Re: RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Gregory Houston (
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 01:06:08 -0600

Guru George wrote:
> On Fri, 14 Feb 1997 01:52:37 -0600
> Gregory Houston <> wrote:
> >Guru George wrote:
> >>> Gregory Houston <> wrote:
> >> [SNIP]
> >> >What is truth?
> >> [SNIP]
> >
> >Though it is difficult to see out of context, the quote above was a
> >rhetorical question, but I appreciate your response none the less.
> That's OK, it was a rhetorical reply ;-)
> >
> >> However, since we can't step outside ourselves to check words against
> >> reality, when we call something true that means we *conjecture* it to be
> >> true.
> >
> >So we are saying one thing, but we means something *slightly* different.
> >This is one of my difficulties with the term truth, by definition it
> >does not include this element of conjecture or skepticism. By definition
> >it is absolute, and not particularly questionable. Do you not imagine
> >that we might come up with a better term for what we are talking about.
> >One which is a bit more accurate or *true* [to use the term loosely].
> >The dictionary definition of truth is not entirely consistent with the
> >manner in which it is being used by science. Would it not make more
> >sense to create a more accurate word ... and then while doing so,
> >questioning all the priorities which truth and the new word both entail.
> I think the confusion lies in thinking that the definition of truth
> gives us some understanding of how to test for truth. As I said above,
> it does nothing of the kind. We test for truth by more or less
> pragmatic or Popperian methods.

We use pragmatic methods because we are not really testing for truth but
rather for *practical* functionality.

> The definition of truth stipulates an
> *ideal* scenario. It defines what we *want*. It doesn't help us to get
> there. (That much of the hullaballoo against truth this century is
> correct. But to ditch truth as a concept, an ideal, is to throw the baby
> out with the bathwater.)

I want to make an atom bomb. What matters is that it functions to
annihilate a large number of people while making there land useless.
While I am making my atom bomb, all that matters is that each part of it
is functional. Each part must do what I intend it to. I can create my
atom bomb without every worrying about the concept of truth. If
something does not function then I must figure out where the cause of
the dysfuntion lies and fix it so that it does function. I can throw the
immaculate child out with the bathwater and still create my bomb and
annhilate a great number of people. It still functions. Something works,
partially works, or it doesn't work. I don't have to invoke any such
concept as truth to deal with these matters.

> Conjecture and truth are not in competition: everything that we have
> that we *call* truth we *conjecture* to be truth in the ideal sense. I
> really don't see what's so difficult or problematic about this.

Oh, I understand the concept quite clearly. I am only saying that the
concept is unnecessary and only serves to create particular bias', which
I have detailed exhaustively, which hinder the evolution of science as a
tool itself.

> [interesting discussion of 'conjecture' and new coinage of 'conjection'
> snipped]
> >I believe these terms or terms created with similar meaning, would be
> >more suitable to PCR.
> I don't: it seems needlessly complicated.

But sometimes we must complexify our theories in order to make them more
useful. We certainly want the fewest terms possible to serve our
purposes, but I believe that some of us are beginning to want more from
science than it is now capable. In order for it to become so, its
underlying concepts must evolve. Can you imagine something beyond
science as we know it today, or do you believe that we have attained the
ultimate tool. I'm fairly certain something lies beyond it. In order to
get there I am going to criticize science as it is today, while
attempting to find alternatives.

> What you are talking about, with your waves example (and such things as
> the the traditional
> Eskimo's snow example, which was recently and amusingly discussed here)
> is, I believe, this: there are many different ways of being interested
> in things, and these different ways of being interested in things will
> prompt us to ask different questions, with different levels of focus on
> reality. But if I, with my meager knowledge of waves ask "is that an x
> wave or a y wave?" that question can be answered truly or falsely; and
> if a wave-expert asks "is that an x1, y, alpha, gamma or epsilon wave?"
> that question can be answered truly or falsely.

When we say that is an x1, y, or alpha wave, we are refering to an
arbitrary type. Part of the confusion is in believing that our arbitrary
deliniations are real. It would be more appropriate to say that this
wave FUNCTIONS as an x1 wave rather than this wave IS an x1 wave. For it
cannot BE an x1 wave. It can only functionally represent an the ideal of
an x1 wave. Do you see how truth confuses the issue, where functionality
is much more useful and rational? When we say this wave is an x1 wave we
are saying one thing yet meaning something *slightly* different, but if
I say that this wave functions as an x1 wave, then I am being much more
clear about what I mean.

Are you familiar with the concepts of the signifier and signified, of
the difference between indexes, icons, and symbols? The concept of truth
confuses the distinction between these things. In the case above it
confuses the signifier symbol of x1 with the signified wave. They are
not the same.


Gregory Houston