Is it not obvious the correspondence between this article’s title and the blog’s name? Nevertheless, i want to ask: is it possible? Can truth exist in lower-case? Can we propose a kind of truth not so much so absolute and irrevocable? A truth that we trust in without thinking it is the end of story? After all, that would be practical and sensible.
Truth must, by definition, imply a connection. Specifically, a link between an idea and the World.
Nevertheless, it is possible to go on forever over this basic definition, criticize it, complexify it, enhance, instrumentize. But i’ll try to avoid this, and focus on the lower-case-ness.
As i understand it, the idea of “truth in lowercase” means that we accept some ideas as true without granting them special privileges like unquestionability or irrevocability. We believe they are true, but just until proof to the contrary. This way, it seems to some, we can keep our basic world-view and faith in science without stumbling into scientific dogma. The “Absoluteness” of truth seems to be diluted enough to swallow.
I fear, though, that qualifying and putting limits in truth does not change it’s nature. It might be disputable, but it is still transcendental. There is the risk of any given truth being discarded in the future, but until then, it has a connection with reality, or fact, or experience, or some another thing that has to be in upper-case.
By definition, truth has to be in connection to something that cannot be questioned. Be it “exterior being” or “the world” or “God” or whatever. That’s why i call it transcendental. If you say there is a connection and it can be revoked, it is still an almighty reference, it just becomes petty.
That is, even if you say that truth is short-lived, while it lasts it still points to a connection with something more than opinion. The question is not how long we do hold to a given truth, but instead what we are doing when we hold to it. And holding to a truth is believing it is as valid as reality (or God or the World etc.).
So, before you can prove a concrete connection between the subject and the world, it is more simple and sincere to admit that our knowledge is based on our own experience.
This means, our knowledge is not true, it is not deduction. It is only induction, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, and we will just do our best with it.
It turns out, we can do fairly well with just induction. But no matter how much we can use induction to come up with clever things like electricity and levers and travelling to the moon, it remains induction. Everything we know remains based on past experience. We don’t have connection to truth.
I realize arguments close to my own are used to cover bad scholarship. Shallow people can hide behind the “there is no truth” slogan to avoid any real or relevant understanding of the world around them (at the same time that they keep receiving their grants forever without making the world any better). But to be fair we must admit that even the most positivist of arguments can be used for the same purposes. Bad scholarship is not a consequence of epistemological stances, it is just bad scholarship. Bad scholarship most often does not have any epistemological stance at all.
Now, when you remember that i have a blog called “Lesser Truth”, it might seem that i am the real petty bastard, making so scrupulous a distinction, overvaluing subtle meanings of words.
So let me (again) talk about words. This blog is somewhat a descendant from a zine i used to have, which i called Doxa. The name comes from the Greek word whose antonym is Episteme. Episteme means “truth”, but it’s contrary is not “false” or “lie”. Doxa actually means “opinion”.
The contrary of an idea that is connected to a fact is not an idea connected to a wrong fact. It is an idea unconnected. Doxa might even come to predict the future or be an accurate description of events, but if so it’s fortuitous, accidental. It’s chance.
This subtle distinction is immensely relevant. Doxa is Belief. Epistheme is Reality. Now Doxa is not truth in lowercase. It is not truth at all. It is opinion. It only connects with the past life of the person who holds this Belief. And he might be wise, he might have never until now made any mistake whatsoever, and we might not give up believing him, if we do not feel like it, we might even follow him blindly. But we will never do it because his opinion is truth. His opinion is his opinion.
Now, again, one might choose to not understand and cry: “but how can you say that the wise bastard was right if you don’t have something to compare it to?”. If you say his opinion is right or wrong doesn’t mean that you are invoking some external reference to judge?
I am judging, obviously, but i am using my own experience to do so. His opinions are in accordance to everything i have experienced until now. Or they aren’t. But as i did not have all the possible experiences yet, how would i know that it was true? How would i know that there was a real connection?
We do correlate our experiences. And we do sometimes even input causes and effects to what we observe. The existence of truth would be cool. If you do find some concrete proof of it (beyond induction), by al means do show me. But it really is not that important. We can continue with our lives without truth.
I am already tired of saying so, but. Again. This argument does not mean that we stop believing in science or on our experience. Between a truth and an opinion, the truth is more reliable. But if there are only opinions, we must chose between opinions which ones we will rely on.
That means we still have all of science to rely on, we still have all of our experiences. We are just respecting the second law of thermodynamics and remembering that we might have a connection to our past (severely limited by the imperfection of memory) but we do not at all have direct connection to our future whatsoever. Most of the times when i push the light switch it will turn on, but then again it mightn’t. Our beloved “truth” is only “rules of thumb”, simplifications we use and rely on, but not take for granted.
[This is for Daniel Paz. Again, instead of constructing his arguments in an impersonal way, he addresses me letters. So, to close, i will allow a more personal note, repeating myself once again. Just because some stupid fool hides behind a “there is no truth” argument to escape serious criticism, this is not evidence of connection between language and reality. Nor it forces you to run to the contrary idea to “fight the bad relativists”! (Instead just heed this advice). Bad habits from some unneeded partisan is not fair reason to condemn the whole party. And neither does it grant the right to deny my arguments blindly or to use some feeble “touch the sand” example. All knowledge rests on induction, my friend, and there is nothing you can do to change it.]