## Do we need objective truth?

• 601
The concept of objective truth seems incoherent to me. If we say objective truth is something everyone agrees on, it seems that there is nothing everyone agrees on, and not everyone agrees that "there is nothing everyone agrees on", and so on and so forth.

If we say that objective truth exists out there but we can't access it or not all of us can access it, then how is that an objective truth? If no one can access it then it's an idea, not a thing, and if only some can access it then it is personal, not objective.

However if we say "There is only personal truth", then we are not stating an objective truth, we are stating a personal truth, and that way we can remain coherent.

Thoughts?
• 114
Yes, we need objective truth. That is why we have science, engineering, philosophy and common sense.
So in short, we need both objective and normative truths.
• 8.6k
The concept of objective truth seems incoherent to me. If we say objective truth is something everyone agrees on, it seems that there is nothing everyone agrees on, and not everyone agrees that "there is nothing everyone agrees on", and so on and so forth.leo

No, that doesn't fly. Objectivity is basic, in areas which it is applicable, like journalism, history, jurisprudence, and many more. For instance, you wouldn't read an account of the Holocaust by a Holocaust-denier, as his/her opinions would clearly be tendentious. If your daughter was in a talent quest, you wouldn't expect to be called as a judge. And so on. Yes, they're perfectly mundane examples, but that's part of the point.

Furthermore, if you are engaged in almost any kind of skilled activity, then you will have to learn and use the accumulated knowledge of other exponents of that activity, whether this be science, or many other forms. In that corpus of knowledge, there are vast numbers of facts and principles that everyone agrees on; again it doesn't make them all perfectly correct but pragmatically speaking it is something that has to be acknowledged.

I would agree that there is no such thing as ultimate objectivity - that objectivity is contextual and dependent on underlying factors, not all of which can be spelled out. But that doesn't mean that it is not something to strive for where it counts.
• 875
I would agree that there is no such thing as ultimate objectivity - that objectivity is contextual and dependent on underlying factors, not all of which can be spelled out. But that doesn't mean that it is not something to strive for where it counts.

We could call it something like intersubjectivity, but at the end of the day there doesn't seem to be much point. Calling it "objective" conveys the meaning, even if, in an epistemological debate, you might want to qualify the term further.
• 243
If we say that objective truth exists out there but we can't access it or not all of us can access it, then how is that an objective truth? If no one can access it then it's an idea, not a thing, and if only some can access it then it is personal, not objective.leo

What is meant by "access"? I suppose in some sense of "access" everyone has access to the objective truth, and in another sense, they don't.

PA
• 409
You first need to distinguish truth from objectivity; the difference being that the latter is dependent upon linguistic convention.
• 13.4k

First re "If no one can access it, it's an idea."

Say that there's a particular rock on a planet a million light years away. It turns out that we're the only technological creatures in the universe, and some catastrophe wipes us out soon. Is that rock on a distant planet just an idea?

I agree with you that there is no objective truth and no need for objective truth. I don't agree with your take on what "objective" refers to. I also don't agree that objective (external to mind) things are inaccessible.
• 13.4k
No, that doesn't fly. Objectivity is basic, in areas which it is applicable, like journalism, history, jurisprudence, and many more. For instance, you wouldn't read an account of the Holocaust by a Holocaust-denier, as his/her opinions would clearly be tendentious. If your daughter was in a talent quest, you wouldn't expect to be called as a judge. And so on. Yes, they're perfectly mundane examples, but that's part of the point.

In other words, you'd avoid people biased in particular ways, while going with people biased in other ways.
• 8.6k
Oh no, I only ever settle for totally unbiased in all ways. I'm an expert at spotting them.
• 13.4k

Haha--aka "the bias for 'total unbias.'"
• 2.3k
The concept of objective truth seems incoherent to me. If we say objective truth is something everyone agrees on, it seems that there is nothing everyone agrees on, and not everyone agrees that "there is nothing everyone agrees on", and so on and so forth.

If we say that objective truth exists out there but we can't access it or not all of us can access it, then how is that an objective truth? If no one can access it then it's an idea, not a thing, and if only some can access it then it is personal, not objective.

However if we say "There is only personal truth", then we are not stating an objective truth, we are stating a personal truth, and that way we can remain coherent.
leo
"Objective truth" is a redundancy. What is objective is the truth. It is objective that the Earth is a sphere, not flat, despite what people believed, or still believe. You are even making the objective claim that reality is such a way independent of what others think or believe - that there is no objective truth. If I were to say that there is only objective truth, am I right or wrong in disagreeing with you? What would be the point of disagreeing?

Your personal truth is just another "objective truth". Your beliefs are such that they exist independent of what I think or believe about them. I can refer to your "personal truths" with language just as I can refer to a sunset with language and I would be right or wrong about your personal truths based on how accurate my description of your personal truths are.

If there is no objective truth, then why do so many people on this forum feel the need to quote other philosophers as if those other philosophers hold some truth about others than just the philosopher being quoted?
• 1.8k
If we say that objective truth exists out there but we can't access it or not all of us can access it, then how is that an objective truth? If no one can access it then it's an idea, not a thingleo

That's exactly how it is, and it's (IMO) the reason why Objectivism and analytic philosophy are a pointless waste of time.

If we say objective truth is something everyone agrees on...leo

In fairness, there's rather more to it than that. Objective Reality is 'that which actually is', and Objective Truth is an accurate statement describing some aspect of Objective Reality. This is so regardless of the thoughts, opinions or beliefs of any individual or group of individuals. An Objective Truth is true. It cannot be challenged or doubted. It's a lot more than "something everyone agrees on".
• 601
Yes, we need objective truth. That is why we have science, engineering, philosophy and common sense.

Where is objective truth in science, engineering, philosophy, common sense? Scientific laws change through history. Some philosophers of science say that scientific laws aren't even an approximation to truth, they are just working models. You may assume that there is an underlying objective reality, but if you assume it it isn't objective truth, it is an assumption.

Objectivity is basic, in areas which it is applicable, like journalism, history, jurisprudence, and many more. For instance, you wouldn't read an account of the Holocaust by a Holocaust-denier, as his/her opinions would clearly be tendentious. If your daughter was in a talent quest, you wouldn't expect to be called as a judge. And so on. Yes, they're perfectly mundane examples, but that's part of the point.

You could read an account by a Holocaust-denier to attempt to understand why they think differently about it. There are plenty of examples of conflicts of interest in all sorts of domains, including judges in a contest who have an incentive to make a particular contestant win. People usually expect more of objective truth than simply "something the majority agrees on".

What is meant by "access"? I suppose in some sense of "access" everyone has access to the objective truth, and in another sense, they don't.

The ability to formulate that objective truth in a language, to say what it is or to give an example of it. But if we say that something is objective truth and some people disagree, then how is that an objective truth?

You first need to distinguish truth from objectivity; the difference being that the latter is dependent upon linguistic convention.sime

Cambridge dictionary defines truth as "the real facts about a situation, event, or person". Who gets to determine what the real facts are? If I say what the real facts are and others disagree, who is right? The same dictionary defines objective as "based on real facts". If we say that the real facts are determined through social consensus, then truth is a social consensus.

First re "If no one can access it, it's an idea."

Say that there's a particular rock on a planet a million light years away. It turns out that we're the only technological creatures in the universe, and some catastrophe wipes us out soon. Is that rock on a distant planet just an idea?

If we have detected that rock in some way then we could access it in some way. If we haven't detected that rock, then some people would say it makes no sense to say this rock exists as anything more than an idea. Some people think that we aren't creatures in a universe, but that the universe is in minds, and in that view there is no sense in which the universe exists without minds.

What is objective is the truth. It is objective that the Earth is a sphere, not flat, despite what people believed, or still believe.

What is the difference between truth and belief? Cambridge dictionary defines belief as "the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true". You're implicitly saying that there is a true way to differentiate between truth and belief. You're saying it is true that the Earth is a sphere, but many people say it is true that the Earth is an ellipsoid, and many other people say that it is true the Earth is neither a sphere nor an ellipsoid but something that approximates these shapes, and many other people say it is true that the Earth is flat. Who is right? Who is stating a truth and who is stating a belief?

If I were to say that there is only objective truth, am I right or wrong in disagreeing with you?

If I disagree with you, how is your truth objective?

Your beliefs are such that they exist independent of what I think or believe about them.

Solipsists do not agree with that, so how are my beliefs objective?

If there is no objective truth, then why do so many people on this forum feel the need to quote other philosophers as if those other philosophers hold some truth about others than just the philosopher being quoted?

Because they agree with these philosophers, they share the same point of view about something, or they believe they do. This is my view, my personal truth. If you disagree with me, then you have a different truth, and we're not sharing the same truth, so it isn't objective.

An Objective Truth is true. It cannot be challenged or doubted. It's a lot more than "something everyone agrees on".

If it cannot be challenged or doubted then it is something everyone agrees on, no? If it is more than "something everyone agrees on", then what is this "more"?
• 13.4k
If we haven't detected that rock, then some people would say it makes no sense to say this rock exists as anything more than an idea. Some people think that we aren't creatures in a universe, but that the universe is in minds, and in that view there is no sense in which the universe exists without minds.leo

Some people would say that, yes.

Do you think there's any merit in saying that?
• 409
Cambridge dictionary defines truth as "the real facts about a situation, event, or person". Who gets to determine what the real facts are? If I say what the real facts are and others disagree, who is right? The same dictionary defines objective as "based on real facts". If we say that the real facts are determined through social consensus, then truth is a social consensus.leo

The individual might use the social consensus as an estimator for what is true, but ultimately it is environmental feedback, experience and reason that determines an individual's concept of truth and not social consensus per-se.

However, social consensus certainly decides how a person's private use of language is to be publicly interpreted, and therein lies the root of many philosophical confusions. For another person's beliefs could be interpreted as being necessarily and always true, regardless of whatever the person says or does, with any apparent error on that person's behalf being an illusion caused by the public misinterpreting the person's words, actions and intentions. Conversely, another person's beliefs could be interpreted as being necessarily and always false.
• 1.8k
If it cannot be challenged or doubted then it is something everyone agrees on, no? If it is more than "something everyone agrees on", then what is this "more"?leo

An Objective statement is one that correctly describes some aspect of Objective Reality, i.e. that which actually is. A statement correctly identified as Objective cannot be challenged or doubted because there is no possibility of it being wrong. And that is the "more" you asked for. :smile:

The silliness comes in when we remember that Objective statements cannot be correctly made by humans, except to say that Objective Reality exists. So this is all hypothetical. In practice, because we don't have a means to apprehend OR directly, it doesn't exist for us. N.B. I said "in practice"! :wink:
• 875
Say that there's a particular rock on a planet a million light years away. It turns out that we're the only technological creatures in the universe, and some catastrophe wipes us out soon. Is that rock on a distant planet just an idea?

I think the interesting question is which of the attributes that make up the category of "rock" can still be identified after said catastrophe.

Where is objective truth in science, engineering, philosophy, common sense? Scientific laws change through history. Some philosophers of science say that scientific laws aren't even an approximation to truth, they are just working models. You may assume that there is an underlying objective reality, but if you assume it it isn't objective truth, it is an assumption.leo

Scientific theories work though. You can fly a plane. So while whatever model was used to design the plane may not have been complete, it was still objective in that it made accurate predictions.
• 13.4k
I think the interesting question is which of the attributes that make up the category of "rock" can still be identified after said catastrophe.

If no people exist afterwards, there are no categories, there's no one to identify anything, etc.
• 3.2k
I agree with you that there is no objective truth and no need for objective truth. I don't agree with your take on what "objective" refers to. I also don't agree that objective (external to mind) things are inaccessible.

Assuming you do have access to your objective things, if you neither have nor need objective truth, then how do you know you have access to an objective thing?
• 875
If no people exist afterwards, there are no categories, there's no one to identify anything, etc.

So in what sense can "rocks" be said to exist, if none of the things that make a thing a "rock" exist?
• 13.4k

Sometimes it seems like almost everyone here is stuck in an infantile/juvenile preoperational stage of development.

Why would the existence of something like a rock hinge on anything about us?
• 132
THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE
• 13.4k
Assuming you do have access to your objective things, if you neither have nor need objective truth, then how do you know you have access to an objective thing?

As I've explained many times, I use "truth" in the traditional analytic philosophy sense of it being a property of propositions.

Propositions are (non-controversially in analytic phil) the meanings of statements.

In my ontology, meaning is a mental phenomenon, and truth, as a property of propositions, is thus a judgment about the relation of a proposition to facts (states of affairs). As such, the ontological status of truth value (that it's a mental phenomenon on my view) has no bearing on ontology in general or just how perception works (which is what you're asking about).

I'd be happy to continue the phil of perception discussion, but only if you answer the last post in the other thread, where I asked you a non-rhetorical question that I expected you to think about and directly respond to (via quoting something and filling in the blank).
• 875
Sometimes it seems like almost everyone here is stuck in an infantile/juvenile preoperational stage of development.

Why would the existence of something like a rock hinge on anything about us?

You're not answering the question. And your counter-question doesn't concern me, since I haven't claimed that just the existence of "something" depends on humans. I am asking in what way distinct objects with their specific properties exist outside of human cognition. In a way, I am granting "existence" itself, but asking what (other) properties outlast humans.
• 13.4k
I am asking in what way distinct objects with their specific properties exist outside of human cognition.

And I'm asking why we'd think the existence of anything would hinge on human cognition (which is something we'd need to grant for your question to not indicate institutionalization). My suggestion is that some adults never developed beyond the pre-operational stage. Do you have a better suggestion?
• 875
And I'm asking why we'd think the existence of anything would hinge on human cognition. My suggestion is that some adults never developed beyond the pre-operational stage. Do you have a better suggestion?

If you find yourself unable to answer the question, you can just walk away (figuratively). Not sure what you hope to accomplish here other than poisoning the well.
• 13.4k

What I was hoping to accomplish was you offering why we'd think that the existence of anything hinges on us. (And that should have been pretty obvious.)
• 875
What I was hoping to accomplish was you offering why we'd think that the existence of anything hinges on us. (And that should have been pretty obvious.)

The argument for that position is implicit in my question. You could try answering it. You do not seem to be arguing in good faith (belittling your discussion partners is always a bad sign), so I am not offering another angle of discussion.
• 13.4k
The argument for that position is implicit in my question.

How about making it explicit instead? Because it's a ridiculous thing to assume.
• 963
What I was hoping to accomplish was you offering why we'd think that the existence of anything hinges on us. (And that should have been pretty obvious.)
Once the model implicit in the question is on the table, one would be swimming uphill starting to respond. Once, say the subject object split is assumed, for example. The subject here, controlling the existence of things out there.

I'm not an anti-realist or solipsist, so it's not my position, but it seems like answering that question is problematic for those who are, but because it presumes realism.

I don't know what a more neutral formulation would be,since that would depend on their philosophy, its ontology. And there's certainly nothing wrong with formulating the question from your perspective. But it's also a Trojan Horse.
• 33
I have to admit I was not able to read through all the posts carefully here, but I believe there is something we all seem to be conflating: truth and objectivity.

Truth and objectivity are distinct properties. For example, a proposition can be both objective and true, but it can also be both objective and false.

Sentences express propositions. Truth is a property of sentences. There are various theories about truth, but a popular one is correspondance. A sentence is true in so far as the proposition corresponds with what is the case. For example:

$\lt\lt\mathrm{Snow\ is\ white}\gt\gt is\ true \Leftrightarrow Snow\ is\ white$

This says that the sentence "snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white.Objectivity, on the other hand, says only that a sentence has a determinate truth-value. This is independent of whether it is true or false and also independent of whether or not we know it is true or false.

The sentence "The sky is orange" is objective. It is objective because it is truth-evaluable. It happens to be false, but so be it.

The concept of objective truth seems incoherent to me. If we say objective truth is something everyone agrees on, it seems that there is nothing everyone agrees on, and not everyone agrees that "there is nothing everyone agrees on", and so on and so forth.leo

I believe the explanation I gave above settles this issue. Objectivity and truth are two different things. Moreover, a sentence can be objective if it is truth-evaluable and even if no one agrees on whether it is true or false.

A sentence is not objective if it is not truth-evaluable, i.e., it does not have determinate truth-conditions (or is not true or false). An easy example of a sentence that is not objective is the following: "I don't like art". This is not a truth-evaluable sentence, in so far as it is merely expressing personal taste. "Kornelius doesn't like art" is, however, an objective sentence. Notice that this is the case whether or not I in fact like art.

A more contentious example would be ethical claims. Consider a rather morbid example:

"Raping and cannibalizing a person is morally impermissible".

I am an objectivist here. I think this sentence is true or false (indeed I think it is true).

To say that such a statement is not objective is to say that it isn't truth-evaluable: that it is making no claim about the world. This seems extremely hard to swallow.

Thus, denying objectivity is actually an extremely radical position. You would need to explain a whole lot of things. Why would such a sentence have no determinate truth-conditions, for example? It seems to express an obvious truth-evaluable thought.

If we go into more straightforward examples, i.e., "The sky is orange", a radical subjectivist would need to explain why this sentence is not truth-evaluable. It seems obviously truth-evaluable to me. It expresses a thought that is either true or false.
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