the "experiencing" itself is nonetheless considered "undoubtably" true.
.
Yes and not only that but then there is also the entire debate about objectivism and subjectivism.

Aristotle -- objective.

Ayn Rand -- subjective.

Everybody is on either one side of this argument or the other.

The Sophists were subjectivists.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. were objectivists.

Depends on what you believe (epistemology).

I always simply believe I will have another drink.

User avatar
A_Seagull
Posts: 943
Joined: November 29th, 2012, 10:56 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Heraclitus

Re: Can an argument undoubtably be proven true or false?

Post by A_Seagull » December 9th, 2018, 5:07 pm

tsay6 wrote:
December 2nd, 2018, 10:34 pm
(Hopefully this is in the right section).
Given any statement (e.g. My hair is brown, that is a stick, that thing is between 1 and 2 feet long in this reference frame), can it be proven true or false in a purely objective way?
It depends what you mean by 'true' or 'false'. Given that you use those words in conjunction with the word 'proven', I shall presume that you mean: Can some statement be shown to be a theorem of some logical system and hence is 'true' within that system or that it can be shown that it can never be a theorem of some logical system and hence can be labelled 'false' within that system.

Well, first you need to define the logical system to which you refer. This will require the introduction of elements and processes of inference. Once you have your logical system in place, then you can run it in some logical processor and see whether the statement you are interested in appears as a theorem of the system. If it does appear, you can label it as being 'true' within that system. However if it does not appear after some finite amount of time you cannot label it as 'false' within that system as it might be that it could be generated as a theorem at some later time.
The Pattern Paradigm - yer can't beat it!

Post Reply