## Is it self-contradictory to state 'there is no objective truth'?

• 1.8k
for simple things like does the sky reflect the electro magnetic spectrum (a particular frequency) that usually appears to be blue to most people or that 1+1 = 2, those things in fact are objective truth.

This is a debate derail waiting to happen. Some adopt a mild definition for objective truth, as you seem to: unbiased or impartial truth. Others use a more rigorous one: accurate correspondence with that which is. I think this topic is mainly associated with the latter. :chin:
• 2.2k
Are true propositions true for everyone?

That would depend on how you define 'true'. If your definition of truth is 'that which everyone experiences' then a proposition which is true is true for everyone by definition. But that definition would require you to check with everyone before declaring anything to be true.

If alternatively you have another way of determining whether a proposition is 'true', then in order to answer your question you'd have to show how that method necessarily meant that it's result applied to everyone.

I haven't heard yet what your method is, if not asking everyone. How do you determine if some proposition is 'true'?
• 243
Couldn't you procede inductively? Ask a large and hopefully representative sample of people and infer that what they say is likely what everyone would say.

PA
• 2.2k
Couldn't you procede inductively? Ask a large and hopefully representative sample of people and infer that what they say is likely what everyone would say.

Yes, I suppose one could if one wanted to hold 'true' to be 'that with which everyone would agree'. I suppose the sample size wouldn't have to be that large for any matter of real interest as it would not take long to find one person who disagreed and so be forced to reject the proposition in question.

As a definition of 'truth' I don't think it has much to commend it.
• 2.1k
The Relativist would immediately run into the objection that when he says "I don't believe in truth", he means to state something which is true
The statement is not 'I don't believe in truth' but 'I don't believe in objective truth'. The qualifier is critical and removes any self-referential or regression problem.

The speaker is not believing what she says to be 'objectively true'. Truth has a perfectly functional meaning in ordinary speech, which is something like what one believes*, and that is all that the person means when they make their statement.

*Consider the following conversation:

Mum: 'I heard you skipped school today.'
Jemimah: 'No I didn't.'
Mum: 'Is that true?'
Jemimah: 'Yes'

Mum is asking Jemimah about whether what she says is consistent with her state of knowledge. 'Objective truth', whatever that is, doesn't come into it.
• 3.1k
That would depend on how you define 'true'. If your definition of truth is 'that which everyone experiences' then a proposition which is true is true for everyone by definition. But that definition would require you to check with everyone before declaring anything to be true.
Isnt that what we do? Scientists make claims and propose theories which then require their peers to perform experiments to then determine if the theory holds. Is it true that humans evolved from other organisms, or that the Earth is experiencing climate change?

I have also defined "truth" as the degree of accuracy between some state of affairs and some claim. Which claim has a higher degree of truth - that Earth is, or isnt, experiencing climate change?

Now, if we want to be more strict in the application of "truth" and only apply it to the form of some proposition (like its lack of logical fallacies) and not some state of affairs that the proposition refers to, then we end up with propositions that can be "true" but doesn't refer to anything real.

For example, the proposition, "Donald Trump is the most honest person alive." is logically consistent in form, but has no bearing on reality. How would you determine if the proposition reflects reality, or has some degree of accuracy, if not by asking others who have interacted with Trump about his honesty or lack thereof.

How do you know that you arent hallucinating at any given moment? Is it true that you are hallucinating at this moment, or that you are actually reading my post? How would you find out?
• 2.2k
Isnt that what we do? Scientists make claims and propose theories which then require their peers to perform experiments to then determine if the theory holds.

So what is it, for you, that makes a scientist a better person to put in this role? Is it just that ordinary people don't have access to the measuring devices? If we all had personal ocean temperature data, would we no longer be need to consult meteorologists about climate change?

A second, unrelated question. How does your theory handle the seemingly counter intuitive problem of knowledge evolution? If that which the majority of (specialist?) recorders say they experience is what "truth" is, then was it 'true' that the earth was flat back when that would have been the report of most observers?
• 243
I find this quite curious.

I would have thought that Mum, in saying "is that true?", is not merely asking Jemimah what she believes on the issue of whether she went to school, or even asking what is "consistent with Jemimah's knowledge". She is asking Jemimah whether some event actually occured. Mum will likely punish Jemimah if they say that they didn't go to school, and it wouldn't make any sense for Mum to punish Jemimah merely for believing that she didn't go to school. Mum sensibly punishes Jemimah for skipping school, not for having a belief about it.

Does that not show that "truth" in ordinary English invovles something the Relativist cannot accept?

Anyway I'm not sure that debates about the ordinary meaning of "true" are of much relevance. What is relevant is that your Relativist says "I don't believe in objective truth" and when he says it, he means us to understand it using (what you say is) the ordinary meaning of "true". So what he means to say is "I believe that I don't believe in objective truth". Of course, when he says that he wants us to understand it in the same way.. and so we still have a regress which prevents us ever understanding what the Relativist means to say. He means to say something like "I believe that I believe that I believe that I believe.....ad infinitum.. that I don't believe in objective truth", but he does not mean ever to assert the objective existence of any belief of his. Perhaps I'm just missing the point, but I just can't understand what is being claimed.

PA
• 2.1k
Mum sensibly punishes Jemimah for skipping school, not for having a belief about it.

Does that not show that "truth" in ordinary English invovles something the Relativist cannot accept?
I think she punishes Jemimah for lying, and lying is deliberately saying something you don't believe.

In everyday language, someone is telling the truth if they are saying what they believe. When talking about the truth in general, the idea seems to be that the truth is what most people would believe if they had witnessed whatever it was,

None of this has any bearing on 'absolute truth' or 'objective truth', which could be absolutely anything in the presence of Last Thursdayism or Descartes' demon.
• 3.1k
But that is scientific peers. You're missing something crucial...
No, it is you that is missing something crucial - namely the rest of the post that you only responded to part of, so it is no wonder that your complaints don't take into account the rest of the post.

People, like you and me, test scientific theories every time we use the technology they are based on. Does combustion work the same for everyone? This is unlike the theory of "god" where everyone has their own definition an can't agree on what "god" is. Science knows no contextual limitations.

I also defined "truth" in a way that is similar to the correspondence theory of truth - as a relationship between some claim or proposition and the way things really are.

A second, unrelated question. How does your theory handle the seemingly counter intuitive problem of knowledge evolution? If that which the majority of (specialist?) recorders say they experience is what "truth" is, then was it 'true' that the earth was flat back when that would have been the report of most observers?
Sure, because I don't avoid answering questions like you do. There were several in my previous post that you ignored. Never mind that your example is about the majority of human's understanding of the world PRIOR to the scientific method being used.

I have defined knowledge as a set of rules for interpreting sensory data. Knowledge changes. What we thought we knew we find out that we didn't, so did we really know anything? Because we aren't omniscient, our understanding of the world can differ and fluctuate as we acquire new experiences of the world. We all attempt to make sense of these new experiences by integrating it with what we already "know".

So, when I said that truth pertains to what everyone can experience, what I meant was that world exists objectively, independently of the ways we think about it or describe it, and our thoughts and claims are about that world. Sure, we can get it wrong, but that is because we didn't do all the proper observations. The Earth was round even though most people thought it was flat because the world exists as it is independent of our claims about it. Didn't I say earlier that what is objective is true and what is subjective isn't? So in effect our lack of information created a subjective notion of the world being flat. Strange how it seems that in order to get at truth, we must look at the bigger picture. Instead of standing on the Earth as part of it, separate yourself from it and you will see with your own eyes that it is round. In other words, you must be more objective, and less subjective, in your thinking.
• 2.2k
People, like you and me, test scientific theories every time we use the technology they are based on. Does combustion work the same for everyone?

But this contradicts your distinction later that
your example is about the majority of human's understanding of the world PRIOR to the scientific method being used.

We're not using the scientific method to determine that a scientific theory works by using its products. We're using the same everyday pragmatism used by those who thought the earth was flat.

I also defined "truth" in a way that is similar to the correspondence theory of truth - as a relationship between some claim or proposition and the way things really are.

If you did I missed it. What I picked up on was you defining it as that which everyone experiences. That which is "the way things really are" is even less useful. At least with your first definition we could at least theoretically ask everyone, with this definition, we might as well ditch the word entirely from the language. How could we ever know whether what we believe is "the way things really are", and if your answer to that question is some method (let's call it method A), then your definition of 'truth' is really "that which passes the test of method A" since everything passing that test is presumed to be "the way things really are" and therefore 'true'.

So what really matters for your definition of truth is method A. I'm asking for a description of that method.

I have defined knowledge as a set of rules for interpreting sensory data. Knowledge changes. What we thought we knew we find out that we didn't, so did we really know anything?

Why are you talking about knowledge all of a sudden. We were talking about 'truth' not knowledge. I'm not following the link.

that world exists objectively, independently of the ways we think about it or describe it, and our thoughts and claims are about that world.

I don't understand how this can be. How can our thoughts and claims (verbal expressions of thought) be about something which is independent from our thoughts. How would we go about constructing a thought about something which is independent of the way we think about it?
• 13.8k
I have also defined "truth" as the degree of accuracy between some state of affairs and some claim.

And what would be objective about that? How do we objectively map a relation between a claim and a state of affairs?
• 243
I think she punishes Jemimah for lying, and lying is deliberately saying something you don't believe.

In everyday language, someone is telling the truth if they are saying what they believe. When talking about the truth in general, the idea seems to be that the truth is what most people would believe if they had witnessed whatever it was,

None of this has any bearing on 'absolute truth' or 'objective truth', which could be absolutely anything in the presence of Last Thursdayism or Descartes' demon.

I think there are still problems afoot here. Mum could well punish Jemimah for lying, but it would also make perfect sense for her to punish Jemimah for not going to school, would it not? Children are punished for lying sometimes, but also for their actions. And that presupposes that there is some objective truth about whether Jemimah actually attended school. Relatedly, defining truth as "what most people would believe if they had witnessed whatever it was" appears to presuppose that there is an "it" to be witnessed - an objective fact which is not just what someone believes (Of course, it also presupposes that there are people and beliefs).

It is right that sometimes we say that someone is "telling the truth" when they are saying what they believe, but I don't think you can properly generalize this observation into a general thesis about the meaning of "true", as you do above. We also have various other practices involving the word "true". For instance, if I am wondering about whether the Vikings raided Britain, then I am wondering whether a certain event actually happened. I am certainly not wondering what most people believe about it, or even what most people would believe about it were they shown bits of historical evidence.

But as I say, all this is really only a footnote, because even if the Relativist can appeal to the ordinary notion of truth, it doesn't change the fact that his position generates an infinite regress when you try to understand it.

PA
• 497
"There-is-no-objective-truth" is self-inconsistent if understood to be a universal proposition. The same is true of any negative universal proposition that is self-applicable, since this leads to a liar sentence.

Rather than viewing the liar sentence as a proposition possessing inconsistent static meaning, instead consider it to be a performative speech-act that when repeatedly applied to itself creates a dynamic alternating sequence of unstable outcomes. This way the liar sentence is no longer interpreted as being in conflict with itself, but as merely yielding instability.
• 2.1k
even if the Relativist can appeal to the ordinary notion of truth, it doesn't change the fact that his position generates an infinite regress when you try to understand it.
How do you make that out? How does one get a regress out of a person saying "I don't believe in objective truth". In what's above, the regress relied on the statement being the very different "I don't believe in truth".
• 54
The universe itself is an objective truth, look around and you will see plenty, but for a person to understand them, he/she should first understand the purpose and being of him/her as an actual being and part of the universe. Subjective truth is always changeable, but objective is agreed upon. Many will still disagree to the ideas of the universe and subjective truth and so on and i guess that's why human's are generally in trouble. Does it make any sense?
• 8.9k
A statement is either true or false. If it is true that 'there is no objective truth' then that seems like a contradiction.
If it is false that 'there is no objective truth' then that means objective truth exists, so the claim is not contradictory. So the only time that statement makes logical sense is when it is false, which is rather trivial. So what am I missing?

We have an idea that truth in its fullest dimension must be objective because it seems illogical to think that truth could be subjective. If truth were subjective, the thinking goes, then something could be true for me and false for you, which seems absurd.

As examples of truths which are not merely a matter of opinion we have truths which are tautologous or true by definition and we have truths about the empirical world which anyone may confirm by checking. "Paris if the capital city of France", for example; we can go to Paris and check the truth of that statement; nevertheless such statements seem express truths or falsehoods which are more contextual or conventional truths or falsehoods than they are objective or absolute truths or falsehoods.

It also seems logically possible that anything we believe could turn out to be false, so this situation leads to the idea of objective or absolute truth which is beyond any mere human opinion. We don't know if there is such a thing, but we do know that nothing we believe is true could ever qualify or at least that we could never know if it qualifies.

So, the idea of objective truth becomes the idea of something that will remain forever beyond our ken, something we can have no access to. If this is so, then of what use could such 'truth' be, beyond serving as a kind of regulative principle; a reminder of our own inevitable ignorance in the face of something that both exceeds and includes our own epistemic limitations?

So, we do not have the knowledge to say that there are no objective truths; that remains merely a logical possibility, as does the contrary idea that there are objective truths.
• 243
I'll try to make the argument clearer. Consider a dialogue between your Relativist and, if you like, an Objectivist, who puts forward my own line of thinking.

Relativist: I don't believe in objective truth.

Objectivist: Of course you do! What you just stated is something you think is objectively true. You think it is objectively true that you don't believe in objective truth.

Relativist: No. My assertions should be understood using the ordinary notion of truth, not this new-fangled "objective truth" that you philosophers speak of.

Objectivist: What do you mean the "ordinary notion"? What is this notion?

Relativist: The ordinary notion of truth is something like what one believes.

Objectivist: Right. So, your assertion "I don't believe in objective truth", is to be understood as a claim that is true in the ordinary sense.

Relativist: Right.

Objectivist: So when you say "I don't believe in objective truth", you really mean to say "I believe that I don't believe in objective truth".

Relativist: Right.

Objectivist: But isn't this assertion something you claim to be objectively true? Don't you claim that "I believe that I don't believe in objective truth" is objectively true as you assert it?

Relativist: No. I want this new assertion to be understood in the ordinary way as well. I don't mean to assert that it is objectively true. I mean to assert that I believe it.

Objectivist: So your assertion is... that you believe that you believe that you don't believe in objective truth?

Relativist: Good. Now you are getting it.

Objectivist: I'm not sure that I am. Your initial claim that you don't believe in objective truth seemed simple enough. But you want it to be interpreted so that it entails an infinite number of qualifications. You don't mean to say that it is objectively true that you don't believe in objective truth. You mean to say that you believe that you believe that you believe.... ad infinitum, that you don't believe in objective truth, and in saying this, you don't mean to assert the objective existence of any beliefs at all.

Relativist: You understand me completely. Tis too simple!

Objectivist: I really don't understand..

Perhaps I have put the wrong words in your Relativists' mouth.
PA
• 2.1k
That seems fair enough. I would add that the infinite series of "I believe that..." collapses to a single one because it is what mathematicians call an 'idempotent operator'. That means that applying it any number of times in succession has the identical effect to applying it once.

The link gives an example of a physical idempotent operator: an On button on an electric device. This contrasts with an On/Off toggle, whose effect depends on the initial state and on whether the number of times it is pressed is odd or even.

A mathematical example would be the operation of rounding to the nearest integer. Doing it once has the same result as doing it a million or infinitely many times.
• 3.1k
We're not using the scientific method to determine that a scientific theory works by using its products. We're using the same everyday pragmatism used by those who thought the earth was flat.
Are we not testing the scientific method itself when using technology that some theory arrived at using the scientific method? I don't see how my explanation doesn't allow for mass delusions.

How could we ever know whether what we believe is "the way things really are", and if your answer to that question is some method (let's call it method A), then your definition of 'truth' is really "that which passes the test of method A" since everything passing that test is presumed to be "the way things really are" and therefore 'true'.
That is the problem with knowledge that I explained.

Why are you talking about knowledge all of a sudden. We were talking about 'truth' not knowledge. I'm not following the link.
Do you have a short-term memory problem? That would explain a lot.
I was responding to this:
A second, unrelated question. How does your theory handle the seemingly counter intuitive problem of knowledge evolution?
And then in the same post that you ask why I'm talking about knowledge, you ask me how we know anything:
How could we ever know whether what we believe is "the way things really are",
So, it would seem to me that the word, "know" and "knowledge" need to be defined. And yes, we have been talking about "knowledge". Try your best to remember. We have evidence that you used the word even though you don't seem to remember. This is what I mean by objective. Because your words exist out in the world it is possible, for those that look, to find them.

I don't understand how this can be. How can our thoughts and claims (verbal expressions of thought) be about something which is independent from our thoughts. How would we go about constructing a thought about something which is independent of the way we think about it?
• 13.8k
"There-is-no-objective-truth" is self-inconsistent if understood to be a universal proposition.sime

Wouldn't that only be the case if you're trying to assert some connection between objectivity and universality?
• 3.1k
And what would be objective about that? How do we objectively map a relation between a claim and a state of affairs?
How do we objectively map the meaning of words? How is it that we can even communicate if all of our words don't exist out in the world and we use definitions (an objective meaning of a word) to determine their meaning, and therefore the meaning of your post? Does your post have an objective meaning - one that everyone should realize if they read your post? What is the meaning of your post - what others interpret, or what you intended when you wrote them? We have a set of rules for interpreting words that we all agree on, just as scientists have a set of rules to determine the accuracy of some hypothesis.
• 13.8k
Objectivist: So when you say "I don't believe in objective truth", you really mean to say "I believe that I don't believe in objective truth".

Relativist: Right.

The relativist saying "right" at that point would be very confused given what comes before that. They should say, "No. Remember that I just explained the the 'ordinary notion' of 'truth' is that it refers to what one believes, and that I'm taking 'objective truth' to be asserting something different than that, something independent of beliefs. What I'm saying in other words is simply 'I don't believe that truth is something independent of beliefs.'"
• 13.8k
How do we objectively map the meaning of words?

We don't.

Meanings are different than definitions. Definitions are sound or text strings or pointings to things. The sounds, text strings, pointings, etc. don't literally contain meaning. Individuals assign meanings to them. We communicate via more than one person assigning meanings to the same observables like sound and text strings in a manner that makes sense, that's coherent and consistent, etc. in the opinion of the individuals involved.

Meaning isn't objective.
• 2.2k
That is the problem with knowledge that I explained.

Why are you talking about knowledge all of a sudden. We were talking about 'truth' not knowledge. I'm not following the link. — Isaac

Do you have a short-term memory problem? That would explain a lot.
I was responding to this:

A second, unrelated question. How does your theory handle the seemingly counter intuitive problem of knowledge evolution? — Isaac

And then in the same post that you ask why I'm talking about knowledge, you ask me how we know anything:

How could we ever know whether what we believe is "the way things really are", — Isaac

So, it would seem to me that the word, "know" and "knowledge" need to be defined. And yes, we have been talking about "knowledge". Try your best to remember. We have evidence that you used the word even though you don't seem to remember.

And you have used the word 'memory' does that mean we're talking about memory now?

The topic is objective truth, your claim is that all truth is objective (or all objective knowledge is truth). I'm arguing that such a notion of truth can be deflated to simply saying that anything which passes the test by which we judge it to be 'objective' is therefore 'truth', since the objectivity (by your definition) of facts is itself a matter of judgement.

As such "truth" becomes a meaningless additional property of a fact to simply saying "I believe..."
• 30
Well for something to be objectively true it would have to be true for universally, wouldn't it?
• 13.8k
Well for something to be objectively true it would have to be true for universally, wouldn't it?

No, not at all. Aren't you familiar with the general/special relativity, for example?
• 30
Is that objectively true?
• 13.8k
Is that objectively true?

You said, "For something to be objectively true."

It's logically possible for there to be objectively true things but for them to not be universally true.

The objective/subjective distinction doesn't have anything to do with universality.
• 30
"The objective/subjective distinction doesn't have anything to do with universality" Is this objectively true?
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