Re: Truth

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Sat Nov 18 2000 - 05:06:21 MST

Nicq MacDonald wrote:

> I may have glossed over them. Anyway, Wittgenstein is frequently used to
> uphold relativism, especially by Feyerabend.

When I said the argument was Wittgensteinian, I didn't mean that it
was actually Wittgenstein's. (Though I think he would have approved.)
I believe I got it from Hilary Putnam, who got it while thinking about
Wittgenstein and relativism.

Kant is good, but if you're not already familiar with the turf, it's
usually good to have someone help you to read him. The trouble is
that the structure of his prose is, ah, subtle, while it's clear that
his German translators have read so much of him that they've forgotten
the difference between clear prose and bad.

> Okay, I'm not a relativist.

Let this be a lesson to the rest of you: you get more progress from
charitable head-on engagement than from pithy one liners. ;)

> You want my belief? Here are two quotes that sum up my way of thinking
> pretty well (the first from Zarathustra, the second from Hesse's "Demian"):
> "A day shall come when you shall see your high things no more, and your low
> things all too near, and you will fear your exaltation as if it were a
> phantom. In that day you will cry: All is false!"
> "An enlightened man had but one duty- to seek the way to himself, to reach
> inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led. I had
> often speculated with images of the future, dreamed of roles that might be
> assigned, perhaps as poet, or prophet, or painter, or something similar.
> All that was futile. I did not exist to write poems, to preach or to paint,
> neither I nor anyone else. All of that was incidental. Each man had only
> one genuine vocation- to find the way to himself. He might end up as poet
> or madman, as prophet or criminal- that was not his affair, ultimately it
> was of no concern. His task was to discover his own destiny- not an
> arbitrary one- and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself."
> My belief is very existential- frankly, do what you love, and do what thou
> wilt. In the end, we're all headed to the same place- so we should all try
> to discover which side we are on, which faction we are in. There is truth-
> but it cannot be known for certain. I think that there is a pretty good
> chance that in the end, truth is defined by the state of the individual's
> existence, and all we can do is play this beautiful game.

Now, in THIS, you'll definitely find friends here.

> Well, in that case, what makes your beliefs true?

This depends on whether you mean "you" as in "not me" or "you" as in
"one of us" (eg "how do you [someone like me] bake a cake?").

As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing that "makes" my beliefs true.
There's nothing more to say about truth than Tarski's Convention T:
"Snow is white" is true iff snow is white. That's all she wrote about

As for what makes YOUR beliefs true, well, I have to set up
T-sentences for you as well. If you're speaking German, then one
T-sentence might be: "Schnee ist weiss" is true iff snow is white. Of
course, you might not be speaking German, but might be speaking
differently from the way I speak. To figure out which is which, I
have to interpret what you say using the interpretive principles of
charity (I have to assume that you are largely right about what you
say) and humanity (I have to assume that you tend to acquire beliefs
the same way I do). But once I figure out those in a way which makes
sense to me, there's nothing more to say besides that.

> First off, I know nothing about you, and little about your beliefs.
> You could believe that I am a purple elephant with a telepathic
> internet connection who has falsified all the data that I have given
> about myself, but it would not make it true. Yet, you could stand
> for and defend this belief, and even try to force me to accept it as
> true.

Yup. While charity dictates that, given extreme evidence, you doubt
that I hold purple elephant beliefs, ("no no no! by elephant, he must
mean 'great man!'"), charity and humanity can and do break
down... some people and beliefs are just wrong. You know what to do
under those circumstances.

> So, in other words, I'm going to reject your false beliefs- and uphold my
> true beliefs. That's what it comes down to, doesn't it? ;)



      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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