What is meant when we use the word "truth"?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by charles brough, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. charles brough Registered Senior Member

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    Can it most accurately be defined as "whatever you want the other person or people to believe?"

    We speak of science as being "true" but scientists are wise enough to use the word "theory" instead because science changes and what we "know" is constantly being made more accurate.

    Does that mean that what we previously thought was "false?" No, not really, it was just not as accurate as what we now know.

    I have found that the whole issue is profoundly disturbing to people. They prefer not to have the question raised at all.

    This puzzles me because I like the idea that science is always building a more accurate understanding of ourselves and our universe. The idea that someday we would know the final "Truth" and that our understanding would then be absolute, total, to be not only more disturbing but, as well, totally absurd!

    Of course, it is practical to consider many things "true" in the sense that they are accurate enough and need not be questioned. For example, the Earth may not be exactly round, but it is impractical to deal with accuracy exactitudes in every day communication.

    So how did we originally get "hung up" on using the "true" word? People have always needed to believe more or less in common in order to get along with each other. It helped when they agreed that their common belief was rigid, unchanging. It provided belief security.

    In other words, it is a religion-word. And, as such, it really has no place in science.

    brough
    civilization-overview dot com
     
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  3. John99 Banned Banned

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    Hi Charles, true is actually a straight line. If you take two straight lines and run them parallel to eachother there would be no gaps. If gaps exist, one line is not true.
     
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  5. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    To me there are many truths that we can have depending upon many instances. You have used religion as one of those examples and whether or not it belongs with science as a true way of knowing where we came from. First all religions are beliefs so they are already categorized within another field, there own, religion and within that there are many other truths about each religion. Understanding that, that religion is already a non scientific word you then can satisfy yourself in understanding that science and religion are two entirely different words and aren't meant to be considered the same to start with.

    That said then we look at the truth according to who says it is so. In science we find that there are many scientists that think we evolved and use that as a truth according to them. Is that an untruth according to religion? Or is it that since religion is a belief there cannot be any way to prove that any religion is telling the truth? They can only tell us what their belief of the truth is again trying to separate a belief system as compared to a scientific system. Are they wrong with their belief of their own truths that they made up and can support by showing people many stories about their religions ways and truths.
     
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  7. John99 Banned Banned

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    Cozzy, truth can have no alternatives...well actually if it does one can not\would not\should not render the other un-true. Because if that were the case then one was never true to begin with. That said, we can have more true and less true.

    Also, how can you be sure of trueness if you cannot see from one end to the other?
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In science, empirical observations are accepted as truth, once they have been peer-reviewed. Theories derived logically from these empirical observations are often said to be true, but that is just an example of a phenomenon I often rail about: the abysmally poor communication skills of the average scientist.

    Scientific theories are true beyond a reasonable doubt, to use the language of lawyers, who are much more precise than most scientists. This doesn't mean that a theory won't occasionally be falsified, but rather that it happens so rarely, and usually results in such an arcane and minute revision, (e.g., the relevance to the average citizen of Einstein's adjustments to Newton's Laws) that it is literally unreasonable to doubt them.

    The theories of mathematics, on the other hand, are absolutely true, since they are developed from abstractions rather than realities.
    What a bizarre statement. Scientists don't "think" that all species of life on this planet have evolved from ancestral species, they know it. They have a mountain of evidence from two different, unrelated sciences, paleontology and genetics. Evolution is so "true beyond a reasonable doubt" that the Pope and the leaders of all major religions accept and include it unremarkably in the curricula of their universities.

    Perhaps you're confusing evolution with abiogenesis. That's a common misunderstanding outside of the Academy, although it is dishonestly reinforced by leaders of some of the minor religions, who wish to falsify virtually all of science because it threatens their belief in an invisible, illogical supernatural universe from which creatures and other forces whimsically perturb the workings of the natural universe. But we don't expect to encounter it here in a place of science and scholarship. All living things have evolved from simpler ancestors, but this says nothing about where the first living thing came from. This is something that all scientists know. Evolution is true beyond a reasonable doubt.
     
  9. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    I agree with you John. Depending upon what philosophy you follow, truth is a superlative. It is impossible to have a statement that is "more" true than another "true" statement.

    The correct usage would be "more nearly true"...
     
  10. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    I understand but I was WRONG in not making myself clearer for those people who need everything to be written exactly as it must be or some weird dimension will open and take me away.
     
  11. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    This is a serious question...

    Fraggle (or anyone else), is there a word in any language which denotes the concept of "I know you are cheating on me" or "I know the sun will rise tomorrow?

    What I'm after is a word between "speculate" and "know". One of those situations in which you "know" the answer, but not in the same sense as "knowing" that you exist, for example. Is there such a word? I mean, I know you all exist out there in Britain, England, South America, etc., and I have seen such, but how do I "know" you exist now?

    I'm simply looking for a word (in any language) that reflects the concept of knowing beyond speculation, but have no empirical evidence to support said conclusion. Does such a word exist? I am fairly confident that the concept exists in most cultures, I've just never found a word that adequately describes the phenomenon...

    Can you help me out?
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You said, "many scientists think we have evolved," when in fact all scientists know we have evolved. This is not simply a lack of clarity, this is a patently false statement!
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    English and Chinese have richer vocabularies than most other languages. Since you probably don't speak Chinese, you shouldn't have to look any farther than your own native language. Does this concept exist in Anglo-American culture? If so, what is the English word for it?

    To me the entire concept seems bogus. If you have no empirical evidence for an assertion, how could you possibly be even vaguely certain that it is correct?

    Perhaps the word you're looking for is "religion." Religion is a collection of archetypes, and archetypes are pre-programmed into our synapses by our DNA--either by survival of the fittest, or by an accidental mutation passed through a genetic bottleneck. Beliefs that we were born with feel more true than any we acquire after birth through learning or reasoning.

    Is this the type of "knowledge" to which you're referring? The most accurate term for it is "instinct."
     
  14. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

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    I don't think that is what they mean Rocky road Man . I think they mean they are pretty sure they might get out of bed tomorrow. Were as they got out of bed for the last x amount of days in there past so the odds are pretty good they will tomorrow.
    I like that "pre- programed archetypes". I might have to plagiarizer that my man . Put it in a song lyric ( Don't sue Me) Is that a language ? Pre-Programed Archetypes that is. Is there empirical evidence it is programed into our synapses. I except humans copy humans , but is that a truth proved by empirical evidence . Yet we learn by pre existing knowledge so learned behavior has the appearance of copying, but is this it self a pre-determined instinct in human nature ? If so then could all of language be part of the instinct of humans ? Also being subject to evolution by the same mechanism as anything that evolves. Is there a pre-disposition for humans to use language? If so is it rooted in these archetypes you talk about ?
     
  15. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

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    I don't think Fraggle caught my Woo Woo . Will some one please explain it to him . Whimsical can be extremely powerful . By the By all you out there blaming Me, I don't make the decisions. I had know Idea what and where, I just knew it would . Mother makes the decisions . Why do you think the childhood game is called "Mother May I "? I really don't want to talk about it . I was just as devastated and shocked as anybody. The thing is is to get a clue before Mother decides on bringing more wrath. Yeah way ! I have seen it happen to many times . A lot like getting out of bed every morning
     
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Aint that the truth!!!
     
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    There is no empirical evidence for the assertions that "all people are equal", or "that murder and incest are wrong".
     
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Faith, instinct, gut feeling, prejudice, preconceived notion, unchecked assumption, fixed idea, culturally instilled notion, self-reliance, self-confidence.
    However, all these tend to have a negative connotation in Western society.
     
  19. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks Fraggle, you're getting close. I knew I would have a hard time adequately conveying my thoughts.

    I'm not sure that the archetypes that we all innately possess are responsible, and certainly none of the religious nature. I'm thinking more of a word that covers, for example, a "hunch" that police often tend to express, or maybe that "gut feeling" we have when we "know" that our spouse is cheating on us.

    Perhaps no empirical evidence is not exactly correct, more like insufficient empirical evidence from an objective point of view. (Redundant, yes, I know)

    I do not know if you're familiar with the TV show Lie to me, but it deals with the idea of a "human lie detector", i.e. one who can read micro-expressions, body language, etc. and come up with an accurate assessment nine times out of ten. Or at least more often than would be statistically probable based on pure guess work.

    I realize I am doing a poor job of describing this, that is the whole crux of the matter. To expound on an earlier example, if something is stolen from me and three people have means and opportunity, it seems (to me at least) that often one may experience an inner conviction that person A is guilty, although you could not even prove it to the courtroom standard of "preponderance of evidence", let alone "beyond a reasonable doubt". Nonetheless, you know the "truth" way more often than not.

    The best I have ever been able to up with in English is that I "know" this intuitively. A case could be made that empirical evidence does, in fact, exist but the clues are sometimes so minute that even the person making such a proclamation is unable to point out said evidence.

    All I can do is provide examples, as I know of no synonyms beyond those that I have mentioned. So, if your boss calls you into his/her office and you "know" this is going to be bad news, is there a word that more accurately describes that feeling than "speculation"?

    Something between "know" and "speculate"? A word that denotes a much higher probability than pure chance? It's a conviction that you feel strongly about, are right about much more often than wrong, but you can't point to any particular reason convincing you that you "know" the outcome.

    I've considered this question for quite some time and my vocabulary simply does not contain a word that adequately conveys the subtle nuance(s) that I'm trying to express. People often use this type of language casually, as in "I know that my three year old is responsible for breaking that lamp!" when it could have been the dog, cat or even some other strange cause - wind, a visitor that didn't 'fess up, etc.

    Any ideas for this concept beyond intuition?
     
  20. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    Exactly. I'm looking for a word without negative connotation, preferably one that is explicitly denotative.
     
  21. quantum_wave Contemplating the "as yet" unknown Valued Senior Member

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    I think there is such a word or phrase in science. Many theories include axioms which are premises that are either considered self-evident or necessary truths. The philosophy of science includes the use of axioms and also cautions that science is tentative. Tentativeness is as much a strength of science as is the use of self-evident truths as being axiomatic.

    You derive other truths from axioms and build support for theories, you test theories and they prove out or not, and sometimes what proves out turns out later to be wrong and tentativeness is invoked.
     
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    There is also "believe", obviously.


    I think that anything that has less than the status of knowledge ("justified true belief") tends to be looked down on ...
     
  23. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

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    You know, you are absolutely correct. I will go with this until a better alternative appears.

    From now on, instead of "I know s/he did it!" I shall use "I believe s/he did it!". I just hope the nuance is evident to those I am conversing with.

    Nonetheless, this seems to be the only alternative (in English) that makes sense. Thanks...

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