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Author Topic: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?  (Read 3945 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« on: December 11, 2012, 11:46:12 PM »

I recently posed these questions to a good friend of mine, and not so surprisingly, he squirmed in his pants as if afraid of the consequences of answering them. He dodged the question by stating that the concept of "Truth"  was not so easily defined. The idea of defining what truth is was rather interesting, but in this case, the question was  used as a smoke screen or delay tactic. I thought that this would be an interesting topic for discussion, so here are my questions:

1. What is truth?

2. Does it matter if our beliefs are true or not?

3. How does one go about determining if something is true or not?



Offline Scribbles

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2012, 12:23:32 AM »
Oooo, interesting questions! *Puts on thinky cap*

Fish Hooks - Milo and Bea use the Scientific Method

1. What is truth?

For the individual, the truth is characterized by our own experiences and perceptions, so that can make it a bit difficult to define. I think it's important to simply keep an open mind, no matter how hard that can be at times.


2. Does it matter if our beliefs are true or not?

I'm hestitant to speak of the truth of them but I certainly feel that our beliefs themselves matter. They can give us strength or direction when times are difficult.


3. How does one go about determining if something is true or not?

There are probably many ways to go about finding "truth" we just need to be careful about obsessing over them...



Out of curiosity, do these questions tie-in with religion?
« Last Edit: December 12, 2012, 01:09:55 AM by Scribbles »

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2012, 01:10:52 AM »

Out of curiosity, do these questions tie-in with religion?


I think that it should be evaluated without concern over the consequences - with a neutral sense of detachment. Yes, they *could* be applied to many concepts including religion.

Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2012, 05:35:53 AM »
1. A. Truth is facts. Concrete evidence, without the involvement of feelings, emotions, or beliefs on the matter. Truth is impartial. How we interpret the truth is another matter.

2.A. Beliefs are how we interpret the facts, and sometimes can interfere with one's assessment of the truth. Therefore, in our minds, our beliefs will always be the 'truth', and therefore, in essence, it doesn't, because beliefs should be end result of the overall interpretations of truth. Granted, a lot of the times it can be the other way around.

3.A. I think that the only way that one can go about the collection of data necessary for the determination of truth would be if one yourself are impartial to the situation, entering it without an opinion formed, and without forming an opinion based one's feelings, predetermined beliefs and somebody else's prejudgement on the matter, as that other person could be presenting the facts as they viewed them in a lopsided manner, not on purpose, but because their own judgement on the matter is compromised. Thus, certain people could be, in my opinion, determined to be unfit to present the unbiased, irrevocable truth on certain matters.

Offline BraveEarth

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2012, 11:35:01 PM »
1. A. Truth is facts. Concrete evidence, without the involvement of feelings, emotions, or beliefs on the matter. Truth is impartial. How we interpret the truth is another matter.

2.A. Beliefs are how we interpret the facts, and sometimes can interfere with one's assessment of the truth. Therefore, in our minds, our beliefs will always be the 'truth', and therefore, in essence, it doesn't, because beliefs should be end result of the overall interpretations of truth. Granted, a lot of the times it can be the other way around.

Okay I disagree here due to the limited nature of our perspective of the world around us. There fore Absolute Truth is unattainable. And because of this to put such a absolute definition of the concept really can't work for a useable concept or definition.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 12:11:49 AM »
At what point is truth not attainable?
What is absolute truth?

Offline xyloph

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2012, 12:50:10 AM »
I'd just like to point out that these questions are some of the bases of the philosophic subfield of epistemology, and that if you're looking for stuff to read on the topic that's a good place to start.

The answer to the questions is that there isn't simply one answer, there are as many epistemologies as there are people to have them, and often times you'll have separate epistemologies for separate sorts of inquiry. What I consider "truth" when I'm talking to a friend about a TV show is very different than when I'm writing an article or conducting an experiment.

Aight peace.

Offline BraveEarth

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 01:10:11 AM »
At what point is truth not attainable?
What is absolute truth?


The point at which you believe what you say to be truth in irrefutable. I would say.

Absolute Truth is something that is pure in logic reason, with out the taint that perspective limits upon it.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2012, 01:41:20 AM »
The point at which you believe what you say to be truth in irrefutable. I would say.

That would mean that I cannot state that 1=1 is an irrefutable fact? To say that 1=1 is not factual would not be truthful.
I may be missing the point here?

Absolute Truth is something that is pure in logic reason, with out the taint that perspective limits upon it.

Some would say that we perceive the world through a warped, imperfect lense. That's true, but how accurate does that perception need to be for that distortion to make a significant difference - to negate the value of one's perception?

Take a large engineering feat like the successful building and deployment of a spacecraft. Such a machine could not be constructed without a serious degree of factual information and accuracy. Without real, usable truth, it would never work.

I've heard people use this warped lense argument to lessen the assertion that we can indeed possess good, accurate knowledge and see things accurately, but I question how credible the argument is in light of some of the current  technological things that people have made.

I'd just like to point out that these questions are some of the bases of the philosophic subfield of epistemology, and that if you're looking for stuff to read on the topic that's a good place to start.

The answer to the questions is that there isn't simply one answer, there are as many epistemologies as there are people to have them, and often times you'll have separate epistemologies for separate sorts of inquiry. What I consider "truth" when I'm talking to a friend about a TV show is very different than when I'm writing an article or conducting an experiment.

Aight peace.

Does it not have some of the same properties though? Would you agree that truth by definition, cannot contradict itself?





Offline xyloph

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2012, 01:48:13 AM »
Does it not have some of the same properties though? Would you agree that truth by definition, cannot contradict itself?

no.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2012, 01:52:12 AM »
Care to elaborate?


( Just a note, if I sound argumentative, I'm not trying to be. I just find it interesting to pick apart stuff like this and understand it better. )

Offline xyloph

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2012, 01:58:46 AM »
Care to elaborate?


( Just a note, if I sound argumentative, I'm not trying to be. I just find it interesting to pick apart stuff like this and understand it better. )

Well, people disagree with each other, and believe self-contradictory things, so of course truth contradicts itself.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2012, 02:56:29 AM »
If I contradict myself, then what  claim to be truth wasn't truth in the first place. I may have thought it was, but it wasn't if it proved to be untrue.

Perhaps you're saying that a person can be truthful, though incorrect? I would say in that case that what they honestly thought was truth, simply was not. Were honest and truthful, but misinformed.  I think the key here is the difference between the act of being truthful, and a "truth"


Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2012, 11:02:37 AM »
Science has many paradoxes.  There are many contradictions in mathematics that are held to be true.  An argument could be raised that the whole truth is not understood, but that does not mean that the contradictions and paradoxes presented are not true.

Offline Sabby

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2012, 12:21:49 PM »
2. Does it matter if our beliefs are true or not?

I do not wish to make this a religious debate, but I have an example I'd like to use.

Someone is trapped under a fallen building. They pray to God to let them be rescued. They are saved 2 days later. They naturally assume God protected them.

But the praying had lowered their breathing rate and allowed them to stay calm. This was what helped them survive the enclosed space with limited oxygen. Now the question is 'what's the harm of the persons belief if it saved them?'.

No immediate harm, that I can see. It would be better we learn to remain calm in danger, and why it is helpful, then to have a roundabout answer. If we simply let it be believed that it was prayer that saved this person, then why not have the mayor publicly pray for rain, like has happened recently? It saved the trapped person, why wouldn't it save a towns livelihood? Why not pray for a friends alcoholism to stop? Or for a disease to fade? The trapped person was saved by prayer, the alcoholic and the cancerous should pray as well, right?

And there in lies the danger of choosing belief over truth. Belief influences your choices. Choices shape the world. A world based on comfortable falsehoods is no world I want to live in.

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Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2012, 01:13:24 PM »
There are many contradictions in mathematics that are held to be true.

Other than their use in 'proof by contradiction' (in which a falsehood is assumed and then proved to be impossible, such as SQRT(2) being rational), could you give me an example of one?  Because honestly, I can't recall a single contradiction from my studies.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2012, 01:33:13 PM »
The concept of parallel lines meeting and the idea that 1 does not equal 1 are all part of mathematics.  Depending on which theorem or part used, there are all manner of things that can come about.  Statistics also has odd formulas whereby almost any number of things can be extrapolated from the same data, even though they might say different things.

Offline Deamonbane

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Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2012, 01:46:20 PM »
I do not wish to make this a religious debate, but I have an example I'd like to use.

Someone is trapped under a fallen building. They pray to God to let them be rescued. They are saved 2 days later. They naturally assume God protected them.

But the praying had lowered their breathing rate and allowed them to stay calm. This was what helped them survive the enclosed space with limited oxygen. Now the question is 'what's the harm of the persons belief if it saved them?'.

No immediate harm, that I can see. It would be better we learn to remain calm in danger, and why it is helpful, then to have a roundabout answer. If we simply let it be believed that it was prayer that saved this person, then why not have the mayor publicly pray for rain, like has happened recently? It saved the trapped person, why wouldn't it save a towns livelihood? Why not pray for a friends alcoholism to stop? Or for a disease to fade? The trapped person was saved by prayer, the alcoholic and the cancerous should pray as well, right?

And there in lies the danger of choosing belief over truth. Belief influences your choices. Choices shape the world. A world based on comfortable falsehoods is no world I want to live in.
Well, that is one way to put it. I prefer this way, however.

I forget who precisely said this, or if these were precisely his words," Belief is the opiate of the people." Consider it this way: Opium was originally used as a painkiller on the battlefield, hence the name of one of its derivatives, Heroin (A female hero). While it was good for that use, if used in excess, it turned into a dangerously addictive habit. The same with beliefs. It dulls the pain of life, giving a person hope, and a standard to live by. However, when fanaticism is involved, then it becomes dangerous. When a person is dying of cancer, or when a city needs rain, what difference will praying for it make? Is it better when it provide hope, even when it is a false one, or should people despair instead, and give up all hope?

However, when belief turns into something that warps everything that you see, where people that don't believe are in terrible error, something which you feel the need to correct, by force if necessary, if it causes you to turn a blind eye to facts that do not support or actively come in contradiction of said belief, then it is time to put it under the microscope.

Belief in itself isn't bad. You can't judge belief in an entirety scope, in the same fashion that you shouldn't judge all medicine because it is the basis for the discovery of biological weapons, torture, and other such unpleasantness, disregarding the fact that it helps billions of people all over the world. False hope is sometimes better than no hope at all. Plus, who knows? When all else fails, there might be a God, and he might even give you a hand. What's the harm in asking?

Offline Sabby

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2012, 01:58:34 PM »
Of course belief is not bad. I believe ghosts may exist. I have no proof, and I'm ready for a day when they are proven a scientific impossibility. I will then accept that ghosts as I've known them simply do not exist. My belief is and will always be based on reality. No, that isn't 'absolute truth' as people have thrown around, but who needs absolute truth?

1 + 1 = 2. Is this absolute truth? No. You don't know if the laws of time and space can somehow be manipulated to make it equal 3. But all methods we have constructed to measure the value of something have shown the same result. We are justified in claiming that 1 + 1 = 2 is true, and until such time as 1 + 1 = 3 is a possibility, to believe it does can make 2 + 2 = 6.

If the basis of something is incorrect, all methods built upon it are flawed. This is why it matters if our conclusions are based on fact. Two methods that reach the same conclusion are not necessarily equal.

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Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2012, 02:30:05 PM »
The concept of parallel lines meeting and the idea that 1 does not equal 1 are all part of mathematics.  Depending on which theorem or part used, there are all manner of things that can come about.  Statistics also has odd formulas whereby almost any number of things can be extrapolated from the same data, even though they might say different things.

The concept of parallel lines meeting (or for that matter, multiple parallel lines through a point not on a given line) is not contradictory to parallel lines never meeting, because you are leaving out half of the statement. 

Parallel lines on a plane never meet.  End of discussion, stop.  There is also only one line in a plane parallel to another line in that same plane through a point not on the given plane.

Straight lines (actually geodesics) on a sphere always meet.  They can be visualized as 'great circles' (circles that include the diameter of the sphere), and are commonly used in air navigation.

On a saddle-shaped surface,
there can be multiple geodesics that will never meet. 

The three geometries refer to completely different surfaces, and as such, do not contradict each other.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2012, 02:54:27 PM »
But then are they parallel?  If the lines are to always meet then they are not parallel because parallel lines do not meet.  Also, if I remember correctly parallel lines on the same plane do intersect at the point infinity.

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Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2012, 03:02:00 PM »
You'll note that in the spherical example, I did not refer to them as parallel.  I referred to them as 'straight' (defined as the shortest distance between two points).

As for the 'point at infinity', that's a concept involved in the construct known as the Riemann sphere, used in projective geometry - again, you're talking about something different than Euclidean space.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2012, 03:05:10 PM »
Yes, the infinity point is used concept is used in non-Euclidean geometry, which is the geometry used to bring about talk of spheres with their large circles and the parallels of latitude.  Too much math, making my head hurt.

The line is a paraphrasing of Karl Marx.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 03:12:47 PM by Pumpkin Seeds »

Offline Sabby

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2012, 11:13:19 PM »
Maybe I don't properly understand the topic, but what does a lengthy Marx quote have to do with the supposed importance of truth?

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Truth: What is it, and do we really need it?
« Reply #24 on: December 15, 2012, 01:39:04 AM »
I think this quote from Marx was in reference to daemonbane's post about "belief".

Regarding Sabby's assertion that one cannot be certain that addition will always work the same from now until eternity,  I would agree that we cannot predict the future or prove that the universe will never change that drastically, however I would argue that this condition or state in which the laws of math/physics act so differently would need to be represented as an additional variable.

  1 + 1 = 2 when state=A
  1 + 1 = 3 when state=B

Regarding the need for truth, I like to visualize one's knowledge as a tall, complex machine or building. The foundation needs to be solid and well planned as the rest of the building will rest on it. If the foundation is badly flawed, the building may collapse. Likewise, as the building is constructed, its parts attach and join along the way. Bricks are cemented to bricks, glass is attached to the window openings, etc... If certain parts of the house are left out or if we substitute loaves of bread for bricks, grey icing for mortar, or use lead pipes instead of copper, the building may look OK at first, but falter later.

It appears to me that when we learn things, we associate one perceived truth with another.  They sort of mesh and support one another to form a concrete representation of reality - much like the building illustrated above. I use past experience to make predictions about the unknown. Much of my ability to judge is based on experience, knowledge, belief(true or false), etc... if my beliefs are sound, my predictions will likely be sound. When I was young, I stepped on a bee's nest and got stung from head to toe by an angry swarm. From then on, I perceived bees as being "angry, threatening, and dangerous" based on my experience - despite having learned later on that they normally don't sting unless provoked or threatened. Here, false belief had a greater influence on my behavior and reactions than learned knowledge.