# What is Truth?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by James R, Sep 11, 2022.

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1. ### SarkusHippomonstrosesquippedalo phobeValued Senior Member

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Perhaps because it was to a different question than those asked in the OP?

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3. ### SeattleValued Senior Member

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Instead of asking "What is truth" perhaps we could be asking "What is a trainwreck"

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5. ### O. W. GrantRegistered Senior Member

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Hi,

reality "in my head" /solipsism/ - reality "outside my head" /if it exists/

Above is the base of Scientific method. We suspect, we doubt, ... - we test (induction)

doubt
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=doubt

- - -

The Language of Logic (what is truth)

-

What is Truth? (same channel)

= = =

Logical connective
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_connective

- - -

epistemology
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=epistemology

- - -

science
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=science

- - -

Law of excluded middle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_excluded_middle

...

Bertrand Russell and Principia Mathematica

So just what is "truth" and "falsehood"? At the opening PM quickly announces some definitions:
Truth-values. The "truth-value" of a proposition is truth if it is true and falsehood if it is false* [*This phrase is due to Frege] … the truth-value of "p ∨ q" is truth if the truth-value of either p or q is truth, and is falsehood otherwise … that of "~ p" is the opposite of that of p …" (p. 7-8)
This is not much help. But later, in a much deeper discussion ("Definition and systematic ambiguity of Truth and Falsehood" Chapter II part III, p. 41 ff), PM defines truth and falsehood in terms of a relationship between the "a" and the "b" and the "percipient". For example "This 'a' is 'b'" (e.g. "This 'object a' is 'red'") really means "'object a' is a sense-datum" and "'red' is a sense-datum", and they "stand in relation" to one another and in relation to "I". Thus what we really mean is: "I perceive that 'This object is red'" and this is an undeniable-by-3rd-party "truth".
PM further defines a distinction between a "sense-datum" and a "sensation":
That is, when we judge (say) "this is red", what occurs is a relation of three terms, the mind, and "this", and "red". On the other hand, when we perceive "the redness of this", there is a relation of two terms, namely the mind and the complex object "the redness of this" (pp. 43–44).
Russell reiterated his distinction between "sense-datum" and "sensation" in his book The Problems of Philosophy (1912), published at the same time as PM (1910–1913):
Let us give the name of "sense-data" to the things that are immediately known in sensation: such things as colours, sounds, smells, hardnesses, roughnesses, and so on. We shall give the name "sensation" to the experience of being immediately aware of these things … The colour itself is a sense-datum, not a sensation. (p. 12)
Russell further described his reasoning behind his definitions of "truth" and "falsehood" in the same book (Chapter XII, Truth and Falsehood).

-
Somewhere were his thoughts about chair - one sees "parts" of the chair - not the whole chair /elephant and indian wise men/

... (???)

= = =

Last edited: Sep 13, 2022

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8. ### O. W. GrantRegistered Senior Member

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small mistake

... - one sees part/portion of the chair - not the whole chair at once (not the chair at all)

= = =

Blind Men and the Elephant
a hindoo fable

I.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

II.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

III.
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: "Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 't is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

IV.
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

V.
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

VI.
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

VII.
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

VIII.
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.
So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

a poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

Last edited: Sep 13, 2022
9. ### candyValued Senior Member

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1,072
Truth like beauty may be in the eye of the beholder therefore it may be relative to each person's beliefs.

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10. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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5,902

1. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. - Strongly agree I generally favor a correspondence theory of truth between propositions and facts (as existing states of affairs). There may be some special situations where I favor a coherence account of truth (truth about fictional characters in a novel perhaps. It's T that Sherlock Holmes was a detective who lived in London... well, not really)

2. We all share the same reality and only interpret it differently. - Yes! Strongly agree - I'm very much a realist in that sense

3. Truth depends on the opinions and beliefs of people. - Slightly agree because it's the propositions that people state, the bearers of the opinions and beliefs, that possess the T or F values. But I strongly disagree with the idea that truth is whatever people think it is or want it to be.

4. People create words and define their meaning - Strongly agree language is a human construct

5. A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true. - Strongly disagree. Of course I might want to concede that other people aren't all idiots and that some know truths I don't. I'd be inclined to accept chemical principles as (provisionally) T that not only Exchemist but the whole community of chemists agree on. But that just means I'd weight the principle highly, not that it's necessarily true in the apodeictic sense.

6. Strong belief, even without action, can change reality. - disagree pretty much. It can probably change one's personal psychological state which has some sort of reality.

Last edited: Sep 16, 2022
11. ### TiassaLet us not launch the boat ...Valued Senior Member

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37,822
1. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality.
Agree

2. We all share the same reality and only interpret it differently.
Agree

3. Truth depends on the opinions and beliefs of people.
Neutral; see #4

4. People create words and define their meaning.
Agree

5. A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true.
Strongly Disagree

6. Strong belief, even without action, can change reality.
Neutral; see #4

• • •​

... is to sit back and watch. Note the part where he says, "After a few people have posted their opinions, perhaps we can have a discussion about them." Wait and see what he focuses on. If this is like other threads that it kind of looks like, the point is to assess and critique other people's answers. To the other, the quantification seems kind of new. And while I might have doubts about the phrasing of the statements to consider, eh, nothing but to wait and see where he's going with this.

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12. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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39,237
Interesting responses. I think that most of us are broadly in agreement. Here are my answers, for what they're worth:
1. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. STRONGLY AGREE.
2. We all share the same reality and only interpret it differently. STRONGLY AGREE.
3. Truth depends on the opinions and beliefs of people. DISAGREE.
4. People create words and define their meaning. STRONGLY AGREE.
5. A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true. STRONGLY DISAGREE.
6. Strong belief, even without action, can change reality. DISAGREE.
These statements involve issues of ontology (what the world is like and what kinds of things exist in it) and epistemology (what we know and how we know it).

As a baseline, many of us (but not all) agree that we share a single reality (Item 2). Broadly, I interpret this to mean that there is an objective physical universe that we all share. If this is true (and I believe it is) then it provides a baseline against which to test claims. A statement is considered true when it corresponds to facts in the world (reality) (Item 1).

Opinions and beliefs are subjective. Most people recognise that different people can have different opinions and that opinions are not the same as facts or truths about reality. People can be wrong about things in reality, for instance.

If truths are things that correspond to reality and opinions do not necessarily correspond to reality then it follows that truth cannot depend on the opinions or beliefs of people (Item 3). Similarly, if a bunch of people agree that a statement is true, that doesn't mean it's true; we need to check whether it corresponds to reality. Therefore Item 5 is clearly false.

It seems obvious to me that people create words and define their meaning (Item 4). However, a statement cannot simply be defined as truth, because truth has to correspond to reality (Item 1, again).

Beliefs are things in the mind. They are not physical things. Without action, they cannot change "reality" - i.e. the physical world (Item 6). In fact, without action, their effects are limited to, at most, changing a single person's mind (and even that arguably involves "action").

It's easy to overthink these statements and I'm sure we can all think of loopholes and exceptions and ways of defining terms that are less obvious than what I just wrote. But these statements are actually intended to give a straightforward insight into a person's normal thought processes, rather than forming the basis for deep philosophical inquiry.

What caught my attention was that I saw an interview with a Trump supporter (that I'm not going to link at this time) in which the guy was asked these questions. I was quite surprised by two things. The first was that he didn't really understand the questions, or the point of asking them. The second was just how much this guy's responses differed from mine.

Roughly speaking, his responses were:

1. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. VAGUE AGREEMENT, but perhaps not understanding the question.
2. We all share the same reality and only interpret it differently. VAGUE AGREEMENT, but again perhaps not really understanding the question.
3. Truth depends on the opinions and beliefs of people. AGREE.
4. People create words and define their meaning. AGREE.
5. A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true. AGREE.
6. Strong belief, even without action, can change reality. AGREE.

There are contradictions here, for example between Items 1/2 and Items 3/5. Also, the idea that beliefs alone can alter reality (Item 6) is strongly reminiscent of "alternative facts" and such things.

13. ### SarkusHippomonstrosesquippedalo phobeValued Senior Member

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10,298
I would suggest that, as such, this would have been better served in something like the Human Sciences section, as you're effectively just looking for a something akin to a personality test with which to bash those you disagree with (e.g. "Trump supporter"), rather than a sincere effort at looking at the question you actually posed in the thread title. Maybe the Politics thread, being an inquiry into the thinking of a supporter of a particular brand? But then you'd be tasked, probably among other things, with trying to show how it actually applies to the whole rather than just the (possibly extreme) individual that caught your attention. Maybe it would be interesting to correlate the responses to political leaning etc. I.e. establish the actual link you have seemed to assume through a sample of, what is it, one?

As it is, it seems that this inquiry is nothing but a case of "Look! Someone different! Aren't they stupid! Aren't I glad I'm not like that!" rather than anything particularly meaningful, at least from a philosophical point of view.

But, well, here we are. I guess this is where I should just roll my eyes and go "Sure. Whatever."

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14. ### wegsMatter and Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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My answers in maroon font.

Here are the statements to consider:

1. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. - Agree, but there are objective and subjective realities - and it may only be true for you, and no one else. Like, if your favorite color is blue. That's true for you. I shouldn't try to dissuade you ''don't let that be your favorite color, that color is so ugly.'' If it's your favorite color, then it's true for you.

2. We all share the same reality and only interpret it differently. - Agree - I may interpret life in a fatalistic or idealistic way, but how we interpret reality, is partially responsible for the quality of our lives.

3. Truth depends on the opinions and beliefs of people. - Strongly disagree - Opinions of others can play a role, but truth doesn't depend on it.

4. People create words and define their meaning. - Agree

5. A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true. - Strongly disagree - I may find something to be true, even if no one agrees with me. Can it true what they say - ''perception is everything?''

6. Strong belief, even without action, can change reality. - Agree - you can believe in something, and not act because of it.

I have one to add for the group - same response choices apply:

Truth is not judgmental, it's only based on facts.

15. ### arfa branecall me arfValued Senior Member

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7,832
That's the truth of reality; but logical truth doesn't need to correspond to anything real.

Hence logic is not necessarily tied to anything in the real world. Scary, huh?
Yeah, in general that's true, I think. (\smirk)
But to agree a logical statement is true, two different people can use logic to prove it and agree the proof is correct. Proof of correctness is . . . logical.

Logic can only be logical, it seems to be coincidental that it applies to real-world statements.
But given that premise, for instance how do you prove a (real-world) computer program is correct? When can you say it's true that a program is free of logical errors?

Last edited: Sep 16, 2022
16. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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18,888
Personally, I'm not sure of the quality of this data and what it really represents. For the Trump Supporter, there was surely some context leading up to the questions, and I would assume he is expecting a trap. I would further assume, unless shown otherwise, that his responses are agenda-driven and not a reflection of what he really thinks.

17. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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39,237
wegs:
I take a different approach to that kind of thing. If your favorite colour is blue, then I'd say it is true for everyone that your (weg's) favorite colour is blue. This is not a matter of subjective reality. The reality is that blue is your favorite colour. The statement "Blue is weg's favorite colour" is true if the real-world wegs who shares the same physical universe with the rest of us considers blue to be her favorite colour. That is, the statement is true because it corresponds to reality.

If we're talking about the same thing, I don't think it is possible for that thing to be true for one person and not true for a second person.

It could be true that person A's favorite colour is blue and person B's favorite colour is red, but person A and person B are not the same person. On the other hand, it can't be true for person B that person A's favorite colour is blue and yet simultaneously false for person C that person A's favorite colour is blue. Person A's favorite colour either is or isn't blue, in reality. If B believes that A's favorite colour is blue and C believes that A's favorite colour is red, then at least one of B or C must be mistaken about the truth of this particular matter.

I think that people tend to use turns of phrase like "It's true for me that ..." or "It's my truth that ..." when they really just mean "I believe that ...". But capital 't' Truth is not just about belief. It's about justification. Demonstrable correspondence with reality is justification.

Last edited: Sep 18, 2022
18. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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39,237
Sarkus:
Fair enough. I have moved the thread to Human Sciences. My aim here is to discuss how different people think about Truth. So it's a fair call to say that this is more about what human beings do than it is about broad philosophical questions.

Having said that, I think this thread could go down a number of different paths. We'll see how the conversation develops.
I don't recall bashing anybody. I said that one guy's responses to these statements caught my attention and that I was surprised to see how differently he thinks about these things, compared to how I think about them.

Your reading insincerity into my attempt to start an interesting discussion is on you, not me. Believe what you like about that, but please don't make accusations you can't support.
One way to correlate responses would be to put the same questons to a wider group of people and examine the responses, would it not? That would extend the sample size to more than one.

Hey! That gives me an idea. I could, perhaps, start a thread on sciforums and ask people how they would respond to the various statements.

Thanks for the suggestion, Sarkus! Oh, wait...
Nothing but a case of that, eh?

Well, I guess this is will be the point at which you exit this meaningless thread. Right? Thanks for your contribution and useful suggestion. See ya!

19. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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39,237
He was approached for a one-on-one interview, to have a friendly discussion about these questions (and some more I might post about later). He agreed to do this and was not upset at how things proceeded. The conversation ended amicably.

Where do you think the "trap" is in these questions? I'm interested to hear your thoughts on that. I don't think this particular guy suspected any sort of "trap", but it seems you do. Probably Sarkus, too, but I don't expect we'll be hearing from him again in this thread; do you?
Why would you assume that? What agenda? Whose agenda? Why?

20. ### TiassaLet us not launch the boat ...Valued Senior Member

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It might affect your assessment if I remind that he has, in the past, shown sympathy to Trump supporters.

Like anything else, wait and see where he goes with it. It occurs to me that his disagreement with statement five ("A statement is true if everyone agrees it is true" ["strongly disagree"]) creates certain tension in his relativistic approach to morality. He's not wrong when he writes, "if a bunch of people agree that a statement is true, that doesn't mean it's true; we need to check whether it corresponds to reality", but we might wonder why that point is absent from actual application in the discussion about morality.

The problem with trying to get out in front of James, like that, is the inadvisability of presuming to know where he is going, there are plenty of times where it looks more like he's not really going anywhere. The thing about the perceived conflict with his past writing is that the present occasion also happens to put an answer to that question in play without actually addressing it directly; even if, for instance, his source turned out to be unreliable, we would still have that answer. No matter where he is going with this thread, we have that answer, and he will apply it to the relativism question, or any other, as such, when he gets around to it, if he is so inclined.

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21. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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Tiassa:

More meta-commentary from you? Why not discuss the thread topic, for a change?
I have a certain sympathy for most people. Probably not in the way you imagine. Maybe "empathy" is a better word to use.
Sounds like a topic for a different thread. (Do you think your own approach to morality is absolute? That could make for an interesting discussion.)
Look, Tiassa: insinuations and veiled accusations get old pretty quickly. If you have something to say to me, just come out and say it. Stop talking about me like I'm not here. It's rude - not to mention cowardly. Or, better yet, just stop talking about me. You consistent show that you don't have a clue about that particular topic. Focus your attention elsewhere. Please.

22. ### SeattleValued Senior Member

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Since we're in Human Science, I think autism might be an explanation for a lot that goes on here, don't you think?

23. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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Is this more meta-commentary, or are you referring obliquely to the thread topic?

Who, exactly, are you suggesting is autistic? And what goings-on are you referring to, specifically? In what way do you think autism would explain these goings-on?

(If, as I suspect, this is meta-commentary from you, please consider taking it to a different thread.)