Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

A theory of truth

December 26, 2008

Truth is epiphenomenal. It is established through the covenant of a social group in the macro, through power. But what is the criteria by which power creates a truth? That it serves power’s economic interests was the answer given by Marx. I agree, but that is only one aspect of the criteria and is a broad, high-level perspective. I wish to dig deeper.

Truth for the individual is that which is good for the single individual within the broader social context. For example, at one point in time it may be good for an individual to believe in God like the rest of his group, but at another point it may become intolerable for that individual to maintain such a belief, because the costs of believing in God outweigh the benefits. The individual’s view of the truth of God will change. He will defy his social group, and if he’s lucky he won’t be burnt at the stake. Such changes often do not occur with full awareness. One may change one’s view of truth and only later will its significance be realised. Another person may be so intimidated by the prospect of being burnt alive (and other, less-severe social pressure from the group) that he will unthinkingly go along with anything he’s told. The third case is one person (consciously) assenting to the group’s beliefs for mere expediency; he doesn’t really believe anything the group says it believes, but it is beneficial to his social standing.

Sartre interprets Aesop’s fable of The Fox and the Grapes as an example of an unconscious ‘magical transformation of the world’ in which the fox, denied the delicious grapes, later comes to see them as sour and undesirable. This is emotionally beneficial to the fox, as it nullifies destructive feelings of unsatisfied desire. This is an example of what psychologists call the Laws of the Lightest Load and the Greatest Gain, the tendency to reinterpret the world in ways favourable to the subject. Truth literally changes according to these reinterpretations. It is a subjective truth, but it could also be an ‘objective’ truth, as objective truth is merely the ‘inter-subjective’ negotiated through relations of power within a social group. As exemplified before, one will deny an ‘objective truth’ (e.g. God; as some suppose God to fall in the category of objective truth) if it is not of benefit to the individual. In such a case, one will not claim that their subjective truth is ‘more truthful’ than the group’s objective truth, rather he will claim that the group’s truth is a lie and that his truth an objective one. This is because a claim of ‘objective truth’ carries more power and rhetorical effect than a claim of ‘subjective truth’. Claims of objective truth are more powerful by virtue that it is claimed that not only a single individual believes such a truth. Unless you are Rambo – a very powerful individual, the beliefs of groups are always more powerful than one’s own beliefs. Ever wondered why a monarch refers to themself as ‘we’ rather than I? Because ‘we’ carries more authority and objectivity than ‘I’ by virtue that the monarch is supposed to represent more than the peasant ‘I’.

Freud’s discussed cases where his patients maintained self-concepts which were clearly delusional. Freud interpreted these delusions as coping mechanisms; it was emotionally beneficial to the patient to maintain such illusions rather than try to deal with their repressed beliefs.

Truth is that which is good for the individual. Truth has its source in us; there is no truth-in-itself. But what is good?

I think Nietzsche was closest, “all that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.” I am not going to elaborate on what Nietzsche means by ‘power’ in this context; suffice is to say that it has to do with self-preservation, flourishing, self-expression and creativity.

I must quickly add that one can really piss off Nietzsche and be deluded to think that sacrificing one’s life in this world will acutally lead to self-preservation and flourishing in another. This is another example of Lightest Load and Greatest Gain.

In the last analysis, Kierkegaard was right, truth is subjectivity.

What implications can we draw from this theory of truth? The most alarming is that some perspectives will naturally tend to be off-limits to us. It is not ‘good’ for the religious believer indoctrinated with dogma from birth and surrounded by other pious, bigoted believers to consider perspectives contrary to his own. The dangers are ostracism from his peers and the painful realignment of attitudes to the world. A perspective on the truth free from his familiar dogma is anathema to him.

How can this block to the exploration of perspectives be overcome? For Sartre, that life is in essence meaningless condemns us to be free. Only in a world gifted with meaninglessness are we truly free and responsible for our thoughts, actions and commitments; solely in this world are we justified in creating our own meaning. It is only with the realisation that our existing beliefs are contingent and without meaning in advance that we can even consider exploring alternative perspectives. When we find a perspective that may be ‘better’ for us (hopefully not delusional/other-worldly) this realisation will justify us in tearing down the old beliefs.


Man is the measure of all things

December 22, 2008

Socrates: Gidday Protagoras, what are you up to?

Protagoras: Just trying out these tinted glasses. I have red ones and blue ones. I’m currently wearing the red ones and the world is red to me.

Socrates: The world ain’t red, you tosser.

Protagoras: You think? Here, try on these blue glasses and tell me what you see.

Socrates: The world is blue!

Protagoras: Exactly! Do you see that the world is coloured through the glasses you wear? The world is different according to the glasses you wear, or if you wear none at all. It depends on your perspective. Man is the measure of all things.

Socrates: But I wasn’t wearing glasses before; I was seeing the world objectively then.

Protagoras: You forget about your cataracts, Socrates. How can you claim that there is an objective world and that you know it if you have cataracts?

Socrates: But what if I didn’t have cataracts?

Protagoras: You wouldn’t see the world through cataracts.

Socrates: I know that. The point I’m trying to make is that my hypothetical perspective without glasses or cataracts would have me seeing an objective world.

Protagoras: I’m sure that claim is true for you, Socrates, but do remember you have cataracts. Everyone has tinted glasses and they see the world differently, although people with the similarly-coloured glasses tend to see the world the same. I know this because I’ve talked to people, seen their glasses, and been told how they see the world. Did you perform a similar inductive exercise before proposing your hypothetical?

Socrates: No.

Protagoras: Than piss off, wanker.

Epistemology: insecurity seeking assurance

November 16, 2008

A speculative, futile and tediously stupid engagement for those with little faith in and courage for this world. The epistemologist imagines an other-world in which something called truth or knowledge is to be found. This is his delusion and he wastes his life away with it. He is to be pitied more than all men.

William James on Philosophy

November 2, 2008

With his obscure and uncertain speculations as to the intimate nature and causes of things, the philosopher is likened to a ‘blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there.’

Some Problems of Philosophy : A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (1911) Ch. 1 : Philosophy and its Critics

What is truth?

September 8, 2008

Truth is that which cannot be negated and that which is universal. Truth is that which is good. That which is good is open to many definitions and formulas. It is with hope that I pray that good will prevail.

Jesus can be seen as the truth, however many versions of Christianity construct a Jesus which is untruth. Some Christians have done a remarkable job of presenting their God as Satan. I refuse to believe their untruth.

The Buddha can also be seen as the truth. Buddhists have done a much better job at presenting the Buddha as truth than have Christians with Jesus.