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There are some people that think Skepticism is the end of the world. In other words, they think that “If there was no Truth, we would not have Society, Culture, Human Rights or even relationships”. I beg to differ.

I would like to explain my point of view, but unhappily i can’t. I can’t because there are a lot of assumptions to this argument. And discussing assumptions sucks. What is Truth? What is “External” (as in a quality of the world)? Those ideas are simply not clear enough.

I believe it is clear enough that the inefficacy of language, dubious interpretations, lumping and splitting inconsistencies, inexact reference, and so on, those inefficacies will make any world-description attempt impossible. That is, you cannot describe the world without simplifying it. (And this leads to aliasingeffects). If you simplify, you do not have a faithful idea of the world, ergo you do not have Truth.

Language-constructs (sequences of words) cannot be granted the privilege of being automatically accepted true. We just cannot do it. For example, “if i run into that wall i will hurt my head”. This phrase will most of the time be truth, but maybe someday someone invents a device that allows us to do so. It might seem unlikely, but, frankly, our world is so filled with amazing inventions that would seem magic to anyone 100 years ago! If we grant universal truthness to any idea, even the simple ones, we are accepting dogma.

What’s more important: the things that are often cited as examples of “truths that are not worthwhile to question” are always the very mundane, simple, irrelevant things. “If i release this apple it will fall to the ground”. “If i ask you for a cup of water minutes later you will show up with a glass filled with H2O”. With those simple things we are able to find a middle ground with our language constructs, but now try to take the same examples to complex and important things. Take for example any discussion on Congress about corruption: you will soon find out that the persons discussing do not share the same ways-of-thinking about the issues, about morality, about money, about government, and so forth.

To say that:

  • our thought is basically made of Truths that we sometimes question; or
  • our thought is basically made of uncertain facts that we can sometimes be sure of.

I guess this is the issue. Most of the time believing both things leads us to act in the same ways. But the fundamentalists of truth believe that if we must have Truth a priori or else we can not ever in any case be certain of anything.

I think that we can be certain of some things some of the time, but i also think it helps a lot if we, by default, revert to not being certain of anything when the issues get complex.

That is, i do not believe in Truth, but nevertheless i do believe that we can be sure of somethings and bet our existences on them (for example, almost all the time i am betting my life in the belief that drivers will obey the traffic laws, and i do think i am crazy in accepting this assumption, but nevertheless i am still alive). Most of the times it permits me to live a completely normal life, but for example when i get faced with a “Discussion of Relationship” episode it is much easier to me to step down from my certainties and discuss the issue without presuppositions, without blind beliefs about what is or is not love and so forth.

Now, if “Truth” actually means “Exterior World” we have a completely different issue. I do believe that the world is not subject to my will, that is, i don’t think that i just have to believe to make it happen. But this does not mean that there is Truth.

OK, there is a world “out there”, there are things beyond my will, but does that mean that this world is homogeneous? Does this mean that this World is Fixed so as to always behave the same? Does that mean that we have to accept things the way they are? Does that mean anything at all?

I do not know what those persons that cannot, in any circumstance, accept that there are no Truths really mean by saying Truth, but let me finish by pointing what i think would happen if there were no Truths.

First of all, with or without Truths people would still have wants and whims, so we would still be trying to get something out of each other as we are most of the time, cheating each other, cuddling each other, loving each other, using and being used, abusing and being abused. And so forth.

Saying that the world is not True does not mean that the world does not exist. (Defending the other way around is Petitio Principii). So we would still find ways to survive. So we would be trying to find ways to cheat the ecosystem to give us more food and stuff than we can actually eat, just as we are doing right now.

If there were no Truths, we would still fool ourselves into believing we are so rational and brilliant so as to know better than the other (and than the world itself) about the ways things are, so we would still have certainties. Having certainties we would still be trying to convince each other of our own points-of-view, since when we do so we are seen as wise and get more food and more sex in the end. So, more of the use/used abuse/abused stuff.

In other words, i do think that if there were no Truth the world would still be exactly as it is.

Actually, i also think that if there were Truth the world would still be exactly the way it is now. For “Truth” is more of an interpretation-of-the-World than a basic characteristic of it. Truth exists (or does not) only in our brains.

But let me face the facts. Words do not change beliefs. If you had experiences in your infancy that led you to need to believe in Truth, no amount of brilliant blog posts ;-) will convince you otherwise. You will have to make the test of trying to live your life without reference to Truth. I did so, and what it led me to was to the conclusion that Truth is just a word, like a greek God that probably has something to do with their culture but is NOT directly related to some pre-verbal pre-historical pre-natural Truth, but instead is just an interpretation. But you might have a different experience. If so, please share.

In the end, i still think Skepticists are the most humble of philosophers, despite being always accused of the contrary. They say: there might be Truth. I am not certain of it. I have still not found proof of it. If i do have experiences that lead me to believe that there is Truth, i am open to it. But word games (like “does the sun set over there?”) are not good enough to me.

3 Comments

  1. I can identify with this. Actually, it’s like you’ve written down the focus of my own thinking from a couple of years ago. Just a lot more coherent :)

    You write that one “cannot describe the world without simplifying it”, and I absolutely agree, but this is not a closed door — it’s the next focus of philosophy: We will describe the simplification of the world!

    I’m at work, so I don’t have time to describe this in any detail, but I’d like to just throw out the names of Kant, Nietzsche and Jung as pointers to where I’d like philosophy to go…

  2. I’d like to elaborate on my last comment: I believe the brain’s methods of simplification of the information flow from the senses should be the basic focus of epistemology. I think this is where we can find the foundation for math, and also “social symbolism”.

    To explain: Human kind has evolved to master two fields of comprehension: Spacial and social orientation. The last one is the most interesting: Consider pareidolia. This is a “glitch in the mind-matrix”, revealing to us our very sofisticated face recognition software. (If you are skeptical: it is confirmed by the possibility of being face blind.)

    But simplification is most prominent not in the details of perception, but in religion and philosophy: We have no means of grasping the entirety of existence, but we can’t help attempting to. The results are like jungian dreams, revelations of the function and needs of our human nature. Most of our intellectual history can be read as symptoms to our condition.

    To take this even further: Seeing that truth is impossible, and that we cannot avoid simplifying the world when trying to understand it: Why constrain ourself to realism? Why not revisit myth, immserse ourselves in pareidolia and other illusions, this time knowing that they are illusions? (Of course not all of the time, but from time to time, when it is needed — like mental yoga…)

    Truth is dead. We need a revaluation of all values. I believe (and I think Nietzsche would approve of this) that the answer lies in restating the value of that which is false. It needs a new name thought. My suggestion: Virtuality. I call the perspective sketched here virtualism.

  3. Geez, man, the brain is not a computer. At all.


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