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TheZigs

Looking at truth as more than a belief"

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Oftentimes in philosophy, one is confronted with skeptics, who argue that truth isn't anything more than a belief one thinks is justified (be it by reason, faith, whim, or "evidence," [which, the skeptic believes, begs the question of reliability of evidence.]) These skeptics attempt to undermine truth, asserting that, because its basis is exclusively belief, real truth cannot be reached. 
But is this skepticism valid?

To attack the claims of these skeptics, one must understand the epistemological roots of truth. First, however, there is something that must be cleared up. Existence is primary. That is to say, existence exists, and it is the fundamental basis of the world. Consciousness is not primary. Though consciousness certainly exists, it cannot determine reality. I cannot simply will a chair blue, or out of existence. To change anything about reality, I must use my consciousness to generate change *using* reality (ie: I can make a chair blue, but I must paint it. I can destroy a chair, but only with tools like explosives.)

Why is this relevant? It helps to assert the axiomatic nature of existence. Existence cannot be denied. To do so, one must use consciousness, logic, and evidence, all things that follow from the primary of existence, to deny it, confirming existence by attempting to deny it. The skeptic must declare that A is not A, that reality is not real, that both he and his ideas, his evidence and proof, is all not real. This is obviously problematic. 

Moving to the original point, with reality established, what is truth? Reality is not true, as truth is a concept built presupposing reality. To argue that reality is true is to support an inverted hierarchy of knowledge. Truth, instead, refers to a proposition that is backed by and consistent with reality. The proposition does not contradict reality, and it is logically consistent.

How, then, can truth change over time? It doesn't. Truth does not change, simply what we believe to be true. "The Earth is flat" could have been believed to be true, as it did not contradict reality. However, as our evidence and understanding of the world and of space grew, the claim increasingly appeared to be false. This is how "truth" evolves over time, when really it is simply our evidence and understanding of it.

Can, then, one consider anything truly true? Yes. Logical truth can exist. Induction is possible. However, scientific truths are slightly different. It is difficult for one to claim that any specific scientific prediction of the future is true. One can easily say "that rock fell." or "it is the only rational thing to believe the rock will fall when I drop it again." But being absolutely certain of it falling in the future is not possible, though it is irrational to believe otherwise.

Truth is not based on whims or wishes. It is not "faith." Truth is objective. If a claim is verifiable confirmed by reality, and it is logically consistent without denying axioms, the claim is true. Truth is achievable. Skepticism is fundamentally irrational.

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Zigs said:

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One can easily say "that rock fell." or "it is the only rational thing to believe the rock will fall when I drop it again." But being absolutely certain of it falling in the future is not possible, though it is irrational to believe otherwise.

You did ok until here.

Certainty is the state achieved when no evidence is known against something and all evidence supports it. Under those conditions it is irrational to claim that that item of knowledge is "possibly" false.

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That definition of certainty (ie: in the absence of omnipotence) seems problematic to me. With that definition, one, in the past, could have been "certain" of things simply because the evidence available does not contradict it. How can this certainty be justified if it could later be proven incorrect?

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"Certainty" as a concept must be based on reality, i.e. humans, and human knowledge.  Knowledge must be based on evidence.  Human lives are finite and any amount of evidence must also be finite.  Can anyone be "more certain" of something if nothing in their finite knowledge contradicts it (this would include evidence which positively implies something else, raises doubts)? 

As far as I know certainty refers to the assessment of the knowledge of a single individual.  ["We are certain" is likely invalid if no ONE person is certain.]

No one can have infinite evidence of any one thing nor know everything.  If you try to define certainty on the standard of an omniscient superbeing, by definition it would be impossible to any person. 

That said, not everything requires infinite amounts of evidence. That existence exists, requires no more evidence than a momentary introspection.  So "certainty" is not measured only by the "amount" of evidence, but it always depends on non-presence of contradictory evidence.

Of course some things ARE complex, which knowledge of complexity CAN constitute evidence that you are not certain of something when you cannot even assess the evidence properly in which case you don't even HAVE evidence FOR the conclusion you reached.  The significance of evidence itself is not trivial to assess especially when it supports more than one possibility.

Although it seems like a low threshold, non-contradiction with all your knowledge and experience and evidence you have, is not really a low threshold.

 

If you are worried about being fallible, that is a fact of being human, we often find out we were wrong, even after having been certain.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, TheZigs said:

That definition of certainty (ie: in the absence of omnipotence) seems problematic to me. With that definition, one, in the past, could have been "certain" of things simply because the evidence available does not contradict it. How can this certainty be justified if it could later be proven incorrect?

 

The issue revolves around proof. If a proper methodology of proof is used, it sets the context for a certainty which has been proven. What, other than the introduction of a different context, would undermine the certainty, and if it is under the guise of a different context, is it really the initial certainty that has been undermined, or a new certainty added?

Edited by dream_weaver
Identified what was being replied to.

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Objectivist do not use certainty as a concept that involves omniscience.

 

Quote

“Certain” represents an assessment of the evidence for a conclusion; it is usually contrasted with two other broad types of assessment: “possible” and “probable.” . . .
Idea X is “certain” if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative . . . .
You cannot challenge a claim to certainty by means of an arbitrary declaration of a counter-possibility, . . . you cannot manufacture possibilities without evidence . . . .
All the main attacks on certainty depend on evading its contextual character . . . .
The alternative is not to feign omniscience, erecting every discovery into an out-of-context absolute, or to embrace skepticism and claim that knowledge is impossible. Both these policies accept omniscience as the standard: the dogmatists pretend to have it, the skeptics bemoan their lack of it. The rational policy is to discard the very notion of omniscience. Knowledge is contextual—it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually."
The Philosophy of Objectivism Lecture 6
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/certainty.html

 

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Truth pertains to something mental in its relationship to the external world. Truth is an awareness of the facts. Man determines the truth or falsehood of his judgments by whether they correspond to or contradict the facts of reality.

New knowledge can contradict old mistaken beliefs but not old knowledge. Knowledge is a mental grasp if the facts of reality. Newly grasped facts cannot contradict previously grasped facts.  

This rules out such notions such as "For the medieval, the world was flat; for us, it is round"- as is Columbus' voyage somehow curved it.

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On April 4, 2016 at 11:53 AM, TheZigs said:

"The Earth is flat" could have been believed to be true, as it did not contradict reality. However, as our evidence and understanding of the world and of space grew, the claim increasingly appeared to be false. This is how "truth" evolves over time, when really it is simply our evidence and understanding of it.

 

Edited by NameYourAxioms

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On 4/4/2016 at 10:15 PM, TheZigs said:

That definition of certainty (ie: in the absence of omnipotence) seems problematic to me. With that definition, one, in the past, could have been "certain" of things simply because the evidence available does not contradict it. How can this certainty be justified if it could later be proven incorrect?

Because it's the only rational way to define certainty. How can you justify defining a concept as something that's impossible and cannot exist?

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On 4/5/2016 at 2:53 AM, TheZigs said:

Consciousness is not primary. Though consciousness certainly exists, it cannot determine reality.

This negates the solipsist argument. One could, with equal weight, argue the exact opposite.

 

On 4/5/2016 at 2:53 AM, TheZigs said:

One can easily say "that rock fell." or "it is the only rational thing to believe the rock will fall when I drop it again." But being absolutely certain of it falling in the future is not possible, though it is irrational to believe otherwise.

From a utilitarian perspective, the fact that the rock will fall again is "true enough". In what possible context could denying that fact be useful?

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On 4/4/2016 at 10:20 AM, Plasmatic said:

Certainty is the state achieved when no evidence is known against something and all evidence supports it. Under those conditions it is irrational to claim that that item of knowledge is "possibly" false.

1

A debate regarding truth is coming up and I thought about saying this but I can see a problem in that it is not complete enough. Comments are coming in already.

I think that I need to say it in a way that includes the fact that an item of knowledge, within the context that it was discovered in (non arbitrary and based on evidence), is true unless (until) the context changes.

I know that they will bring up court cases that the judge ruled incorrectly because new evidence came in later.

The other issue is that we are fallible/mistakes can be made.

On 4/4/2016 at 2:02 PM, Plasmatic said:

Both these policies accept omniscience as the standard: the dogmatists pretend to have it, the skeptics bemoan their lack of it.

This is great! Already seeing them doing this. I'm also seeing skeptics that are skeptical about their skepticism.

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4 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

What debate are you referring to?

The open debate (not one on one) happened today and oddly enough, the one thing that I thought was the easiest to push through met with the heaviest resistance. (The topic was about the need for Philosophy and the nature of Truth)

The law of Identity.

"It is just a matter of opinion"
"Everything changes"
"I feel cheated that I can never know the real truth because everything changes"
"Identity may be true but only for that instant for that object with those properties. "
"You can't capture sameness, words don't match things completely"
"Objective reality changes all the time as we invent new ways to measure things. At one time the world was objectively flat." 
"There are different kinds of truth."
"Social truths are more important that insignificant ones like something is itself"

Later followed by attacks on induction.

Keep in mind the majority are Marx lovers. I am in a Bernie Sanders enclave. A few of them will clap when Marx is mentioned. Fortunately, they don't believe in the initiation of force, so I'm safe.

In the end, one thing that was very successful was when I asked if I could read a paragraph (did not mention author)

"In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is—i.e., he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts—i.e., he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy"

They were fascinated by it.

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