• Possibility
    1.3k
    @Congau and I have been discussing the notion of objective truth at length, tangential to another thread topic here. I saw an opportunity to open a separate discussion for others to participate with a broader question:

    Given that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true, is ‘objective truth’:
    - what we (as agents) have confidence to act on,
    - what we (as logical beings) can state with confidence (ie. propositional logic), or
    - what we (as experiential beings) can understand or relate to with confidence (despite it giving us less confidence to act)?
  • ernestm
    881
    Hmm. A false trichotomy )
    First you would have to add a condition, if there is such a thing as objective truth, then...are these alternatives the only ones, and whether or not they are, is one or more of them a correct definition?
  • Coben
    1.5k
    Given that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true, is ‘objective truth’:
    - what we (as agents) have confidence to act on,
    Possibility
    People seem to have confidence to act on things with all sorts of criteria and often will realize they don't like their previous criteria and act on the opposite belief, so I don't think one is much use.

    I'd just like to add that the idea that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true is an assertion of absolute truth. Now I have been chastized for raising such and issue, but I think it is less picky and more important than it might seem to some people. The conclusion that one can never be certain is likely based on epistemological concerns, perhaps bringing in things like beliefs about perception, the limits of empirical knowledge, the potential for fallibility in premises in deduction and so on. IOW the conclusion is a belief based on a lot of supporting beliefs and we also need to be certain about all of them. So it takes a number of certain beliefs to draw the conclusion that we can't be certain.

    I think it's a very good heuristic, in many situations, perhaps most. But I think it's a problematic conclusion since it is itself a counterexample that is based on further counterexamples.r[/quote]
    - what we (as logical beings) can state with confidence (ie. propositional logic),Possibility
    Confidence and certainty are attitudes. They don't really give us any epistemological information. People state all sorts of things with confidence and most think they are logical.
    - what we (as experiential beings) can understand or relate to with confidence (despite it giving us less confidence to act)?Possibility
    Ibid.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Hmm. A false trichotomy )
    First you would have to add a condition, if there is such a thing as objective truth, then...are these alternatives the only ones, and whether or not they are, is one or more of them a correct definition?
    ernestm

    Exactly, which precludes objectivity. I’m not after a definition as such - which assumes only one definition is the ‘correct’ one - just a discussion that relates to it from alternative perspectives, with a view to a more accurate understanding.

    So my view is obviously the third option: our most accurate understanding is to relate (from our limited perspective) to the possibility of objective truth as inclusive of information beyond our own capacity to make use of it, epistemologically or otherwise.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    384
    I'd honestly scrap the word 'confidence.' It's not about confidence. You're looking for a justification, and I'm no mathematician, but I'd look towards math if first and foremost if you're looking to ground your beliefs in something. There is such a thing as a mathematical equilibrium, and personally I make use of this when it comes to decision making in games.

    If we frame the idea of 'absolute truth' or whatever in the context of something - say, a game - I think it becomes a little easier. The problem with this discussions is that we don't really particularize them and as a result everyone gets confused and it turns into a mess. If you were to actually particularize it and ask about, say, absolute truth or objectivity in the context of game strategy the discussion becomes a little more honed and insightful.
  • ernestm
    881
    Exactly, which precludes objectivity.Possibility

    Ah. The first problem is, some people say there is no such thing as objective truth. Your presentation resembles the proverbial lawyer question 'have you stopped beating your wife"' lol. Not intended to say you are wrong, just that it precludes the issue of whether there is objective truth in the first place.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    People seem to have confidence to act on things with all sorts of criteria and often will realize they don't like their previous criteria and act on the opposite belief, so I don't think one is much use.

    I agree. At the moment we act, the information we act on is what is integrated into the brain’s prediction according to the organism’s energy and attention requirements and capacity. We don’t always use an opportunity to consciously evaluate all the information against criteria.
    Coben

    I'd just like to add that the idea that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true is an assertion of absolute truth. Now I have been chastized for raising such and issue, but I think it is less picky and more important than it might seem to some people. The conclusion that one can never be certain is likely based on epistemological concerns, perhaps bringing in things like beliefs about perception, the limits of empirical knowledge, the potential for fallibility in premises in deduction and so on. IOW the conclusion is a belief based on a lot of supporting beliefs and we also need to be certain about all of them. So it takes a number of certain beliefs to draw the conclusion that we can't be certain.Coben

    Again, I agree - our uncertainty is based on information we may have beyond the information that determines our actions, which draws our attention to a possibility that the information we act on may be false.

    I think it's a very good heuristic, in many situations, perhaps most. But I think it's a problematic conclusion since it is itself a counterexample that is based on further counterexamples.Coben

    It’s a temporarily satisfying heuristic, at least. We learn the truth about who we are at any point in our interaction with the world, but if we take this to be ‘objective truth’ then we go into each interaction experientially ‘blind’ and susceptible to prediction error.

    Confidence and certainty are attitudes. They don't really give us any epistemological information. People state all sorts of things with confidence and most think they are logical.Coben

    Fair enough, but ‘attitude’ refers to a relative position which limits our perception of epistemological potential. So in relation to objectivity, confidence and certainty are more influential than you might think. This is where potential information comes into play.

    The majority of epistemological information we have is potential information - that is, its structural relation to reality is incomplete, probabilistic or fuzzy at best - and that’s just the quantitative information. Some information is structured according to an interoception of affect in relation to epistemological experience (pleasantly arousing feelings associated with experiences of ‘knowing’ or stating knowledge).

    My understanding of logic is that it constructs an ‘attitude’ towards truth that excludes any structural relations according to affect, and then proceeds to reduce all other potential information to a binary value that assumes maximum certainty. Any logically valid assertion would be ‘true’ despite any information regarding how anyone might feel, but also despite any information beyond a human capacity for sufficient certainty. That’s a lot of information that we’ve discarded from a supposedly ‘objective’’ view of truth.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Ah. The first problem is, some people say there is no such thing as objective truth. Your presentation resembles the proverbial lawyer question 'have you stopped beating your wife"' lol. Not intended to say you are wrong, just that it precludes the issue of whether there is objective truth in the first place.ernestm

    ‘Objective truth’ exists as a possibility. That’s as much as I can assert with any confidence. My point is that we ignore, isolate and exclude what is possible and what has potential from alternative conceptualisations of ‘objective truth’, which calls the objectivity of this ‘truth’ into question.
  • ernestm
    881
    Well. From the psycholinguistic standpoint, I would offer considering the power of conditional verbs, as to what 'may be objectively true' and as to what 'might be objectively true.' Its a subtle but powerful distinction.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    I'd honestly scrap the word 'confidence.' It's not about confidence. You're looking for a justification, and I'm no mathematician, but I'd look towards math if first and foremost if you're looking to ground your beliefs in something. There is such a thing as a mathematical equilibrium, and personally I make use of this when it comes to decision making in games.

    If we frame the idea of 'absolute truth' or whatever in the context of something - say, a game - I think it becomes a little easier. The problem with this discussions is that we don't really particularize them and as a result everyone gets confused and it turns into a mess. If you were to actually particularize it and ask about, say, absolute truth or objectivity in the context of game strategy the discussion becomes a little more honed and insightful.
    BitconnectCarlos

    Thank you for your comments. TBH I’m not looking for a justification, because I don’t believe objective truth can be justified or defined as such. That’s the point. Looking to mathematics is as limiting as looking to propositional logic or game theory for the reality of objective truth. Yes, it is easier to reduce the information to a particular context or position, and it’s certainly useful in structuring quantitative potential information, but that’s not objective. When we relate whatever insight we receive from the discussion back to ‘objective truth’, that insight must be acknowledged as a relative and therefore limited perspective of possibility.

    If we’re not honestly conveying the truth of our uncertainty or source of confidence in information as part of the process, enabling us to take into account potential and possible information as such, then I think we’ve lost sight of the most accurate perspective we can present in relation to truth. If we take all of this uncertainty and feeling into account when we relate our position with that of someone else, I think we have the opportunity to construct a more complete relational structure of potential and possible information, and from that a more accurate understanding of where we stand in relation to ‘objective truth’.
  • SophistiCat
    1.2k
    Exactly, which precludes objectivity. I’m not after a definition as such - which assumes only one definition is the ‘correct’ one - just a discussion that relates to it from alternative perspectives, with a view to a more accurate understanding.Possibility

    I don't really understand what you are trying to do here. You give us three choices for 'objective truth', but there is no generally accepted meaning of these words, and you don't supply any apart from those three formulations. So are we to take these formulations as candidate definitions? But what would motivate our choice? Why are you looking for a definition? There is no value in defining words per se.
  • Echarmion
    1.3k


    Not sure if that is what you are looking for, but if I let my brain's pattern recognition take over for a bit here, there seem to be (at least) three ways people use the way "objective truth":

    One is when people want to refer to objective facts, that is, states of affairs in the physical world. Usually, something is considered an objective fact when it's immediately apparent to every observer (the sun rises in the east and sets in the west) or has been corroborated by a sufficient number of trustworthy observers, ideally using the scientific method.

    A second one is when people want to refer to something that is really well justified by reason. For example, it might be the case that certain strategies in chess are considered "objectively better" than others based on a thorough analysis of their likelihood to win games. The criterion here is simply that you can follow the reasoning an agree with it.

    Lastly, on a philosophy forum, people might be talking about "metaphysically" objective truths. That is, things that are not just thoroughly justified by reason (though they need to be) but actually provide information about what things are like behind the veil of human perception. I think Descartes "cogito, ergo sum" would fall under this category, though it's no longer considered thoroughly justified.

    The common element seems to be the direct opposition to subjectivity. So "objective truth" is supposed to denote something that is beyond an individual's ability to disagree with it.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.1k
    Given that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true, is ‘objective truth’:Possibility
    I love these contradictions.

    If its a "given", isnt it true? And if it applies to "we", and not just "you", isnt it objective?

    So basically you're saying that it is objectively true that we can never be absolutely certain that what is true, is objective truth.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Well. From the psycholinguistic standpoint, I would offer considering the power of conditional verbs, as to what 'may be objectively true' and as to what 'might be objectively true.' Its a subtle but powerful distinction.ernestm

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve found that many people don’t make an accurate distinction between potential and possible, though - and may/might doesn’t really help to clarify. There is a tendency to perceive potential information as quantitative (probabilistic) only, and dismiss qualitative information as too uncertain (irreducible) to be useful. A general misunderstanding of the relation between action, affect and emotion also prevents us from accurately structuring qualitative potential information we have in relation to objective truth.

    But all of that is nothing compared to the possible information we ignore in our search for objectivity - imaginative, fictional, impractical, improbable, fanciful and just plain ‘false’ information contributes as much to our human capacity to understand objective truth as facts and figures. When someone’s perspective differs from our own so much that we are certain their knowledge, thought, feeling, memory or belief is ‘wrong’, we cannot claim a more objective position until we can understand not only how their perspective is possible, but how they perceive its potential when we don’t.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    I don't really understand what you are trying to do here. You give us three choices for 'objective truth', but there is no generally accepted meaning of these words, and you don't supply any apart from those three formulations. So are we to take these formulations as candidate definitions? But what would motivate our choice? Why are you looking for a definition? There is no value in defining words per se.SophistiCat

    Well, I’m not looking for a definition. I agree that there is no generally accepted meaning of these words. The formulations are meant to challenge three commonly held notions of ‘objective truth’. You can take them as candidate definitions if that’s what you’re after, but all I’m after is a discussion on the difficulties and contradictions they present.

    There is no value in defining words, no - but I think there is a more accurate understanding to be found in discussing alternate and conflicting perspectives of a concept in relation to meaning.
  • Congau
    170

    Objective truth has nothing to do with our thinking and even less to do with our action. If you insist on connecting truth to our subjective attitude, why do you call it objective at all?

    Logic doesn’t bring certainty to anything existing. It just states the consequences if something is accepted as existing.

    Only one truth value can exist for every proposition. There is a matchbox on the table in front of you and you know that either there is at least one match inside it or there is not. “There is a match in the matchbox” has the objective truth value T (1) or F (0). Let’s say you have no clue what if anything is in the box. Let’s say it’s impossible ever to open and check. Let’s say it would dissolve the moment anyone tried and no scientist could ever by any means, x-rays or whatever, get any idea what was in the box. That has no influence on the truth value.

    Are you confusing the meaning of the word “value” here? A mathematical value is just a number, it doesn’t mean that it is actually valuable for anyone. No one may care the least to know the truth about some insignificant detail in the universe, but it still has a truth value.
  • ernestm
    881
    Well I can understand that. I add something. In terms of human volition, there are two aspects one may consider: permission, and power. To a parent, the aspect of permission is important: " you may have an ice cream after dinner." which becomes objectively true by statement, but contains an ambigiuity. To Schopenhauer, power is important. "You might choose your beliefs" but it remains objectively an issue of faith.

    That's because, if you are concerned with objective reality, the principal problem you have is to define intentional causality objectively. Compared to that, every other issue is basically trite. A good summary of an empirical perspective of that problem is here:

    [url=http://]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_sufficient_reason[/url]
  • SophistiCat
    1.2k
    Well, I’m not looking for a definition. I agree that there is no generally accepted meaning of these words. The formulations are meant to challenge three commonly held notions of ‘objective truth’.Possibility

    I doubt that we can even talk about commonly held notions here. Most people have rather hazy notions of objectivity and of truth, and 'objective truth' is doubly hazy. But most of all, I just don't see what would motivate such a discussion. So far it seems to be meandering in the haze, just as one would expect.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.1k
    Well, I’m not looking for a definition. I agree that there is no generally accepted meaning of these words. The formulations are meant to challenge three commonly held notions of ‘objective truth’.
    — Possibility

    I doubt that we can even talk about commonly held notions here. Most people have rather hazy notions of objectivity and of truth, and 'objective truth' is doubly hazy. But most of all, I just don't see what would motivate such a discussion. So far it seems to be meandering in the haze, just as one would expect.
    SophistiCat
    Seems to me that "objective truth" is only hazy on a philosophy forum. Objectivity and truth are often used interchangeably. You are asserting truth (asserting truth doesn't mean that what you are asserting is actually true - only that you intend for it to be interpreted as a given and the basis for your other forthcoming ideas that are intended to be a given as well because disagreeing would mean that you are wrong and I am right) any time you make a statement that you intend to be about the shared world. Being that some statement is about the shared world means that it is objective - that we all are shaped by and beholden to, the same truth, even if we don't believe it (delusions)).
  • Syamsu
    109
    Objective truth is a fact that as a matter of chosen opinion is said to be emotionally significant.

    Certainty is a feeling that a proposed fact corresponds 1 to 1 with what the fact is about. The feeling is a sort of satisfaction that any more effort to verify correspondence would not lead to a change in status of the fact that it does, or does not, correspond
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    There is a simpler way to deal with this. Science has little to nothing to say about ‘truth’ but a lot to say about ‘facts’. Logic has little to nothing to say about facts but a lot to say about ‘truths’ - and there are different kinds of truths some of which are universal when set within strict parameters (that is precisely why propositional logic is useful).

    Probability is much more well established in mathematics, which in turn can be put to use in the sciences but only with an error of margin ever present.

    Potential refers to known possibilities and probable refers to known potential outcomes. But there could very well be unknown potential outcomes (which is clearly the case in reality as we’re unable to take into account every little variable).

    1+1=2 is objectively true in basic arithmetic. In abstraction universals are used that can be mapped onto reality and allow us to make extremely accurate predictions in some situations and much less accurate predictions in other situations - it depend on how many variables there are , and how accurately they are accounted for.

    The rest is purely a linguistic issue. Given that in day-to-day life we’re not inclined to use the terms ‘truth’ and ‘objective’ in anything other than gist manner it is no wonder that when we dog further there are clear misinterpretations and miscommunications.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Not sure if that is what you are looking for, but if I let my brain's pattern recognition take over for a bit here, there seem to be (at least) three ways people use the way "objective truth":

    One is when people want to refer to objective facts, that is, states of affairs in the physical world. Usually, something is considered an objective fact when it's immediately apparent to every observer (the sun rises in the east and sets in the west) or has been corroborated by a sufficient number of trustworthy observers, ideally using the scientific method.

    A second one is when people want to refer to something that is really well justified by reason. For example, it might be the case that certain strategies in chess are considered "objectively better" than others based on a thorough analysis of their likelihood to win games. The criterion here is simply that you can follow the reasoning an agree with it.

    Lastly, on a philosophy forum, people might be talking about "metaphysically" objective truths. That is, things that are not just thoroughly justified by reason (though they need to be) but actually provide information about what things are like behind the veil of human perception. I think Descartes "cogito, ergo sum" would fall under this category, though it's no longer considered thoroughly justified.

    The common element seems to be the direct opposition to subjectivity. So "objective truth" is supposed to denote something that is beyond an individual's ability to disagree with it.
    Echarmion

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I agree that these describe three common ways that people conceptualise ‘objective truth’. The assumption they have in common is that objectivity must be in direct opposition to subjectivity: that is, it must be justifiable from any human perspective, despite what we may want to believe. But the problem is that each of these descriptions are relative to subjectivity.

    The first description is relative to the position of an observer in time and space. No one’s going to argue with us right now about the sun rising in the east and setting in the west (unless they fail to understand what we mean by those words), but we also understand that this is neither a universally nor an eternally positioned observation in reality.

    The second one takes into account potential information, but effectively ignores qualitative differences in perspective, and perceives only probabilistic or quantitative potential information, reducible to the most likely or most useful value. No one’s going to dispute sound reasoning, but we also understand that we can’t make predictions about the truth of human behaviour, for instance, based on reasoning alone. We can make reasoned judgements about what should happen, but that’s not objectively true, because people often don’t do what is reasonable.

    The third one I find interesting. The only example you’ve given is no longer justified by reason, which already suggests subjectivity. Descartes’ attempt to discard all uncertainty runs counter to what we now understand of quantum mechanics, but it has been useful in demonstrating the limitations of human experience in relation to objectivity.

    According to recent neuroscience, the brain doesn’t interact directly with the environment in a stimulus-response format, but rather makes predictions based on an interoceptive network of potential information as affect: reduced to the energy (quantitative) and attention (qualitative) requirements and capacity of the organism. It’s basically the same for most animals, but in the case of humans, this potential information is differentiated into a much more complex conceptual system that enables us to make, test, evaluate and adjust these budgeting predictions continually before and during action.

    What this all suggests (in my view) is that maximising the relative diversity of subjective information obtains a more accurate understanding of objective truth. Rather than simply reducing our capacity to disagree, we can maximise our capacity to agree on principle by striving to relate to different perspectives.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Given that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true, is ‘objective truth’:
    — Possibility
    I love these contradictions.

    If its a "given", isnt it true? And if it applies to "we", and not just "you", isnt it objective?

    So basically you're saying that it is objectively true that we can never be absolutely certain that what is true, is objective truth.
    Harry Hindu

    ‘Given’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true - this is a perceived limitation of the perspective from which I am asking the question. I’ve stated it because I don’t automatically assume this to be objectively true. If you disagree with this limitation, feel free to make your case.

    If I had said ‘no one can ever be absolutely certain’, that would imply objectivity. By ‘we’, I’m referring to those of us involved in the discussion; you (collectively) and I. Again, if you disagree with the perspective as given, then make your case.

    ‘Objective truth’ is a concept whose meaning is in dispute. I’m inviting people to explore the relevant issues from a position of uncertainty.
  • Cidat
    50
    We can't know anything for certain. We make reasonable guesses based on our experiences and then we act on that. We can't have complete certainty about any of our beliefs. We reason from uncertain starting points, and uncertainty cannot generate certainty. Our knowledge can only be reasonably certain for the purposes of living life.

    Objectively, objective truth is that which is true regardless of what we perceive the truth to be, want it to be or believe it to be.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.1k
    ‘Given’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true - this is a perceived limitation of the perspective from which I am asking the question. I’ve stated it because I don’t automatically assume this to be objectively true. If you disagree with this limitation, feel free to make your case.Possibility
    Then it's true that this is a perceived limitation of the perspective from which you are asking the question, and that is the case whether I agree or not from my perspective (objective)? In talking about the nature of your perspective, are you speaking the truth, and is how you explain your perspective how it actually is even though I might disagree? Would I be wrong in disagreeing? What would that mean - to be wrong, or right about the nature of your perspective?

    If I had said ‘no one can ever be absolutely certain’, that would imply objectivity. By ‘we’, I’m referring to those of us involved in the discussion; you (collectively) and I. Again, if you disagree with the perspective as given, then make your case.Possibility
    So you're saying that the nature of reality within this discussion is different than outside of this discussion?

    ‘Objective truth’ is a concept whose meaning is in dispute. I’m inviting people to explore the relevant issues from a position of uncertainty.Possibility
    Is it true that the ‘Objective truth’ is a concept whose meaning is in dispute? It seems to me that what is in dispute is that the ‘Objective truth’ is a concept whose meaning is in dispute.
  • Cidat
    50
    What we mean by "objective truth" depends on context. Objectively, objective truth is that which is true regardless of what we believe or want the truth to be. In real life, objective truth is that which follows either from definitions we've defined to be true (such as mathematics) or very strong opinions about the reality of our existences that seem reasonable at face value and which have shown to hold for a long time (for example, the world exists, sound exists, etc).
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    Only one truth value can exist for every proposition. There is a matchbox on the table in front of you and you know that either there is at least one match inside it or there is not. “There is a match in the matchbox” has the objective truth value T (1) or F (0). Let’s say you have no clue what if anything is in the box. Let’s say it’s impossible ever to open and check. Let’s say it would dissolve the moment anyone tried and no scientist could ever by any means, x-rays or whatever, get any idea what was in the box. That has no influence on the truth value.Congau

    You can insist on the existence of an objective truth value, but its existence is only ever a possibility, just like the existence of ‘God’. Any statement you make regarding the existence or properties of this ‘objective truth value’ is both true and false, or neither, because there is no way of distinguishing its value objectively.

    Are you confusing the meaning of the word “value” here? A mathematical value is just a number, it doesn’t mean that it is actually valuable for anyone. No one may care the least to know the truth about some insignificant detail in the universe, but it still has a truth value.Congau

    Are you sure about that? If a mathematical value was not valuable for anyone, would it even exist as a concept?
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    I doubt that we can even talk about commonly held notions here. Most people have rather hazy notions of objectivity and of truth, and 'objective truth' is doubly hazy. But most of all, I just don't see what would motivate such a discussion. So far it seems to be meandering in the haze, just as one would expect.SophistiCat

    Uncertainty or ‘fuzziness’ is what motivates the discussion. Interactions between different perspectives of this uncertainty may help to bring relational structure to the fuzziness, in my opinion.
  • tim wood
    4.4k
    Given that we can never be absolutely certain of what is true, is ‘objective truth’:Possibility
    Did anyone say what "objective truth" is? It seems to me that before anything can be said categorically, the thing spoken of ought to be reasonably well understood. I do not understand what is meant by "objective truth." Anyone take a moment and straighten me out?
  • Cidat
    50
    Even if we happen to have mapped down an objective truth, we cannot be sure that we have actually mapped it down.
  • tim wood
    4.4k
    Objective truth is radically non-criteriological? A cigar is never just a cigar?
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