Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by g0pher, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. For a long time I supported the idea that there was some objective truth out there, something we could aim to move closer towards, some ultimate understanding of the universe. It seemed to me that the statement "There is no truth" was nonsense, something that couldn't even be coherently uttered or claimed.

    But now I am not so sure. I now believe that the very notion of truth not only is subjective, it requires subjectivity. The truth of a statement is dependent on the observer. This is true in the trivial sense of normal conversation, for example when I say "my clothes look good." The truth of this statement depends on the person looking at me (for that person). But this is just a trivial example, where it is easy to see the subjectivity.

    Take another statement, such as "humans cannot fly." Seems to be objectively true, but to a person who truly, absolutely believes he can fly with such strength that he will continue to believe it until he hits the ground and ceases existing. For this person humans can fly. If someone told him humans couldn't he would think that person just as crazy as we find him. Now you could say that he was 'actually' falling, not flying, but you can only say that from the standpoint of your observation. That truth is still observer dependent.

    So now lets take the strongest (to many people) sense of truth. Universal statements such as: 2+2=4, the universe exists, P.-P is always false. It seems like 2+2=4 will be true regardless of what humans think of it. If they say 2+2=5 then they must necessarily either be wrong or have different meanings for the symbols they use. But modern quantum science seems to suggest otherwise, a thing can both "be" and "not be," depending on how it is observed! And all of math seems to be a rational system, internally coherent and self supporting, but not intrinsically true. It is, after all, based on certain postulates that cannot be proven.

    This suggests to me that truth itself is created by the observer, that "true" or "false" are labels we give, that we choose to give, to certain things, but they are not labels that are intrinsic in the things themselves. But the concept of truth requires that it not be subjective. Objective truth simply cannot be, the concept contradicts itself. In other terms truth is a categorical concept that attempts (and needs) to apply itself to things in themselves, but it cannot, and thus is a fundamentally self contradictory concept.
  2. You are just playing language games and equivocating. Just because the guy thinks he can fly does not change the fact that he can not. Thats why he died and never flew. The objective fact is that he did not fly. Flying existed in his mind, not in reality. Its called being delusional. Your own example proves that perception is relative and that reality and truth are objective. Truth is not a self contradictory concept. Subjectivity as a world view is a contradictory concept. If everything is subjective then the statement that everything is subjective is subjective and therefore can not be true. If I say truth is objective that at least has the ability to be true. I think you are confusing observations with reality. Just because something looks or seems a certain way does not mean that it is that way. Your sensory organs are inherently flawed.

    I think that deep down you don't believe what you just posted. If you believed that truth was subjective you wouldn't try to use objective arguments to prove it. Why would you use something objective if you thought it did not exist?
  3. Well put, shasta
  4. Well I don't know, but can you tell my why people try to explain hallucinations and dreams?

  5. Coz' they're not that bright and confuse free unconsious association with actual events or believe it got anything to do with reality except retroactive mindless processing of events already occoured?

    Just a suggestion :)
  6. I don't think it has anything to do with intelligence, necessarily. I think it's just a lack of critical thinking ability... either that or compartmentalization.
  7. Well, I stand corrected. Not that bright in certain circumstances, like say applying critical thinking.

    And critical thinking is learned skill in most cases, so I must agree, intelligence is rather secondary in that regard. Allthough, that said, the more intelligent one is, the sooner one sees the flaws in ones reasoning.

    edit: As for compartmentalization, I cannot for the life of me see how people manage it?! Such duality is mindboggling to me. Living in an eternal conflict between what one know deep down is true, and what one want to be true?

  8. The other guys have pretty much covered the point I was going to make. One thing I would add is that people like to make stuff up. If you don't understand that a hallucination is different then reality you will probably invent something to explain it. Some people invent alternate realities, some people invent new religions. The rest of us just accept that a hallucination only exists in our minds.
  9. better question. why would a person try to explain any truly personal thought or expierience to some one else?
  10. I guess it is because people are social animals. My old philosophy professor used to tell people that there was no point in telling someone about your feelings and opinions other than to massage your own ego. I don't know much about psychology so Ill leave it at that.
  11. My point is that even though a person might hold a partially subjective belief or even a fully subjective belief system they would still want to communicate it. Its hard to communicate using subjective terms beacuase they have different meanings between people, so the only way to tell some one about that belief is in objective terms.
  12. Now this is an interesting thread.


    I agree with pretty much what you've posted shasta, but I disagree that our organs are inherently flawed. Even from a naturalistic perspective it must be recognised that the only way to recognise flaws in our bodily actions or fuctions for example is to use our sensory organs to begin with. Furthermore this by itself supports that flaws in human perception can be corrected and that ultimately reality is objective when we recognise faults through cross examination and reveal axioms in real life.. Once we recognise reality in one instance it is only a matter of logical deduction to new axioms of reality. It shows a reality that all of our perceptions and bodies are subject to without exception. reality cannot ultimately be subjective; that reality would be unidentifiable, because it would not exist and we would not exist. truth is that which is, and with no objectivity there can be no truth. It is apparent that what we perceive in the outside world is in fact reality and that it exists, and our collective perception of the objectivity of the natural world supports this. Now you can argue that our natural world is a dream or we live in some "matrix" but that's for another discussion. Somehow our minds and perceptions are fit to perceive reality, and it's pretty amazing.


    That's the only reason we can have sympathy for others, or come to a common perception of feelings. Think about how people target a group of people in society, for a product they're trying to sell, or and idea, or music etc. Anyone who denies this doesn't recognise their own interactions with thier friends. Reality is objective, and our perceptions naturally perceive that reality, but our perceptions can be altered through lies.

    I have a really big thought about reality but it won't come out. I'll try to get back to it later.
  13. Because there's power in numbers. If we can get people to focus on shit that matters the sooner we can get to other galaxies and learn more. Think if we were able to communicate with other civilizations. Think of all the collaboration of knowledge. We'd be find out more and more about the universe. This is only possible with science.
  14. All of these are valid responses, but can any of them truly be made from an objective viewpoint?

    My point boils down to the idea that "truth" and "untruth" are judgements, they are labels applied to the world. But a judgement cannot be made objectively, to do so would require a standpoint that was not a standpoint, as Nagel puts it a "view from nowhere." though in a diferrent context.

    But such a standpoint cannot exist, to be objective requires that you are nothing, or everything. The objective observer could not exist, the very act of observing requires subjectivity.

    I do not question whether or not the concept of truth (or doubt) exists, but whether or not objective truth exists. I'm willing to stipulate that it is impossible to doubt the cogito, but the cogito is the utmost of a subjective - observer based truth...

    Let's say I grant that 'Truth' and 'Reality' are either closely related or identical concepts. Wouldn't that just mean there is no such thing as an objective reality?

    What exactly is absolute truth? Is it something hanging above us, a fruit on a vine waiting to be plucked? Truth can be nothing other than a judgment, and any judgment requires a judge, an observer. Thus truth can only be observed, in that there can be no truth without an observer.

    But there can be no absolute truth if truth requires an observer, any truth observed is subjective, a function of the observer. But What if it is the observer themselves that is the truth (reality)?

    There are two things of which we can all be 100% certain of;

    (1) that there is (exists) at least one cognizant agent who is the subject of phenomenal experiences, and

    (2) that there is at least the appearance of an external and independent world; which provides the objects for phenomenal experiences.

    By cognizant agent, I mean that entity which is aware of the objects of my perception (actual or imaginary), and not that collection of objects which the cognizant agent identifies as belonging to it: body, brain, senses preferences, etc.
  15. gopher:

    Correct me if I'm wrong but when you use the word objective here you seem to be reffering to a state of non -bias . How about just recognising your bias?

    Truth is an absolute. Saying absolute truth is redundant. Truth is that which is. Judgements can be wrong, but Truth can never be wrong. Truth can never be wrong, just like white can't be black.True and wrong and mutually exclusive. Without an observer there is still truth, it doesn't dissapear because you looked the other way. Whatever your perception of reality is whether true or false, reality can never be false. If it were, it wouldn't be reality.

    Another point about human perceptions.

    But once we define the truth of what good means, we can categorize what counts as good. Once this is established, everything that does not fit that category is not good. But to say what good is, first we must recognize that good is an absolute itself, and nothing can be held to something as subjective unless it IS in the first place..If it cannot be identified as reality and truth then nothing can be held to it as subjective. If you only mean pleasing, that is variable depending on the person. But we wouldn't call that subjective because for that person they have completely redefined what good means, and therefore the second perception of good cannot be held accountable to the first definition.

    Some things are subjective, and some things arn't.

    I hope that makes sense.
  16. Gopher:

    I wouldn't say that. There are a lot of things we can be sure of, but it would get really off topic so I'll save it for another time.
  17. The way that I understand it, ‘truth' is "a relationship which holds between the existential subject of a proposition and its essential predicates"; that relationship being one of ‘identity'. For example, the proposition, “Socrates is an ancient Greek philosopher.”, is ‘true' if-and-only-if, the existential subject (Socrates) is in fact “an ancient Greek philosopher”.

    Further, there are two kinds of truths, those which are absolute and those which are only relative. A relative truth is one that may be true in one situation but untrue at another. For example, the proposition above may be true of one Socrates (the ancient Greek philosopher); but not true of another Socrates (the contemporary Greek baker). A relative truth then is one that is contingent upon circumstances.

    An absolute truth, on the other hand, is one that is necessarily true, and so is not subject to circumstance. Take the mathematical proposition, “Two plus two equals four.”, for example. The existential identifiers, ‘two' and ‘four', signify the quantities (--) and (----) respectively, and regardless of the term that one employs to signify these two quantities, the qualities themselves are immutable; and so the proposition (-- + -- = ----) always holds.

Share This Page