Re[2]: RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Guru George (
Sun, 16 Feb 1997 18:02:41 GMT

On Sat, 15 Feb 1997 01:06:08 -0600
Gregory Houston <> wrote:


>> 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.

Isn't practical functionality real functionality, true functionality; or
is there some pretend kind of functionality that would do just as well?
>> 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.

Again, I would say that if you are concerned with functionality you are
concerned with real functionality: you want the damn thing to work *in
reality*, do you not? I don't understand what difference you see
between what you call 'functionality' and truth, facts.
>> 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.

It seems to me you are just looking for another *word* than 'truth',
perhaps because it has been used pompously in the past, like a stick to
beat people over the head with. Nevertheless, I don't think you can get
away from the *concept*, which is a *functioning* concept. You can't
escape the distinction between what *is* the case and what we *think* is
the case, as your talk about functionality above shows, and as your talk
below about signified and signifier also shows.
>> [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.

I can imagine science developing new techniques, but I can't imagine
anything different from science, which is just the quest for truth,
nothing more, nothing less. Seeking the truth is a possible thing you
can do, and that possibility is forever open.
>> 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.

I don't understand what you mean by 'arbitrary': surely, if we ask
questions of the world, and we get a coherent response, then our
question has 'carved nature at the joints', at least to some extent?
It's possible that an idea may be arbitrary in the sense that we woke up
one morning and just had it, but if, as soon as we apply it to the world,
the idea is coherent (gets coherent responses) then it's not arbitrary,
it *fits* the world. Again, I would ask you, are you interested in real
functionality, or some other kind?

Actually, I've just realised where I think you are going wrong. You
think that 'being' is a static term, and truth, since it is related to
being, as static also. 'Being' to me is an all-inclusive concept,
denoting what exists, which includes things, experiences, events,
functions, etc.

>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.
But that's precisely what I'm saying: they are not the same at all.
That there is such a thing as an x1 wave at all is a conjecture; but it
is not an arbitrary conjecture because it coheres with the rest of our
thought and our experience, so what else ought we to think other than
that it probably does correspond in the absolute sense? Until a *more*
coherent (more 'functional' in your sense?) concept comes along, we are
perfectly entitled to think that it denotes something real, and that a
question involving its use has a true or false answer.

It seems to me that you are following the postmodernists into a blind
alley. Let me put it this way: if I put a stick in the ground, then
things have an objective distance from it. My placing of the stick may
have been 'arbitrary' in some sense, but the distances are not. The
trouble with postmodern thinkers is that having successfuly demolished
'presence' and 'intrisicism' they think they have demolished objectivity
and truth. Not so: for truth never *did* depend on presence and
intrinsicism. Those elements of presence and intrinsicism in Platonic/
Aristotelian thinking were in fact elements of subjectivity, granted (as
you say, confusion of signified and signifier).

I think what happened was that philosophers wanted to keep their cake
and eat it: they wanted the functionality of the concept of objectivity/truth,
which distinguishes between what is and what we think is, but they also
wanted a sort of surreptitious, backdoor guarantee that after all, there
might be some sort of queer connection between what is and what we think
is such that, in some cases, what we think is *guaranteed* to be true.
But this quest contradicts the very idea of truth, the very point of the
concept of objectivity: so it's no surprise that this quest has been
completely and utterly seen for what it is this century.

But this victory is *not* a victory over the concept of truth, but a
victory over a misunderstanding of it.

Guru George