Thursday, March 1, 2012

Let Me Apologize: Is Truth Knowable?

In the last post, we reviewed the concept that Truth exists.  There are at least some things in existence that can be absolutely true.  But, can we know those truths?  Is truth, in fact, knowable?

We have shown that people must claim to know truth before they can even assert that truth doesn't exist, or that something isn't true.  But it doesn't necessarily follow that truth is knowable.  Perhaps it is possible that we can simply know what isn't true, but never actually know the truth itself.  In this view, we are locked into knowing that the tree isn't actually as we perceive it; always knowing there is some true 'tree' out there, and that we'll never know it.

Besides being depressing, there's another problem that philosophy.  What, exactly, would the purpose of sensory organs be if they didn't sense true things?  If that floor in front of you isn't real floor, just your impression of a floor, what's to say it isn't two feet below where you think it is?  How can you be sure from one moment to the next that you won't fall into some chasm as you just walk down the putative sidewalk?  I have a problem with a philosophy that tells me not to believe my own senses.  Logically, there would be no reason for us to have them if they didn't communicate an acturate picture of our surroundings and events.

However, I have another truth that may clear this up.  2 + 2 = 4.  Now, don't let yourself get caught up in the numerals or the words we use.  The concept "2 + 2 = 4" is always true.  It is true for all people in all places at all times.  If you don't believe that, go talk to a mathematician.  Be sure to bring caffeine with you, though.  You'll probably need it.  The fact is Mathematicians, more than just about any other discipline, routinely work with known truth.  The call them mathematical proofs.  Once something has been proven mathematically, it considered proven forever- unless someone can show an actual failure in the math used to prove it.  These proven statements are truth.  And if we can know that truth, then we can know other truths as well, logically speaking.

As for the guy who says you can't really know a tree?  Well, of course we know that to be the truth, too.  We know that, because we can accurately describe things.  If each thing we experienced were subjective, and only "interpreted" by our brains, we would never be able describe things as they are.  We would each see something else when we see the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower.  But we know we do not, because we describe them the same way (respectively).  Indeed, another group who proves our knowledge of truth, day in and day out, are construction workers.  If they didn't have an accurate knowledge of their environment and surroundings, then they wouldn't know if that board they were picking up was a 2 X 4 or a 1 X 2.  And that would make for some interesting buildings.

So, Box two checked off:  Yes, we can know truth.  Next We'll tackle our first Conservative Assumption: Man is Created.


  1. Sure, a priori knowledge like 2+2... you know that is the same as 4. That's just the identity of 4... what it is as a concept. Just as you know that A is A, or just as you know that if you think, therefore you are. Identity.

    But knowledge is extremely limited.

    I define knowledge: A)Justified B)True C)You believe it.

    If you don't have one of those elements, it's not knowledge. IF you believe the world will end on Dec 21 2012 and it's true, you still didn't know it because there wasn't justification... you just guessed right.

    Justification is the lynchpin. Why did you believe something to be true? And if you raise that bar high enough, we really don't know very much.

    So how high do we raise it?

    Suppose you parked your car outside the grocer and shopped for 30 minutes before returning to your car, which is in the spot you left it. Do you know that your car never moved?

    Little do you know that a drunken repo man claimed your car just as you went inside, and then realized ten minutes later realized he got the wrong car, and returned it to the same spot it was in.

    Raise the 'justification' bar high enough to avoid that kind of error, and we wind up not knowing a whole hell of a lot.

    "If each thing we experienced were subjective, and only "interpreted" by our brains, we would never be able describe things as they are."

    And maybe we don't. How do we know that we didn't learn our language in relation to how others describe things? I heard someone say the Eiffel tower is brown, but the color I see is what he would call green. we never can share our conciousness, so we never know that the words we're using are different.

    Or perhaps our experiences of these buildings are both similarly mistaken because of how our minds developed to make the same mistake.

    "they wouldn't know if that board they were picking up was a 2 X 4 or a 1 X 2. "

    In all practical sense, we do know one of those from the other because we learned the manmade inch concept. For all practical purposes, that inch is a real thing to know.

    The trick is in not taking our 'knowledge' so far that we think all our observations are accurate knowledge.

    1. Okay, I wanted to reply to this, since I've been on vacation, but I'll actually respond to this in a future post- it deserves its own full response.

    2. Okay, look for a full response tomorrow.